A cocktail hour is a great way to transition from part A of an event to part B. For example, during a wedding it provides entertainment and downtime for the guests while the bride and groom are getting their portraits taken or changing outfits. At a corporate event the cocktail hour may allow for room changes or shifts in topic ideas. During this time, the guests are typically provided with drinks and hors d'oeuvres to help hold them over. For longer events this can be vital as dinner may not be served for several more hours and you do not want your guests to go hungry!
Here are 5 tips to help you plan a fabulous cocktail hour for your guests.
1. Offer Variety When it Comes to the Food.
These days there are so many different types of diets that people are following from Paleo to Vegan - it can be hard to feed everyone. Although we recommend providing a variety of choices, we also don’t expect you to break the bank trying to do so. We would encourage at least 3 different foods to be served, either by staff or at a food station, for your guests. To ensure that most people will have at least one choice that they can eat we’d suggest you provide one meat item, one vegetarian item, and one plain jane - this could be fruit skewers or a vegetable crudite plate. There are so many fun options out there to choose from including mini sliders or tacos, soup shooters, grilled shrimp or meat skewers, cheese trays, or ceviche - the choices are endless. You can even take an old classic, like macaroni and cheese, and glam it up a bit, by serving fried mac & cheese bites with truffle oil drizzle. The food offers a brilliant stage to show the personality of the host while also providing a great variety of options for the guests.
2. Create a Signature Cocktail
A signature cocktail is another great way to show the individuality of the hosts. It can be tied to the theme of the event, or perhaps the offering is just a favorite of the host. It can also help cut down on lines at the bar if you are limiting the selection of drinks offered, or having servers pass them out to guests. The drinks can even be provided at a self serve station to cut down on staff all together. Click HERE for a previous article we wrote on how to choose a signature cocktail which may be helpful in figuring out which drink you’d like to serve. Also, in addition to the alcoholic beverages - make sure to offer options without alcohol too, such as water (flat, flavored & sparkling) and juices - not all your guests will want to partake in the libations.
3. Provide Seating
A place to sit can sometimes be overlooked during the cocktail hour, but it is important to remember that an hour can be a long time for someone to be on their feet without the option to sit - especially for any guests who may have health issues that prevent long periods of standing. We highly encourage you to provide an adequate amount of seating options - even if it is simply on the peripheral edge of your event space, so that while you aren’t encouraging guests to sit, those who need to rest their feet can. Trust us - your guests will thank you.
4. Have Some Entertainment
Sure, the cocktail hour is a time to mingle, but having some sort of options for entertainment can help those who seem to struggle in this area. A cocktail hour can be the perfect time to encourage the signing of a guest book or use of a photo booth. Live music, such as a solo guitarist or harpist, can help lighten the mood. Or if it is a more casual outdoor event, perhaps even setting up some lawn games for guests to partake in. The entertainment during this time doesn’t have to be big, but we do suggest at the very least throwing on some music.
5. Stick to an Hour
Although the pre-entertainment is enjoyable and appreciated by most guests, you don’t want it to drag on. Make sure to stick with the timeline of no more than an hour to transition back into the main event. You don’t want to lose the attention of your guests before the main event even begins!
We hope these 5 important tips help you as you plan your next cocktail hour. As always, we are here to help if all this planning feels a bit much. From full event planning and execution to staffing, rentals, or simply day of coordination, we are here to help meet your needs.