Expert-Approved Tips for Planning the Perfect Wedding Bar
Updated: Oct 30, 2019
To some couples, the party and the booze are top priorities when choosing where to allocate their wedding budget. In order to maximize that budget and offer the best (and tastiest) options to your wedding guests, take some advice from the pros! Read some expert tips below from Rachel of Black Moth Bars on how to determine alcohol quantities and types, and how to best help your bar provider help you!
Tips from a mobile bar owner:
Assuming you’ve never bought enough alcohol for all of your friends and family to drink for hours..unless of course, you’re THAT person at the bar, buying everybody shots. In which case, hey new BFF! Then you’re probably feeling like the thoughts of figuring out how much alcohol to purchase to keep your guests fueled for a long night of dancing is making you want to pull a scene straight out of Runaway Bride.
True. It can be intimidating to plan a menu for a diverse group, made up of your uncle Tommy who only drinks Coconut rum and your Mee Maw who hasn’t consumed any liquid other than Chianti since the 60’s. But don’t hop on that horse just yet, Julia Roberts. These tips are going to make planning your wedding bar as stress free as possible by going over some of our most commonly asked questions!
What Types of Alcohol Should I Get?
When planning the bar menu, it’s best to sit down and really think about what kind of drinkers your guests are. I always suggest the tried and true method of pulling out your guest list and writing a note beside each persons name of whether they’re a beer, wine, or cocktail drinker. Sometimes even just a guess really helps! This will go a long way when calculating quantity as well.
There are basically 3 common wedding bar types: Full bar, signature cocktail bar, and beer & wine only. I always suggest doing what works for you when picking your bar type, but after years of bartending special events here are some things I’ve learned:
Full Bar vs. Signature Cocktail bar
“The more the merrier” is not your friend in this scenario. I’m a big advocate for picking out two or three signature drinks vs. opting for a full bar for a lot of reasons.
When you offer too many options, such as that of a full bar, your guests take a lot more time deciding on their drink of choice. This holds up the line and our goal is to keep the service moving at a fast pace so everyone is out on the dance floor shakin their booties, not waiting for a drink! Creating signature cocktails gives you a chance to show off your individuality even more on your big day by selecting drinks that tell a little bit of you and your partners story. For instance, If you got engaged in Ireland you could offer an Irish Whisky drink, If you met at your favorite dive bar that specializes in a funky rum bowl- you could recreate that for your wedding! Signature cocktails are just so stinking pretty!
All of that being said, if you decide going the full bar route- I definitely suggest doing a modified version by picking few base liquors and keeping your mixers down to around 5 or 6.
Beer and Wine Only Bar
There’s no magic number here that I’ve found because every event is totally different but I always suggest picking 1 red, 1 white, and 1 rose or effervescent option. For beers, picking 1 light style (pilsner, lager, wheat) and 1 heavier style (IPA, brown, copper)
The main thing to consider is you’re serving a large group of people with a variety of preferences. When selecting your menu items try to keep them palatable for a variety of tastes! I love a barrel aged pumpkin porter packing 10% ABV. Is that the best choice for a 150 person event? Probably not.
Kegs vs. Bottles/Cans
You’re often able to select truly unique beers for your event when using kegs. Seasonal varieties and small batch runs, which are not available year round make your guests feel like they’re getting something exclusive, making it the most fun to serve! All of your unreturned RSVP guests will be feeling the FOMO for real! More economical and less wasteful than throwing away all those bottles and cans.
Kegs have a short shelf life. They’re a little high maintenance. They require being picked up and kept cold leading up to service. There’s also some light paperwork and a deposit for the shell involved.
You can offer a wider variety of styles! Which could be a con if you pick out a “World of Beer” worthy range of options. They make service super fast! Again: Only a “pro” if you keep your offerings down to an easily digestible size!
A lot of waste. More expensive (most of the time).
How Much Alcohol should I Buy?
A good rule of thumb for calculating quantities is to assume each guest will have one drink per hour of the reception for “average” drinkers. Of course, there will be some that have more, less, or none at all- so when deciding on quantity its a good idea to keep that in mind.
There are several good recourses on the internet for calculating alcohol quantity based on headcount, hours of service and types of alcohol served. Ours is available for anyone to use at blackmothbars.com/alcohol-calculator. The following calculations are a good staring point reference using standard industry pour sizes.
A good starting point is considering volume to quantity:
750 ml. Bottle of wine = 5 glasses of 5 ounce pours
750 ml. Bottle of liquor = 16 cocktails made using 1.5 oz. pours
1/2 Barrel keg = 124 pints
Always overestimate how much you’ll need. You’d rather have a few extra bottles to take home at the end of the night than run out of alcohol before the reception is over!
Pro Tip* Most ABC stores accept returns on un-opened, un-chilled spirits.
What Details Should I go Over With my Bar Provider?
Weddings have so many moving pieces that the success really comes from effective communication between your vendors and planner. When meeting with your bar service provider, going over all the details ahead of time will make for a seamless service the day of! Besides the obvious questions, here’s some things you and your bar staff should talk about!
Will you be offering passed cocktails during cocktail hour?
Will you be serving table side wine during dinner?
Is the bar going to be need to moved in between the ceremony and reception?
Who is providing non-alcoholic beverages? Caterer or bar?
Who’s is in charge of taking home left over alcohol?
At the end of the day, your wedding vendors want to do everything in their power to make your wedding day as unforgettable as possible! The more details that get covered in these preliminary meetings, the better!
About Black Moth Bars:
We believe event bars don’t need to be stuffy. After all this is a party, right!?
Our all inclusive 1960’s camper-turned-mobile bar can roll up just about anywhere, bringing an instant vintage bohemian vibe, while serving up one of a kind drinks tailored specifically to your event! We provide a unique drinking experience for you and your guests by working with you to create a killer bar menu that reflects the vision you have for your big day. Every event is different and we strive to showcase your individual style by structuring your custom bar menu with hand crafted cocktails that are both delicious and beautiful. By sourcing our products from North Carolina farmers and purveyors, it ensures every component going into your cup is built on small-batch, locally sourced deliciousness and is truly “garden-to-glass”.
Originally from Davidson, spent the past 12 years living the low country life in Savannah, Ga where I graduated from SCAD with a BFA in Textile Design.
All through college and after, I've worked in the restaurant industry dabbling in every role from host, manager, bartender and eventually finding my passion for special events and helping clients execute flawless parties! I mean seriously, who doesn’t want to help people have fun parties!?
I draw inspiration from food (I watch a lot of Top Chef) and whatever’s growing in the garden. I incorporate botanicals into my cocktails whenever I get the chance! It’s so rewarding working in the wedding industry and being a able to take someone's vision, execute it and expand on it, and then seeing their reaction to how every detail came together. This is such a creative industry and being able to incorporate my love of art and design into this business makes me so happy! When couples commission us for custom menu signage, my heart explodes a little bit! You want a screen printed leather menu suspended from a copper pipe? Y E S
Things I love:
Mid century modern design
Re-watching The Office. Like, a lot
Re-reading Harry Potter. Like, a whole lot.
Flowers! Especially lavender & poppies