Planning a Wedding Cocktail Reception

The traditional wedding service and reception has all but become a thing of the past. Today, couples are planning their weddings with a new emphasis on individuality. The church has given way to botanical gardens and elegantly decorated hired venues. Marriage vows are now written by the couple, to reflect their unique and special bond. And wedding receptions now run the gamut from formal to playful, traditional to outrageous. One of the fastest growing trends in wedding receptions, is the cocktail party.

Wedding cocktail receptions do away with the formal sit down dinner so often associated with wedding receptions, and offer a more casual way for friends and family to come together and celebrate the marriage of the happy couple. A cocktail gathering allows guests to mingle, enjoy a few drinks and hors d’oeuvres, engage in some good conversation and laughter, and ultimately dance the night away.

Guest Lists and Invitations

As with any wedding and reception, the first step is to prepare a guest list and send out invitations. Your finalized guest list will help to determine how much alcohol and hors d’oeuvres you will require. Most couples will be keeping an eye on costs, so set a budget and choose the number of guests accordingly.

When preparing your invitations, you should make it clear that the reception will be a cocktail party with drinks and appetizers. Many wedding guests still assume that all receptions include a sit down dinner, and you want to make it clear from the start that what you are planning is a cocktail reception.

Cocktail Time

Once the guest list is finalized, and the invitations ready, it’s time to start thinking about the bar. You will want to stock the wet bar with an adequate amount of alcohol to accommodate all of your guests, and you will want to have enough of a variety to satisfy every taste. The basic rule of thumb is to allow one liter of rum, tequila, gin and whiskey, and six liters of vodka, for every one hundred guests. A selection of red and white wines, two dozen bottles each, should also be figured into the bar requirements. A selection of beers can also be ordered, chosen to suit the taste of your guests.

In addition to the alcohol, you will need to consider a selection of mixers. The basics include orange juice, grapefruit juice, tonic water, and cranberry juice. You will also want to order in some soft drinks, both regular and diet, to be used as mixers and for those guests who won’t be indulging in alcohol.


Working closely with your caterer you can select a variety of hors d’oeuvres to be passed around during the reception. As your guests will be mingling and chatting throughout the evening, you will want to choose appetizers that are easy to handle. Miniature crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms, chicken skewers and truffle studded flat-breads make for tasty and easy to manage hors d’oeuvres. Your caterer can make suggestions based on the tastes and preferences of you and your guests. Be sure to include vegetarian options for those guests who prefer to avoid meat. Keep in mind that your guests will be drinking, and as there will be no sit down dinner you will want to have enough appetizers to fully satisfy your guests.

Choosing a Venue

The choice of venue for your wedding cocktail reception will be largely determined by the number of guests you have invited, and by the theme or style of the reception itself. Many event spaces offer elegant lobbies and botanical gardens that are perfect for stylish cocktail parties. If the theme of your wedding is elegance, this is the way to go. For a more casual atmosphere, you may opt for a venue with an open plan banqueting hall that can be decorated to suit your wedding’s theme.

When choosing the venue for your wedding cocktail reception, remember you will need tables and seating for at least 75% of your guests. While the purpose of a cocktail party is to get people to mingle, your guests won’t be on their feet all evening. Be sure the event space can provide the necessary tables and chairs, complete with linens and tablescapes to match your wedding décor.

A wedding cocktail reception offers a lively alternative to the traditional sit down dinner commonly associated with weddings, and will make for an evening that friends and family will not soon forget.

More Posts