7 Tips For A
Cocktail Wedding Reception

A cocktail wedding reception can be a fun, less formal alternative for your wedding reception food. Many times the food served at cocktail hour is better than the meal itself, so why not just skip the meal and extend the cocktail hour?

This choice allows you to have many different food items to sample, and it provides a more informal atmosphere than a traditional sit down wedding reception dinner.

Have wedding planning questions? Ask The Wedding Planner now!

There are some very good reasons for having a cocktail wedding reception. Not only can they possibly save you some money, it also allows you to be creative with your menu selections.

Here are 7 tips for a cocktail wedding reception:

Let Your Guests Know

Your wedding invitations should state what type of reception you will be having. Something as simple as "Cocktail Reception To Follow Ceremony" printed on the invitations is sufficient.

The goal is to give your guests a heads up about what to expect when they reach your reception.

The Location

Almost any location can be used for a cocktail reception, however this type of event works better in certain venues. Wedding halls and reception spaces can definitely be used, but make sure the location you choose is a good fit and conducive to a cocktail reception.

Unique locations like art museums and historic sites can be the perfect setting because they allow your guests to walk around and enjoy the location you have selected. Tented outside weddings can also be a good choice.

Finding A Caterer

You will want to find a caterer that specializes in hors d'oeuvres and small plates. Since these are all that will be served, try to find a caterer that has some unique options to offer in addition to the typical basics.

Another important aspect to consider is capable staff to serve your guests. As always ask for references from past brides that have had a cocktail wedding reception.

Doing it yourself may seem like an option, but it can be very difficult to estimate how much food to cook and how to serve your guests. Rely on professional caterers to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The reception location you select may offer catering. Make sure that the location offers this type of catering or has agreements with caterers that offer cocktail options when doing your research.

The Menu

Passed hors d'oeuvres are usually found at a cocktail reception. In addition to the standard favorites try incorporating unique types of food like Thai, Caribbean or other varieties that match your wedding theme. A good caterer should be able to help with this.

Cheese and fruit displays as well as carving and pasta stations are other popular items found at cocktail wedding receptions. Raw bars with assorted seafood are also a great option, and for high end weddings caviar might be tempting.

Dessert can mean more than your wedding cake. Consider passed mini desserts or even an ice cream sundae bar to accompany your cake.

Wondering if a cocktail reception menu will be less expensive than a sit down meal? Visit cocktail wedding budget and add your ideas and comments.

Signature Cocktail

The perfect compliment to your cocktail reception menu are wedding signature drinks. You can have one or more drinks that tie into your overall wedding theme (a season, location, favorite hobby, etc.), or maybe you just have a favorite drink that you want to share with your guests.


The overall theme of your wedding will help to determine the entertainment you select. For a more formal event, you can choose a small band like a trio or quartet.

If you are having a larger event, you may want to hire a DJ to entertain your guests. An important thing to note is that just because you are having a cocktail event doesn't mean your guests can't dance and have a good time.

Just be sure that the entertainment you choose fits your theme, overall wedding feel and reception space.

Let Them Mingle

At cocktail receptions guests typically move around and socialize a little more than the traditional sit down reception. Planning to have enough places for your guests to sit is a very important step that you don’t want to forget.

A combination of high top tables as well as traditional round tables usually works well. This gives those that want to stand somewhere to place their drink and plate and also offers seating for those that want to sit for the reception.