What You Need to Know About a Pre-Wedding Cocktail Hour

Is this growing trend right for you?

Here’s what you need to keep in mind for pre-wedding cocktail hours!

Photo: Braedon Photography

The typical itinerary for the average wedding goes something like this: start with the ceremony, which leads into a cocktail hour, followed by the reception. However, some couples have decided to switch things up and start the festivities with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before the vow exchange! Oftentimes we see this with Jewish couples tying the knot on a Saturday, in order to push the ceremony until after sunset and the end of Shabbat. Inside Weddings has also featured a couple who acted as the bartenders as a way to mingle with their guests before they were wed. Is hosting a cocktail hour before the ceremony right for you?

pre-ceremony cocktail hour, cocktail hour before the wedding

Photo by Braedon Photography; Planning & Design by Ilana Ashley Events

Here’s what you need to keep in mind: 

- It lessens the risk of latecomers and gives early arrivers something to do. If you don’t trust your crowd to show up before the stated time on the invitation, offering drinks, snacks, and mingling gives some buffer time that means everyone should have plenty of time to get to their seat for the ceremony. Make it clear that the cocktail hour will be happening so that people will know they don’t need to rush to be early. 

- Choose drinks with a lighter alcohol content and don’t forget the appetizers! While it’s usually fine for guests to be tipsy before dancing, you don’t want those inhibitions lowered during the ceremony. 

- Make sure everyone knows when the service will begin. Neither you nor your guests want to miss the “I dos” by accident. Instruct the bartenders and servers to spread the word at a certain time and have the officiant make an announcement. 

- Decide if you will be present or not. Cocktail hour is usually the best time to greet your guests with ease, but hosting it before your vows means everyone will see you before walking down the aisle. Some couples may be fine with that, but if you want to make more of an entrance you could always consider an outfit change. 

Discover recipes for a signature cocktail and find out which kind of table service is right for you.