September 12, 2007
To Cocktail or not to Cocktail, that is the question.....
In my years filming weddings, I find many of my clients agonize over cocktail hour ideas and options. This is especially true if their ceremony and reception are at different locations.
How long should cocktail hour be? Should they take photos during cocktail hour and miss the entire thing? Should they take a few photos and make part of the cocktail hour? Should they skip posed photos entirely? Should they break tradition and get some photos/video as a couple before the ceremony so they can enjoy the cocktail hour in full? What should they do if the reception site won't let them start ANYTHING until seven and their off-site ceremony ends at three?
These are all valid and important questions when considering the logistics of your wedding day. The wrong choice can make the difference between a fun, stress free day and one in which your cocktail hour becomes an instant hangover.
My first piece of advice would be to go to your cocktail hour. All of it. If that's not possible, for whatever the reason, at least make it to part of the cocktail hour. It is your wedding day, so you can do what you want. If you don't feel like taking formal pictures and missing cocktail hour, don't do it. If you want to get all those amazing photos AND go to your cocktail hour, you can control that as well.
Many couples dread the three or four hour gap between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour that is sometimes mandatory due to church restrictions on ceremony time and reception limitations on start times. Where will grandma go for 3 hours? Will my cousins from Minnesota get lost in Manhattan and sucked into the tourist black hole called Times Square? Will guests get mad that there is so much time before the party? What will my new spouse, wedding party and immediate family do with all that downtime?
Valid questions? Yes. Something to REALLY worry about and stress over? No. Embrace the space and gap that you have been given. Give your guests a list of touristy things they can do in between or suggest a bar they can meet to pre-cocktail before the cocktail. As a guest, I once had seven hours in between the ceremony and reception in a town that was definitely NOT NYC. Did I get mad at the couple and wish I had never come? No! I took time to take in the sites, watched a movie, had a nice lunch, bought new shoes caught part of the Yankee game on TV and then had an amazing time at the reception.
I recently filmed a wedding with a large gap in between the church and the reception. The couple had the reception at the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park and decided to spend nearly two hours of that extra time taking photos in Battery Park. They were able to relax and get all the photos and video they wanted knowing that they would still have the full time to enjoy cocktail hour. The photographer (Nelson Hancock)and myself were able to get all the coverage we wanted without worrying about having to rush. I was even able to use the Super 8 camera to catch some candid moments of friends and family hanging around, enjoying the weather and scenery while waiting for their call to be formally photographed.
If you are getting married in NYC and you have that large break, take advantage of the city as a backdrop. Take the limo and get some shots in Times Square, Central Park, a botanic garden, the South Street Seaport or even your favorite places in your neighborhood. Do this and STILL get to your cocktail hour (or hour and a half, which I recommend) and stay in full.
A cocktail hour that is longer than an hour is actually a good compliment to the long break in between. It's really the only time the bride and groom can really mingle and get around to see a lot of the guests that have made the effort to come to the wedding and who will appreciate any time they get speaking to you on such a hectic day.
As a videographer, I LOVE a longer cocktail hour. It gives me a chance to get some really creative, artistic shots in a non-stressful atmosphere as well as a chance to include many if not all of your guests in at least one shot. You took a lot of time planning the wedding and choosing the guests, so it's nice later on to see a lot of them when you're watching the video. With a longer cocktail hour, this is more likely to happen.
After this extended cocktail hour, you will be able to relax and enjoy the flow of events at the party, knowing you've already taken amazing photo and video, enjoyed your full cocktail party AND actually had the time to enjoy conversation with most of your guests.
You will ultimately do what you feel is best for you, but I just wanted to give you some finger food for thought!