Wedding Etiquette Forum

Alternative to Cocktail Hour?

Hello! I have a question and need some suggestions.

Our ceremony and reception are being held in two separate buildings in a park, so the travel time between them is less than 5 min. We are planning on taking photos beforehand, but we may need to wait and do a few after the ceremony depending on the weather that day. I don't want our guests waiting around on us to get finished just because the weather didn't cooperate, but we cannot do a traditional cocktail hour at our venue.

We were thinking about having the caterer set up the buffet so that, as soon as people arrive, they can find their seats and go through the buffet line to begin eating. Is this an acceptable way to host that time, as long as we cut the cake in a timely manner so they aren't waiting around for that either?

Does anyone have any other suggestions for an alternative to the traditional cocktail hour?

Also, we are not being announced or doing any dances/toasts that would interrupt dinner after we arrive - only the cake cutting (in case that matters).

Re: Alternative to Cocktail Hour?

  • I think that might work, but what will the people taking pictures eat? You dont want the wedding party or your family to miss dinner or being eating picked over stuff alone at their tables.
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    redoryx
  • Can your caterer provide some light appetizers when your guests arrive at the reception venue and then plan to serve the full dinner and cut the cake whenever you and the wedding party/family arrives after photos?
    novella1186lc07
  • Can your caterer provide some light appetizers when your guests arrive at the reception venue and then plan to serve the full dinner and cut the cake whenever you and the wedding party/family arrives after photos?

    This. As a guest, I'd find it a little odd for dinner to start right when we got there, before the couple even showed up. But having light appetizers to munch on in the mean time is basically a cocktail hour without the cocktails (I'm assuming if you're having your wedding at a park there are alcohol restrictions, hence no "traditional" cocktail hour)
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    STARMOON44
  • Thank you for the responses!

    I honestly had never considered myself and the WP ending up with the "picked over food" and yes, the park has restrictions on alcohol. I have never been to a wedding that had a no alcohol cocktail hour, but now that you mention it, it seems pretty obvious. I will have to check about the available appetizers though, I was so focused on the dinner I didn't ask to see the other menus.
  • emmaaaemmaaa North Carolina mod
    Moderator 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary
    We did something similar to what you were thinking. Our wedding was in our church and reception was held at a venue five minutes down the road. We did a first look and took almost all of our pictures before hand. After the ceremony, we took family pictures which took about 30 minutes.

    We had our officiant bless the meal and ask guests to go ahead and eat when they got there. By the time we got there, everyone was sitting. We then came in and did our spotlight dances, toasts, and cake cutting. That way people could go ahead and get cake and those who were waiting to see us could real quick and leave.

    After all that was done, we all went through and got out food (the caterer provided a buffet and plenty of food was left) and sat down and ate. Then DH and I did table visits (this is where I wish we'd done a receiving line). The dance floor opened up after we cut the cake.

  • SP29SP29 member
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I would think it a bit weird as a guest to start eating without the B&G present. I would also worry about the buffet food getting cold for you and anyone else present for pictures.

    If you're doing family photos, they might take a little longer than you'd think, so I would do some sort of "cocktail" hour, or half hour. I like what @scribe95 did. Buffet can start when you guys get there (if that's 20mins or 40mins later).

    Cocktail hour does not have to include alcohol, as it is never against etiquette to have a dry wedding. As long as there is something to drink and nibble on, guests will be content. Can be as simple as water/ice tea/ lemonade/punch and cheese/fruit/cracker trays, or other apps.
  • novella1186novella1186 member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary First Answer
    edited July 2015
    My friend didn't do a cocktail hour with alcohol at her wedding. When you walked into the reception space, there were just a few simple trays of snacks set up (cheese, crackers, grapes, stuff like that). So people could hang out, have a snack, mingle, whatever. I thought it worked out really well. 

    ETF clarity 
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    SP29
  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers

    As a guest, I don't want to start eating before the B&G.  It just doesn't seem right.  I would look into doing some appetizers.  I don't think you will need a crazy amount of food, so maybe just some veggie trays, fruit trays, and maybe some chips and dip. 

    Also, Emmaa, am I understanding your timeline in that your guests started eating diner before you arrived.  Then you arrived and had announcements, first dance, and cake cutting.  Weren't your guests eating when you arrived?  Did your guests just stop eating and watched you two while their food got cold on their plates?  I'd feel weird sitting there eating my meal while the B&G were announced, danced, and cut the cake.  At the weddings I've attended, that time is when all eyes are on the B&G, even if the salad course has been served.

  • emmaaaemmaaa North Carolina mod
    Moderator 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary
    edited July 2015

    As a guest, I don't want to start eating before the B&G.  It just doesn't seem right.  I would look into doing some appetizers.  I don't think you will need a crazy amount of food, so maybe just some veggie trays, fruit trays, and maybe some chips and dip. 

    Also, Emmaa, am I understanding your timeline in that your guests started eating diner before you arrived.  Then you arrived and had announcements, first dance, and cake cutting.  Weren't your guests eating when you arrived?  Did your guests just stop eating and watched you two while their food got cold on their plates?  I'd feel weird sitting there eating my meal while the B&G were announced, danced, and cut the cake.  At the weddings I've attended, that time is when all eyes are on the B&G, even if the salad course has been served.

    Everyone had finished eating when we got there (which was unexpected). We assumed they'd still be eating and we would join them. But since they had finished, we went ahead and did the spotlight dances, toasts, and cut the cake so everyone could have their dessert and start dancing without having to wait on us. 

    OliveOilsMom
  • I agree that I would feel strange starting dinner with the B&G and their family (especially since you are the hosts of the event) but light apps and mingling would be perfectly fine! If you're doing soft drinks and juice for the with-dinner beverages, maybe put out some lemonade and infused water during that time as well to go with that "afternoon in the park" feel? 
    SP29
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