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3 Must-Dos For Your Wedding Cocktail Hour [2024]

Updated: Apr 13

Our guide comes loaded with tips and tricks to elevate your cocktail hour from just another event to an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. 

With these tips, you can transform this part of your celebration into magic that everyone will remember!

Key Takeaways

  • Choose an outdoor setting for a beautiful backdrop and open space that encourages guests to mingle.

  • Add fun games, DIY cocktail stations, and a photo booth to keep everyone entertained.

  • Provide live music to create an inviting atmosphere where guests feel involved in something special.

Tips for a Memorable Wedding Cocktail Hour

Moving the party outdoors for your cocktail hour is a surefire way to create a memorable celebration as beautiful as your love story. Add some string lights and soft music by Joseph & Erika to the setting, and your cocktail hour will be nothing short of enchanting. 

Don’t forget to keep your guests entertained—games and appetizers can motivate your guests to mingle and laugh with each other. With your dreamy atmosphere and engaging activities joined with some live music, you’re not just hosting a wedding—you’re throwing the party of the season!

A New England barn wedding cocktail hour with string lights and a setting sun.

Opt for outdoor or open-air setting

Holding your wedding cocktail hour in the sun can really make it special with guests chatting and laughing under open skies, surrounded by nature’s beauty. 

Not only will it offer a stunning backdrop for photos, but the fresh air and open space also encourages everyone to mix and mingle freely. An open-air setting will make your wedding celebration breathtaking. 

We've seen couples transform gardens, rooftops, and even beachfronts into cozy cocktail lounges with armchairs scattered around, twinkling lights in the trees, and live music floating through the air.

An outdoor setup not only looks amazing, but feels inviting too. Guests will love roaming around, exploring different food stations or grabbing their signature cocktails from bartenders who add flair to the experience.

It sets a relaxed yet vibrant tone right before the main event – your reception! So why stay indoors when you can bring everyone together in such a memorable way?

Include interactive elements and special touches

Of course you want your wedding cocktail hour to be a hit. Your entertainment options are essential to making sure your guests have a great time. Adding interactive elements and unique personal touches will take your cocktail hour to the next level.

  1. Lawn Games: Get competitive! Seeing other guests laughing and enjoying games like cornhole or giant Jenga while sipping on crafted drinks will make everyone want in on the fun. Lawn games allow your wedding guests to socialize and enjoy themselves in a relaxed setting. It’s a fantastic way to keep the energy light and lively. 

  2. DIY Cocktail Stations: Who doesn't love the idea of mixing their own drinks? Set up stations with all the ingredients for signature cocktails, complete with instructions. Not only is it interactive, but it also lets your guests create something that perfectly suits their tastes. Remember to add options for non-alcoholic mocktails so everyone can join in the fun.

  3. Photo Booth without Props: A photo booth is always a crowd-pleaser! Remove the props to get the best photos of your guests without them hiding their faces. A cocktail, a smile, and the energy of your amazing party is the perfect recipe to get lighthearted candid shots of your favorite people. It’s not just entertaining; it also gives everyone memorable keepsakes from your special day. 

  4. Personalized Drink Menus: Create drink menus that reflect both of your personalities or the story of how you met. Renaming popular drinks after significant places or moments in your relationship adds a unique touch that personalizes the experience for everyone involved.

  5. Live Performances: Hire a live musician or DJ who knows just how to set the right mood during your celebration. Your cocktail hour music genre should vary to accommodate all tastes, ensuring all guests hear something they enjoy.

  6. Themed Decor: Bring in elements of decor that match your wedding theme or showcase interests that are special to both of you as a couple. This could range from vintage chic to modern elegance, making the space feel more personalized.

  7. Signature Cocktails and Mocktails: Offering signature drinks exclusive to your wedding adds an elegant touch. Create one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic version so every guest can toast in style during cocktail hour without any guests feeling left out.

  8. Waiters in Tuxedos Serving Appetizers: There’s something about sophisticated waiters circling with hors d'oeuvres that elevates the experience for everyone present—each bite-sized treat giving a preview of the meal to come while keeping hunger at bay as guests mingle.

A delicious-looking cocktail sitting on a bar in a rustic setting.

Incorporating these cocktail hour entertainment ideas will keep your wedding guests from feeling like they’re just waiting around. Instead, they’ll be able to enjoy meaningful moments before the main celebration even begins!

Have Live Music

Live music can make your wedding day unforgettable. An acoustic set from a duo like Joseph & Erika will fill your space with the perfect soundtrack of your love story. 

Don’t think of it as just background noise; live music is instrumental in creating an inviting atmosphere where everyone feels like they’re part of something special. If you’re not sure where to start, your chosen musicians will be more than willing to help you craft an unparalleled setlist. 

Choosing the right music acts is key here. Think about what fits best with your style and what your guests will enjoy, too. Your wedding cocktail hour could even kick off with an energetic DJ set as a preview of the fun times ahead at the reception.

Remember, picking live music isn’t just another box to tick off—it’s setting the tone for the joyous day ahead! It’s about giving people those moments they'll talk about long after; moments when they felt connected, happy, and truly part of your celebration.


Choosing the right setting, adding fun elements, and picking live music are key for a fabulous wedding cocktail hour. A mix of fresh air, engaging activities, and unforgettable entertainment will not only impress your guests but also set a joyous tone for the entire evening.

Keep it simple, make it personal, and ensure everyone has a blast before the main event kicks off. These tips guarantee your cocktail hour will be one to remember – filled with laughter, love, and lots of dancing!


1. What's the big deal about cocktail hour at a wedding?

Your cocktail hour is much more important than you might think. It’s the delightful time between “I do” and the reception, where guests can socialize, enjoy tasty bites, and have a drink or two… or three (who’s counting?). Your cocktail hour puts guests in the right mood for the rest of your celebration!

2. How long is cocktail hour?

Typically, you want to keep the cocktail hour confined to its namesake—only one hour. This golden hour gives you and your newlywed a chance to snap those dreamy wedding photos while your guests relax and catch up over some signature drinks.

3. Got any killer ideas to keep folks entertained?

Absolutely! You can’t miss when it comes to live music. Go for a live duo and playlist that will get your guests’ attention while still allowing for conversation. Or, you can change things up and entertain the crowd with a magician showing off tricks throughout the venue, making your guests wonder “How did they do that?” As long as you get your guests involved, these touches will make your cocktail hour unforgettable.

4. What kind of food are we talking here?

You’ve likely paid a pretty penny for dinner… so you don’t want to spoil your guests’ appetite before the main course! Think gourmet sliders or sushi rolls—these are easy to eat while holding a conversation and a cocktail. Aim for tasty yet tidy appetizers to keep your guests from making a mess of their carefully-selected wedding attire.

5. And what's this about music during cocktail hour?

Music during cocktail hour is like icing on a cake—it just makes everything better! Any gaps in conversation will be filled with songs speaking to your love story. An acoustic duo playing love songs can add so much charm and keep spirits high as everyone gears up for the party ahead.

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