You and your sweetheart have weighed all your options and set your budget and have decided to embrace a cocktail reception for your reception! Fantastic! Truly, some of the best parties we’ve been a part of have embraced the informal cocktail style reception! So without further ado, here’s a list of tips and tricks we’ve honed over the years to bring out the fun and rock your cocktail party celebration!

  1. Food will be a really important part of a cocktail style wedding – it truly is one of the main features – surprisingly, even more so than during a sit down dinner!  As such, there are many opportunities to wow your guests with delicious hors d’oeuvres, food bars, desserts stations, and late night snack stations. You can have a lot of fun with the menu, and have the opportunity to share your (and your fiancé’s) family heritage or traditions or your personalities via the food at your reception!

 

  1. Keep the food coming – in one way or another – all evening! Seriously! People will be dancing and enjoying cocktails and will burn through all of those hor d’oeuvres fairly quickly! And, you really don’t want your guests to leave because they’re hungry, so vary the food offerings throughout the evening, and always have something available. Because, too many cocktails with too little food isn’t a recipe for fun, it’s a recipe for an early – or messy – end to your party!

 

  1. Even Though you’re having a cocktail party style reception, it’s of the utmost importance to include some cozy seating areas or nooks and even a collection of tables and chairs. Your older guests, guests with young children, or guests that need to take a break from the festivities will appreciate having a place to sit, chat and rest while they have a bite to eat. You really don’t want your guests to leave early just so that they can sit down and take a rest! Giving them the opportunity to do that and your party, ensures that they won’t leave due to aching feet, and after a short respite, they’ll be ready to get back to partying!

 

  1. If you want to have a great party, make sure your venue isn’t too big and cavernous! The best scenario is hitting that sweet spot where your reception doesn’t feel crowded, but still feels intimate. And, truly the same goes for your dance floor! People tend to feel a little bit shyer and are slower to warm up if the dance floor is too big or the guestlist isn’t big enough to fill it! A huge event space can feel a bit intimidating for your guests! Also, from a budgetary standpoint, if you hire a DJ or band, they will often need to bring more equipment to fill that large space, which will likely affect your bottom line as well as increasing set-up/tear-down time. 

 

  1. Since you’re unlikely to have as many formal wedding reception elements in a cocktail style reception, you may want or need to tweak the wedding timeline. Sometimes shorter is sweeter when it comes to cocktail receptions. Guests will be coming ready to party and if they arrive at 6pm oftentimes a 6 hour cocktail reception can be too much without some of the more time consuming elements of a traditional reception. You want our guests to come, mingle, celebrate, enjoy and party, but it’s always best to end the party on a high note! You want the guests to leave wanting just a little more. It’s kind of like having out of town guests… the best visits tend to be the ones you wish were just a little longer, the worst are ones that go on too long. 

 

  1. Including other entertainment or activities to a wedding reception is always a good idea, but it’s even more important for a cocktail style reception, without some of the other structured traditional elements of a typical wedding reception. So, feel free to rent that photo booth, book that caricature artist, hire a roving magician. The sky’s the limit! Also, it’ll give all your guests something to do at your reception. After all, dancing and cocktails aren’t everyone’s jam!


Of course you’re welcome to take or leave our advice, and do what works best for you, but these are some of the elements of the most successful cocktail style receptions we’ve been a part of! And, we’ve been to quite a few!

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