A Martini Theme Wedding

Dirty, dry up, or in between,
From the very first sip you know what I mean.
When you’re out with a babe you don’t nickel or dime,
Guessin’ that means it’s martini time.

Martini Time by the Reverend Horton Heat

We’re thinking of having a martini theme wedding … any ideas?

— Veronica, MD

Congratulations! Your wedding’s bound to be a smooth, cool do. It’s also on the crest of a big trend.

Cocktail receptions — where the slow, seated, listen-to-lots-of-speeches part of the evening’s in short supply but the drinks and hors d’oeuvres aren’t — are hotter than they’ve ever been. Sometimes, this type of reception saves you money, since your food costs might be lower than at a plated event. But your alcohol costs may be higher. One thing’s for sure, though: you can comfortably entertain more guests with this type of reception.

Let’s go over the basics. Typically, a cocktail wedding reception runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Guests, of course, arrive in cocktail attire. Brown’s the new black? Not here — never has the little black dress ruled with a mightier fist (in a velvet glove).

Of course, you’ll have a swanky bar with eye-catching glassware. The wait staff … in black turtlenecks and hipster glasses for a city look … will swivel through the crowd, tempting your guests with hot and savory hors d’oeuvres. Forget assigned seating: here you’ll have an open plan, perhaps with stylish lounge seating around the perimeter of a dance floor.

martini ideas

Setting the Mood

Keep the lighting low — like you’d see at a hazy jazz club. Nothing sets off stylish glassware (and women) better than soft, low light. Talk to your venue manager; change out the light bulbs if necessary. But here you don’t want candles to pick up the slack; you want neon. Look into a glowing martini sign for the bar. See what your DJ can do to amp up the ambiance.

Your colors are simple and clean: black and white, maybe a metallic accent, possibly a splash of green or purple to honor the olive. Pay attention to details, like kitschy retro picks for olives in cheese cubes, and personalized cocktail napkins.

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Serving the Food

Some bartenders are natural-born showmen, and that’s the kind you need. Also, this is no place for plastic or acrylic: see what your caterer can do in terms of eye-catching glassware. Dramatic, stacked pyramids are perfect. Just make sure any martini towers don’t collide with the flight plan of unsteady guests.

Plan out your drinks in exquisite detail ahead of time. Give them names and personalities, like some brides name their tables. Consider honoring your wedding party with the signature drink for each.

Strive for a rainbow of flavors and colors. Think cool details, like colored, flavored sugar rims. And remarkable inserts, like quality deli olives, mango slices, citrus twists, raspberries, grilled shrimp, chilled gummi worms … or for chocolaty martinis, chopped-up candy bars or white chocolate shavings.

As for hors d’oeuvres, you could go ethnic, retro, soul food, or get your wedding party in on the action by asking them for personal favorites. Just make sure you have plenty of hot and salty varieties, and that the nibbles are passed from swanky silver trays.

Why not wow your guests further with an olive bar at the end of the room? Go for top-quality olives, stuffed with tongue teasers like garlic, hot peppers or almonds. Round it out with servings of prosciutto, fresh melon, goat cheese, water crackers and caviar — if your budget permits!

Don’t forget you can serve all kinds of food in martini glasses as well: shrimp cocktail, white chocolate mousse, or even mashed potatoes with all the toppings.

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This always merits its own section, since nothing has brides tearing their hair out more than what to put on the tables. Oversized martini glasses are a great place to start. Fill them with water and tea lights for a come-hither glow. Tart them up further with traditional rose petals or trendy orchids.

Or go Vegas: fill each glass with clear glass gems, lit up with tiny LED tea lights you tucked at the bottom. Get the kind that change colors for maximum drama.

If your martini-theme reception’s taking place over the holidays, glam up your tables quick and easy by filling the martini glasses with shiny ornaments (try red, white and silver) and winding metallic garlands around the bases.

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More Special Touches

Tie your bridal party gifts to the theme: get glamorous, one-of-a-kind cocktail shakers for your best girls. A martini glass ice luge (be sure to spring for dramatic lighting) will make a huge splash. When the party’s really started, help fired-up dancers cool down by passing out Blue Curacao popsicles. At some extra flair to your affair with glowing straws or drink trays.