Skip to main content

Hosting The Perfect Drinks Reception

Whether you are organising a corporate event, your wedding or another special occasion, hosting the perfect drinks reception is crucial. You really need to give your drinks reception that wow factor, something that will make sure they never forget it!

What is a drinks reception?

A drinks reception is usually held at the start of a party or special occasion. Drinks receptions are popular at weddings, before or after corporate events, private parties and networking events. In most cases drinks receptions are designed to fill the gap between the start or end of an event so that people can catch-up and enjoy themselves.

Drinks receptions, also known as cocktail receptions, often incorporate food such as ‘finger food’, hors d’oeuvres or canapes. Alongside the food and drinks, there may also be some form of entertainment. Close up magic is an extremely popular choice. Mix and mingle entertainment keeps guests laughing and eases people into the event smoothly.

There may also be music in the background of a drinks reception. This creates a great atmosphere, which can be any live music such as a string quartet.

A drinks reception can take place in a multitude of places, whether that’s indoors or outdoors. A wedding drinks reception is a great way for the photographer to get some beautiful shots of guests mingling and enjoying themselves too.

Whatever the occasion, hosting the perfect drinks reception is no easy task!

Here is our guide to hosting the perfect drinks reception!

How do you choose your drinks reception venue?

This is probably one of the first things that you will have to consider, where the drinks reception will be held.

You need to choose an appropriate location that is accessible for your guests. Factoring in where they are travelling from will impact attendance. Consider the public transport near the venue to make it as easy as possible for those opting for this method of travel.

You will also need to ensure there is enough space for your guests to mingle and relax. To make sure, you may want to visit your possible venues ahead of time in order to avoid any unexpected surprises.

If your chosen venue is an outdoor space, you will also need to consider the weather. This is often overlooked when planning an outdoor drinks reception but it’s so important. Especially here in the UK where the weather is very temperamental!

Depending on the time of year, you may need to ensure there are under cover areas. This could be in the form of a marquee or gazebo to ensure that guests can continue enjoying themselves if it rains!

In the worst case scenario, you need to have a plan B thought out. If the rain starts falling heavier and is persistent, you may need to move your guests and your entertainment to an indoor area. It would be such a shame if your guests weren’t able to fully enjoy the drinks reception all because of the weather so make sure you are well prepared.

How long should a drinks reception be?

There’s no set rule on the duration of a drinks reception. They usually last roughly 90 minutes to 2 hours. This will generally provide your guests with enough time to enjoy a few drinks, catch-up with each other, take in the entertainment being provided before moving onto the next element of your event.

However, if your drinks reception is a standalone event, the duration can be extended. In some cases your guests can party on for the entire day and night – it’s as long as you want! The only exception here is if you have hired a professional venue, you may have to work with them to understand when the drinks reception should finish.

What drinks should be served at a drinks reception?

This is another important element to take into consideration. You need to ensure there is enough variety for your guests as not everyone will be drinking alcohol. You also need to take into consideration any children that may be attending with their parents.

If you are sourcing your own drinks, it’s crucial to ensure you have enough to last for the duration of the drinks reception. There’s nothing worse than a guest who is looking for another drink to be disappointed when you have to inform them you’ve run out!

Champagne and Prosecco are very common at drinks receptions and in particular wedding receptions. Not everyone likes these drinks though so it’s really important to consider a range of alternatives. If your drinks reception is during the summer months, Pimms is a great option that most people will be receptive to. Whether it’s red, white or rose, wine is also a good option to have available. Don’t forget to cater for anyone that just wants to enjoy a straightforward beer and make sure you have a good variety too.

If you’ve hired a venue, speak to the management team as they will be able to inform you about the drinks available, In most cases they tend to cater for everyone very well.

Should you serve food at a drinks reception?

You could have the most amazing venue with your guests enjoying some top notch drinks but if they become hungry as the drinks reception progresses, it could mean disaster! Serving food at your drinks reception is always a good idea.

In most cases, ‘finger food’, hors d’oeuvres or canapes are served at drinks receptions. This prevents guests from becoming too hungry or going too heavy on the drinks straight away. In an instant where your drinks reception is part of a larger event such as a corporate dinner, you may only want to serve a small amount of food.

If you’ve hired a venue, you should work with the management team to understand what options they have for serving food. In some cases you may want to source this yourself. In a situation where you are having to arrange the food yourself, it’s important to consider the variety of options available to cater for all dietary requirements.

If you are hiring a catering company, always check the finer details of their menu to ensure all of your guests will be happy.

Should you have entertainment at a drinks reception?

Incorporating entertainment into your drinks reception is definitely a great idea. It will really provide the wow factor! Not only will this enable your drinks reception to stand out, it breaks the ice with your guests. This allow them of feel more relaxed before the night continues!

There’s a range of entertainment ideas to consider for your cocktail reception. Some of the more common forms include magicians and caricaturists. I’m a little biassed here but close up and table magicians such as myself are a great option because they can mix and mingle with your guests without being too obtrusive.

You also need to consider the music for your drinks reception. You could look at hiring a band or string quartet or you could simply curate a playlist of music. It entirely depends on the atmosphere you are trying to present! You may want it to feel elegant and high-end, or more humble and informal.

Following these steps should set you up for success when hosting a drinks reception!