You and your fiancé have looked at all your options and have decided to embrace a cocktail party style reception for your wedding! Well, we think that’s Awesome! Some of the best parties we’ve been a part of have embraced the more informal (but no less amazing) cocktail style reception! And, it’s your wedding, so if you’ve always wanted a wedding reception that feels like one big party, we say… Go for it!

So without any further ado, here’s a quick list of tips and tricks to bring out the fun and absolutely rock your cocktail party celebration!

The food is always a really big part of a cocktail style wedding – it truly is one of the main features – even more so than during a sit down dinner where there are lots of other distractions and formalities. As such, there are many opportunities in the choice of hors d’oeuvres, food bars, desserts, and late night stations to have fun and tailor the entire menu to your (and your fiancé’s) family heritage or traditions or  maybe even your sparkling personalities!

Keep the food coming throughout the evening! Seriously! People will be dancing and enjoying cocktails and will burn off all of those hor d’oeuvres and smaller bites fairly quickly. And, you never want your guests to feel the need to leave because they’re hungry! And, trust us, too many cocktails with too little food isn’t a recipe for a fun party, it’s usually a recipe for an early night!

Even Though you’re having a cocktail party style reception, it’s best to still include some comfy and inviting seating nooks or areas and likely even a small collection of tables and chairs. Your older guests, and guests with young children will appreciate a place to sit, have a break and chat while they have a bite to each. You seriously don’t want your guests to leave so that they can sit down and take a rest, so give them the opportunity to do that in your celebration space, so they’re ready to get right back to partying!

If you want to have a great dance party, make sure your venue isn’t too big and cavernous! Ideally you want to hit that sweet spot where your reception doesn’t feel crowded and cramped, but still feels intimate. And, the same goes for your actual dance floor! People tend to feel a little shyer and a bit slower to warm up if the dance floor is too big or the guestlist isn’t big enough to fill it! Also, if you hire an awesome DJ (hint, hint), they will often need to bring more sound equipment to fill that large space, which could affect your bottom line as well as increasing set-up/tear-down time. 

Since you’re unlikely to have quite as many formal wedding reception elements in a cocktail style reception, you may need to tweak the wedding timeline. Sometimes shorter can sweeter when it comes to cocktail receptions. After all, guests will be coming ready to party and if they arrive at 6pm oftentimes a 6 hour cocktail reception can be too much without some of the more time consuming elements of a traditional reception. After all, of course you want our guests to come, mingle, celebrate, enjoy and party, but it’s always best to end the party on a high note! Sometimes the best parties leave the guests wanting just a little bit more. It’s kind of like having out of town guests… the best visits are the ones you find yourself wishing were just a little longer, the worst are ones that go on way too long.

You are, of course, welcome to take or leave our advice! And, always, always do what works best for you as a couple! But, these are some of the elements of the most successful cocktail style receptions we’ve been a part of, and we’ve been to quite a few over the years!