Wedding Planning 101

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Wedding Planning 101: Cocktail Hour

5 Pros to having a Cocktail Hour

Today, I want to talk about the part of the wedding day we refer to as cocktail hour. I don’t want to be presumptuous and assume everyone knows what cocktail hour is so let’s start there. Cocktail hour occurs between the ceremony and the reception. It usually contains some kind of drink option and some kind of appetizer option. Based on the name, you would assume there would be cocktails served, but that isn’t always the case. For dry weddings, lemonade or tea can be served along with water and soda options. The appetizers served at this time are usually referred to as hors d’oeuvres (pronounced or-derves), which is French for appetizer! Hors d’oeuvres come in many forms. They could be trays carried around your reception by servers, grazing tables, both. Low cost hors d’oeuvres may be a cheese and meat spread, fruit spread, or veggie spread. These can be prepared by you in advance if you are working on a tight budget then set out by your catering team. For hors d’oeuvres passed on trays, I’ve seen tons of different options, but a great place to start is asking your catering company what they offer or specialize in regarding cocktail hour food! Cocktail hours typically have cocktail tables for your guests to stand at while they snack. If you have elderly or handicapped guests that may need seating, however, you can always put out 1-2 tables with seating as an option for them.

Now that we have discussed what the cocktail hour is and what happens during that time, let’s talk about 5 pros of having one:

  1. Entertainment: The majority of the time, there will still be at least a handful of photos you will need to take after the ceremony. Even if you have a first look, family photos typically occur as soon as the ceremony is finished. If you send your guests straight to the reception, they sit down and wait for you. That waiting, which may only be 30 minutes, feels like an eternity to them when they are just sitting there. Especially if it’s a hot day and your reception is outside. The cocktail hour gives them something to do to distract them from the waiting. It encourages them to walk around and mingle with other guests they may know. Mingling also distracts from the waiting and however much time you need after the ceremony for photos passes way more quickly for your guests!
  2. Snacks: It may seem childish that your guests need a snack before dinner, but oftentimes, wedding ceremonies are in the late afternoon or early evening. Your guests come to your wedding hungry knowing they will eat dinner at your reception. By the time your ceremony is over, they may be really hungry but dinner isn’t for another 60-90 minutes. To top it off, if you have alcohol at your wedding, they are likely already drinking, and if they don’t have food on their stomach, they may end the night way earlier than your planned exit time. The food at cocktail hour serves as a little snack to hold them over and gives them something on their stomachs while they start enjoying adult beverages!
  3. Photos: Having a cocktail hour also allows you to freely enjoy the photos happening after the ceremony. Without a cocktail hour, you know your guests are just sitting there waiting, and you may feel anxious to get family photos done quickly. You want to be done but also want great photos. You don’t want people to leave or be annoyed but also want to take the time to get all the different family combos you have listed on your shot list. This tension creates a more stressful feeling and is just not fun to have weighing on your shoulders on your wedding day. With the cocktail hour, everyone is on the same page that there will be about an hour of photos after the ceremony. Your guests are entertained and distracted from the waiting, and you are free to enjoy this time with your family, friends, and new spouse!
  4. Private Dinner: If you have a first look, cocktail hour can also open up a window for you and your spouse to enjoy a private dinner. One of the things you will hear most from other married couples is how they didn’t get to eat at their reception. When you go straight from photos into the reception, your guests will come up to you like crazy. They want to tell you congratulations, hug you, take selfies with you, or pull you over to their table to introduce you to their plus one. It is hard to carve out time to make sure you also get to enjoy the food you picked out. If you do a first look and opt for a cocktail hour, however, you can take the last 15-20 minutes of cocktail hour to take a moment of alone time together and actually enjoy a meal on your wedding day. This is usually my couples’ favorite part of the day where they just got to sit down, talk, and bask in the fact that they just got officially married!
  5. Exploring: Cocktail hour also allows you and your guests to take full advantage of your venue’s property. This isn’t always the case because some venues have everything in one spot, but if you choose a venue like Castleton or Marblegate, their property is huge. Having a cocktail hour allows your guests to explore different parts of your venue.

With all of that said, I will leave you with one major con to opting out of a cocktail hour. If you let your guests go straight to the reception and start eating, your reception will be much shorter. If you want a short reception, that’s a great option, but if you don’t, your guests are likely going to be done eating and ready to move onto the next thing by the time you make it to the reception. That means you’ll be cutting the cake as soon as you enter the reception. Typically, cake cutting, special dances, and toasts all go together at the reception to make it flow a little more seamlessly. So, as soon as you enter, you are going to go straight into all the formalities. The non-dancers in your crowd typically start leaving after all the formalities are done. Once they start leaving, it starts feeling a little more empty, and even some of the dancing crew will start to head out. Not to mention, you were introduced, went straight into formalities, and haven’t even gotten to eat yet. There’s a lot to be said about a cocktail hour, and your wedding doesn’t have to be super high budget to have one!

I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel. I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!

See more from Amanda May Photos:

Wedding at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church and The Julianna

Engagement Session at UT Gardens

Family Session at Covered Bridge

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