4 “To-Do’s” When Planning Your Wedding Bar

bar.jpg

One of the key aspects to planning a great wedding is your wedding bar.  Your flowers, décor and dress are VERY fun and important to your special day.  But the most fun part is a great atmosphere after vows are said and the speeches are over.  

I’m sharing this “To-Do” list to make the planning process for your wedding bar much easier.  With Spectrum Events Mobile Bar, I am honored to contribute my little piece to one of the biggest days for a couple.  Since most of you are doing this for the first time, let me save some stress so you can move on to the most important part of your wedding….HAVING FUN! 

1.) Deciding On A Wedding Budget:

The first and admittedly most important part of your wedding bar planning is budget.  Typically, this is decided in the larger context of your entire budget so I suggest starting your research early.  You’ll be paying for labor and supplies, and each comes with a set of options that are detailed below: 

-Labor: 

When deciding on a wedding bartender, you typically have the choice of paying a catering company for their's OR finding a vendor not connected to the caterer.  (Aka “mobile bartender”)  Different venues have different rules, so you want to consult with your venue contact as they will have a list of preferred vendors to choose from.  If you’ve hired a wedding coordinator, you’ll also want to consult with them about their list of vendors.  These options are most ideal because vendors have been vetted, provided special pricing and can be trusted.

You may chose to find an independent contractor outside of these methods to save money. If you go this route, make sure to vet your candidates.  Ask for references, reviews and confirm they are permitted to work in your state.  Washington state server permit statuses can be checked online at this location.


Rule of thumb:  Don’t sacrifice quality craftsmanship/customer service by trying to find a cheaper rate for your wedding bartender.  Professional vendors are experienced and have your best interests in mind.  When it comes to your big day, labor is the last place to spare expense.

-Wedding Bar Supplies: 

This is a catch-all section for your alcohol quantities, glassware, garnishes’ and barware.  It’s also a place where, depending on your budget, you can be flexible and save money.  Happy Camper Cocktail Company has a great blog about budgeting for supplies, and I highly recommend reading it if you have the free time.  In the meantime, here’s my summary:

A.) Best Store To Buy Wedding Alcohol: Buy from Costco/Total Wine & More because they have great pricing AND if you’re on a budget, you can return unused merchandise.  BONUS:  Total Wine has a great frequent buyer program!

B.) Where To Get Glassware For My Wedding:  If you’re going the plastic cup route, Costco or Amazon are the way to go.  If you’re renting glassware, Pedersens Rentals is my fav!

C.) Crafts & Decor:  Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise.  I can say that when searching for bar or wedding décor’, hobby and thrift stores have served me very well for last minute needs.  You/Your wedding planner will most likely find many options online for this search.

2.) How Much Alcohol To Buy For Your Wedding Bar:

Are you going to have just beer and wine OR a full bar?  Will you buy beer bottles or kegs?  How many people are coming to your wedding and how many are children VS adults?  These important questions to factor into how much alcohol you buy.  I suggest going the beer/wine route for a many reasons, but here are some general tips to help budget/save costs:

A.) Wine:  One wine bottle = 4/5 glasses of wine.  Depending on your guest count, you’ll want to buy enough wine so each guest has at least 1.5 glasses available.  This may seem like a small amount, but think about it…..not everyone will be drinking wine.  

B.) Beer:  Beer is a little more difficult to estimate.  If you decide to purchase kegs, one will usually cover a 120 person wedding with casual drinking guests.  For heavy drinkers, two kegs is the best route for your wedding beer, and it’s best to provide one light and one craft beer option.    

C.) Hard Alcohol:  As with beer, this hard alcohol can be tricky to estimate.  I generally recommend offering two signature drinks, and buying least two 1.5 liter bottles per alcoholic drink.  I get asked for my opinion about offering full bars at weddings.  Just know that if you want a full bar, you’ll have a line full of people waiting for craft cocktails.  When it comes to weddings, the simpler the drink, the better for your guests. 
 

Rule of thumb:  ALWAYS BUY MORE!  You don’t ever want to run out of drinks in the middle of your reception.  Use this Alcohol Budgeting Worksheet to help your buying process.  

3.) Where To Buy Wedding Insurance:

This area really threw me for a loop when I first started out.  “Wedding bar insurance” is not a commonly referenced term from companies that you expect will offer it.  The common term to search for is “liquor liability insurance”, and your wedding venue should carry a policy that includes it.  In addition, the vendor you hire to bartend should also carry L.L.I.  (Not all do!)  In general you want a bartender who carries an insurance policy.  If you’ve selected a bartender who doesn’t have insurance, but really want to hire them, head over to The Event Helper and purchase a one-day policy.  (In fairness to you, your bartender should have factored this into their initial quote!)  The website offers affordable day-of coverage, such as L.L.I. as well as cancellation liability insurance. 

4.) How To Choose The Best Wedding Bartender:

Hiring a wedding bartender can be relatively easy because most are supplied with your catering staff as a part of the package you pay for.  Allow me to tell you a secret:  Most of those bartenders haven’t had much experience outside of their catering company.  In fact, sometimes they are bartenders, sometimes they are cooks and sometimes they are servers.  That’s not to say they lack the skills to make a good drink and handle a rush of 100 thirsty drinkers.  However, I once worked with a catering company bartender who asked me “What’s in a vodka soda?” 

Because of this, you’ll always want to consider hiring a bartender outside of your catering company.  (Not all catering companies have bartenders.)  Hiring a bartending company that only focuses on drinks can be advantageous to your guests and your wallet.  (Catering companies have to charge higher fees to account for expenses, labor and profit…..which is perfectly understandable)  To find the perfect wedding bartender, you want to look for the following qualities:

A.) A bartender with minimum 3/4 years experience:  Hire someone who has experience working a combination of bars/large events or who has worked for a large catering company as a bartender.  People who have worked in bars know how to hustle and make a decent drink (And accurately measure the alcohol.)  People who have worked in a catering environment primarily as a bartender possess valuable people skills and know how to work swiftly and efficiently to manage customer service and quality.  They must be licensed, and you can check their license status here.

B.) Someone who isn’t your friend: You probably know someone who is licensed and will work your wedding for a good deal or maybe even for free!  Don’t hire your friends as bartenders for your wedding…….I repeat, DON’T HIRE YOUR FRIENDS AS BARTENDERS FOR YOUR WEDDING!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard horror stories related to this.  Some friends over serve your other friends and they make horrible messes.   Some friends get drunk while bartending for you.  I can write more stories....but by now you get the point. 

Rule of thumb: If your bartender isn't afraid to cut you off, you know they have YOUR best interests in mind.

C.) A wedding bartender who great and helpful personality:  Your wedding bartender has your back, and acts as a point person to work with your coordinator, updating you on special requests and making sure champaign is ready for toasts.  Your bartender should be just as focused on customer service as they are on making great drinks!

I hope this blog helps in your wedding planning needs! If you're inquiring about weddings bartenders in Washington OR Oregon, don't hesitate to call us at 206-229-8713 or email spectrumeventsmobilebar@gmail.com