Cocktail Hour

Set Up Cocktail Hour
Photo by: Kataram Studios

In planning your wedding reception, your cocktail hour is designed to help pass time between the ceremony and the reception; but, it is also a great way to engage your guests and provide a little extra fun.  By making sure your guests are comfortable, well fed and entertained during this time, you are setting the right tone for the rest of the event.


Cocktail hour is a chance for guests to mingle and chat while enjoying drinks and small bites, without being tied down to a table.  Encourage this by providing plenty of high-top cocktail tables, as well as some lower cocktail tables with seats for those who need it.  Keep décor on these tables minimum to leave ample space for plates and glasses.  If you have a beloved elderly guest, reserving a specific table for them guarantees their comfort during the cocktail hour.

Cocktail Hour Guest Book
Photo by: MCAG photography

Your guest book, place cards and/or seating chart are often displayed during cocktail hour.  For your guest book, consider having something truly unique that reflects you as a couple.  For beach lovers, have an Adirondack chair for guests to sign. Love to cook? Have a wooden or ceramic tray that guests sign for you to display in your kitchen.  If you spend nights playing games, Jenga pieces or custom corn hole boards are a great memento to use as a guest book.


One of the best things about a cocktail hour is the food!  When you select your menu, keep multiple palettes in mind to ensure you have a variety of options including vegetarian, chicken, seafood, and beef. Select items that are one bite and easy to eat while holding a glass.

For a real WOW factor, provide an interactive food station with a chef attendant.  A favorite of ours at the Tiffany Ballroom is a fresh lobster roll station, although you can’t go wrong with featuring your favorite foods whether it be Tacos, Mac & Cheese or another all-time favorite.


Providing an open bar for your guests during cocktail hour is a nice gesture and common in Massachusetts wedding receptions.  When having a cash bar, ask your venue if credit cards are accepted. If credit cards are not accepted, ensure that there is an ATM on site.  If you have a wedding website, this information can be included for your guest’s convenience.  Whether you decide to have an open bar or cash bar, make sure to have enough bars set up to avoid lines.  Granted, if you are having an onsite ceremony, you’ll have a bit of a back up for a few minutes as everyone hits the bar at once but plan accordingly for foot traffic!  A good rule of thumb is having one bartender for every 75 guests and adding a second physical bar for groups of 150 or more.  

For those having an onsite ceremony, adding a stationary display of water or lemonade is a nice way to accommodate guests who do not drink alcohol.  While Signature Drinks continue to be a popular wedding trend, think carefully about what you select.  When planning for a Signature Cocktail, make sure you ask your wedding coordinator what options are available and if there is an additional charge.  Selecting an easy to make drink will help keep lines moving while still giving you the personal touch you’re seeking!


Entertainment Cocktail Hour
Photo by: MCAG photography

Once your cocktail hour gets going and guests are chatting, it may be tough to hear music, but having background music sets a nice tone to your party!  If you are having a band play during your reception or hiring musicians for the ceremony, ask them if they can add on time to play at the cocktail hour.  Usually, this can be done with a seamless transition.  You can have thematic music by hiring a steel-drum band, mariachi players or jazz quartet to liven things up.  If you have access to an outdoor space, setting up yard games such as corn hole provides extra fun for your guests.  For smaller guest lists, hiring a caricature artist or two to sketch guests is a unique addition to your cocktail hour, and provides a sweet memento for guests to take home.

When all the planning is set, try to arrange for time to take photos either before the ceremony, or in a window of time between the ceremony and cocktail hour.  With all the carefully selected food, drink and entertainment, you won’t want to miss it!
At the Tiffany Ballroom Norwood, our complete wedding packages include unlimited passed and stationary hors d ’Oeuvres during your cocktail hour, a perfect starting point for your wedding cocktail hour.  Learn more by emailing us at or calling 781-255-3159.