Creating the Perfect Wedding Bar

Venue- check!

Dress- check!

You have a caterer that allows you to bring your own alcohol, but what do you buy to supply the perfect bar? We’ve put together this helpful guide to create a bar that reflects the couple and their guests.

For simplicity, lets base our math on 100 legal age, non-pregnant guests with a cocktail and reception from 6pm-11:00pm (five hour party). Generally, we like to plan for two (2) drinks per guest for cocktail hour, and one (1) drink per guest for each hour after that. This means we need a total of 600 drinks planned.

(Photo by: Rebecca Marie Photography)

The general guideline for a Full Bar is 60% wine, 20% beer, 20% liquor. We will use these percentages for our measurements, but know that in modern day, due to a large increase in craft beers and peeks in mixology, your guest consumption may be more along the lines of 50% wine, 25% beer, 25% liquor. Analyze your crowd and use numbers that feel right to you.

When purchasing these libations, order in bulk or by the case. Important numbers to keep in mind is servings per bottle. A single bottle of wine holds five (5) standard servings. A case of wine is 12 bottles per box which equals 60 servings per case. A bottle of beer is one serving, but a case is 24 servings. One standard bottle of liquor is 18 servings.

(Photo by Laurie Marie Photography)

For a Beer & Wine only bar, the guideline leans 70% wine and 30% beer. Meaning you need 420 servings of wine, and 180 servings of beer to make up your total 600 servings. A standard bar will include a red wine option, a white wine option, 3 to 5 beer options, whiskey, gin, and vodka. Optional additions include rose, champagne or cava, craft beer, rum and tequila (but no shots- they are not allowed per the City of Chicago’s liquor license dept.).

(Photo by Jim Vondruska)

Signature drinks are a great way to bring personality to an open bar. We recommend keeping these beverages simple (less than 5 ingredients), easy to make (so no muddling or shaking), and able to be batched into large quantities. We recommend choosing a “couples drink” that represents you both- like those Moscow Mules you drank until wee hours of your first date!

(Photo by Mark Federighi Photography)

The finishing touches of a full bar are the mixers, tools, ice, and of course bartenders! We highly recommend tasking your caterer or staffing company with bringing these important items. Mixers often include, but are not limited to, cola (regular and diet), sprite, club soda, tonic, juice (orange or cranberry), with specialties like ginger ale or ginger beer as option. Garnishes stick to lemons and limes with cherries & orange peel as optional for specialty drinks like Manhattans. Bartending tools include bottle opener, wine key, strainer, shaker, peeler, etc. as well as items like glassware, stir sticks, beverage napkins, etc.

This brings us to ice! Big bags of frozen H2O to ensure all libations are good and chilled. You can NEVER have enough ice for an event. Again, these items should be left to your caterer to execute. Skip the Costco trip- it is totally worth having the professionals handle these items to guarantee the correct quantities, qualities, types, and techniques are curated to fit your specific wedding bar. Last but not least; it is vital that your bartenders be licensed, insured, and responsible…not your cousin who home-brews for a hobby. We recommend one bartender per 50 guests to avoid long lines at the bar.  Cheers!

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