Food and drinks are a very important part of any wedding. A carefully thought dinner and a correctly chosen open bar can have a big impact on the memories that your wedding day will leave to you and your guests. You should make sure to never leave your guests thirsty or hungry, but not overdo it, and as a result getting your guests drunk too early, or too stuffed to enjoy the party. With big weddings, there is also a challenge of guessing everyone's tastes with food and drinks. Good news are, this is not so hard to achieve, as long as you keep some simple things in mind.
In this post, I will write about the drink part of a wedding, sharing with you my point of view on the subject, which is based on my experiences and some knowledge I gathered by studying various other articles and blogs about weddings.
First and most important rule is to keep your guests hydrated, especially if you plan to get married in a warm country like Greece, in the summertime. Make sure to at least have unlimited and free water for your guests. It might sound silly, as every venue should offer free water, still it will do no harm to double check with the venue you chose, that they offer free water. Even better, provide unlimited soft drinks along with the water.
It is good to have your guests arriving at the wedding location earlier than yourself, the couple. This will give them some time to get comfortable at the venue, take some pictures before the ceremony, settle at their seats, chat about how amazing couple you are and how happy they are to be at your wedding. Upon the guests' arrival, arrange to have welcome drinks served. This will help them feel more comfortable. Since it is just the beginning of the wedding day, no need to have alcohol in the welcome drinks. No reason to start getting your guests drunk from the very first moment, as they will have enough time ahead of them for alcohol consumption. The welcome drink can be a non-alcoholic cocktail or fruit punch. Anything nice and refreshing.
It is better to serve the welcome drink the latest 30 minutes before the ceremony. This way, you will be sure that all of your guests will finish their drinks by the time the ceremony should start, and they won't make a mess with all the glasses under their seats.
After the ceremony is over, you can have glasses of sparkling wine or champagne served for the congratulations, preferably one glass per person. If you will have guests that won't be drinking alcohol, replace it with juice, a soft drink, or even non-alcoholic champagne. Don't take group photos immediately after the ceremony. Give your guests some time to speak with you, congratulate you, and enjoy their beverage without the hustle of the photo shoot. There is nothing worse than having glasses in your wedding group photos.
Once you are done with the group photos, it is time for the cocktail hour. Why I believe a cocktail hour is a "must" for a wedding, I will discuss in a different post. For now, let's stick with the drinks. During the cocktail hour, you, the couple, can leave your guests to take some post-ceremony photos, or have a couple's photo shoot, as I usually call it. Feel free to have a bigger alcohol variety at the bar this time. Offer your guests beer, wine, sparkling wine or champagne, and a couple of light cocktails. With the cocktails I would recommend having a sweet cocktail and a sour cocktail, to satisfy all guests.
Again, be careful not to overdo it with the alcohol, as it is still too early to serve too much of it. You need everyone to be relaxed and sociable, yet straight thinking, not drunk and blurry. Instruct the venue, not to add a lot of alcohol to the cocktails, and not serve any strong alcohol, including shots!! There is a possibility that a guest or two might feel displeased with that, but in the end of the night, they will be thankful you helped prevent a possible disaster.
In case you know you will have a certain guest, that drinks only one type of alcoholic beverage, let the venue and the stuff know about it. For example, if your lovely aunt Martha drinks only Piña coladas, make the sure the staff is informed about it so they could serve her just Piña coladas. She will most certainly appreciate it.
During dinner have wine on the tables. Ask your guests' wine preferences in advance, so you could know which type of wine to choose for the dinner tables. Have both white and red wines on the tables, unless you already know that a certain table will be having only white wine, in which case no reason to serve red bottles of wine there. It will just take space on the table and make it look messy. Always have bottles of water on the table. Remember, keep your guests well hydrated!
At the end of the dinner it would be a nice idea to serve a digestif. You probably had at least four courses and it is quite likely that your guests feel full and a bit heavy. Help them digest the food before inviting them to the dance floor.
You've exchanged your vows, enjoyed a nice dinner, laughed and cried at the speeches, cut the cake, had your first dance. Your guests are feeling good and happy, and are brave enough to conquer the dance floor. What to do with the drinks? This really depends on your budget and on how much your guests drink. If the majority of your guests like to drink, then a full open bar is the best option to go with. In case a full open bar sets your budget of limit, them put some money behind the bar, but don't forget to provide unlimited water, soft drinks, and coffee till the very end. If you have a mixture of heavy and light drinkers attending your wedding reception, have an open bar with light alcohol, like wine, beer, and sparkling wine (soft drinks and water... I will never grow tired of repeating this). If you want to treat your heavy drinking friends, then just put some money behind the bar for them. Should you wish not to have your guests drinking heavily, again offer them unlimited wine, beer, soft drinks, but let them pay for any spirits they might order extra. Whatever your choice might be, make sure to inform your guests beforehand. No need to put them in the uncomfortable position of not having money to pay for their own drinks.
Finally, make sure to have coffee at the bar. After a long day and long night partying, your family and friends will most certainly need a hot cup of coffee to keep them going the final hours of the party.
Those, are some guidelines to help you make better open bar choices for your wedding. As you can see, there is no need to spend a ton of money on a all day full open-bar package to enjoy your wedding day. Whatever your choices might be, make sure you won't end up having guests snoozing drunkenly under the dinner tables. Calculate what kind and how many alcoholic drinks you will have based on the preferences and alcohol tolerance of your guests... and yourself.
Lastly, make sure that no one from your drinking guests will return home driving. Better provide everyone with a way to go home safe.
Next time I will share my knowledge regarding the food choices for your wedding. Buffet or sit-down? Meat or fish? This questions, as well as other will be answered.