A cocktail reception is a reception at which guests are served alcoholic drinks rather than a full meal. While a cocktail reception can occur with many types of events, it is often viewed as an alternative to the traditional sit-down wedding reception with a meal.
In some cases, a cocktail reception also involves appetizers. One common goal of a cocktail reception is to have guests mingle. Couples may opt for a cocktail reception to save money because the cost of providing a full meal for many guests is often high. Some food-service establishments host a "cocktail hour" prior to dinner to receive patrons.