You want to start your wedding reception off on the right foot with a memorable pre-dinner cocktail and appetizer hour. This is a fun time for guests to mix and mingle while they prepare for a night of celebration! Here are some ideas to make your cocktail hour a success:


You’ll want to make sure that you have a variety of appetizers, but you also want to avoid overwhelming yourself (and your guests) with too many options. In general choosing 3 hot and 3 cold appetizers will suffice. Keep in mind that you will want about 5-6 pieces of appetizer per person per hour.  So if you have 100 people for an hour, you’ll want 600 pieces of appetizer.

Here are some specific ideas to get you started:

Hot Appetizers

  • Mini Quiches – these work well for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters. Go for a mix of some spinach and cheese and some bacon and cheese.
  • Chicken Skewers – these are great self-contained appetizers – easy to serve, flavorful and not too messy.
  • Crab Rangoons – these are simple and tasty appetizers that will add some variety to your spread! Great with or without sauce.

Cold Appetizers

  • Veggies and Dip – neatly arranged veggie spreads are always a hit!
  • Crackers and Cheese – this appetizer is flexible and fun! To spice it up, add some meats or jams.
  • Fruit – a refreshing and easy appetizer! Be sure to include a variety–melons, grapes, and strawberries are always good.

Bar & Cocktails

The “cocktail” portion of your cocktail hour can be difficult to plan. Some couples struggle in deciding how “open” the bar will be and what types of drinks will be available. As far as budgeting goes, drinks usually contribute to about 10-20% of overall wedding costs. When it comes to price, the amount of time your bar is open and whether it is a full bar won’t make that big of a difference. The length of your guest list, however, will make a difference. A rule of thumb is that you can plan to spend between $12 and $20 per person for a 4-hour open bar.

  • For 50 guests = $1500 – $2500
  • For 100 guests = $3000 – $5000
  • For 200 guests = $6000 – $10,000

Here are some easy ideas to help control these costs:

  • Buy your own wine and pay the venue just a corkage fee. The total is often much less than the per-bottle price from the facility.
  • Skip the champagne toast.  You can toast with anything! If you’re going to be serving wine with dinner, just pour your guests their first glass of wine and toast with that.
  • Go for the “house brand” on the spirits and skip the top shelf. Your guests won’t know the difference after a couple drinks anyway.
  • If you want to have more than just beer and wine but less than the full bar, offer 2 “bride and groom signature” cocktails in addition to the beer and wine.


The cocktail and appetizer hour is an important part of your wedding reception! Being thoughtful about the food and drinks you provide will ensure your reception is off to a great start! You can find more helpful tips & tricks to help plan your wedding at

This post was written by Ring Cam blogger, Monika DeWitt