Tips for pulling off an impressive wedding drinks reception


If you’ve been to your fair share of weddings or are in the middle of wedding planning, you’re sure to have come across the term ‘drinks reception’ aka the cocktail hour. It’s a segment that typically takes place right after the ceremony in which drinks and canapes are served to guests, usually whilst official pictures and portraits are being taken. This interlude is the perfect time for guests to mingle, grab a bite to eat before the wedding breakfast and can also act as a teaser of what the main wedding reception will be like. It’s a great opportunity to incorporate fun and add your own distinct touch on your Big Day and often feeds into the overall guest experience. So what does it take to host a memorable and impressive drinks reception? Here are some tips that will certainly keep your guests entertained!

  • Location in the venue

One of the most important factors to consider when planning your drinks reception is to think about where within the venue you’ll be using. Ensure the space isn’t too far away for people to get to from the ceremony location, can hold all your guests and is also close enough to facilities such as restrooms and adequate seating for elderly guests or those with children. Also, think about the location in terms of the kitchen so that the food is still hot by the time it arrives to guests depending on the type of service you’re having.

  • Visuals and optics 

Following closely from the last point,  consider the aesthetics of the space you’ll use. Does the space have cool features already that will be visually appealing? Are there extra decor features you can incorporate that will elevate the space? Perhaps you can repurpose some of the elements from the ceremony to brighten up the area and create a photo opportunity area that guests can interact with.

  • Entertainment – games/activity/music

A big part of the drinks reception is how much activity and entertainment you provide for guests. A few fun ideas I recommend include musicians (a live band or instrumentalist is always a hit!), a photo booth or 360 booth, live painting, dancers, garden games, a magician or ball pit, and my personal favourite, an audio guest book! Bringing in fun, participative elements will keep guests entertained and leave a great impression on guests.

  • Food and beverage

Another way to wow guests is with food and drinks. Quirky custom cocktails and unique food presentations will surely raise the bar and help create a cool guest experience. Think customised bars in the form of a horseshoe box, a fun ice cream van, perhaps a grazing table, or ‘build your own’ bitesize taco stations. The list is endless! One thing to note however when it comes to food, is not to overwhelm guests and also ensure the portions are miniature so they can have a drink in the other hand as well as leave enough room for the actual wedding breakfast.

  • Timing

In terms of the length of a drinks reception, I would advise between an hour and an hour and a half maximum. Anything beyond 90mins is way too long and simply put, will result in guests who are a little bored or irritable as they wait for the next thing to happen. A good use of the time would be to display the seating plan if you have one so that when the reception starts, guests know exactly where they’ll be sitting but the trick is to keep it succinct.

  • Your presence

One thing I’ve learnt in my years of supporting couples on their Big Day is that your presence is invaluable. There’s nothing more rewarding than going around to interact with guests during the Big Day and engaging with them. Not only do they value your presence but it makes them feel important. The key to this is to work with your planner and photographer to schedule enough time on the day for the segments that are most important to you. If you’re in the middle of creating your wedding day timeline, check out this blog for advice on how to make the most of your wedding day timeline.

Putting these tips in place will help you achieve a wedding drinks reception that will impress guests so make sure to save this blog in your favourites! At Prime Violet Events, my focus is to guide couples to bring Purpose & Vision to their Big Day in a way that suits them. Creativity is a big passion of mine so one thing about me is that I’m going to sprinkle some ‘Va Va Voom’ into your big day! That’s why no two weddings I do are the same making it extra special and bespoke to you. I’m also a sucker for detail, processes and organisation so when it comes to logistics, I’m your lady! If you’re newly engaged or planning a celebration of love and need support to curate your special occasion, visit the Contact page for more details on how we can work together!

Photo credit: Empire scheme studios | Affinty Q photography | Ben Achana Photography

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