16 Pre-Ceremony Cocktail Hour Ideas for a Warm Welcome to Your Wedding

Kick off the celebration with these refreshing drinks and satisfying snacks.

Mobile bar cart with rose and infused water

Photo by Amber Gress Photography

Just like any other successful party, food and drinks are a focal point at wedding celebrations. Guests will often find themselves eating and drinking throughout the event, which usually looks like appetizers and signature beverages at cocktail hour, a main meal with multiple courses—topped off with a slice of wedding cake—at the reception, and sometimes late-night snacks at the after-party. Since your friends and family will be grazing on tasty goodies all day and night, serving refreshments before your vow exchange isn’t a requirement. However, hosting a pre-ceremony cocktail hour is a considerate gesture that enhances the guest experience by creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for your loved ones.

For some couples, especially if you aren’t hosting a weekend of events, the ceremony is the first time many of your guests will be meeting one another. Setting up an assortment of appetizers and beverages will help break the ice by encouraging the crowd to mix and mingle while partaking in a shared experience. Likewise, if your friends and family are traveling from out of town, some of them might not have time to grab a bite before heading to your venue. A spread of snacks onsite will keep hunger at bay for the vow swap and help tide them over until the main cocktail hour and larger reception meal. For warm-weather weddings in the great outdoors, sipping a chilled drink or taking a bite of a refreshing snack before you tie the knot will keep guests cool, to boot.

Opting to include a pre-ceremony cocktail hour is also an opportunity to reinforce your aesthetic. Set up a mobile bar cart decorated with vibrant flowers at garden weddings, or denote a table of treats with a lucite sign for modern affairs. You can also honor your venue location by incorporating local ingredients, such as coconut water at tropical bashes on the beach or slices of citrus fruit at a soirée in Florida. From light bites and non-alcoholic drinks to more substantial appetizers and boozy beverages, there are so many options to serve before you say “I do.”

Keep scrolling for more tasty drink and snack ideas to serve at your pre-ceremony cocktail hour that your guests will love.

Champagne Cart

Champagne cart

Photo by KT Crabb Photography

There’s nothing more celebratory than popping open a bottle of bubbly on your special day. Although champagne is commonly served during toasts at the reception, why not get the party started a bit earlier? Pouring coupes of this boozy beverage ahead of your ceremony will create the right ambiance and get your guests excited for the moment you and your partner become newlyweds. You can even consider presenting the setup on a mobile bar cart for an unexpected display that’s interactive and aesthetically pleasing.

Chips and Guacamole

Chips and guacamole

Photo by Liron Erel & Co

Chips and dips are a go-to party appetizer for a reason. The combination of a crunchy and salty snack with a dollop of creamy guacamole is undeniably tasty, low-maintenance, and crowd-pleasing. Instead of whipping up a huge batch of the spread, consider a single-serve alternative, which is easier to grab and far more sanitary. If you’re hosting your nuptials in Mexico, this is a fun way to infuse the local flavors into your wedding.

Charcuterie Cones

Charcuterie cones

Photo by Karena Dixon Photography

Charcuterie boards have been a trending party appetizer for years now. To bring the beloved snack to your wedding, swap the wooden slab for “cones” of cured meats, cheeses, crackers, olives, and fruits. They’re easy to hold while conversing, and the pre-portioned servings will guarantee that your guests will get a bite of each ingredient. Arranged on a wall, these pre-ceremony snacks will elevate any affair, whether it’s a vow exchange in Tuscany or a celebration in autumn.

Arnold Palmers

Arnold palmer

Photo by Hannah Forsberg

The classic mix of iced tea and lemonade is a refreshing pre-ceremony beverage, especially if you’re tying the knot outdoors in the spring or summer season. At professional golfer Lanto Griffin’s wedding, his loved ones slurped down Arnold Palmers—complete with a golf ball-shaped ice cube—before the ceremony. With floral arrangements at each table, the drink display certainly made an impression.

Lobster Rolls

Mini lobster rolls

Photo by Amber Gress Photography

Another flavorful bite for warmer seasons or climates is a lobster roll. This seafood-stuffed snack makes an ideal accompaniment to coastal ceremonies, especially in Maine, which is known for lobster. Instead of a full-sized sandwich, which makes it difficult for your guests to talk between mouthfuls, serve miniature versions. 

Sparkling Rosé

Sparkling rose with photo of the couple

Photo by Amber Gress Photography

Rosé is a delicious drink that will bring the energy ahead of your ceremony and double as décor. To really go all out, serve coupes of the sparkling wine with coasters featuring a photo of you and your partner, like Taylor Moskowitz and Vlad Popik did at their wedding in New York. You can also get creative with the flavors, like a slushy Frosé or a Rosé-infused cocktail. We love this option for casual backyard bashes.

Quinoa Shooters

Quinoa shooters

Photo by Jenny Fu Studio

To feed your guests for your vow swap, consider serving quinoa shooters. This appetizer is loaded with protein and nutrients that will fuel your guests for a long day of festivities. Likewise, your vegan or vegetarian guests will appreciate this choice. Serve these healthy snacks on spoons that match your aesthetic and color palette.


Popcorn and cotton candy

Photo by Heather Anderson Photography

Popcorn is a nostalgic snack that calls up memories of snacking on the crunchy, buttery treat while sitting in a dark theater, watching a new movie unfold. To recreate that exciting and comforting experience at your own wedding, pass out boxes of popcorn before you recite your promises. You can also use the containers to incorporate your joint monogram or display your wedding hashtag. For a sweet pairing, combine with cotton candy.

Coconut Water

Coconut water

Photo by Lilly Red

If your festivities are taking place in the sunshine, the last thing you want is for your friends and family to become parched. Before you make it official, hydrate your guests with coconut water. Served in real coconuts engraved with your custom crest, these beverages will supplement a tropical beachside bash by using elements grown in the natural environment.

Caviar Tower

Caviar tower

Photo by Lacie Hansen Photography

If you’re looking for an upscale hors d'oeuvre to distribute at your pre-ceremony cocktail hour, caviar will do the trick. Place this elevated snack on an ornate tower in a courtyard, and enlist a live violinist to enhance the ambiance. This is a suitable choice for glamorous aesthetics.

Spicy Margaritas

Spicy margarita

Photo by Lance Nicoll

Do you want a drink with a kick? Doctor up the classic margarita with slices of jalapeño ahead of your “I dos.” With tequila, lime juice, and orange juice, this concoction complements sunny, beachy environments. You can even make the drink your signature cocktail, which is what Chloe Lott and Alex Williams did for their wedding.

Cucumber Water

Cucumber water

Photo by Jenny Fu Studio

For a pre-wedding cocktail hour, selecting drinks with low alcohol content is a smart idea to avoid over-serving your guests and prevent any disruption during your service. For a mouthwatering beverage that’s zero-proof, try water infused with cucumber and mint. You can also add lemon wedges or slices of orange to incorporate a variety of flavors.

Mini Quiche

Mini quiche

Photo by Beatrice Howell

Quiche isn’t just a breakfast or brunch staple. Puff pastries stuffed with light, fluffy eggs will stave off your guests’ hunger pangs throughout your ceremony. Since these dishes are warming and comforting, they’ll make a great addition to fall or winter nuptials. Opt for mini tarts, so your friends and family can pop one into their mouths while standing. 

Fresh Fruit Bowls

Fresh fruit

Photo by Deirdre Alston

Maybe your guests are peckish but don’t want anything substantial that will weigh them down. For a light bite with a sweet taste, serve bowls of fresh fruit. Pro tip: Choosing varieties grown locally will give you the highest-quality flavors. Present the assorted snack in coconut shells for tropical weddings in the Caribbean island of Antigua or waterfront services in Hawaii.


Mobile cart of lemonade

Photo by Jana Williams Photography

Nothing screams summer like a cold glass of lemonade. If you’re making it official any time from June and August, a citrus drink will quench your guests’ thirst and nod to the season. Switch up your presentation by arranging the glasses on a mobile cart. Then, foreshadow the moment you become newlyweds by completing the setup with a “Just Married” sign.

Fried Cheese Balls

Fried cheese balls

Photo by Pinnel Photography

Cheese is already a crowd favorite, but eating it breaded and fried will instantly increase the satisfaction factor of this ooey-gooey snack. Since this dish is heavy and dense, it’s great comfort food for ceremonies in cold weather.

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