Cocktail hour is an opportunity for guests to mingle, enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and gets everyone ready to celebrate the new bride and groom right up to their sendoff. Follow these tips for a perfect cocktail hour that matches the greatest day of your life.


Create a Drink Menu with Signature Drinks

Create signature drinks for you and your spouse at your cocktail hour. Your signature cocktail might be your go-to drink order or it might be a cocktail that evokes the place where you got engaged, first met, or first said I love you.

If a particular destination played a significant role in your love story, try offering local beer selections. Drink menus that are inspired by the location of your wedding are also popular. If you are celebrating your special day at Seabrook Island, for example, offer signature cocktails that are reminiscent of the coast and Charleston’s Lowcountry culture. Sweet tea, bourbon, and lemon are the perfect ingredients for a cocktail that evokes a beach wedding near Charleston.

Honoring Loved Ones with Special Displays

Many couples who have lost loved ones or close friends experience a bittersweet feeling leading up to their wedding day. Celebrating loved ones who have passed with special displays during cocktail hour can be a great way to incorporate the guests dearly departed before your wedding day.

Consider your reception venue’s floorplan. A table display near your guest book will place the special homage in an appropriate setting as guests arrive at the venue for cocktail hour. Standing frames in metals or colors that match your theme can be arranged in small collections alongside greenery and florals. As your guests enjoy cocktail hour, the special display can be a sweet tribute for family and friends to feel closer to those they wish were present.

If you have extra space, a wall of greenery makes an elegant backdrop for vintage or brushed metal hanging frames filled with pictures of loved ones. Have your florist incorporate a few blooms into the display to make it a focal point as beautiful as the memories you’ve shared.


Unique Drink Stations and Bar Ideas

bride and guests doing champagne toast
Drink stations can serve in both form and function. The right stations add plenty of visual interest and help diffuse guests quickly to avoid long lines. This keeps cups full and guests ready to mingle.

Elaborate champagne towers, taps stocked with your signature brews, and creative stations are all great options for livening up any cocktail hour.

Work with your planner and bartending service to design a drinks station that is equal parts fun and beautiful. Round bars accented with a hanging floral arrangements or chandelier create a strong focal point for your space. A more subtle way to elevate any bar is to display your drink menu with elegant signage accented by greenery or blooms.

Perfect Cocktail Hour Playlists

Your music should evoke the location of your venue and set the tone for the rest of the night, preparing people to dance and party after an evening full of food and drinks.

Work with your DJ to craft a cocktail hour playlist that has some classic favorites along with all your favorite songs. You may want a range of classic, acoustic, and soft pop songs. Jazz or boardwalk music may be a better fit for . The right DJ can help you curate music that is romantic and true to you, so guests are excited to join you on the dance floor after your first dance. (We listed our favorites DJs here).

Elegant Seated Areas for Cocktail Hour

Use more of your space to create beautiful seating areas for cocktail hour and the reception. Guests will enjoy more of the venue and move about freely while sampling hors d’oeuvres and signature drinks if seating extends from beyond the dinner tables.

These seated areas are also great ways to create spaces meant for more personal moments between friends as they celebrate your special day.

Patios, porches, and other covered outdoor areas are opportunities to make your space more dynamic with seating arrangements. Bring in upholstered sofas, glass tables, elegant accent chairs, and other decorative objects that match your wedding color palette.

Sophisticated seated spaces encourage guests to mingle, make the most of the venue, and spend quality time with each other throughout your celebration. Unique seated areas are also beautiful backdrops for pictures.



Cocktail hour is the perfect opportunity for celebrating your special day through menu offerings, decor, music and of course…the drink menus. A successful cocktail hour is one that engages your guests and prepares them for an even more important moment of the night: the new couple’s big entrance. These tips for the perfect cocktail hour will help you plan a party that does just that.



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