Everything You Need for the Perfect Cocktail Hour

Discover what will help you bridge the hour between your ceremony and reception.

While the ceremony is of course the most important part of the wedding day, your guests are probably looking forward to the reception the most. After all, that’s where the eating and partying happens! However, there usually needs to be a bit of buffer time between the ceremony and reception – whether to give the bridal party a chance to take photos, allowing everyone to travel between each venue, or to allow for setup time if the same space is used for each event. That’s where the cocktail hour comes in, keeping friends and family occupied until dinner is ready to be served. Ideally, you want this portion of the evening to fly by; always leave them wanting more, after all!

As with any proper soirée, the biggest key to hosting a successful cocktail hour is to have great food (in this case, hors d’oeuvres) and fun drinks. Plentiful appetizers will tide people over until the full meal at the reception, and signature cocktails can be designed to represent you and your spouse while also giving guests something new to sample. But if you want to go above and beyond, you’ll need to bring in custom décor elements, such as chic cocktail napkins, playful drink stirrers, and charming bar signs. 

Below are examples of five of our favorite cocktail-hour details, all from real weddings! Click each picture for further inspiration. 

1. Hors d’Oeuvres

perfect cocktail hour appetizers croquette with sauce
Photo by KingenSmith; Consulting by Hope Weis Consulting

cocktail hour appetizers barbecue bbq beef biscuits on wood tray
Photo by Tec Petaja; Consulting by SoCo Events; Calligraphy by Laura Hooper Calligraphy

cocktail hour appetizers grilled cheese and fries with dipping sauce
Photo by TimeFozen Photography

2. Signature Drinks

cocktail hour signature drinks
Photo by KingenSmith

cocktail hour signature drink moscow mule copper mugs
Photo by Abby Jiu Photography; Consulting by EVOKE

cocktail hour signature drinks margaritas
Photo by Perez Photography

3. Drink Stirrers 

cocktail our personalized drink stirrer flags
Photography by Amy & Stuart Photography; Consulting by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants

cocktail hour disco ball drink stirrers
Photo by Viera Photographics; Consulting by Tessa Lyn Events

cocktail hour wooden stir sticks drink stirrers
Photo by Brian Leahy Photography; Consulting by Tessa Lyn Events

4. Cocktail Napkins

personalized cocktail napkins
Photo by Samuel Lippke Studios; C
onsulting by Linda Howard Events

cocktail hour with movie quotes
Photo by Carter Rose for F8 Studio; Consulting by DFW Events

personalized cocktail napkins with pinecone detail
Photo by Sallee Photography

5. Signage

cocktail hour sign for signature drinksPhoto by Carasco Photography; Paper Goods by Kesh Designs

cocktail hour personalized sign with signature drinks
Photo by Paige Jones; Consulting by Bluebell Events; Venue: Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

cocktail hour sign with straws and engagement photo
Photo by Style & Story Creative

Still need to pick a signature drink for you and your sweetheart? Find ideas here. To keep everyone entertained and warmed up for dancing, listen to our cocktail hour playlist.

Authored by: Emily Lasnier