25 Cocktail Hour Ideas from Real Weddings

beer tap
A Bryan Photo

The ceremony went off without a hitch, you're officially married, and now it's time to celebrate! The party portion of the day kicks off with cocktail hour—a chance for guests to mingle, sip on signature drinks and Champagne, and snack on yummy hors d'oeuvres. This part of your big day is all about the guests, since you, your new spouse, and your wedding party are likely busy taking photographs. All the more reason to make sure that this interlude is full of creative sips, treats, and activities.

To help you make the time between the ceremony and reception as fun as possible, we rounded up a selection of unique cocktail hour ideas from real weddings. From monogrammed napkins and a fresh pretzel station to a living wall and a live artist, these inspired concepts will definitely get the party started. While food and drink are obviously the main part of the pre-reception festivities, décor and presentation are just as important. We particularly loved how one couple incorporated their adorable pups into their cocktail hour by illustrating their likenesses onto signature cocktail signs. Another standout? The prettiest globe display, which invited an adventurous couple's guests to share their travel recommendations.

Ultimately, when it comes to dressing up your cocktail hour, it's the little touches that count. Present mismatched glasses behind the open bar—this doubles as both your bartender's stock and a colorful bar display. Don't forget to prepare your guests for the rest of the evening, though. As the hour comes to a close, be sure to guide guests to a creative seating chart (we loved how one couple used polaroid photos instead of escort cards!). Ready to see our full list of ideas for yourself? Click through for all the cocktail hour inspiration you could ever need.

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Neon Sign

fern greenery backdrop
Rachel Havel Photography

Both an incredible piece of tent décor and the perfect photo backdrop, this couple's leafy neon sign was an aesthetic highlight.

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Live Art

event painting
Lori Paladino Photography

An artist painted an illustration of this couple's event during cocktail hour, and guests were able to look on as he worked his magic.

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Ladder Cocktail Display

cocktails shelving
Emily Wren

At this pre-reception party, the presentation of the signature sips was everything.

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Fun Fact Napkins

cocktail napkins
Suzuran Photography

This couple jazzed up their cocktail napkins with funny relationship facts.

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Refresher Station

lemon lime water jug
Greer Gattuso

Lemon-lime water coolers kept guests hydrated between drinks at this summer wedding.

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Bohemian Seating

outdoor chairs tables cocktail hour
Rachel Havel Photography

This couple worked their woodsy, bohemian theme into their cocktail hour lounge, complete with leather-and-wood chairs, vintage rugs, and mud cloth pillows.

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Globe Display

globe display
Birds of a Feather

A globe wall allowed guests to pin the places the adventurous couple needed to put on their bucket list.

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Sequined Tables

outdoor table metallic
Ken Kienow

A glitzy copper tablecloth brought a touch of glam to this rustic vineyard cocktail hour.

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Polaroid Seating Chart

photo escort cards
Ryan Ray

At the end of the cocktail hour, guests were invited to find their Polaroid selfie, which had a table number on the back.

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Acrylic Signage

acrylic sign
Bake Photography

Since they were off taking photos, this couple displayed a calligraphed sign for their guests, thanking them for witnessing their happy union.

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Glass Wall

glassware and shelving
Sarah Kate Photography

Mismatched glasses, taper candles, and vines dressed up this outdoor bar's backsplash.

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Signature Cocktail Sign

cocktail signage
Clary Photo

Since this couple named their signature cocktails after their beloved dogs, they enlisted the help of an illustrator to paint their likenesses onto the drink menu.

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Pretzel Station

pretzel bar
Koman Photography

Assorted dipping sauces accompanied freshly-baked pretzels at this creative food station.

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Mini Tent

outdoor lounge tent lights
Bryan from For the Love of It

Lined with cushions and a mini coffee table, this small tent offered guests a quiet respite from the festivities.

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Live Music

Jillian Mitchell Photography

Guitarists serenaded guests during this Mexico destination wedding's cocktail hour.

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Truck Cooler

Skip Hopkins

At a casual wedding, a vintage pick-up truck served as the beer cooler.

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Yard Games

giant jenga
Molly Scott

Multiple sets of giant Jenga kept guests entertained while the couple snapped wedding photos.

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Snow Cone Station

bride with snow cone
Christie Pham Photography

During the cocktail hour, a shaved ice cart gave guests a prelude of the dessert to come.

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Picnic Blankets

picnic blanket
Ether and Smith

One couple transformed their cocktail hour into a picnic by laying out cozy blankets perfect for lounging.

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Snacks on Wheels

Jen Fariello Photography

An old wagon served as the base for a charcuterie station at this wedding. Nearby, fresh kettle corn was popping, and beer and wine was served from a canoe bar.

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Beer Flights

Nancy Ray Photography

Different beer samplings were offered for cocktail hour at this North Carolina wedding as a nod to the groom's love of craft brews.

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A Unique Toast

Edyta Szyszlo

This couple raised julep cups filled with bubbly, giving their Kentucky wedding some Southern flair.

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Island Style

Jenelle Kappe

At their Bahamas celebration, the newlyweds offered guests delicous cocktails served in coconuts.

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Post-Ceremony Cocktails

Braedon Photography

Guests were greeted by waiters carrying trays of celebratory Champagne as they exited the ceremony, and a full bar was set up in a grove of trees.

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Festive Napkins

Lang Thomas Photography

These foil-stamped napkins, aptly inscribed with, "Cheers!" put guests at this wedding in a celebratory mood.

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