Q: Our reception starts at 11 a.m. Is that too early for guests to start drinking?

A: For some guests, it probably is; for others, a party's a party no matter what time of day, and they'll be happy to raise a glass or two. Instead of stocking the bar with hard liquors, though, take a lighter route. "You could do a bubbly bar, with champagnes and sparkling wines, or pass around Bloody Marys, in addition to serving wine and beer," says Laura Weatherly, owner of Engaging Affairs in Alexandria, Virginia. Fruity alcoholic drinks can be both pretty and punchy, like strawberry piña coladas or pomegranate margaritas. Have juices and sodas on hand too, plus iced tea and flavored lemonade in summer or mulled cider in winter.

See all questions about food and drink etiquette

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