05 Jul Cocktail Hour Reinvented: 6 Ways to Kickstart Your Event

You’ve exchanged your vows and now it’s time to party. The standard cocktail hour can often be boring with a lot of standing around waiting for passed hors d’oeuvres or in line for drinks. The cocktail hour sets the tone for your reception, so kick your event up a notch with these cocktail hour tips:

Don’t Skimp on the Staff

Having enough staff on hand is key to creating a comfortable cocktail hour. You don’t want to have your guests waiting around for food and drinks. Kickstart the reception by having servers pass a signature drink to guests as they enter the cocktail area; that way the bar won’t immediately have a line. Set up several bar areas scattered throughout the room to ease congestion. You can even designate one bar for cocktails and another one for simple wine or beer pours. It is also key to have enough staff passing hors d’oeuvres so that the tray doesn’t run out as soon as the server steps in the room.

Personalized Details

No two wedding receptions should be alike. Put your personal touch on the party with a signature cocktail or mocktail. You can also use personalized monogrammed napkins or attach mini paper flags with your initials onto striped straws to place in your signature cocktail.

RR cocktail hour apps

Finger Foods

Trying to juggle a drink and plate while socializing just isn’t fun. No one wants to choose between holding their glass or holding their plate. Cocktail hour foods should be easy to eat—no knives necessary. Solve the juggling dilemma by serving miniaturized versions of your favorite foods. These finger foods, highlighted in individual vessels, are perfect for the cocktail hour. That way, your guests can be free to mingle without a large plate and cutlery bogging them down. Think fun-sized edible cracker spoons topped with lump crab and mango salad or seared ahi tuna with couscous and a sweet chili lime sauce.

Comfortable Seating

While your guests will mostly be standing and socializing during cocktail hour, it is important to have places for your guests to sit down. Think outside the box for seating ideas—cozy leather soft seating like we have in our club room at Columbia Station, period furniture in the living and dining rooms at Philander Knox Estate or wrought iron cocktail tables with large umbrellas that turn our Barn on Bridge into a rustic outdoor oasis.

RR cocktail hour seating

Great Music

Let music serve as backdrop to your event. Cocktail hour music should be soft enough that there can be conversation, but memorable enough to set the tone for the evening. From standards to classical or even music by Vitamin String Quartet, who turn popular music into classical masterpieces, choose music that reflects your personal style.

It’s Not Just Food and Drinks

Sure, the drinks and food will be flowing, but the cocktail hour should be a fun introduction to you as a couple. Set up a photo booth with props, bring in a caricaturist or strolling magician to entertain or set up backyard games like bocce, giant Jenga and cornhole to keep your guests busy at an outdoor reception.

RR cocktail hour games

Ready to start planning your party? Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers today! Robert Ryan Catering & Design includes a wedding cake with all wedding packages.

Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venuesSubscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.

Ronna Dewey



From inception to execution, Robert Ryan Catering & Design works with you to realize your vision for your event, and translate it into a successful affair.