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The Pros and Cons of an Extended Cocktail Hour

Find out if it's right for you.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Ryan Ray Photography

The formalities are finished, the drinks are flowing, and everyone you love is mingling—it's finally that magical time known as cocktail hour. With all that in mind, it's no surprise the extended cocktail hour trend has picked up steam. But do you how know if it's right for you? We spoke to planners Aimee Dominick of A. Dominick Events and Robin Baab Olascoaga of Ro and Co. Events to break it down. Whether you go for it or not, the bottom line is to choose the option that works for you. Our humble opinion? Any time spent at a cocktail hour is bound to be a good time.

 

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Go for it if…

You've got a packed day.

While everyone hopes for a flawless wedding day, the truth is some people will be late. Whether it's due to traffic, a bad hair day, or a faulty navigation system, no one wants to miss cocktail hour. A little extra buffer time ensure all guests, even the stragglers, will have an opportunity to enjoy every detail of the big day.

 

The ceremony space is pulling double duty.

"If you are 'flipping' your ceremony space to use as your dinner space, one hour may not be enough time for the vendors to be ready," points out Dominick. If your reception décor includes ornate floral installations or lots of lighting, an extended cocktail hour is a great way to give the professionals the time the need to make everything picture perfect.

 

Your guest list is huge.    

As the bride and groom, you want to greet everyone that came to celebrate but it's kind of a bummer to miss out on eating the dinner you hand-selected in order to make it to table 24. This is where an extended cocktail hour can be used to the bride and groom's advantage. "If they can handle the majority of their hellos in the one or two hours of cocktail hour, then they might get to actually sit and enjoy their entire meal at dinner," advises Olascoaga. Just try not to get sidetracked by the burrata bar.

 

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Re-consider if…

You're on a budget.

More time means more food and drink. And more food and drink means more money spent on food and drink. Plus, many open bars operate on a fixed number of hours of service. If your heart is set on more than an hour between ceremony and reception, there is a way to have the best of both worlds. "We suggest suspending the open bar service in favor of wine service at dinner," says Olascoaga. "Some venues will allow you to split your bar contract and allow some of the service during cocktail and the remaining service after dinner for the rest of the evening."

 

Grandma is coming.

Traditional cocktail hours are generally standing room only. The fluidity allows for maximum mingling, but beware—anything longer than an hour and a half could start to get uncomfortable for certain attendees. "Be sure to think about older guests who may not be able to stand up for that long," says Dominick. "Add some additional seating and consider reserving an area for them." If your cocktail hour is outdoors, perhaps add some lounge areas for guests to enjoy should they need a break. Being a gracious host is all about anticipating needs, and doing your best to ensure everyone is comfortable and accounted for is sure to be appreciated.

 

You've got killer dance moves.

Though you plan for what feels like forever, remember that the reception only lasts four to five hours. If you're spending more time at the cocktail hour, you may regret it later in the night as you hit your stride on the dance floor.

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