Hors d'oeuvres are often wedding guests' favorite part of the evening, so it's a fun idea to simply extend the "cocktail hour" to a full reception. But if you've decided to go this route, be sure to let your guests know—the last thing you want is for them to be disappointed because they were expecting a sit-down dinner. So, what's the best way to clue them in? We're here to answer your questions.
If you've decided to skip the more-formal multicourse dinner in favor of a cocktail party reception, it's a very smart idea to let guests know, so they won't arrive expecting a full-blown meal. To clue them in that you're hosting a cocktail party, not a five-course feast, clearly state "cocktail reception" or "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres to follow" on the wedding invitation.
Time it so that the reception begins earlier and include an end time by saying something like, "Cocktail reception to follow, 5 to 8 p.m." That leaves plenty of time for mingling and noshing, while still allowing time for hungrier guests to grab dinner afterward.
Also, keep in mind that your guests will eat more hors d'oeuvres than they would during a cocktail hour that is followed by a meal, so you'll want to ramp up the volume and/or variety of foods you serve; plan for at least ten hors d'oeuvres per person. And guests will probably drink more than they would if they were sitting down to eat—so budget accordingly because your liquor costs could go way up.