From mariachi bands to ukulele players, here's what you need to know about choosing live entertainment for this portion of the party.
hawaiian wedding cocktail party luau dancers
Credit: KT Merry

Between all the mingling and catching up with friends and the delicious cocktails and appetizers, a wedding's cocktail hour is one of the most fun parts of the night. Some couples prefer to keep it simple and pop a playlist on their speakers, while others prefer to get the party started right away with live entertainment. If you're of the latter mindset, here are some tips and the types of music to consider for your cocktail hour.

Select entertainment that reflects your tastes and styles.

To ensure your cocktail hour (and wedding as a whole) feels like a reflection of who you are as a couple, bringing in the right entertainment is important. Natasha Miller of Entire Productions, an entertainment production company based in San Francisco, says, "Cocktail hour is a great time to accentuate the event with your signature style." For example, if the two of you love going to jazz clubs or taking trips to Chicago, you might consider bringing in a jazz quartet and singer to play cocktail hour.

Consider the setting.

If you're planning a formal wedding in a formal setting, something dramatic like a harpist could be beautiful. Or, for a more casual backyard style wedding, an hour of bluegrass music can be fun for guests. Planning a wedding at an art gallery? Maybe a pianist and folk singer would complement the atmosphere.

Bring in music that highlights your heritage.

Because cocktail hour is a small portion of the event, it's a great time to bring in entertainment that has a surprise element or reflects a couple's backgrounds. Miller says, "I love bringing in something very specific to the couple's heritage or honoring something they love that wouldn't quite fit in for the ceremony or reception. We've brought in Mariachi for Mexican heritage, a sitar player, and a dhol drummer to honor the Indian heritage, and a slack key guitarist with a ukulele player for Hawaiian couples. A very fun and spirited addition could be samba dancers with drummers."

Think local.

Depending on your wedding location, there may be a type of music you can incorporate that'll introduce guests to the local culture. For example, a brass band at a New Orleans wedding is always a hit. Alternately, a wedding in Jamaica might call for steel drum players during cocktail hour. Because these musicians will only be playing for an hour, you have a lot of freedom around the style of music you choose and you can select a local style of music you wouldn't otherwise have a chance to incorporate.


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