There are two things every couple should stop doing now – skimping on the bar and designing their wedding and traditions around the photography.
So let’s fix two problems at once, please have a hosted cocktail hour for your guests. Serve them passed hors d’ouevres if it is a classy elegant evening wedding and provide them with a lovely Charcuterie spread or fun tapas style stations if it is an afternoon, laid back, farm, vineyard, or garden wedding.
Always, and I mean absolutely always provide your guest with hosted beverages (within limits). A cash bar is great for charity events never at a wedding! That doesn’t mean you should supply your guests with all the top shelf liquor or a truly open bar, they can buy their own random favorites. It means who are you as a couple? Where did you meet? What’s your favorite drink? What do you do for fun? Incorporate that in to your hosted bar options.
If you love to drive to Hood River and drink a Double Mountain Kolsch on the patio while waiting for your meaty pizza, then serve YOUR favorite brew at your reception, throw in some catered pizza bites if you want. Do you enjoy quiet Saturdays at Colene Clemens, tasting their fantastic local wines? Serve your guests a glass of their Margo Pinot.
If your favorite drink is a Sangria Aunt Sally makes every 4th of July, give your bartender the recipe. If your favorite bar to meet up at after a long work day, is North 45 Pub, then please order The Big Poppa, and give a shout out to our old school roots by serving your guests your own version.
Now let’s be honest, there’s a reason you come late to your best friends’ parties. If you come on time everything is awkward. They’re neighbor who voted for Trump is there early with the campaign hat on. Your friend is distracted, still putting out the food, the dogs are overly excited by every new arrival, and nobody has had time to relax a bit with a drink. So while your friends are all preoccupied drying their happy tears, making small chat with people they’ve never met, and warming up with a drink, you should be taking your couple and complete bridal party photos.
We don’t avoid having the couple see each other before the ceremony because we are traditionalists or old fashioned. And we don’t believe all the bad luck of twelve broken mirrors will doom your wedded bliss if you take pictures together before the ceremony. The honest brutal truth is nobody should deny the couple that amazingly overwhelmingly powerful moment when you see the person you are about to marry, for the first time, as they come in to view walking down the aisle.
Your pictures are monumentally important, but not half as important as the commitment of love you are making to each other at this exact moment. It is life changing, profound and will rock you to your core when you do it right. Nothing else matters in this day, just you. Your joining together.
So what I’m saying is do all the pre-ceremony photos you can without the couple being together in the same space. After the ceremony, spend a few minutes signing the official documents and then pose for photos together and with your entire bridal party – while your guests are enjoying the cocktail hour with food, libations, and games.
Don’t forget the entertainment. And if you don’t have a wedding planner, make sure your ushers and bridesmaids lead the party to the cocktail area with your parents, while the couple, officiant, best man and maid of honor make it legal.
Have the photographer capture this moment. Here’s a great reason to hire a team of two photographers for the day, one can take candids of the cocktail hour while the other is taking posed photos of the couple. After the two of you get some quality couple shots, your wedding planner will bring the bridal party back for final group photos. This entire process should only take 45 minutes, max.
At the end of cocktail hour, your wedding planner will send the parents back to your guests they should only be missing for fifteen minutes tops. It is their job to host the guests while you are busy.
Make sure you have entertainment for the cocktail hour. What could that be? It’s Portland, get creative! Have lawn games, a photo booth, a social media #hashtagged photo contest or scavenger hunt. If it’s outdoors, set up stations to direct your guests to mingle and explore. Hire a jazz quartet, a small marching band or fire dancers. Is your reception at a hotel? Hire a jazz singer and host it in a staged piano bar set-up. You have actually talented friends right? Ask them to entertain and wow everyone.
You can have your guests directed to move in to the reception area before your grand entrance. Or you can slide in to the cocktail hour and mingle. If you wait to do a grand entrance at your reception and opt to skip the cocktail hour, make sure the serving staff brings your bridal party drinks and a snack during the cocktail hour because you don’t want to forget to eat.
If transportation is required between your ceremony and cocktail hour send the parents with your guests but keep the rest of the bridal party with you. You can snap a few posed family photos with the parents and couple at the very end of the ceremony as you sneak back into the church after your guests have left. Have your ushers direct guests to leave for the cocktail hour.
Great Planning Tip: Many area churches have gardens or other spaces appropriate for a cocktail hour. You can host your cocktail hour at the church. If your reception will follow at an area hotel, you may save a great deal of money on the catering portion of your bill by hosting a cocktail hour in the garden. Local bartender service vendors will often let you provide them with kegs, specialty cocktail items, and wine and charge you a lot less then the per drink costs of a hosted cocktail hour at a hotel or cater included venue. After your pictures are done your guests will celebrate you as you lead the way to the venue with a parade, go by bike – it’s Portland, or meet back up in a few at your reception site.
*money saving tips:
- Set up a DIY photo spot with signs directing guests to post pictures with your #hashtag on social media. You can save on photography costs if your guests are snapping great candids while the professional is staging your posed photos.
- Have your ceremony at an open church. They allow other officiants to handle the ceremony, you don’t have to rent chairs or spend as much to decorate, and they often will throw in a cocktail hour space for a huge deal.
- BYOB – you provide the beer, wine and signature cocktails, your bartender does the rest.
- Order your cocktail hour trays from New Seasons or Costco and semi DIY for the cocktail hour at the church.
- Host your ceremony and cocktail hour in an area park for many of the same cost-savings of a church.
- Do every staged photo you can before the ceremony, leaving only ten – fifteen posed photos left to check off after the ceremony.