So we’ve got a wedding to plan and all the details are falling in place. Now comes the time to talk about your bar set up…and no, of course you don’t have all the answers. Unless you routinely plan large celebrations for 150 of your closest friends on a regular basis! If so, can I be your friend?
Let’s start with the basics. First, think of your budget. Try to come up with a number that won’t break the bank and we can work from there. There are so many ways to set up your bar, and we are here to help. Although there are many variables (time of the year, time of the reception, the weather) that will influence your bar tab, we will work within your budget so you aren’t feeling like all your funds have been funneled down the drain.
Let’s start with some basic math (bear with me, I am more of the creative type)…
To get started, let’s define serving sizes:
1 bottle of wine = 5 servings
1 case = 12 bottles
750ml bottle of liquor = 20 servings
1 bottle = 1 serving of beer
1 Pony keg = 50 beers (12 ounce)
1 full sized keg = 165 beers
I calculate one drink per guest per hour of reception, with the understanding that some people will drink more than that, and some will drink less. In my relatively vast experience, this is more than enough, and you’ll still have some leftovers. (Running out of booze mid-wedding = one of my biggest nightmares.) We make sure to have plenty on hand during your event.
At its most basic, a full bar is two kinds of beer (one light, one dark), red wine, white wine, and the basic liquors- vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, and basic mixers. Too many choices actually overwhelm people. Now, you do not have to offer a full bar. From my own experience, and from other wedding industry folk, about 75% of weddings serve beer and wine only. And wedding guests are usually perfectly happy with this arrangement. You can offer a variety of bottled beers, two kinds of white wine, two kinds of red and a handful of liquor. Done.
Limited bars are also ok…you can offer beer and wine, and maybe one or two kinds of liquor. Some families have their own liquor of ‘choice’ and we are happy to set up a limited bar for you. Another way to include liquor in a limited way is by offering a signature cocktail.
Some couples choose to offer this during cocktail hour only, along with the hosted beer and wine. Once we transition into dinner, only beer and wine is offered from then on. Another very typical set up.
What about daytime weddings?
Or weddings in different seasons or weather?
For our spring/summer weddings (3:30-9:30pm), white wine is more popular, but in the winter red is more popular. For summer evening weddings I usually recommend an even split between red wine/white wine/champagne. In the winter go 40% red, 30% white, 30% sparkling. Note: if it is hotthen no one/almost no one will drink red wine, and beer consumption will rise. Try to plan accordingly.
For daytime events you will also see a sharp decrease in red wine consumption, especially in the summer. Think about it—does red wine sound good to you at 1:00pm on a warm summer day? It probably won’t to your guests either. If you’re hosting an indoor winter lunch, than sure, people will drink red. However, for morning and daytime weddings, people generally drink champagne, white wine, and beer, or select mixed drinks (think: spiked punch, margaritas, mimosas).
For Sunday or weekday (not including Friday) weddings, most people tend to drink slightly less. That said, if it’s a holiday weekend, or a destination wedding where most people have traveled and aren’t working the next day, or you know that your crowd regularly parties during the week, this may not apply.
All of this comes with the caveat that you should look at your guest list and think about their drinking habits (as much as you can). Let us know if you have a lot of wine drinkers, or a fair amount of friends who pretty much only drink vodka and whiskey, etc. So, if you know you have a ton of beer drinkers, we’ll make sure to have plenty on hand.
Bubbles or No Bubbles?
Such a great question. I would say about 50% of couples choose not to have anything poured for toasts, and I see that trend increasing. Guests are perfectly happy toasting with whatever is in front of them at the time. If you would like some bubbly for celebratory toasting, we recommend sparkling wine. It’s a great value for the price and serves the purpose well. If you do want to offer it, a great way to keep budget under control is to have it available at the bar all night long. If someone really wants it, they can ask for it. As opposed to having our servers pour a glass for everyone—that ends up in lots of bubbles wasted. We also pour conservatively, knowing that most people will have only one or two sips.
As for amounts to order, you don’t have to worry about that. We work with our wine merchant and our bar manager to make sure we have plenty of stock to keep the party going. Our pricing is very fair and bar tabs are calculated on a consumption only basis (translation: you only pay for what is opened, or drunk).
Another wonderful thing we do which does help considerably, especially during the warmer months, is set up a non-alcoholic drink station. It’s a self-serve rustic-looking set up of infused waters and lemonades that offers your guests an alternative. Believe it or not, some people don’t like to hit the booze at 4pm in the afternoon, so we offer them something tasty (and it looks adorable) to drink.
I hope this has helped a bit. We can talk more specific numbers and costs as we get closer to the event. Planning should be done by 30 days prior to your event so we have all our orders in and are ready to celebrate!