(Closed) Is a cocktail hour necessary?

posted 13 years ago in Logistics
Post # 3
547 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

I went to a wedding once where the "cocktail hour" was just a small buffet of hour de ouvres stuff and a couple punch bowls in a room outside the reception area. Guests served themselves, and we weren’t there for long before heading into the main reception room. See if your venue will cut your costs for doing your cocktail hour buffet style….some might even let you set up the buffet area yourself and not charge for it. Holding off the beer and wine until the reception starts is just fine I think…especially since your guests won’t be waiting long. Good luck figuring it out!

Post # 4
43 posts
  • Wedding: July 2010

I went to a wedding this summer that didn’t have a cocktail hour, rather the bride and groom provided some suggestions on activities within the area between the ceremony and reception site that were either super cheap or free for anyone who wanted to check them out. It was made fairly clear tho that there wouldn’t be a cocktail hour and that these activities were there to keep people entertained until the reception site was ready.

Another option could be to do your pictures before the ceremony, so that after the ceremony you and your bp can travel to the reception site right away and there is no free time in between ceremony and reception where guests have to wait around.

Post # 5
1741 posts
Bumble bee

I’ve recently been to two weddings that did a coffee and juice and cakes reception in place of cocktail hour. At one of the weddings the cakes were passed and at the other the wait staff actually forgot to put out the cakes (which upset the father of the bride) but no one noticed. Coffee was serve yourself and then people migrated to the upstairs bar at the reception venue and entertained themselves (some bought drinks) while waiting the 20 or so minutes for the reception to start. I can imagine coffee would be a cheaper alternative to cocktails at any venue and if yours is an afternoon wedding, the caffine will surely be welcomed.

Post # 6
23 posts
  • Wedding: June 2009

If you can do without the drinks, but still provide the hors ‘doevre, I don’t think anyone would mind especially since you’ll be serving drinks with dinner. However, and my perspective may be way off, I see the cocktail hour as a buffer for the bride and groom to finish up their photos and whatever else needs to be done after the ceremony and make their way to the reception. If you forgo the cocktail hour entirely, I think you have to consider if you’ll have enough time to get to the reception without your guests getting too restless.

Post # 7
1929 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: February 2008

If your guests will be waiting for you, it would be nice to provide them something to eat or drink.  Punch and a few simple bits to eat would probably do if you aren’t going to have them waiting too long! Just keep in mind these are your guests, so you should take care of them – giving them a bit to eat/drink even for a 30 minute wait is just the considerate thing to do!

Post # 8
45 posts
  • Wedding: June 2008

Nothing’s mandatory.  But I do think that waiting around as a guest for the bridal party to show up with nothing to eat or drink sucks.  But if the reception is close and you don’t take pictures after the ceremony, then there would be no waiting around.

Post # 9
1309 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2008

The principle behind "cocktail hour" is that there is something for guests to do when they first get to the reception and are waiting for the bride and groom to make their entrance. Usually this means having a bit to eat and drink. 

How involved the eating and drinking gets is related to how long the wait will be between the start of the party and your arrival (given that dinner generally starts when the bride and groom arrive). The longer between when the reception starts and you arrive, the more obligated you are to provide greater and more elaborate food and drink.

It sounds like you expect very minimal waiting (maybe you plan to take pictures before the ceremony rather than after? Post-ceremony picture taking tends to be what delays the bridal party’s arrival). So I would say your obligation is relatively low. It would be a nice gesture to have something to nibble on and something to drink available. If you want to wait to serve alcohol at dinner, do that. You might have pitchers of water, lemonade, or tea out for guests to serve themselves and some basic hors d’oeuvres (cheese, crackers, and fruit) set out as well.

Post # 10
433 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2022

I think some sort of cocktail hour is necessary. Your guests have probably traveled a long way for you & its nice to provide something for them to do in between the ceremony and the reception.

I know you mentioned that they wouldn’t be waiting long, but lets say they all leave the ceremony site right after the ceremony. If you and your Fiance are going to go back inside and take pictures (lets say for 30 minutes), and then you leave to meet them at the reception site, you will be leaving the church 30 or 45++ minutes behind them. So they will have to wait at least that long for you to get there.

I think stationed hor d’ oeuvres would be nice. And a punch bowl sounds like a great idea. i’d approach your reception site and just tell them that you don’t want a full scale cocktail hour, but you’d like some snacks and things for your guests. You can also add a little flair to the room by doing some floating candles and having pretty napkins & simple decorations. 

Post # 11
27 posts
  • Wedding: March 2008

I think it is fine if you are willing to just do coffee and soda for that hour and either some light finger foods or cheese and crackers and a veggie tray to help people pass the time.  And unfortunatly it usually takes a bit longer than you think to gather everything and everyone up after the ceremony so give them something to do in case it takes longer to get there than you planned.


Post # 12
1530 posts
Bumble bee

We cut our cocktail hour completely, in an effort to save money.  Our ceremony and reception are at the same location, but different rooms.  We’re just ending the ceremony and opening the reception room/bar immediately following.  We’re doing 99% of our photos before the ceremony.  We figure we’ll dismiss everyone (we’re going to go back into the room and dismiss by rows, instead of a receiving line), let them head upstairs to get a drink while we snap a couple of quick shots, then get introduced, head in and start dinner.  I think as long as there isn’t a long gap between ceremony and reception, you can get away without a cocktail time.

Post # 13
143 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2008

100% NOT NECESSARY.  I can promise you that my parents and grandparents and husband’s parents and grandparents didn’t have "cocktail hours." Granted you don’t want to leave your guests stranded for an hour with nothing to do…that’s being a bad host but don’t let anyone tell you that the only way around that is to fork out a ton of money on food and drinks.

We didn’t have a cocktail hour and this is how we did it – we took all photos beforehand. We did out "getaway" for the night from the church so that we were the first to leave. We got to our reception site before all other guests and we stood at the door to our site (it was an old inn) and greeted each of our guests as though they were guests in our home.  They all walked in after a quick hello with us, found their seating cards, freshend up etc. There was never a crowd waiting and by the time everyone was in we sat down and started with a welcome toast and the appetizer for the meal. I loved this b/c it meant I got to spend a quick moment with each and every guest and it created a really warm atmosphere. B/C it was just husband and I you didn’t have that long uncomfortable receiving line feeling that you can get when there are mothers/fathers/bridesmaids etc. 

We did this for a few reasons 1) my family aren’t big drinkers 2) I didn’t want to waist an hour or our reception site time with an event I wasn’t even apart of 3) Cut costs considerably

I can honestly say also that by the end of most "cocktail hours" I’m kind of bored and waiting for things to get started. I’ve exhausted a lot of conversation I could be having at a dinner table. I’ve been to some weddings where the cocktail hour was so extravagant with food that I was stuffed and the dinner food paled in comparison, and I’ve been to others where there were so little food to go around that people swamped the waiters as soon as they left the kitchen and everyone was still hungry and grumpy as they waited for the real dinner to begin. 

In short –think outside the box. Don’t think a wedding has to be a predetermined cycle of events. Your guests will probably appreciate that your wedding isn’t as cookie cutter as all the others.  

Post # 14
88 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: June 2009

You could just do appetizers and then some punch. That’s what a friend did, it was passed appetizers and then self serve punch. There is no rule that says you have to do anything. If you don’t a cocktail hour chuck it.

Post # 15
93 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

Or you could skip the dinner and just have a cocktail reception. Be sure to let guests know that "light appetizers will be served" (or similar language) so they don’t expect a full meal and show up starving.

I really like BaghdadBride’s "getaway" plan. I love the idea of greeting my guests at the door and truly welcoming them. Of course if people dilly-dally you could be waiting for them to arrive at the reception for a while. 

Post # 16
50 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: July 2009

hmmm… what about just having a couple of servers bring around trays of sparkling water with lemon and juices for those few minutes while they are waiting before the reception? the venue might not even charge for it, or if they do it would be much cheaper than snacks/alcohol?

a cocktail hour is not necessary at all but it would be nice to provide some type of light refreshment as everyone will probably be very thirsty after the ceremony + drive to the reception?

 let us know what you decide!

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