What Is A Cocktail Reception Wedding

The answer to what is a cocktail reception wedding is at the name itself, where it’s a cocktail party-style wedding reception. We will discuss what usually happens at a cocktail wedding reception as it’s not only about serving cocktails at the wedding reception. 

We will also talk about the time and duration expected for a cocktail reception. And as for the specific time dedicated to cocktails during the reception, please read what is cocktail hour at a wedding

what is a cocktail reception wedding


Everything To Know About What Is A Cocktail Reception Wedding

A cocktail reception wedding refers to an event that is designed to encourage mingling and socialization among the wedding guests. Compared to formal sit-down receptions, a cocktail wedding reception usually have guests standing and interacting with each other. 

Remember that traditional wedding receptions usually have the wedding guests staying at their designated tables. On the contrary, a cocktail reception wedding has the guests going to different stations with finger goods and appetizers. 

Because of this setup, they can talk with the other guests while having drinks at the wedding bar. The ongoing theme is also more upbeat as the wedding DJ keeps the energy high. 

In general, here are the traits to expect at a cocktail-style wedding reception:

  • Guests are encouraged to mingle and socialize
  • Numerous stations of food items are around the room to have guests try whatever they please
  • Waiters can also move around the reception passing hors d’oeuvres
  • The wedding bar is usually an open bar
  • The music is lively rather than formal like in a sit-down and more serious wedding reception


Are there cons to having a cocktail-style reception? 

  • A cocktail reception wedding may be pricier to budget for because of the different food stations and the quantity you must serve the guests
  • You will need servers and staff members walking around the reception and also operating the food stations 
  • The reception area should be big enough for comfortable mobility among guests
  • Some guests may not enjoy the socializing setup of a cocktail reception
  • You run the risk of having some guests feel like they’re an outcast, especially if they don’t have their own group at the wedding 


How Do You Make A Cocktail Reception?

A cocktail reception is easy to plan because you only need to prepare the dishes and place to ensure that they are enough for the wedding guests who’ll be moving around. However, some couples prefer to combine a traditional seated reception with a cocktail reception, so there is still a flow of events with the socializing aspect. 

  • You can have one to two hours of the cocktail-style reception, then provide three hours for the seated section with the wedding reception traditions
  • Alternatively, you can follow the cocktail reception with a seated meal composed of a first course and buffet


What Is A Cocktail Theme Wedding?

If you want your event to be inspired by cocktail parties, here is how you can plan a cocktail wedding reception: 


Cocktail wedding venue

It would be more suitable to have the cocktail wedding somewhere spacious and has an atmosphere that will make the guests feel at ease mingling. It can be at a bistro or hotel, whichever suits the budget and wedding guest size. 

Remember that you should still provide seating, especially for older wedding guests. Then, decorate the venue with exciting lighting and elements typical of any cocktail event. 


Cocktail wedding dress code

A cocktail wedding will follow a cocktail dress code, which is considered semi-formal. The guests will still look like they exerted effort in their outfits, but they don’t need to wear black-tie event clothes. 


Cocktail wedding menu

Of course, the iconic part of a cocktail wedding is the appetizers. So offer a selection of appetizers and finger foods that the guests can enjoy while mingling. 

You can also read how many appetizers per person in a wedding to know how to count. And, of course, provide drinks like wine, cocktails, and spirits. 


What Time Is Cocktail Wedding?

Cocktail weddings are not meant to provide guests with a full dinner like a typical wedding reception. Therefore, it can be after dinner or around 7 pm. 

You can also consider the activities you want to have to schedule your events more effectively. For example, some cocktail weddings even start at 4 pm. 


Is Reception The Same As Cocktail Hour?

The wedding reception is not synonymous with the cocktail hour, but the two can overlap. Think of the cocktail hour as the time before the reception, right after the wedding ceremony. 


How Long Is A Cocktail Wedding Reception?

A cocktail wedding reception typically lasts between 2 to 3 hours. Keep this in mind when planning your meals and drinks as you should have enough food and drinks throughout the cocktail reception for the guests. 


How Many Seats Are In A Cocktail Reception?

Provide seats for 50% of your total guest number when having a cocktail reception. It’s a standing reception, but remember that some guests will prefer sitting down. 



And that’s it! You just learned what is a cocktail reception wedding which is a reception designed to encourage mingling among guests.

You don’t need to provide seats and a full-course meal, but appetizers and drinks are necessary to keep everyone entertained. It usually lasts 2 to 3 hours, so plan your budget accordingly. 

Leave a Comment