Whether you are planning to host your wedding entirely outdoors, or have an indoor venue for your reception, it can be wonderful to have an outdoor cocktail hour. Your guests will love mingling on a terrace or in a meadow while nibbling tasty treats and sipping cocktails. These are some ideas on how to plan outdoor wedding cocktail hours for any style of wedding.
The cocktail hour is an interesting thing, because it can run the range from ultra-formal and sophisticated to completely relaxed and low key. The formal style will best suit a reception which is going to be very fancy in general. Formal need not mean indoors, however. Let’s say that you are having your wedding in a lavish hotel and wearing a beaded dress with fabulous crystal wedding jewelry.
You can host an outdoor cocktail hour which will have just as much style as the rest of your event. Perhaps your hotel has an elegant courtyard with stunning fountains or a rooftop terrace overlooking the city skyline. Having your cocktails in such a special space will only add to the overall style of your wedding. It can also be a nice change of pace for a wedding which is otherwise held entirely indoors.
Having your wedding at a country club? Find out if they have a patio or terrace on which you could set up the cocktail hour. Country clubs inevitably have picturesque landscapes of perfect grass, rolling hills, and pretty gardens. How lovely it would be to nibble canapes while overlooking the manicured grounds of the club. What is really great about this arrangement is that if the weather ends up looking like rain on your wedding day, the club may be able to move the cocktails back inside without any problem. Some venues will also have attractive tents that can be set up to cover their terrace or patio.
Certainly, if the rest of your wedding will be held outside, your cocktail hour will be as well. But don’t simply set aside one part of the main dinner tent for the appetizers. The wedding will have much better flow if you can arrange a separate space for each of the three main elements: ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner. A separate tent with tall tables around which to stand can be all that is needed to create a dedicated area for the appetizers. The decorations should tie in with those for the main reception tent, but can be much less lavish.
There are a few special considerations to keep in mind for an outdoor cocktail hour. Chief among them is keeping food and drinks at the right temperature. For instance, if you plan to have a raw bar or serve shrimp, keep that station well iced and out of the direct sunlight. If bees are a concern, set small jars filled with sugar water around the perimeter of the cocktail area to draw them away from the food (this is a trick used by many restaurants with patio seating). As for the appetizers themselves, either opt for slightly lighter fare, or upscale versions of outdoor favorites like Kobe beef sliders and tiny homemade pulled pork sandwiches.
It might take a bit of extra planning, but having an outdoor cocktail area can be well worth the effort. Your guests will enjoy getting a little fresh air and sunshine, and as a bonus, you can get some beautiful wedding pictures in a different setting than the room where dinner and dancing will take place. This is one wedding trend well worth following.