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Bliss Celebrations Guide

How to Stock an Open Bar at a Wedding

Photo Courtesy of Fork & Fingers Catering

Photo Courtesy of Fork & Fingers Catering

You’re planning to offer an open bar at your wedding, but you have no idea where to begin and how to plan. Typically, your caterer will help you figure out the exact numbers, which is why we decided to check in with Stephanie LeFrancois from Forks & Fingers in Connecticut to help you get a better sense of exactly what you need to provide on your big day.

What is the best way to determine the amount of alcohol to provide at a wedding when you’re stocking an open bar? When a couple is considering what type of bar to provide at their wedding, overall costs and what type of crowd they have will help determine what to offer. The most cost effective bar is one with beer and wine and soft drinks and plenty of bottled water. If you would like to give your guests a hard alcohol option, a signature cocktail is the best way to go without breaking the bank. If a full bar works best for you and your guests, you can still help minimize the overall cost by incorporating a signature cocktail. These tend to be the most popular drinks at a wedding, thus keeping the focus on one type of alcohol. Just don’t forget the garnishes — you should always provide lemon and lime wedges at your bar and anything that might jazz up your signature cocktail.

Do you have any tips for getting creative with what you serve? When deciding what to offer, you should keep in mind your menu and the season. We like to offer two red and two white options (one that’s lighter and one that’s fuller bodied in each category). Spring and summer options are lighter and crisper than fall and winter options. This pertains to the beer as well.

How do you calculate the amount of alcohol to have on hand to serve? This is a tricky one. Again, know your crowd. If they’re heavy beer drinkers, that’s going to be your focus. If they’re a crowd that’s going to take advantage of a full bar, you’re going to want to over stock. Your caterer should be there to help you with the counts and quantities based upon your guest count, what you’re serving and the information you provide about your crowd. Ask your local liquor store if you can return unused items. Most will allow you to return any unopened liquor bottles and beer/wine that has not been chilled.

What other trends do you see brides doing with drinks? The latest trend is incorporating prosecco or rosé into your bar. It’s a nice and unexpected option. Signature cocktails should be kept to a maximum of two. You can do one overall bridal cocktail or two his & hers cocktails. Don’t worry about the given name of your signature cocktail—you can always change it. Case in point, I love a great Dark & Stormy, but I wouldn’t want that as the name of my wedding cocktail. Putting my creative cap on, I might call it Lovers Lane. To alleviate guests requiring non-alcoholic drinks from waiting in line at the bar, we like to offer a refreshment station. This can be tins of water or specialty sodas. You can also set up a decanter station of fruit flavored water and iced teas.

Should a bride offer drinks during the ceremony, too? This depends upon the setting. If you’re having a church ceremony, it’s not necessary. If you’re in a field in the middle of the summer, absolutely. I would stay clear of providing alcoholic drinks during the ceremony. Your guests have a long day ahead of them. The tins and decanters mentioned above make a nice touch for guests as they enjoy the ceremony.

If you’re going to serve a signature cocktail, how should you determine what to serve? The season, your favorite flavors and favorite type of alcohol are all things that should be considered when selecting a signature cocktail. You can go as far as to make your drink a certain color. Signature cocktails should be simple for ease of service. First, choose your base, such as vodka. Next, choose your mixer—and feel free to think outside the box. Do you like coconut water, ginger beer, fruit flavors? Last, I suggest choosing something that will stretch your cocktail, such as a flavored seltzer. Pellegrino has some amazing flavors that take your signature cocktail to the next level without increasing your budget. Top it off with a fresh herb or fruits of your choice.