Save Money On Your Wedding Reception: The Cocktail Hour

23 Jul

Wedding Cocktail Hour Smarts




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Now that you’ve painstakingly taken care of every detail of your wedding ceremony, both big and small, the real party begins – and your guests are more than ready to let loose and cut a rug!   While you hang back and have those timeless wedding photos taken with your bridal party, your guests are making a beeline to the reception – with a quickness!


Here are some helpful tips to ensure that while your guests may be “getting the party started” without you, they will be able to  finish out the night of festivities with you!


1.  Set it and Forget It


Well, not really, but if you are going to have a cocktail hour at your reception, leave it just at that – a cocktail “hour”.   Have a defined start and end time.   If you are considering having a full bar during your wedding reception, then why not serve a limited bar during cocktail hour?    Drink choices for cocktail hours should be simple and not too “over the top”.

Choose beverages with low alcohol content and leave the “full octane” cocktails for after dinner when guests have filled their bellies with all that delicious food you’ve purchased.   Keep plenty of water, juice and soda on hand for guests who don’t indulge in alcohol and minors.

Cocktail hours are usually reserved to give guests a little something to “wet their whistle” and give you and your new soul mate a chance to change into your party wear and arrive as Mr. and Mrs.   Offer light food just before the main course.   Crackers and cheese, fruit or even a gourmet popcorn bar will ensure that guests don’t drink on an empty stomach, which will slow down the effects of alcohol and also bring smiles to any adult who may have small children that need a bite to eat.


2. Closed for Construction


Once the time has arrived for cocktail hour to end, shut it down – immediately.    The ideal time for this would be just as dinner is getting started.    Stick to the timeline and let guests know that no further drinks will be served for the next 30 minutes.   Make NO EXCEPTIONS, even for your favorite Aunt Lucy or Uncle Ray.  If your guests see someone being served past cocktail hour, you’ll have a mad rush of people who will disregard dinner until later and set up shop by the bar.   To combat this, relay to all members of your bridal party that there is no special access to the bar once cocktail hour is over.

If you have a DJ, have them make an announcement that the bar is closed while they restock but will reopen at “XX:00” time.  Or, alternatively, you could put out a sign that displays that same message.   Beware of charming guests that may try to finagle their way into just “one more drink”.   Just have your hostess or bar staff politely usher them to your other refreshment area, where they can enjoy a soda, water, tea, juice or coffee.   For good measure, make a second announcement reiterating the time the bar will reopen, in case some guests were unable to hear the first announcement.

Your caterer can use this short intercession to start serving your guests and give guests a chance to get some heavier food in their bodies.  Bartenders and staff will have the opportunity to assess how much alcohol is left for the remainder of the night, restock cups and ice, and can even pre-make batches of drinks that appear to be a hit with your guests.


3. The Mad Hatter’s  Tea Party


Now that the bar is on a 30-minute recess, what will your guests partake in?   I always envision  “The Mad Hatter Tea Party”  (Alice in Wonderland).   Now is the time to open the floodgates to all the tea, lemonade, coffee and soda they could possibly ever want!   Seriously.  You have spent good money on those refreshments, probably as part of a very pricey catering package.

Undoubtedly, your guests, if given the choice, would choose the open bar – hands down and completely pass by that drink station that you paid $30 a gallon for.  And where does all your ice tea and lemonade go?  Down the drain (literally)  So make sure you have a conversation with your catering company beforehand and see what the procedures are for unused refreshments.  You may be able to take some home with you or give it out to other party guests.  Knowing this ahead of time will save you from watching all your hard spent money get poured out in the catering kitchen sink.

Now, go show everyone your awesome dance moves.    And don’t forget to “eat, drink and be married”.    See you next time!

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