Brides & Grooms: Commonly Asked Questions(with Answers) & Misconceptions
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Long gone are the days of self-serve "bars" at weddings, unless you are planning to get hitched in your own backyard. Legitimate venues have too much to lose to allow this practice to take place on their property. Thus, most will have a list of approved bartending services for you to choose from, or will provide "in-house" bartenders. This should provide you with some peace of mind on your big day, as you will have professionals handling everything from consultations, bar setup, cocktail preparations, guest interaction, guest monitoring(for safety & liability purposes), as well as bar breakdown & cleanup. Having professional bartenders shows class, and lets your guests know that you care. It is the biggest day of your life, afterall.
You've decided to hire a professional bar service to make the intricate cocktails and pour wines, but plan to have kegs in a separate location for guests to pour their own beers.
Know this... Once you hire the professionals, ALL alcohol service will be required to go through them. Once guests start serving themselves, the General & Liquor Liability Insurance(that the bar service provides) becomes VOID. This puts you, the client and provider of the alcohol, at risk. Should a guest then hurt themselves, or someone else, the responsibility falls to you.
That said... Hire your professional(s), let them do their job, and have zero worries on your wedding day!
My Advice... Have a properly staffed bar. This will ensure the quality of the drinks and it speeds up the line, making the guests happier. The last thing you want your guests to leave with is the memory of having to wait "forever" in the bar line because you tried to save a few dollars by having less bartenders than was suggested by your professional. In all honesty, I turn down events every year because the potential client wants to have just one bartender, when my experience suggests they have two. I would rather not be a part of the chaos that will ensue.
Commonly Asked Question...
How much alcohol/product will we need?
Answer... There are several factors that go into these calculations, and most professionals will come up with roughly the same amounts. These factors are: type of bar(beer & wine or full bar), approximate number of guests(21 & older), and number of hours pouring. Through my experience, I know that it is much better to have some extra beer/wine/spirits than it is to run out. That said, my estimates tend to err on the high side, with any excess product left unopened. Unopened product allows you the opportunity to return it to the place of purchase. *Tip: When purchasing product, ask the sales associate about their return policy.
Product categories to consider:
-Beer (kegs or bottles/cans)
-Wine (what varietals? Food pairings.)
-Hard Alcohol (variety or Signature Cocktails?)
-Mixers (if having hard alcohol)
-Cups (glass or plastic? Beer cups, wine cups, NA Bev cups)
-Ice (how much? This is the most common "under-provided" item) Get more than enough.
Commonly (Un)asked Question...
How many options of beer & wine should we offer?
Answer... While there is no perfect number, contemplate this. The more options, the longer it will take for guests to decide, thus extending the wait in line for everyone else. One party we worked recently had 22 choices for bottled beer, and 11 choices for wine! That was for a party of 150 drinking age guests. Now, every single guest that steps up to the bar has to survey their options, one by one, to see what they would like. Then the ladies always say, "Can I taste this one?, Can I taste that one?", and so on. On average, each guest is standing at the front of the line for about 1 to 2 minutes in that situation, while reading the menu and making a decision. With one bartender(which is appropriate for a beer & wine bar with 150 guests or less) do the math there. Actually, to save time, let me do it for you. It took over an hour to get through the initial rush after the reception. That's a headache for everyone involved, and guests kept asking why we don't have more bartenders. Well, because my suggestion of 3-4 options for beer and 3-4 options for wine were disregarded. Obviously, I didn't throw the Bride & Groom under the bus to their guests, but in my head I was fuming.
Generally speaking, my above mentioned suggestions are a great rule of thumb. If having bottled beer, give your guests 3-4 options. You'll cover all bases there. A cheap beer, such as Coors Light, Bud Light, Rainier, etc., plus 2 or 3 craft style beers. A Pilsner, a Pale Ale, an Amber, a Hefeweizen, an IPA, a Porter, or a Stout. Any combination of those will cover most of your guests desires. For wine, same thing. Offer 2 reds and 2 whites, or 2 reds, a white, and a Rose'. Keep it simple & keep your guests happy. Bottom line, listen to the suggestions of your hired professionals. Afterall, they do this for a living, and you will hopefully only be doing this once. It's going to be a memorable time, so make it memorable for the right reasons.
The bartender is cool, and will let us drink as much as we want. It's a wedding after all.
Know This... While the assumption that the bartender is cool is probably spot on, they're not so cool that they are going to be irresponsible and jeopardize the safety of the guests, or their responsibility to you, the client. Over-service also puts the bartenders way of making a living at stake, and I don't know any professionals that are willing to do that. A true professional is there to serve, but also to monitor, and to make the not so difficult decision to cut someone off when they have apparently had too much to drink. Even if it is a wedding, or any other special event.
Commonly (Un)asked Question...
Can my guests order shots?
Answer... Most venues strictly forbid straight liquor, so ask your bartender if you were planning a round of tequila shots for you and your bridesmaids/groomsmen. The thinking on this one, from personal experience, is that once the shots start flowing, the level of guest intoxication increases drastically, and the bartender has to begin cutting people off much sooner than anticipated. Special shots for bridal party members only is a common practice of ours at Full Sails Bartending, however, as soon as we notice those shots being passed to guests, we have to put a stop to it altogether. You can see where that can become an issue, I hope.
Know This... Often is the case where guests are spotted walking around with beverages from their "car bar". Once that becomes evident to the bartender(s), it is our responsibility to confiscate the "unauthorized" spirits, and give notice to the designated Point of Contact, which could be the wedding planner or the venue owner. This falls under the self-service area, and is not allowed.
Hopefully, I've been able to answer some of the question you have, or even didn't know you had. If not, check out some more Frequently Asked Questions, subscribe & comment, or send me an email to Corey@FullSailsBartendingServices.com I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. Cheers!