The Barn at High Point Farms

guests in horsering for cocktails

Purpose of Cocktail Hour

The purpose of Cocktail Hour is to occupy your guests while the bride and groom are taking pictures. If you can occupy them and keep them happy is a bonus. Let me give you some ideas for your Cocktail – Appetizer Hour.


You still refer to Cocktail Hour as such even if it is a dry wedding.  Providing drinks is a must no matter what time of year your event happens even if it is just a trough of water bottles. If you are indeed serving alcohol of any sort, always plan to accommodate non-drinkers with water and even better, some sodas or tea.

cocktail hour refreshments

If you are providing alcohol, it is always helpful to provide signage or display the choices which will help speed up the service line. 

grain bin bar bartender

Actual Cocktails or Not

It is easy enough to just provide beers and wines during Cocktail Hour.  With a bit of variety, this will easily please your guests.  For those who wish to add a bit of speciality and flare to their event, you can provide a cocktail just for this hour. Some will even provide two cocktails – one that is the bride’s favorite and the other is the groom’s.

special drinks for guests

Often couples will opt to give unique names to their cocktails just to personalize it. Either way, it is a good idea to provide signage to inform guests as to what is in the particular cocktail mix so they can choose wisely.

Consider Specialty Drinks for Non-Drinkers

Signature Cocktail drinks are a fun idea but you may also consider creating a cocktail for non-drinkers.  Whether this is providing a trough full of various soda bottles like a fun mix of rootbeers, Grape Ne-Hi, Fantas,etc., virgin fruity sangrias, or by creating a non-alcoholic version of a cocktail.  This will help your non-drinkers feel included in all of the fun activities.

cocktail hour grain bin

How Many Bartenders Do You Need?

You generally know whether your guest are mostly drinkers or not. Courtesy is to have plenty of bartenders so to be able to serve your guests quickly. If this is short-staffed, this will delay guests getting their drinks and set a bad tone. The need for extra bartender increases with the option for a cocktail as each specialty drink slows down the process.  General guideline seems to be one bartender for 75 guests.  I think this assumes that a fair number of guests will opt for drinks other than at the bar.  So as you calculate this service, consider increasing your bartending staffing if your guests are mostly drinkers.

Cocktails Only or Adding Appetizers

Now you have their thirst quenched, do you want to add appetizers too?  Drink is a must but of course you know that guests will love to have food too.  Yes, this is an added expense, but remember the purpose; keep your guests happy while you are taking photos.  

appetizer table

Advice: 1. Don’t have messy options.  This is not the time to have salsa or drippy dips.  2.  Always have some variety. With people’s varied tastes or allergies, a mix of options will please a broader scope of guests.  3.  If you can avoid the need for silverware, this is ideal.  4. Either have multiple tables of food stations for quick and easy access or consider having your catering staff walk around with trays. Anticipation always builds as each round of appetizers are introduced into the crowd. Both of these will help avoid long lines.

staff delivered apps

Provide Some Seating

No matter what your crowd size is, there is always some guests who need to sit at least for a bit.  You then can weigh the options of how much seating (benches or chairs) plus the need for high tops or for some actual tables and chairs.  This will also be influenced by your guest count too.

high tops appetizer hour
appetizer hour


Guests are now fed and thirst quenched. Bonus will be to actually provide some entertainment for them. Here at High Point Farms, we have cornhole that can be set out. This seems to be a crowd pleaser for all ages

appetizer hour entertainment

We are infamous for our “Baby Goat Visit” that can amuse almost everybody. Photo op anybody?

bride and goat

Sometimes it is a good idea for your sign-in table to actually be positioned in this same area as your cocktail/appetizer hour will be held.  This is especially true for more complicated sign ins that “just a signature” is needed; like a photo booth, a bucket list for advice or travel ideas, a finger stamp sign in, or one of those audio-guestbooks that are becoming popular.

advise or ideas
audio phone message

One more great idea is to have live music.  This certainly does not need to be a band with everything else that is going on, but a musician and/or singer musician provides some gently entertainment and background music.  Or for those who have string orchestra players for their ceremony, considering keeping them an extra hour to play for the guests during appetizer hour. 

string players

Whether the bride and groom take the whole hour for their family photos and thier romantic portrait photos or whether you decide to enjoy part of this Appetizer-Cocktail hour is for another blog post.  For now, I hope this provides you with some food for thought for the best approach to creating a Cocktail Hour that both occupies your guests but does so with keeping them happy too.


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