Tips for Seamless Bar Service at your Wedding
The devil is in the details. And we know when it comes to planning a wedding, there are thousands of tiny devils just waiting to rear their heads. Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Whether you’ve planned 1000 weddings, or you’re a first-time dream maker (maybe even your own), we’ve got a handful of hints to keep those bar-related devils at bay. A successful wedding day is all about effective communication between the vendors (and love, of course). Having completed over 100 weddings, we’ve honed in a few details that make the bar service much smoother when properly communicated between the wedding planner and bar service. Feel free to share this with your planner!
Is there a champagne toast?
A good bar service is going to ask you this question in advance, but time schedules often get adjusted as the event goes on, so a 5:00 pm toast on the timeline may end up being a 5:30 pm toast, and if you’ve got 10 bottles of bubbly in cups, it’s going to be warm and dead by the time it gets to your guests. Have the wedding planner keep the bar informed of any adjustments to the timeline because they’re often not aware of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Are there any special rules for the alcohol that need to be provided?
This seems like a silly question, but we’ve shown up at the number of events that will have a random bottle of something in the alcohol order with no explanation. Usually, we’ll have to ask around to find out, and it’s SO much easier if the wedding planner is aware of the plan.
We also recommend refraining, as much as possible, from these “exclusive” options. Word gets out quickly if there is a fancy champagne or a nice bottle of bourbon behind the bar, and while the bartender will happily comply with the “I’m sorry, the hosts have asked that this be reserved for just for the wedding party” story, it doesn’t make the guests that may have traveled hundreds of miles, taken off work, purchased a gift, and skipped out on that other life event they could have attended, feel very appreciated. We always encourage our hosts to be as inclusive as possible. If you really want that special bottle of bourbon or champagne, have it put in your getaway car to bring it home with you to enjoy when it’s just the two of you.
Will you be offering table-side wine service during dinner?
Table-side service can be a great treat for guests during dinner. They don’t have to worry about getting up from the table to get a drink and they can just enjoy the meal and conversation with their table. Having said that, you’d be surprised how many events we’ve shown up to where the wedding planner springs on us that the plan is to do table-side wine service during dinner.
Unless told to do otherwise, bar services are calculating staffing of the bar only, they likely aren’t staffed to accommodate passed cocktails or table-side wine service. Closing the bar during dinner may alleviate some of the pressure, but then what about the person who wants a beer or a cocktail instead of wine? Table-side service also requires more wine. Events with table-side wine service can use up to 50% more wine than if they just had guests just go to the bar to get a drink.
If you’re looking to do table-side wine service, ensure that you’ve informed your bar service of this ahead of time so that they can best support you with staffing and alcohol quantities.
Are you expecting a bar to be moved/switched?
Sometimes, couples will want to offer a cocktail hour in one spot for the time between the ceremony and the reception. We see this a lot when the ceremony and reception are in the same space and the team needs time to flip the setting. In theory, it can be easy to assume that the bartenders can just move everything from the cocktail bar to the reception bar when the guests' transition from one space to the other. In this situation, it’s important to know that if bartenders are going to be moving from one bar to another, there may be a lull in service. A quick chat between the bar service and the wedding planner ahead of the event will enable them to talk about options that would minimize disruption to the service.
Who is in charge of water and nonalcoholic beverages? Oh, and water. Did we mention WATER?
This is probably the most commonly missed detail, and it’s an important one! Planners can play an important role here in being the link between the caterer and the bar service in ensuring guests have access to water from beginning to end because, where there is alcohol (and dancing), and heat (hello Nashville), there must be water. While we offer an add-on option to all our packages to include water, often hosts will choose to go through their caterer for this.
Every few events we’ll arrive where the caterers are taking care of water service only to find that it’s on the tables, but guests aren’t allowed to access tables until after cocktail hour, or that there is no self-service option and the pitcher on the table quickly goes empty. Our recommendation is that if you have another service handling water, request that they have a self-service station set up prior to the event start until the bar closes, even if they will also have water on the tables.
Bar Magnolia includes a small bottle of water for every guest behind the bar, which minimizes the number of times we have to redirect a guest to a water station or tell a guest we don’t have water. It’s not enough for general consumption throughout the entire event, but it’s enough so that we can hand bottles of water out when explaining to them where the water station is for their next round of water.
Note: If you’re supplying your own non-alcoholic beverage station it’s best to expect guests to consume 4oz of water/lemonade/tea per hour. For a 4 hour event with 125 guests, that’s up to 2000oz (15 gallons).
Who is taking the alcohol after the bar closes?
Things can get a little crazy after an event when there is alcohol without an immediate home hanging out. The bartenders need to pack up and load out in order to abide by your contracted end time with your venue, but unless your bar company has a liquor license, that leftover alcohol needs to go home with someone. Make sure you communicate to your bar company or wedding planner who that person should be and then point them out so they can coordinate with that guest come end-of-night.
Anything is possible with proper preparation. People have big dreams for their wedding day, and as people who commit their lives to helping those go off without a hitch, these are details that help us to best serve you and your guests.