The Genius Cocktail Hour Upgrade You've Never Heard Of

Forget about the traditional cocktail hour. We’re tired of snacking and drinking and catching up while sitting at tables or strolling around a yard aimlessly. Yard games are good, but not if we’re inside or it’s raining. Give your guests something new and creative to do while you take your pictures. Receptions are a chance for the bride and groom to interact with everyone they love. Let the interactions start before you even get there, with a “pop-up museum” of your love story.

Guests Mingling During Cocktail Hour
Source: Cocktail Hour

A pop-up museum is typically created by the visitors; a theme is determined and anyone who wants to participate just has to bring something related to the theme to put on display. This might be a little difficult at a wedding reception, but it can be easily modified to work. You and your significant other can provide the bones of it. Start with baby pictures, maybe even toys or blankets. Set up a maze of tables and props and arrange memorabilia from each of your lives. Ask your family members to bring items they have, too. The more interactive, the better. If you don’t want to burden others with bringing items, just set it up yourselves and let your guests enjoy it in full. Here are some display ideas:
  • First date 
  • First trip together 
  • Engagement/engagement party 
  • For high school sweethearts, do a yearbook-style display of your high school times 
  • Incomplete scrapbook pages 
    • Travel-themed pages for your honeymoon 
    • Baby pages, if you're planning on having kids relatively soon 
    • Even wedding-themed pages for your wedding day pictures

Sand Keepsake Jars
Trip Shadow Boxes

The museum can also double as your guest book. Leave cards or slips of paper or notecards scattered throughout the museum so your guests can write notes and advice. The wedding-themed scrapbook pages would be a great idea for your guest book, too – have your guests sign the pages at the reception and work pictures around them later. Or, if you want a more traditional guest book that guests can sign all in the same space, leave that in the museum too! Include a sign that says "You've explored our past – now help us start our future!" 

A photo booth would fit right into a pop-up museum. Set up the photo booth in the middle and use props from your lives. Where did you go for your first date? Have a display of menus, movie or concert tickets, etc. from the date. Were/are sports a big part of your life? Use the equipment – a jersey, football helmet, hockey stick, or basketball. What’s your career and does it have anything you can use as a prop? Doctor: stethoscope. Teacher: chalkboard and chalk (this is a good photo booth prop no matter what your job is!). Administration: clipboard and pens. There are tons of options! Just make it personal. Where are you going for your honeymoon? Include travel brochures, sunglasses and beach hats, ski mask and goggles – anything that relates to your trip. Childhood stuffed animals or blankets; gifts from your engagement party/diaper party/wedding shower, if they're particularly significant; pictures of your first home or a special item from it; your first plant; favorite books or movies – the possibilities are endless. Guests can use props from the museum in their pictures.

Photo Booth Backdrop

It’d be super easy and cute to have your favors be a part of the museum.

With the photo booth, encourage guests to pick up something they loved in the museum and use that as a prop; just make sure they put it back so the next person can enjoy it, too. Print out two copies of every photo – one for the guests as a favor (make sure the wedding date is in the picture of on the back!) and one for the bride and groom (ask the guests to write a quick note and sign it). 

Is your honeymoon location known for anything in particular? Use that at the end of the museum for a favor. If you’re going somewhere sunny, give sunglasses and sunscreen (bonus points if your reception is outside!), and personalize the sunglasses somehow, either with a sticker, paint, or engraving on the side, or by just attaching a gift tag of sorts. Maybe you're taking a drive through Wine Country. Set out grapes and pears, cheese, crackers, mini wine bottles, and notecards about the bride and groom's favorite pairings. Make sure to have plenty of ice for these! 
Think about the first date display – did you go to a movie? Have bags of popcorn or other candy! Decorate the bags to match the movie you saw together. If you went to a concert, you could give mixtapes (on a CD) with the songs you plan to use for the first dances at your reception.

You could give your guests options for favors, too. Get a few of each of the ideas above and spread them out through the museum so guests can pick their favorites. You'll need some instructions for this, so guests don't take one of everything, leaving others with nothing.

Popcorn Favor Bags
Wedding Mix CD
Source: Personalized Popcorn Bag, Wedding Mixtape

This next one is a bit trickier and not everyone will have the means to include it, but one way to really wow your guests within the museum is to live-stream your wedding photos being taken. This allows your guests to see something reception guests don't typically see. It also gives them an idea of when the bridal party will arrive at the reception. These days, we live stream everything. We show the wedding ceremony online for family members who can't make it. Guests take pictures and videos and upload them to social media. Snapchat will even let you create a Geofilter and a Story for your wedding. Why not let your guests view the picture taking, too? Talk to your photographer and find out if this is an option for you. Of course, if you have some surprises planned for your pictures, like getting chased by a T-Rex, you may not want to live stream them!

Live Streaming Wedding

Set up a sign at the beginning of the museum to explain it to your guests – it's not very common, so not everyone will know what it is. You'll need just a simple explanation, like:

Bride and Groom's Pop Up Museum
Typically, a Pop-Up Museum is created by the visitors, but we wanted you to relax and enjoy the day, so we created one for you. Enjoy strolling through our love story while chatting, snacking, and drinking until we can join you.
At the end of the museum, you'll find some mostly-empty scrapbook pages. Please leave us a note and be a part of the next chapter of our lives! You'll also find favors scattered through the museum – we chose a few different kinds so you can pick your favorite! We'd appreciate it if you'd start by picking just one. If there are any left when you're ready to leave, you're more than welcome to take another. 

Leave the wedding small talk in the past and entertain your guests with memories and fun stories about you and your spouse. It's a creative way to make sure they never forget your wedding day!

Elizabeth graduated from The University of Findlay with a Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing. She now resides in Portland, Oregon where she is employed in the real estate business and is particularly enjoying the local cuisine. As a writer, Elizabeth believes in a quote from one of her favorite TV shows: "We have only two jobs on this Earth. The first: to learn. The second: to cope." A deep desire to learn struck Elizabeth when she was young, and now she hopes to help you cope by sharing information, and helping you apply the knowledge. Weddings and event planning can be overwhelming; sometimes it's okay to take a little advice from a stranger on the internet.

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