Making sure your wedding bar runs smoothly is not an easy task, especially if your venue does not provide the service in-house. I mean, unless you are a professional bartender, most of us have not planned out the logistics for serving 100+ people drinks in a sophisticated and smooth way. So here are tips, tricks, and things to check on so you can plan the perfect wedding bar!
8 Tips for Planning the Perfect Wedding Bar
#1: Check your venue’s contract for requirements or restrictions regarding alcohol
Most venues that don’t have an in-house bar staff require you to hire one licensed and insured bartender per 100 guests. Personally, I think it’s always better to have two bartenders if you have over 100 guests so the bar line doesn’t get backed up. You want your guests to be able to grab their drinks quickly and head back to the dance floor!
Some venues also require you to hire a security guard if alcohol is being served, so be sure to check the venue’s contract for this as well!
#2: Does your venue provide ice, a place to serve the drinks, and a place to store the alcohol/other supplies?
A lot of venues do not have commercial sized ice machines or refrigerators, therefore it is a requirement that either you or the bartender bring ice and coolers in. Be sure this is predetermined before the wedding.
Some venues also do not have a formal bar space, so you’ll need to designate/rent a table (and linen) large enough to serve as the bar. If you have to host your bar from a table, I would definitely suggest an 8 foot rectangular table and a smaller table to serve as the bar back table. You want your bartenders to have enough space to work!
#3: Where is the leftover alcohol going?
9 times out of 10, there will be plenty of alcohol leftover after the wedding. This is usually a good thing because you do not want to run out of alcohol during the reception. Trust me, you’d rather have a little too much than way too little.
So, in the case of leftovers, you need an efficient way to pack it up and bring it home after the wedding. Think about this in advance. Maybe you bring large coolers to stick the leftover alcohol in and use it for a post-wedding brunch the next morning, or you go ahead and tell your family and friends to divide it up after the wedding. Now this only counts for alcohol that has not been opened, like unused six packs of beer, or unopened bottles of wine. These things can be distributed easily, but if it’s been opened, it will take a little more coordination and effort from those packing it up. This is where boxes or additional coolers would come in handy.
PRO TIP: It is illegal (in Georgia at least) for a package store to buy back unused alcohol after an event. I’m not sure if this used to be a thing, but it’s definitely not now.
#4: What will your bartenders wear and what does their set up look like?
You want to be sure you are bringing in professionals to serve your guests. You definitely don’t want someone in ripped jeans and a T-shirt with their hair in a mess standing behind a bare bar. Your bartenders should be dressed accordingly in solid black attire, or a uniform that shows that they are professionals.
You also want to be sure their actual bar set up is nice as well. Ratty coolers thrown up on the bar or red solo cups scattered about are a no-go. When hiring your bartending service, confirm that they provide glassware or nice, clear, plastic cups, have signage, and will have professional-looking coolers or ice-boxes to store the alcohol.
#5: Who is providing the mixers?
You want to be sure that all bar supplies have been predesignated or purchased in advance. If your bartender does not provide cups, mixers, lemons, limes, etc., you’ll want to be sure that either you or your caterer has this covered.
#6: Will your bartender be bringing the alcohol to the venue?
Some bartenders include alcohol pickup and delivery in their package, while some require you to actually bring the alcohol to the venue on wedding day. Be sure you ask this during the hiring process so you can plan accordingly.
#7: How much alcohol do you need to purchase?
This is the golden question when it comes to planning alcohol services. I swear it changes all the time, and it’s truly never perfect, but keep in mind that you always want to have more than enough- you don’t want to run out. So here is the equation I use when consulting clients:
#8: Last Call needs to be (at least) 30 minutes before send off time.
This will allow your guests to have time to sip some water or coffee before closing time. This will also ensure that your guests won’t miss your send off because they are standing in the bar line!
Double check with your venue before setting the last call time – some actually require it to be an hour before send off, so check your contract. If they don’t have any specifications. I would advise at least 30 minutes before send off.
You’ve Got This!
By asking these questions to your bartender, venue, coordinator, and caterer, you can ensure that your bar will run smoothly and that your guests will have a (safe) blast!
Cheers and Happy Wedding Planning!
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