Q: Is cocktail hour essential? We don't want people to fill up on hors d'oeuvres and not eat dinner.

A: A cocktail hour isn't just for eating and drinking—it also gives you time to organize the crowd. With cars to park and coats to check, people tend to trickle into an event, and the cocktail period ensures that everyone will be present when dinner is announced, says Katie Fechter of Details Event Coordinators in St. Louis. Rather than eliminating your cocktail hour, Fechter suggests cutting it back to 45 minutes or scaling down the number of selections (three types of passed hors d'oeuvres instead of six).

See all questions about food and drink etiquette

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