Posted: April 16, 2009 Filed under: Tips/Advice | Tags: amuse bouche, buffalo wings, cocktail hour, drink, eating, fondue, food, Frank Sinatra, hot dog cart, Las Vegas, lobster roll, martini, NYC, open bar, paparazzi, photographer, pigs in a blanket, pinstripes, sushi, wedding, Yankees
Don’t underestimate the power of a good cocktail hour to set the tone for an amazing reception. So often this wonderful little section of the event gets forgotten in the planning process. It can be thought of as an add on: passed apps, fondue fountain, martini bar bla bla bla. Worse yet, the guests of honor sometimes miss it completely in favor of photo ops. This is the golden hour when guests get to mingle regardless of seat assignment or family affiliation. The open bar has just opened. There are apps and snacks everywhere. It’s your first chance to party as a married couple! There are no real traditions to uphold during the cocktail hour, except cocktails. Which, after all, is one of everyone’s favorites.
My first bit of advice is try not to miss it. Your photographer will probably want to get a lot of pictures taken during this time, but make sure you get to enjoy at least half of the cocktail hour. I’m all for great photos, but you need to unwind after all the “I Do’s” and whatnot. How about having your photographer follow you around paparazzi style? When you stop to chat with a group of friends or family she can just ask you to pose for a brief moment, then you can all go right on chatting, drinking, mingling and most importantly – eating.
Don’t forget to eat at your wedding, it’s key. You’ll need your strength. You don’t realize what a long day it is until you are in the midst of it. You can get a lot of this eating in at the cocktail hour, without having to slow down your interaction with all of your guests. Everyone will want a chance to talk to you and congratulate you. With one-bite passed apps and amuse bouche platters you can have practically a whole meal and you won’t have to stop the conversation. Which is good, because you probably didn’t get to eat lunch!
The cocktail hour is also an opportunity to show a little of your personal style in the food/drink department. My husband and I knew we had to have sushi at our cocktail hour. We went out for sushi on our first date, we both love it and it was a great story to tell our guests as we mingled. Everyone thought it was cute – people love a good tie in like that. It doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe you met in Buffalo – so you have wings. You beat him in a hot dog eating contest? Pigs in a blanket on a NYC style hot dog cart. Is your man from Maine? Mini lobster rolls. It works for drinks too. If you are going to Paris on your honeymoon – feature all French wines. Yankees fans? Beer bar with commemorative pinstripe cups. Big Sinatra lovers? Martini time! Really, I could go on all day. Take something special about the two of you and incorporate it. It will make the whole event more personal, and maybe some of your guests will learn something about you and your new spouse that they never knew before. Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer if they can provide something that isn’t on their standard menu, but make sure you discuss price – there may be some additional charge.
The same idea goes for music. It’s best to keep it low key, but low key doesn’t have to be boring. Turn the tables on tradition. Tie the music in with your food and drink selections, or ask the musicians to play your favorite genre of music only. Quesadillas? Mariachi. Champagne and Caviar? Strolling violins. Tandoori? Sitar. From steel drums to jazz duos I’ve seen it all. How about a string quartet that plays classic rock or a solo pianist playing all Broadway love songs? It really is up to you. For the most part the music at the cocktail hour is background, but when people stop to listen, it should be something worth listening to.
The cocktail hour is my favorite part of any event. What can I say? I love tiny food. Variety is great, but it doesn’t make up for putting real thought into it. Instead of having the endless buffet of everything you can imagine (unless of course, you met in Vegas) try focusing on a few items that will really tell your story. Tie in the music and choose a signature cocktail and you’re good to go. Think outside the box and you’ll have an hour of ice-breaking, party-kick-starting fabulousness!
I’ll look for my invite in the mail.