The Wedding Bar
The wedding bar may seem like one of the bits of wedding organisation that actually has the least options and thus the least decisions to make - which may well come as welcome relief when you're in the depths of making what feels like 80 decisions a day. The couple ensures there's alcohol on the day, the guests ensure they drink the alcohol on the day. What else is there to decided? Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?
Well, that's kind of what the decisions are. Are you going to serve drinks cocktails that require some lemon squeezing? If you are, who's going to be buying those squeezable lemons? How expensive will that become? And suddenly it becomes a little less easy peasy lemon squeezy and a bit more difficult difficult lemon hard.
Lemon puns aside, the point is that the alcohol offerings are a major part of a lot of weddings, as we are a nation of big boogiers and boozers, and so it's important to nail it. But there are as many options as you've had nights out, and some of them are difficult to make sense of, so we've taken it upon ourselves to go through the different options for you to help you find the one that suits your wedding best. At this juncture we usually say pull up a pew and grab a cup of tea, but we think this one maybe deserves something slightly stronger - don't you?
In house catering
This one is very common and very easy. A lot of venues (especially hotels) will have the bar included in the package price. This ensures a certain amount of drinks per head included in the catering - usually a glass of prosecco on arrival and their share of a wine bottle on the table - and then the use of the in-house bar for the reception. Whether you put money behind the bar or not is entirely up to you, and although it's a fairly traditional way of doing things it's by no means necessary. In this day and age of weddings, with people marrying later in life and thus (theoretically) being of a demographic where they have more expendable hard-earned cash, the couple are no longer expected to stump up the entire bill for the guests' drinking habits. Having said that, a lot of couples do put some money behind the bar as a gesture of goodwill (and good fun) to their guests. If you do want to put money behind the bar, make sure you talk to the hotel and discuss putting a cap on it. Blindly promising to cover the bar tab makes a) budgeting very difficult but b) the day after very difficult, as you find out someone took it upon themselves to drink double vodka double sambuca Red Bulls all night. (This sounds like a stretch from the truth but I legitimately know a wonderful man who drinks this, out of choice, on nights out. They're called Blurkeys, if you wanted to know.)
If you're connoisseurs and the alcohol the venue is offering isn't up to your tastes, then most will offer the option of bringing your own alcohol in and charging you a corkage fee - simply, a charge per bottle to BYOB. This may sound like a good way around it but it can work out to be very expensive, very quickly, with some corkage fees running to around £8-£9 a bottle. Simply put, the venues are trying to discourage you from this option, as every bottle you bring in is less booze that they sell from their own bar. However, there are ways to soften the blow. Corkage fees on bottles of spirits get more mashing for your money, as you get more drinks out of them, and drinks that (in theory) shouldn't be guzzled quite as quickly. Also, think about flipping the whole thing on its head - if you're set on the alcohol you want at your wedding, instead of trying to get the corkage fees down, why not watch out for the price of the alcohol going down? Supermarkets often do a 25% off offer for a lot of alcohol, and around Christmas there are always loads of discounts and savings. If you have the foresight and the storage space, stockpile your tipple of choice in the festive period, and keep it locked away until your wedding. That way, when you work it all out, what you saved on buying your drinks may cancel out the corkage fee anyway. Alternatively, speak to the venue and see if there's any possibility of getting the particular drinks you want bought in by them to then serve, so that they can then sell them as their own.
For settings that are less formulaic, such as teepee weddings, barn weddings, and venues with less strict rules, bar hire can be the way forward. Great bar companies will provide the bar, the set-up, the alcohol, and the servers for you, and get into the spirit whilst getting you the spirits too - what could be better? These bars usually offer both a fully paid package, the equivalent of you picking up the bar tab, or a guest-paid option, whereby you technically hire their equipment and personnel free and guests pay for it in their drinks prices (although with the latter option there's always a minimum spend that if guests don't meet, you'll have to make up for). This means much more freedom but it can also mean more expertise - why not talk to the bar suppliers and see if they can make some cocktails for you specifically? Not only does it enable you to serve the drinks you actually love the most on your big day, but it also adds a nice personal touch. Guests will love drinking the Groom's English Garden or the Bride's Bajan Mojito. As if you needed any further persuasion, this can also make for some great date night ideas beforehand, where you can meet with your bartenders and taste test the cocktails they've created based on your preferences, to narrow down for the big day. We are a bit biased, but with good reason to be, and can definitely recommend Mix & Twist Bartending if you want to follow this route - they're simply amazing at what they do and will slip right into your wedding effortlessly.
From the less strict venues to the not strict at all: why not completely DIY your alcohol? If you're having a marquee in your parent's back garden or literally hiring a complete site with no restrictions for your wedding, why not ask your guests on the invite to bring a bottle of their favourite tipple and put it all behind one communal bar? Make sure you have enough mixers, garnishes and receptacles (all major supermarkets offer glass hire, or if you'd rather not tempt fate then just buy shedloads of plastic cups) and put them all on a designated bar space with a pretty sign. Money saving and memory making. What else could be better?