3 Ways to Spend Your Cocktail Hour (That Aren’t Taking Photos) | Wedding Wednesday

Happy Wedding Wednesday, y’all! It is the FIRST post of its kind this year! I know so many of you are feeling so excited that it is FINALLY your wedding year, so before we dive into all of this, I just wanted to wish you a super HAPPY WEDDING YEAR! Today, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks with you to help you get the most out of cocktail hour!

I feel like this is often a bit of an overlooked and under-planned time of the day when it comes to a wedding couple’s schedule. Chances are good, your guests are enjoying cocktails, your wedding party joins in the fun, your vendors are buzzing as they prep for your reception, and then you are often left on your own, happily married… but what to do?! While this is a great thing, and honestly the ideal to leave you with a bit of downtime, I wanted to touch base today to ensure that you are spending this time in a way that you’ll love and remember for years to come!

Now… a BIG disclaimer before we truly get rolling: the following options are only really options if you choose to share a first look and if you choose to get all of your family and wedding party portraits out of the way pre-ceremony. Post-ceremony, I’ll usually ask for 15 or so minutes of portraits of the two of you (Because ya gotta show off that bling and just-married smiles!!!), and brides will bustle if applicable. As a wedding photographer, I want you to be able to experience your wedding day with your people… the last thing I want is for you to be in front of my camera for all of your cocktail hour if you don’t really have to be! So… working it out this way, post portraits and post bustle, that usually leaves about 20-30 minutes pre-reception for you to relax and enjoy before prepping for reception entrances! After the hustle and bustle of the day, treasure these moments, slow down, and soak in the day together.

If you do not opt to share a first look, no worries! Just know that if there is not a large gap between your ceremony and reception (Example: Catholic Mass at 1PM with a 6PM start time for cocktail hour), cocktail hour will largely be spent taking portraits. In that time, we’ll need to take family portraits, wedding party portraits, and will take plenty of pretty portraits of you two as a married couple. Don’t skimp on this time— I promise it is worth it! That said, to be honest, this can get pretty stressful because it moves fast! I always recommend a first look but never want to force a couple to something that isn’t true to them as a couple on their day. All that to say, if you are not opting to share a first look, this blog post may not be the best for you! You should instead refer to your timeline created by your wedding planning team, whomever that may be! 

Now… if you ARE looking for a few suggestions of how to spend those 20-30 minutes pre-reception, I got you! Here are a few ideas to inspire your own day:

Eat Dinner

I know this may sounds a little random, but it is SO KEY! I see this all the time: the happy couple is served dinner at their reception first, they take a few bites, someone comes up to give them a hug or hello on their way to the buffet, bathroom, or bar, and from there, the couple starts working tables, leaving most of their food on their plates! You’ll be in a room with most, if not all, of your favorite people, and I want you to be able to enjoy time with all of them! That said, I also want you to feel GOOD and want you to get the most out of your investment in your wedding day food! By opting to take 15-20 minutes to eat as a couple pre-reception, you get to enjoy your first meal as a married couple in the quiet, can eat as much as you want without interruption, and can then enjoy all of your reception mixing and mingling with your guests without having to worry about getting back to your table to eat. It’ll already be done!

You’ll definitely want to check with your catering team well in advance to ensure this is possible.

Spend time, just the two of you

Your wedding day will move FAST and will be enjoyed with SO many of your favorite people! It will be so much fun,  but just know that it doesn’t leave you a lot of time to relax together as a couple. If quiet time as a couple is a priority for you, schedule some time to breathe as a couple during your cocktail hour. Grab a drink and some bites, and then tuck back into the bridal suite or another quiet area of the venue. Chat and catch up on your mornings, admire your rings, celebrate being MARRIED, soak in the day, and get excited about all of the things to come. This may just be one of the only times you’ll have to relax as a couple in total peace and quiet on your wedding day!

Enjoy mingling with family and friends

I see this one a lot, and I love when couples opt to enjoy cocktail hour with their people! Post portraits and bustling, you’ll make your way on over to cocktail hour to enjoy your small bites, cocktails, and the company of loved ones! This is a great way to get some extra social time with your people, pre-reception.

Bonus: take a sneak preview of your reception space

I know so many of my couples work hard to design their reception spaces. More often than not, I’ve seen them pour so much into the design, and then when it comes time to see the room, they don’t have a chance to see their design come together! They only get to see it after guests have taken their seats! (This is why I always try to sneak away to grab a picture of the untouched details in the space during cocktail hour or earlier in the day, if ready!)

If reception design is important to you, you’ll definitely want to sync up with your coordinator or planner to see if you can schedule 2-5 minutes to preview your reception space during cocktail hour, right before guests enter! You’ll see it at it’s best and tidiest (Before coats have been draped over chairs, napkins rustled, and plates half-eaten or drinks moved!). I’ve also seen couples practice their first dance at this time too, and it is always so sweet and such a relief for the couple to have a quick “dress rehearsal” just before it is time to dance in front of their loved ones.

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