A cocktail reception is a nontraditional style that lets you do away with a formal multicourse dinner that does not feel very you. You will not serve any formal meals in this type of reception, and your guests can indulge in a wide selection of hors d’oeuvres. However, you can still include meaningful wedding traditions and host a glamorous cocktail reception. The key is to plan and execute the party carefully and create a vibe, atmosphere, and interaction to make your wedding celebration memorable.

Be creative with your menu

One good thing about a cocktail reception format is that it allows hosts to be extra creative with the food selections. Make sure your guests have enough food to enjoy while standing or lounging. Aside from the expected appetizers or passed hors d’oeuvres, you can also have food stations. Your caterer indeed has the best menu suggestions, but feel free to provide inputs to make it more personalized. For example, include vegan or vegetarian options if guests do not eat meat. You can choose to have the stations throughout the reception so people can come and go as they please, and then schedule your food trays in the beginning. As for the drinks, book a signature bar that offers an excellent selection of cocktails. You can also set up 2 or 3 bars to avoid line-ups.   

Customize a music playlist

Great music is essential for a cocktail reception, especially if you want your guests to dance and have fun. Customize a playlist with your DJ or band. Remember, your music sets the tone for the occasion. Keep your guests entertained since cocktail receptions are heavy on mingling, dancing, chatting, or laughing as there is no scheduled mealtime. Simultaneous fun should be happening most of the time.

Choose an amazing venue

Restaurants or hotels are traditional venues for practical reasons because you do not have to hire an outside caterer or supplier. If you like your wedding to be more unique, find inspiration from cocktail party ideas or nontraditional wedding formats. With proper planning and connections, some can pull off a wedding reception at an art gallery or a historic house. As for the set-up and décor, flowers bring a wedding vibe, but the good thing is that they need not be elaborate. You can set up the ceremony space as the dance floor area so your guests can freely join the ceremony. Thus, it is crucial to figure out how you will work out the space you have.

Provide comfortable seating

A cocktail-style reception should still provide comfy seating for guests. Set up a lounge area aside from the cocktail tables and the typical round tables for comfort and mobility. The essence of this reception style is mingling, so make sure that the space encourages walking around, meeting, and enjoying a relaxed atmosphere.

Inform your guests

Your wedding invitation and RSVP card should clearly state that you are having a cocktail reception. It sets their expectation that you will not serve formal dinners and that it involves standing. But, again, this enables them to prepare accordingly.

Incorporate wedding traditions smartly

This format still allows a flow or sequence. Start the event with early hors d’oeuvres, then segue into the first dance. Next, cut the cake, make way for short speeches and choose wedding traditions that are right for you, such as the bouquet toss and toasts.


Many people enjoy cocktail hours at parties, and making it the main event of your wedding celebration is a bright idea. A cocktail reception is the best option if you want your wedding reception to be less formal yet unique. You can still make it formal if you want, through a nice theme and a creative set-up. Pick a fabulous venue and make sure your guests know ahead of time because not everyone is used to this format. Provide nice seating or traditional groupings for older visitors. It’s your wedding, so feel free to mix it with traditional and unconventional. Consult with an expert to assist you in planning to come up with imaginative ideas for your guests to enjoy the experience. 

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