Stocking your DIY wedding bar

Planning So you're considering a DIY bar, huh? Perhaps you’re having a backyard wedding reception or other DIY reception. Or you might just want your chosen venue to serve up your choice of booze on the day.

Let's face it, we're all inexperienced in catering for a wedding reception ... unless your job is actually a wedding coordinator or bar manager of a wedding venue.

So how do you avoid running out of booze and simultaneously avoid blowing your whole wedding budget? Well, you'll instantly be in a better position if you read these tips and the shopping list below, I promise you.

Which bar?

First, did you know you can opt for different kinds of bars? You could opt for a simple wine and beer bar – most people like at least one of these drinks, after all.

Alternatively, you could up the variety a bit by adding some staple spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey) and mixers, then customising with anything you know your crowd particularly love, such as Sambuca shots!

Or you could go for the ‘full bar’, which is exactly what it sounds like. A note about the full bar, though: it’s likely few guests will touch some of the less popular items, and so it’s not the greatest use of your money and you may want to consider hiring in a bar service if this is the way you want to go.

The timing factor.

When you wed also impacts on how much your loved ones imbibe… a daytime wedding means less full-on drinking, as does a Sunday or weekday wedding – all because of the ‘work next day’ factor. If you’re having a wedding at one of these times, you can round down the numbers a little.

Calculate your booze needs.

Generally, if in doubt, round up! You can (hopefully – check when you buy) return unopened bottles ... or you'll have a ridiculously stocked liquor cabinet / wine store to start married life. Worse things have happened.

Work on the basis that guests will consume about one drink per hour at the reception, plus you’ll need to buy enough of whatever you’ll be serving with the meal. As a general guide, one bottle of champagne serves six to eight, a bottle of wine serves six-ish (if you use standard bar-size glasses) and a litre of spirit makes around 15 drinks.

Every guest list is different, so I recommend you mix this post with your knowledge of your entire wedding squad from your elderly neighbour to your rowdy workmates.

Serious legal bit.

Serious note here – check up with whether it may be a smart move to get liability insurance. If something bad happens as a result of the alcohol you provide, you could be liable. So, check with your caterer if you’re having one (as it may be covered under their liability insurance) and do your homework thoroughly.

Hiring can save you money.

And one more thing before we go to the helpful checklist: consider hiring a bartender, or waiters to hand out drinks. Your drinks will go a lot further if someone else is serving them up (we all know how hard it is to pour out only a single measure of spirit without the little measuring cup, am I right?). And if drinks come to the guests rather than guests helping themselves, people are less likely to over-indulge. So give this point some thought.

The Master-List.

Here’s a handy checklist of drinks you might want to add to your bar:

Bottles of beer – perhaps some light and some dark (1.5 per guest)
Red wine (Quarter of a bottle per guest)
White wine (Quarter of a bottle per guest)
Champagne for toasting (1 bottle for every six guests)
Champagne for the bar (1 bottle for every 15 guests)
Whiskey (20 ml per guest)
Gin (20 ml per guest)
Rum (20 ml per guest)
Vodka (60 ml per guest, because most people can palate it if their top choice runs out!)
Tequila (10 ml per guest unless Tequila shots are A Big Thing among your guests)
Dry vermouth/sweet vermouth/similar (10 ml per guest)
Tonic water (250 ml per guest)
Orange juice (250ml per guest)
Coke (500 ml per guest)
Diet Coke / Zero (500 ml per guest)
Cranberry juice (100 ml per guest)
Sparkling water (100 ml per guest)
Bottled water (500 ml per guest)
Slices (and wedges if Tequila’s on the menu) of lime and lemon (5 slices per guest)
Ginger ale (10 ml per guest)
Grapefruit juice (10 ml per guest)
Ice (15 cubes per guest … or about 1 big bag for every 20 guests)

…and whatever else makes you happy, from those little paper umbrellas to edible glitter!

Cheers! What will your bar be like? Are you adding any special touches? Tell us!

Tags: drinks, bar, alcohol, catering, reception, party, planning, ideas

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