According to The Knot, one of the nation’s leading wedding websites and magazines, the cost of the average wedding reception accounts for nearly 50% of an overall wedding budget. For couples scraping together loose change to finance their special day, this figure is not always a feasible one.
An extended cocktail hour is a cheaper alternative to a traditional wedding reception, as it can save you money on two major aspects of your reception budget; catering and the venue rental. This will allow you to spend more money on other parts of your wedding, or simply save the money for a later date.
When planning an extended cocktail hour reception, there is no need to rent the venue for longer than two and a half hours. This will cut down the rental venue costs, as most receptions normally run between four and five hours. Instead of serving a seated or buffet style meal, passed appetizers are appropriate. This will cut down your overall catering costs, as simple hor’dourves will cost less to make and prepare than an entree with side dishes. Since no formal meal will be served, be sure to note that on the invitation. Simply state on the invitations that drinks and light appetizers will be served following the ceremony. This way guests know how to plan their meal time around your wedding.
Alcohol will be a large part of an extended cocktail reception, as this will be a simple, social event. Non-alcoholic beverages should also be served for guest’s under the legal drinking age and for guests who do not drink. Depending on the number of guests that will be drinking, you may need to invest a slightly larger sum of alcohol and mixers, or potentially consider an open bar if your budget permits.
Although an extended cocktail reception is slightly casual and is shorter than a normal wedding reception, all of the traditional reception events should still occur. The first dance, bouquet toss, cake cutting and garter toss can all still be worked into the shorter time frame. Be sure to consult with you DJ or bandleader on the event timeline, and have a close friend or family member enforce the strict time guidelines.