Cassie
Beginner April 2022

"Cocktail hour" without food

Cassie, on October 12, 2021 at 6:57 PM Posted in Wedding Reception 0 21
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So we're doing a small ceremony with only immediate family and the bridal part. The rest of our 40 guests are only invited to the reception. We plan to make a big entrance because most guest will not see the ceremony. That means that we will have our reception begin 30-45mins before we actually enter and about an hour before we eat. We're doing this to ensure all guests are there when we make our entrance, including the fashionable late types. I don't want guests to be uncomfortable or bored while they wait. We plan for the bar to be open, the DJ will be playing music and of course this means they'll have time to get there sign guest book, drop of gifts, etc. Does this feel appropriate or is there something else I should provide or have going on to keep guests entertained during this time?


And as a note we can afford to add an extra small component for this first hour but having a proper hors d'oeuvre hour with servers is not in our budget

21 Comments

Latest activity by Cassie, on October 18, 2021 at 10:47 AM
  • M
    VIP January 2019
    Maggie ·
    • Flag

    I think most would advise not to serve alcohol without food. As for guests being bored, they should be able to mingle with other guests to fill that 45 minutes of waiting time. But I think they will definitely wonder why they have shown up to a party so long before the hosts make an appearance.

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  • JM Sunshine
    JM Sunshine ·
    • Flag
    Alcohol should not be served without food. While you might not be able to afford catered h'ordoerves, you can get cheese/bread/fruit platters for reasonable prices at Costco or local grocery store.
    • Reply
  • Cool
    Super July 2020
    Cool ·
    • Flag
    Definitely serve some sort of food when you’re serving alcohol. Your guests won’t be where you want them when if they’re drunk and wandering around.
    • Reply
  • Cassie
    Beginner April 2022
    Cassie ·
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    And we may actually make then entrance sooner than that. We're setting it so the ceremony ends at the same time the reception starts so the only delay will be just how long it takes for photos. 45mins we been an extreme case
    • Reply
  • Rosie
    Rockstar February 2022
    Rosie ·
    • Flag

    I agree with the above - it isn't a good idea to serve alcohol without food, even though 1 hour isn't all that long. I went to a recent wedding where the ceremony ended and cocktail hour started immediately. I'd say it was at least 2 hours, maybe longer before any food was available, and what was, the older relatives immediately crowded around, and the younger people were too polite to push their way in. In the meantime, the waitstaff were barely letting people finish a glass before they'd top you up, so by the time dinner came people were pretty merry. I'd personally want my guests to be a little less rambunctious, haha.

    The thing to be conscious of is that people skip lunch in the rush of getting to a wedding ceremony on time, and so they haven't really eaten enough before they come.

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  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
    • Flag
    Food must be served with alcohol or you will be held liable for drunk sick guests. Can you provide meat and cheese platters or hummus and pita chips for the vegans?


    Don’t delay anything to accommodate for late comers. If they choose to arrive late, it isn’t fair for the ones who attend on time and are getting hangry waiting for dinner. Cut out unnecessary stuff to be able to provide food during the cocktail hour. Skip the signage, the photo booth, champagne, the second dessert, reception dress. Have one ceremony/reception for everyone instead of multiple receptions. Guests do remember the food and hospitality. Not providing food is something that will be badly remembered.
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  • Jacks
    Master September 2019
    Jacks ·
    • Flag
    Yep it’s not a good idea to serve drinks with no food.
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  • J
    January 1895
    Jessa ·
    • Flag

    Asking people to arrive 45 minutes before you is not polite. You can still make an entrance without making them wait that long. Think of it this way, would you ask people to arrive 45 minutes before your ceremony? In my opinion, just like the ceremony; if you say arrive by 4pm most people will arrive by 3:45. And, just like the ceremony someone may be late and they would just slide in inconspicuously. Just like they would for the ceremony. I would tell them to arrive at MOST 20 minutes before. I really don't think people will mingle around because its an unusual circumstance. I think most people will go to their table and wait, thinking you will arrive any minute and they don't want to be standing around when it happens. Otherwise, I would cut somewhere else and host them with food and drinks.

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  • Cassie
    Beginner April 2022
    Cassie ·
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    Well 45mins is on the long side. Right now we plan for the ceremony to end at 5:00 and for the reception to begin also at 5:00. Meaning the only thing holding us back will be photos. So it honestly may be only 20mins I don't know how long to expect the photos to take.
    Like I said I'm asking for suggestions for things to offer and I have no problem with providing food just not served and catered hors d'oeuvre. So do you have a suggestion on this?
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  • Cassie
    Beginner April 2022
    Cassie ·
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    Multiple receptions? I didn't say I'm having multiple receptions. Just the ceremony and reception with most guests only being invited to the reception. I also am already not doing any of the unnecessary things you've listed so there's nothing to cut out. Do you have suggestions for cheap food options that don't require a server/caterer?
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  • Cassie
    Beginner April 2022
    Cassie ·
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    Thank you. Do you have suggestions?
    • Reply
  • Cece
    Super November 2022
    Cece ·
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    You could do charcuterie trays (meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers, olives, etc.). You could also go to Costco or Sam’s Club and buy individually wrapped snacks in bulk and set up snack baskets.
    • Reply
  • Samantha
    Dedicated August 2022
    Samantha ·
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    This is what I was about to suggest! I went to a wedding where the cocktail hour between the ceremony and the reception involved the kegs being turned on but no dinner yet. What they actually did was have little bowls and trays of things like Chex Mix and cheese cubes and grapes (low maintenance charcuterie, if you will) and then also put out the desserts that were not the wedding cake itself. They had a DIY photobooth set up, and the DJ was playing music. We didn't even notice that they were gone for an hour.

    I personally wouldn't really find it rude to be invited to a reception where the bride and groom were not present yet, as long as there were snacks, drinks, and something to do however low key. We actually went to a wedding with a very similar set up to yours two years ago. They had a ceremony at the courthouse with their parents and siblings, then came to the reception venue for their first dance, dinner, and to see everyone. While they were gone we just mingled, drank, and ate snacks! I think we were there for 30-45 minutes before we got to see them.

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  • C
    Master January 2019
    Cassidy ·
    • Flag
    We had simple fruit and veggie trays and it was plenty for our guests to snack on while mingling. And they were fairly cheap to add on with our caterer, like $25 a tray or something.
    • Reply
  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
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    View Quoted Comment
    Some people (not all) do have multiple receptions. Not saying you are specifically but some in this similar situation will be planning them.



    Are you required to use a specific caterer through the venue or who is contracted as a preferred caterer? If so, ask them to serve basic meat and cheese platters. Also hummus and pita chips for vegans. That is your least expensive option. If you are able to go through Costco, do the same thing. Get meat and cheese platters and hummus or salsa with chips.
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  • JA
    Devoted March 2022
    JA ·
    • Flag

    Definitely don't have drinks without food. My suggestion would be to start the reception 30 minutes after the ceremony. Have the bar open, but also have bread rolls and a salad at each guest's seat. Guests can come in, sign the guest book, grab a drink and find their seat and snack if they want to. This also gives you and your bridal party time for pictures without guests waiting around for longer than what is truly necessary.

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  • W
    Super September 2020
    Willow Online ·
    • Flag
    Why don't you skip the cocktail hour and have guests arrive about 15 min before dinner service? Do your grand entrance and any speeches, then start serving dinner. Have the bar open from the start, but you don't need to keep guests waiting around for 45 minutes


    The whole point of cocktail hour is to keep your guests occupied between the ceremony and reception while the vendors are flipping the space and you're taking pictures. If the guests won't be at the ceremony, there's no need for a lengthy cocktail hour
    • Reply
  • R
    Savvy March 2022
    Renee ·
    • Flag

    I don't see how this is any different from the people who make you wait around forever while they take pictures between the ceremony and reception. As long as the bar is open and you have some nuts or something out it should be fine.

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  • Jacks
    Master September 2019
    Jacks ·
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    For sure! Just veggie trays, crackers and cheese, charcuterie would work.

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  • Slrhoshi
    Dedicated March 2022
    Slrhoshi ·
    • Flag
    As someone who doesn't drink, drink only cocktail hours always have bothered me. I have avoided showing up to them if I knew it would only be drinks. You have to know your guests to be able to pull this off.
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