Monday, September 29, 2008


I'd like to continue on with my thoughts about cocktail hour, and bring up a very obvious--but very basic--concept (that I call the "Goldlilocks Effect".

Remember the childhood book, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"? (One bowl of porridge was too hot, one was too cold, the next just right?)

When looking at a wedding reception, I would argue that the cocktail hour room is just as important--if not more important--than the room where a bride/groom choose to have their ceremony and reception.

Why? As I've said before, the cocktail hour really sets the tone for the rest of the evening. If your guests have an amazing time at cocktail hour, they are likely to continue the fun during the reception. If cocktail hour, on the other hand, is stressful and crowded, your guests may take that mood with them into the next part of the evening.

It's really crucial to choose a room (or rooms, if there will be more than one) that helps underline the feeling you want to convey for the night (or day). For example, I went to a beautiful wedding in New Jersey at an historic mansion. Cocktail hour was in several different, adjacent rooms throughout the mansion. While the use of a multitude of rooms could have felt labarynth-esque (see below), it really worked in this setting. Why? The rooms were easy to access and walk to and from, and the wedding really highlighted the feel of an historic country home, by allowing guests to wander and enjoy the classic decor--and somehow, feel as if they were living in that beautiful mansion for at least the evening.

Sometimes, though, using many rooms ends up working against a bride/groom -- IF the rooms are not well-laid out. TallGuy and I attended an extremely lavish (in my opinion, overdone) wedding at a very glitzy hotel in Manhattan. Cocktail hour was held in several different rooms. Each room was tiny and narrow (which led to crowding since it was a large affair), and it was difficult to find friends and family (whereas at the New Jersey wedding, the rooms were much more interconnected and spacious).

My point is that in searching for a venue, one really has to take into account the Goldilocks Effect - a room may be too large. It may be too small. It has to be JUST RIGHT. Whether on a budget or not, you are spending way too much money to settle for anything less.

When thinking about a cocktail room, try and have a good, accurate estimate in your head as to how many people you can expect to attend. If anything, overestimate the number, so you can figure out how you can prevent any sort of crowding. If worst comes to worst, and the room feels a little empty, that's OK. At least you avoid the throwing of the elbows.

If you use multiple rooms, walk through them and see if they "make sense". Do they evoke the feel of what you want for your big day? Or do they feel maze- like and not easy to navigate?

These ideas may seem obvious. They are. But when choosing a venue, it becomes extremely overwhelming (After having visited only 3 places, I was completely exhausted!) Doing a "trial run" to get the feel of what you want (walking through the rooms, figuring out numbers, and thinking about how the room will be set up/arranged) will help you form a blueprint of what is important to you.

As you go and search for the "perfect" venue, keep that mental blueprint with you. You WILL eventually find a spot that is "just right" -- but it takes some searching.

As for cocktail hour, the best thing to remember is that it does "set the tone". I'll continue on with my thoughts about cocktail hour, and how you can maximize enjoyment and comfort for your guests, in my next post.

Stay tuned!


Miss Ready said...

We miss you! Come back to us!

Ros said...

Wow...nice post! This is really informative. Thanks for sharing this.

Robbybox333 said...

Totally backwards! I've been doing fundraising for the last 13 years and I assure you it is MUCH better to have a happy busy crowd in a small space than a few lost looking people in a vast ballroom. You want energy and life at a party, and giving people the subliminal impression that the turnout was terrible or that you don't have that many friends will not serve your ends!!!