7 Dos and Don'ts of Outdoor Wedding Cocktail Hours

Is there anything better than sipping cocktails in the sunshine?

Updated 07/22/19

Photo by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Alfresco ceremonies and receptions are all part of the splendor of hosting summer weddings. Another added bonus? Outdoor wedding cocktail hours. After all, is there anything better than sipping cocktails in the sunshine? Just imagine the transition between your ceremony and reception one filled with fresh florals, plenty of natural light, hand fans, interactive lawn games, and custom bar setups! Sounds dreamy, right?

However, there are some dos and don'ts of outdoor wedding cocktail hours you need to consider if you want to treat your guests to drinks and hors d'oeuvres on your reception grounds. Here are some creative tips that will guarantee a cocktail hour well spent.

01 of 07

DO Tent Your Bar

Photo by Norman + Blake

“Don't be afraid of tenting the bar for cocktail hour, especially if you are having your wedding during the summer,” suggests Britt Cole and Francie Dorman, founders of 42 North. An outdoor wedding cocktail hour can quickly become very hot, so think about shade. “Here, we maximized the size of the tent by creating a custom-made round bar that fully wrapped around the center pole, allowing guests to come into the tent and access the bar from any angle,” they explain.

02 of 07

DO Focus on Your Portraits

Photo by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

“Do sneak away for portraits during cocktail hour,” says Charlotte Jenks Lewis, owner of Charlotte Jenks Lewis, adding, “It’s a nice time of the evening to get some extra pictures.” Strategize golden hour for your cocktail hour, gathering for photos filled with glowing, sunset light.

03 of 07

DON'T Leave Your Guests Hot and Bothered

Photo by Jose Villa

There are endless ways to offer guests ways to beat the summer heat. Brooke Keegan, owner and creative director of Brooke Keegan Special Events, suggests couples set up displays of parasols and chilled lavender towels to refresh guests. “These small touches will leave a lasting impression on your guests and set the tone for the rest of the night!” she says.

04 of 07

DO Customize Cocktails

Photo by Christopher Shane

Toast your special day with a themed cocktail! “Don’t be afraid to stray from traditional champagne and add a personal touch with a signature cocktail feature during your cocktail hour,” suggests Demi Meeker, senior sales manager at Cannon Green. A personalized menu with an homage to memories of your relationship—where you had your first date, an ode to your hometown—can add a memorable experience to your wedding cocktail hour.

05 of 07

DON'T Be Afraid to Get Interactive

Photo by O'Malley Photographers

Staging a comfortable happy hour for your guests can set the tone of your reception, so start it all off with a fun activity. “Think of a creative display where guests can walk through and pluck their escort card from a garden arch or pull it from a basket of fruit with names penned to each,” suggests Aleah and Nick Valley, founders of Valley & Company Events. “We all love lawn games, but other activities like a raw seafood bar or wine pairings will elevate the experience,” they add.

06 of 07

DON'T Forget About Seating

Photo by Magnus Bogucki

“If the cocktail hour is held on grass, there is nothing worse than having your guests jockeying to be comfortable and relaxed,” says Brenda Babcock, owner of Brenda Babcock Celebrations. When finalizing your cocktail hour design, plan for an abundance of seating and separate lounge areas to guarantee your guests are comfortable in between events.

07 of 07

DO Choose Seasonal Decor

Photo by Kate Headley Photography

“Summer soirées call for paper fans and cool cocktails to keep your guests refreshed,” says Shannon Wellington, owner of Shannon Wellington Weddings. This fun summer wedding decor idea can translate into a festive seasonal design that will help keep guests cool, as well as hint to the time of year.

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