How To Get the Best Wedding Cocktail Hour Photos

The recipe for the best wedding cocktail hour photos.

Food, drinks, music, and all your favorite people- it doesn’t get better than wedding cocktail hour–but there are a few must-haves if you want to have the best wedding cocktail hour photos. As a San Francisco wedding photographer, I’ve noticed that there are some key elements that make the difference between boring and brilliant. If you plan ahead, make your guests comfortable and give them something to do, cocktail hour will be a delight….and, you’ll get amazing wedding cocktail hour photos! Read on to find out how to make your wedding cocktail hour a smashing success.

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Delicious nibbles.

It goes without saying that bite-sized finger food is elegant and easy to serve. When you’re putting your menu together, keep your theme in mind, and serve items that work well with that theme. For instance, if you are going for a Great Gatsby theme, smoked salmon and a creme fraiche on toast with a sprig of dill or a spot of caviar would be a great choice. When you’re aiming for the best wedding cocktail hour photos remember that no matter what you serve, pretty food, presented in a pleasing manner, always photographs better. Remember to ask ahead of time about food allergies and diet restrictions and plan accordingly with a variety of foods so there’s something for everyone. 

Mood music.

Cocktail hour is a great time to meet new people and catch up with friends, so keep the music low so guests don’t need to shout. A live jazz trio or a string quartet can also be a nice touch if the music is in keeping with your theme.

Comfy seating.

While you don’t need to provide a seat for every single guest, it’s important to have some seating so older guests and people in heels can take a break. Some couples opt to set up an outdoor living room with an assortment of cozy couches and arm chairs, pretty rugs, and decorative side tables. Or, mix it up and provide a variety of seating choices: adirondack chairs on the lawn, high stools in the bar area, and rockers, ottomans and bean bags under the old oak tree.

Signature cocktail(s).

Invent a special concoction for the occasion, or give your old favorite(s) a new twist. Check out this list from The Knot for ideas, or this fab list of gorgeous signature cocktails in every color of the rainbow! (Thumbs up if you create one that goes with your color theme for the day). Come up with a fancy name and you’re set. Remember to add a beautiful garnish or add a fun giveaway (a decorative glass swizzle stick with both of your initials and the date, for example). You could also opt to serve beer and wine in a stemless wine glasses with your wedding date or initials; it’s an instant keepsake for guests. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one cocktail-both of you can pick!

Games and activities.

Give your guests something to do! Games are a great way for people to have fun and interact, and one of my favorite parts of the day to photograph. Many of the best wedding cocktail photos I’ve taken happened while guests were playing games. Some perennial favorites: oversized tic-tac-toe, a beanbag toss, giant jenga (aka tumbling towers), horseshoes, and bocce ball. Don’t forget the bubbles!

Non-alcoholic alternatives.

Remember to offer tantalizing options for those who don’t drink and younger guests. During the summer months, popular choices are lemonade with sprigs of mint, herbal iced teas, and infused waters (top flavors are melon, cucumber/mint, and berry). Display them in an attractive container so they get the same special treatment as the cocktails.

Open bar.

Apologies, but this has to be said: Having a cash bar at your wedding is not a good move. If funds are tight, skip pricey liquor and offer beer and wine instead. Consider adding one signature cocktail if your budget allows. If you’re up for trying something more unique, set up a specialty bar-(tequila and champagne are both great choices)  and offer tastings. Make sure your bartender is educated about what’s available so they can offer guidance.

Beautiful setting.

 Play on the themes of the day and create a pleasing environment. Dress up cocktail tables with colored linens, add a few extra centerpieces and votives, and voila!

There you have it; eight easy steps to having an amazing cocktail hour. Put them into action and you’ll get the best wedding cocktail hour photos. You and your guests will have a great time in the process!

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