Alcohol is a key ingredient in most wedding receptions. How else are you supposed to handle Crazy Cousin Chad or your delightfully icy new In-Law, Cheryl. What to serve? How much? Open bar? Cash bar? While your wedding bar does require a bit of planning and money, you can simplify your process with a few easy tips, all while making sure Cheryl is happy with her White Zin with TWO ice cubes.
Serving only beer and wine is a popular and cost effective option. You can offer guests a few choices while keeping it simple and under control. It’s less likely you will have to cut off Chad or ask guests to leave when you aren’t serving hard alcohol. This option is a great way to save some money on alcohol without the stigmas of a cash bar. If you’re hosting your wedding in the Pacific NW, finding microbrews in bottles or cans is easier than ever, and most catering companies provide a wide range of local microbrews and domestic best sellers. Same goes for wine; most caterers have fantastic local offerings for reds, whites and bubbly, and if they don’t have what you like, inquire about corkage charges and bring your own.
If you are wanting to have some fun with drinks, offering guests a full bar during the cocktail hour is a great way to go. Allowing your guests a full range in beverage choices for a 60 minute cocktail social will make both your guests and your wallet happy. Create a His & Her, Her & Her, or His & His signature cocktail for your guests. It helps create a joyful vibe that projects the personalities of the newlywed couple to your family and friends. Be mindful that your creations are something your guests actually want to drink, though. Let it be known, shots are NOT a good idea for a wedding. Chad and Cheryl will become best friends, and your life will be ruined. Simple drinks are quick to produce for the bartenders and even the most discerning guest should be able to enjoy. For great idea suggestions, check out one of our favorite sources, The Commissary.
If you are looking for budget friendly bar options consider cash bars, having kegs versus bottles of beer, providing table wine for your guests and limiting bar hours. If a cash bar is the way for you, be mindful that you will save money, but your guests will purchase their own drinks. Most guests don’t mind this option, but it’s best to inform them ahead of time so they can bring cash, in case they don’t want to use a credit card. Keep in mind with a cash bar, the bartenders can spend more time handling money than making drinks. Kegs versus bottled beer limits the beer options for your guests, but there’s no recycling, no wasted glass, and often times purchasing a keg is less expensive, depending on your guest count. Again, check with your catering company and venue for details about corkage fees, handling fees and beverage policies.
Open bars are a crowd pleaser, because your guests can essentially get anything they want, within reason. I mean, a night involving Mezcal or Jager never ends well. With an open bar, be mindful of your budget, and decide what product you want to have as your mainplayers. We suggest a solid starting lineup of five spirits, along with a couple of unique additions: vodka, gin, tequila, whisky, scotch. Hopefully, you will know your audience well enough to know if they are going to be snooty towards a whisky, scotch, bourbon, barrel aged, or rye. If that’s the case, maybe offer a couple varieties of your brown spirits. It goes without saying that mixers are going to be your friend, so provide a variety that will cater towards your demographic. Soda, tonic, gingerale and a variety of juices, along with beer, wine and non-alcoholic offerings will complete your fully-loaded bar.
We emphasize the non-alcoholic offerings because they are often overlooked. They are extremely cost effective, simple and necessary. Yes, if you provide alcohol at any function, you legally need to offer a non-alcoholic alternative at all times. Sparkling and still bottled water, coffee, tea, lemonade, juices, or even more creative options like agua fresca or a customized punch will keep your guests hydrated, social and safe. While we are in the business to provide an unforgettable wedding, we abide by all OLCC rules and regulations, and if necessary we will cut off Cousin Chad, and we will replace Cheryl’s White Zin with some La Croix. The most successful event is measured by ensuring all guests are safe so they can actually enjoy your event.