One of the most stressful parts of the wedding planning process for engaged couples is how to handle the bar and beverage services. On the surface, it seems pretty simple, buy alcohol and serve it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of considerations to be made when planning a wedding bar. As wedding planners, we often spend a lot of time assisting clients with this aspect of the wedding.
The first, and most important task is to set a bar budget. Many couples lump food and drink into one line item, but the bar should have its own budget. When planning the wedding bar budget, wedding planners need to consider the cost of alcohol, wine, and beer. Depending on the venue, they also have to budget for glassware rentals, bartender service, bartender gratuity (10-20%, depending on if there is a service charge that covers the gratuity), soft drinks, ice, napkins, straws, mixers, garnishes, rental for the physical bar, and water (bottled or a water station).
How much alcohol should be ordered is one of the top five questions asked by engaged couples. No one wants to overbuy and have to eat the cost of unused product, but you also do not want couples to run out of drinks mid reception. The general rule is that each guest will consume one drink per hour at the reception. Some guests might drink more, some might drink less, but that general guideline provides a good, average starting point. So, for a 4-hour wedding reception with 100 guests, you’d need to have enough alcohol for 400 drinks.
This is the general quantity of alcohol per typical purchase size:
• Bottle of wine (750 ml) = 5 glasses
• Bottle of champagne (750 ml) = 8 flutes
• Bottle of liquor (750 ml) = 18 cocktails
• Keg (15.5 gallons) = 124 pints
If your clients are hosting their wedding at a venue where they can purchase their own alcohol, here is a handy online calculator to help determine how much alcohol should be ordered.
Once you have a general ideal of the amount needed, you can work with your clients to determine the types of alcohol to purchase. If the wedding is in the blazing heat of July, you will likely recommend a lot of chilled white wine and lighter beers. Your couples can also look at their guest list and determine if their crowd leans more toward beer or wine and make adjustments on their order.
If the bar budget is tight, there are options to host (pay) for some types of drinks and have a cash bar (guests pay) for the remainder. If at all possible, we recommend avoiding a cash bar. It is can be viewed as poor taste to invite people to a private event and then expect them to pay for their drinks. Many guests may not expect this and not have the appropriate cash on hand to purchase.
No matter what the beverage budget is, you can usually find a way to host the entire bar. Couples can choose to serve only beer and wine or only offer a signature cocktail along with non-alcoholic beverages. Another big cost savings is to skip the champagne toast. Many guests will only take a sip of champagne anyway, so allow them to toast with the drink they have in their hand.
Some couples make their bar more than a place to grab a glass of wine on the way back to the dance floor. Based on the rules of the wedding venue, there are many ways to get creative with the wedding bar. Themed drinks, mixologist lessons, whiskey tasting, microbrew tasting, and wine and chocolate pairings are just a few ways that can make the bar a showpiece at weddings. The physical bar can also be a visual décor centerpiece of the event. Bars made of copper, covered in florals, custom designs, and bars made of ice are very much on-trend right now.
Before you make any plans or purchases for the bar, have a conversation with the venue to find out their rules. Most venues have parameters on the type of alcohol that can be served and the requirements about who qualifies as a bartender. Laws around bartending vary state by state (as well as by county). Many states require licensed and insured bartenders to serve alcohol at events. Bartenders should be TIPS certified (Training for Intervention Procedures), trained to monitor sobriety, and will ensure legal aged service.
If your wedding couple is hosting a backyard wedding, they still have to follow state laws, so read up on all rules and regulations for each wedding location.
Liability insurance is extremely important. Venues may require your clients to purchase liability insurance as a part of their agreement, but if they do not, it is still an important investment for your clients. Wedding insurance will help put your client’s minds at ease so they don’t stress about losing a lot of money due to unforeseen accidents or mishaps. When looking for insurance policies, ask specifically about liquor liability. Consider adding liability insurance for the rehearsal dinner as well.
Spending time with your clients to plan the perfect bar will pay off on the wedding day. A well-stocked, professionally tended, liability-insured, and legally sound bar will allow guests to have a good time without putting the couple or their families on the line for accidents or mishaps.
Markel Event Insurance offers event liability insurance for weddings. Up to $2 million in event liability insurance can be purchased by your client from Markel Event Insurance any time at least 1 day before the event. Policies start as low as $75.
By requiring your clients to have event liability insurance, it will not only protect your clients, but it can also protect you, the wedding planner, by potentially decreasing your own business liability risk for accidents due to negligence of the event host or honoree. Markel Event Insurance is an easy and affordable solution for your clients – a free event insurance quote takes only a few minutes online or on the phone.
Get more information now on the Markel Insurance website on how easy it is for event planners to recommend event insurance to their clients.