• Celeste Vee

The Perfect Cocktail Hour

Updated: May 21

What are the key ingredients for a memorable and picturesque cocktail event? There are so many tiny details that can add flavor and unique touches to wow your guests. Just Pinterest it and you'll be overwhelmed by a million creative ideas, but that's not everyone's cup of tea. All you really need are three bare necessities, and when you get those right your guests will be talking about your cocktail hour for years to come!

Meadow on the Mountain | Atkins, AR


When it comes to choosing a venue, there are two distinct approaches. A space that has its own innate beauty may cost more, but you'll end up saving on decor and flowers. On the other hand, a simple bare space is often more affordable and gives you creative leeway in designing the ambiance you want. You can work with your florist and designer to set the scene and choose your own budget.

All decor provided by Mother Nature and a very patient gardener.
Koi Pond at Hidden View Farm | Crownsville, MD

Long View Gallery | Washington, DC


I recently played for a wedding where guests were each handed their own (750 ml) bottle of champagne with an extra large straw upon arrival at the venue. If that's your jam, go for it! It definitely made for some great IG posts! White totally fun, it's not necessary to go so far to make a great impression. One bartender per 50 guests is appropriate and there are three beverage options that are common. 1) Full bar with liquor options and mixers. 2) Beer and wine only. 3) Non-alcoholic beverages only. The choice is yours.

Be sure to plan for some small bites during your cocktail hour. They can either be laid out buffet style or you can opt for passed apps with servers bearing trays walking throughout the room. From simple crudités (assorted raw vegetables) to more filling baked or fried morsels, the options are endless. Think about your theme, too. At a recent nautically themed wedding I played at, they had someone shucking fresh oysters for guests to nibble on as they gazed out over the Chesapeake Bay before dinner.

Annapolis Maritime Museum | Annapolis, MD


Your cocktail hour entertainment is the gateway to the rest of the evening. Guests are mingling and sipping their cocktails, but they're not quite loosened up yet. Your music during this portion sets the tone for the rest of the evening, and your DJ can usually set up a speaker to cover the cocktail area. Alternately, a jazz trio or one man band is a popular choice for something a little more engaging. I personally love performing for cocktail hours. From Cole Porter to Bob Marley, the groove is laid-back but there's such a fun vibe in the air. If you're planning a wedding, be sure to focus your cocktail hour music on your guests' preferences as you'll most likely spend most of that time taking photos.

Here's a short video from my cocktail hour last week at Hidden View Farm in Crownsville, MD. This stunning koi pond allowed for guests to walk all the way around it and take in the view from every angle. They enjoyed light appetizers and a full bar while the bride and groom finished photos then joined them for their first dance and more great music. They wanted a sophisticated Frank Sinatra vibe so I opted for cool and elegant jazz standards to get the evening off to a great start.

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