Wedding Cocktail Hour Before The Ceremony; A Stroke of Genius

Barn Ceremony



The Bride had prolonged her engagement by almost a year-and-a-half to be married on the same wedding anniversary date as her parents and maternal grandparents, June 4th. What was another hour as rain poured down? The sky was so black, there looked to be a funnel cloud in the distance at one point. Besides, being a very caring person, she wanted the arbor to be the ceremony backdrop, which she so appreciated the venue owner building just for her wedding (Cross Keys Barn; Harrisonburg, VA). Luckily, the clouds only became truly threatening about the same time guests started arriving, which meant there were pre-wedding photographs of the structure.

Despite qualms, I’d set up my P.A. equipment…so determined was the Bride to have the ceremony outdoors, even though the weather radar didn’t leave much doubt. When we could see dark sheets of precipitation over the mountains, the photographer’s assistant and a kind groomsman moved my P.A. lock-stock-and-barrel under the roof. About 20 minutes later, when there was a break in the sky (not really, but people had so much hope), another very strong groomsman helped move it back outside. It immediately began to sprinkle. So this time, the Groom himself helped me move the apparatus back under the roof.


The Bride waited in the bridal dressing room, so as not to be seen by guests. She was the picture of cool, calm, and collected. She finally agreed that Cocktail Hour should begin…without her. She wasn’t giving up her grand entrance.

At this turn of events, everyone, all the guests, were having a great time. The string quartet hired to play at the ceremony played at Cocktail Hour instead. You could sense the bonhomie in the next room as we waited for a miraculous clearing (which I have to say, I’ve seen happen on more than one wedding occasion).

It occurred to me that this was not a disaster. In fact, after an hour when the rain refused to abate…the whole ceremony was moved upstairs to the large, open barn — where elegant dining was set up and where tiny lights made for a warm feeling…the huge sliding barn doors open to the drama of the mountainous landscape outside.

With the help of more groomsmen, I rushed to set up my P.A. inside the barn. Only to have the musician/D.J. — who was supposed to play at Cocktail Hour but who was now playing acoustic guitar for the ceremony — say, Why don’t you just use my set-up? He simply plugged my mic transmitter into his very sophisticated sound board. Outside to inside to outside to inside to upstairs…and it turned out I didn’t even need my P.A. at all! It was like something out of the Keystone Cops, and funny in retrospect.


The point I’m really trying to get to is that having the Cocktail Hour before the Ceremony seemed like a stroke of genius. Everyone among those invited was in a good mood. The room was warmed up, as they say. Any stiffness had melted away from guests being sated with a little food and beverage. People seemed not at all anxious to get the wedding started so they could enjoy themselves. By the time of the delayed ceremony…they were already very much enjoying themselves…but by no means “rowdy.”

A “change of plans” had turned into a memorable, triumphant wedding celebration.

I wonder if this switch up is not something couples could consider when planning their own wedding: Cocktail Hour first thing, then the Ceremony, followed by the Couple’s presentation at the reception, followed immediately by dinner. At least, guests would be caught somewhat off guard from the typical, and the novelty might surprise and delight them. This would give guests time to sign a guest book, or something more unique, such as signing a Wishing Stone or using green ink pads to make fingerprint leaves on a poster upon which is painted the trunk and branches of a tree. I’m riffing now…but you get the idea. (There was a Tree Planting Ritual at this ceremony.)


I know there might be logistical problems with this. For instance, there would be no post-ceremony photographs. Although I think it’s important to capture the Bridal Couple’s first moments of being married on film….  So many couples take posed photographs for two or more hours before guests even arrive that…it might be nice to dispense with the formal photography by the time the ceremony is over. And I’m finding that many couples don’t make an appearance at Cocktail Hour anyway, saving that for the crowning moment when they’re introduced as Mr. and Mrs. “under the tent” at the reception, or by whatever moniker they choose for themselves if the Bride is not changing her last name.


Having the Ceremony take place in a supper-club setting was really fun…that’s all I can say. Partially because the humor I wrote into the ceremony landed better. People were not so restrained as at ceremony-first weddings.



  1. Yeah that’s what I’m talking about baiy–nbce work!

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