Sips, Bubbly and Beyond: How to Plan Out the Bar at Your Wedding

Time to study for the bar. (But it’s way more fun than it sounds!)
Wedding toast


Let’s talk sips. When it comes to breaking out the booze, there are a lot of ways to dish things out. Are you going classic with a Champagne tower, complete with pyramid of coupe glasses and flowing bubbly (always a crowd pleaser)? Or, are you ditching the drunk drama and keeping your day dry?


You’ll want to weigh a few variables, starting with, of course, cost. Consider, for instance, the difference in price of a full-shebang bar, one or two hours of hosted drinks, a complimentary signature cocktail and a cash bar beyond that, or beer kegs and wine bottles only. There are ways to creatively cut costs, from handmade beer taps to special themed cocktails, which may actually end up being more fun than a costly full menu of rum-and-cokes or gin-and-tonics. Hit up Pinterest for ideas, think outside the box (or case) for great deals on liquor, shop around and, of course, taste test!

  Wedding bar


Rules and regulations should also be on your mind. Some states require you to have insurance, or a licensed bartender on hand to serve drinks. Some venues require that clients purchase liquor through them or hire a uniformed police officer. Check with your site coordinator, read up on local laws and ask your vendors what they have in the way of official insurance policies or licenses. Then do some price comparison research. It may be worth it to drop a couple of hundred dollars more for a seasoned, protected pro as opposed to having your party-loving college roommate slinging drinks.


And don’t forget logistics: If your venue is far from civilization (or even if it’s not) and your crowd is the heavy-hitting type, drunken driving is a serious concern. Consider hiring shuttles to transport people to and from the event, arranging discounts with ride-hailing services or cutting out any hard liquors from the menu to prevent people from getting blackout messy before the ceremony even starts (yes, it happens). The last thing you want is someone getting into a car crash on the way to the after-party.


Wedding bar
Photo: Jenna Leigh Photography

As much as we hate to admit it, expectations do play a part. Some guests have their own ideas of what makes a wedding (full hosted bar! shots all night! Champagne till we puke!) and while you absolutely, 100 percent should not be making decisions only to fulfill your lush pals’ Dionysian fantasies, it doesn’t hurt to temper expectations with a note on your website about any plans that are out of the ordinary, like a dry wedding.


And finally: Look to you! Booze should always be fun (or honestly, why bother with hangovers?), so pick a style you and your fiancé love. Whiskey fanatics? Tasting tables are a huge trend right now, with couples setting out a slew of types of one liquor, such as bourbons or scotches, for guests to sample. Make-your-own-mimosas bars are also having a serious moment, and with good reason! Half entertainment, half refreshment, these setups hold different juices, fruits, syrups and garnishes, bottles of bubbly and Champagne glasses so guests can concoct their own perfect sip.


Picking your own personal poison means thinking of what you want to leave out, as well as what you put in. If you and your crowd are serious beer aficionados, skip the typical red-or-white question and just offer your favorite brews. If you’ve never been much for Champagne, forgo the toasting glasses and let guests use their beverage of choice from the bar. Or maybe you and your partner are a bit over the bar scene and want to stick with nonalcoholic options. Kombucha mimosas, fun artisan sodas, fresh sparkling waters or local juices are all great options for when you want to avoid guests getting sloshed, keep it dry for any recovering alcoholic friends or family, or just keep costs down.