Cocktail Hour is a fabulous way to transition between the ceremony and your reception.
It also allows you as a couple to slip away and have a quiet moment together to absorb that you just got married! Usually the bride and groom and bridal party will slip away shortly after the ceremony and let the guests make their way to the location of the cocktail hour. It is usually held outside or close to the reception area.
Once you have the bridal party photo’s done they can return to the cocktail hour leaving you and the photographer some time for portraits and 10 to 15 minutes of quiet time to just be together. Time goes fairly quickly during the day so typically the end of the couples photo’s gives you enough time to join the end of the cocktail hour before you are announced and all enter the reception area. I know some people sit their guests at the reception tables before they arrive but I think it’s nice if the bride and groom get to see the room or area decorated without the guests seated and having their drinks/glasses all over the table settings.
The cocktail hours I have seen work best served beer, wine, champagne and one signature cocktail, an open bar can be quite expensive and if a couple of guests decide to start drinking shots before the reception starts your can probably guess where that situation might be headed. Wedding’s should be a fabulous celebration not a huge drunken night out. It’s also a great idea to have a non alcoholic option and or water especially if you are getting married in the warmer months.
Limiting the expense of an open bar at Cocktail hour also allows you flexibility if you want to extend the hour if you had a location for photo’s that was further away or if you wanted more mingling time before guests were seated at tables.
I like the idea of having a sign welcoming your guests to cocktail hour and providing a fun wedding hashtag they can use especially for instagram photo’s. Everyone loves taking photo’s of themselves and their friends dressed up and looking fabulous, not only does it give you the ability to then look up the hashtag the following day and see all the great images they took in one place but I have found that while your photographer will take some great shots of cocktail hour when you arrive back we can’t be there for the beginning and I have also noticed that the candid and sometimes funny iPhone shots also have their place on your day, wedding guests always warm up to photographers during the reception and dancing, in the beginning people are much more relaxed with their friends than someone they have just met.