Cocktail Hour Wedding Reception

Sophisticated, cost-cutting and cool, Cocktail Hour is the latest American wedding trend to catch on over here. A fancy time filler to avoid the expense of feeding your guests twice, it is fashionable, fun and decidedly different. So instead of the usual Bucks Fizz, wedding breakfast and late buffet, put on a Cocktail Hour and give your guests a wedding experience they won’t forget. Here’s how to do it in style.

Bride and Groom


In the States it’s known as Cocktail Hour but it can last anything from one to several hours as it’s common for guests to attend the ceremony then return to the reception after a break. Filling the time with cocktails means no one will notice you’re only serving one meal so you’ll save money and give everyone a great time. And if you make it a pay bar, you’ll be surprised how most guests won’t get too drunk!

Setting the scene

What could be more fun than a fully loaded cocktail bar with every colour and flavour of liqueur, fancy glasses, charming bar staff and an array of fun accessories? Creating your cocktail bar is easy with the help of your venue and there are plenty of ways to transform a regular hotel bar to give it a special cocktail bar atmosphere.

Mobile Cocktail Bar

A mobile cocktail bar is the easiest way to put on a fully equipped Cocktail Hour at your wedding. An illuminated bar can look amazing with its colourful glow and cute bar stools, not to mention the bar staff!

Image courtesy of Coxtails 


Beautiful rainbow layered cocktails, coloured themed drinks and amazing flavours, ‘mocktails’ (non-alcoholic cocktails) for non-drinkers and children and frozen and even flaming cocktails are all possible with wow factor!

Create a wedding cocktail in your wedding colours that combines your favourite drinks and flavours and fruit, give it a name and suggest all your guests order one in celebration of your day. For instance, for a green and ivory summer wedding with a vintage twist you could have a green melon liqueur shaken with lime flavoured vodka, a splash of champagne, cream and crushed ice, topped with a a slice of glittered green apple  in the shape of a star.

Accessorise your cocktails

Go wild with fancy accessories, from colourful retro cocktail umbrellas to delicate contemporary butterflies that perch on the edge of each glass.

Cocktail pitchers for cocktail shares are always popular and fancy Tom Cruise style chrome cocktail shakers will wow your guests, unless they drop it!

Stirrers and straws will accessorise your cocktails as can salt and sugar frostings around the edge of each glass, crushed ice and shaped ice cubes.

Add a finishing flourish with pieces of fruit cut into stars or hearts and herbs for scent, vegetables for a twist. Edible flowers such as nasturtiums make a beautiful addition to wedding cocktails and a touch of edible glitter will make it sparkle!

Cocktail Accessories
Image courtesy of Coxtails 


Trays of canapés work well with cocktails, as do assorted bowls of savoury snacks such as vegetable crudités, cashew nuts, vegetable crisps, dips and seafood.

Spanish Tapas or Chinese finger food such as miniature spring rolls and crispy wantons all add a slightly different and delicious addition.

Trays of canapés
Image courtesy of Buzz Events & Catering


Consider your décor options – whether you could add backdrops or wall-hangings or even simply a few framed prints to coordinate with your theme. Signage to make your guests smile with humorous messages or even a designated ‘Kissing Corner’ will add something to the surroundings.

Bar décor
Image courtesy of Barz8 Events


Even your choice of glasses can make a difference. From vintage Martini glasses to amazing modern self-lit glasses, you can make a real style statement in this way. Mobile cocktail bars will provide glasses or your venue may be able to hire in different shaped glasses so consider having a range of different styles for different cocktails.

Cocktail Glasses
Image courtesy of Barz8 Events


Music is important to the vibe of the cocktail bar so plan a playlist that is appropriate for a relaxed wedding Cocktail Hour. Frank Sinatra works, Jessie J – not so much. Once all your guests are chatting away the music becomes less important so play your best pieces at the start of your Cocktail Hour. It’s not a disco so you won’t need a dance floor, it’s just to add to the mood.


Lighting will also help to build the right atmosphere for your Cocktail Hour. Low lighting with uplighters is soft and moody while fairylights and coloured lighting will add a sense of fun.


The later you hold your ceremony, the easier it is to put on a Cocktail Hour and make it work to your advantage. If you marry later in the afternoon, for instance, your guests will have all eaten lunch before your ceremony so a relaxed drinks reception followed by a late meal will be all that’s required. Fill the break with cocktails!

Find Wedding Ideas, Inspiration, Venues and Services

mail icon

Subscribe to our Network

Stay connected with our network and get all the best Wedding Planning, Inspiration and Competitions directly into your inbox.