Stock the Bar: What You Need for Your Wedding

Your wedding-day bar should not only look great but also be well staffed and stocked with just the right amount of drinks for your guests. Here, our guide to setting the stage for an unforgettably festive affair.

Consider the bar: it’s a gathering spot, a place to mingle, a design focal point — and on the big day, it’s essential to get it right. “Your bar will be one of the the most important elements of the reception, visited throughout the evening,” says Laura Ritchie, founder of Events in the City in Washington, D.C. “People are loving their cocktails these days,” says Harriette Rose Katz, founder and president of Gourmet Advisory Services in New York City, “and they love to congregate around the bar.”

To that end, discover all you need to know about setting up the bar, from its overall design to choosing what libations (and how much) to serve:

Bar Basics

wedding bar
Photo Credit: Dean Michaels Studios

Avoid wait time. No one wants to stand in a long line to get to the bar. Keep your guests happy by creating several well-staffed bars and drink stations, indoors and outside, positioning them for good traffic flow so that guests can always get their drinks quickly and easily.

Make sure you have enough...alcohol and bartenders, that is. Jono Moratis, director of beverage service at The Glazier Group for Westminster Hotel Weddings suggests this formula: At an open bar (including signature drinks), 1 bartender for every 50 guests; for a beer-and-wine-only bar, 1 bartender for every 75 guests. “We also use bussers to supply new glasses and to clear away used glasses—1 busser for every 50 guests. For multiple bars, we suggest 1 busser per bar.”

Prepare for each guest to enjoy 2-3 drinks during the cocktail hour, plus one drink each additional hour of the festivities,” says Clinton Rodgers, director of quality and guest experience at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA.

spicy cocktail
Photo Credit: Westminster Hotel Weddings

Know the numbers. One 750-ml bottle of wine yields 5 to 6 glasses; a standard bottle of champagne yields 5 to 8 glasses and you’ll get approximately 18 to 20 cocktails from a one-liter liquor bottle.

Add in some extra quantities. “Many people only finish 2/3 of their drink since they may leave it on the table to go dance, or forget where they put it when they get pulled into a conversation,” Rodgers says. Wait staff may also clear unfinished drinks from tables to keep surfaces tidier (advise them not to do so unless they ask the guest first. This will also help to save on the budget!). So make your estimates, and then acquire a bit more than you need. It’s always better to have too much than too little.

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