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Hosting the Perfect Cocktail Wedding Reception


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Many brides and grooms include a cocktail hour into their reception, or make the reception a cocktail reception altogether rather than a sit down dinner.  This lively and exciting time signals that the wedding formalities have finished and now it's time to party and celebrate with everyone that the bride and groom loves.  Cocktails are served, champagne flows freely and pretty little morsels and hors d'oeuvres set the stage for the main reception to come.  Here are our great ideas for hosting the perfect cocktail reception on your wedding day.

  • The cocktail hour is not only for celebration but also to help hungry guests wait until the main meals are served at the reception, so don't neglect a few hunger-busting hors d'oeuvers.  Choose your food based on the season, the region you're marrying in and the theme of the day.  Your caterer should be able to assist with appropriate ideas for balancing making guests feel satisfied and serving delectable food that tastes appropriate for the setting.
  • Drinks can include champagne and a full bar, but we recommend you serve a sparkling white or champagne, a white wine, a beer (heavy and light) and a special cocktail created for your wedding day and named after you.  Ask your venue's bar manager to create a special cocktail that guests can enjoy and talk about with their other guests.  You might even like to send guests home with the cocktail recipe as part of their wedding bombonieres.
  • When choosing the caterer for your cocktail reception, make sure you interview several caterers first and once you have made the decision, taste their food so that you are satisfied with the menu you will serve.  Don't simply rely on photographs - you want to make sure that they are going to serve exactly what you expect and there are no surprises.
  • Ensure that the venue or caterer provides enough staff to service the amount of guests you are hosting.  The worst situation at a wedding reception is to have guests without drinks and not enough food to go around - or food not making it to hungry guests in time.  Talk with the venue or caterer about how many staff they will have serving drinks and food and be satisfied that you have enough for your reception before you agree on the quote.
  • Consider all styles of taste, cultures and food allergies when selecting your menus.  You should try and have a menu of hors d'ouevers that includes meat, vegetables (for vegetarian guests), and a low fat or low cholesterol selection.  Balance the food to ensure that you aren't serving all strong flavours.  Ensure that you have some mild selections along with some more exciting and frangrant options.
  • Generally, you should aim to serve around six hors d'ouevers options with one or two budgeted from each selection for each guest.  It is best to leave the reception with food left over than to run out before the cocktail reception ends.
  • Try and arrange some food and drink stations around the cocktail reception to ensure that your guests can pick at the food themselves when the wait staff are otherwise engaged.
  • When the cocktail hour ends, ask wait staff to gently guide your guests towards the main wedding reception area to take their seats.


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