Wedding Guests: Serve Yourselves?

I read somewhere recently that one of the next big things at weddings will be the self-serve cocktail bar. Fair enough. But just because something is big doesn’t mean it will be popular with guests (as we learned just yesterday). Personally, I have been to at least two weddings with self-serve cocktail bars, and wasn’t bothered at all. And not just because I had The Beard to fix up my cocktails for me. Both couples had plenty of alcoholic stuff, from beer to wine to liquor, along with mixers and non-boozahol for those abstaining.

Having a self-serve cocktail bar at your wedding reception doesn’t have to mean setting up a bunch of bottles of liquor, an ice bucket, mixers and glasses willy-nilly on a table somewhere near the buffet, though it obviously can. And that is how it was done at one of the aforementioned weddings, though don’t take that as an endorsement since the domestic wine came gurgling out of a box. A DIY cocktails table might have a small selection of pre-mixed custom cocktails in beautiful spouted pitchers. Or you can have a smaller selection of ‘ingredients,’ along with menus telling guests what they can make.

Keep in mind, that having a self-serve cocktail bar at your reception has its pros and cons. On the pro side, you don’t have to spring for a bartender, and you only have to pay for the basics (look into bulk order deals when you talk to liquor store owners) if you keep it simple. And you can take it all back to your hotel if you’re planning a late-night afterparty. On the con side, it’s now up to you to figure out how much of everything to buy, you may have to set it up, and if you’re not having that afterparty, it’s up to you to figure out what to do with all the leftovers. And you won’t necessarily save money on the cocktail supplies themselves, since your caterer may have inroads with discount suppliers.

All in all, the self-serve cocktail bar seems like a simple way to save a little money when it comes to your reception, provided you keep things simple and make it easy for your guests. I like the pre-made mixed drinks idea more than the put everything out and let guests go nuts idea, especially since it seems like there’s a lot more potential for style and individuality on the one hand and a lot more potential for spilled scotch on the other.

Photo by Frank Ross Photographic

2 Responses to “Wedding Guests: Serve Yourselves?”

  1. Jessica D. says:

    One red flag I see raising in this situation is the control of consumption. A bartender is helpful is keeping the drinking amount down per person in that it is so much easier for a person to just keep making themselves a drink, instead of having to go up to the bartender and ask for “another”. Also good bartenders are going to cut people off to protect themselves. If you really know your crowd, and aren’t worried about having problems with some guests over drinking, go for it. But I’d be weary to do so at a large event.

  2. @Jessica D. Good point! We definitely weren’t worried that anyone would overdo it, but I come from a family of relative non-drinkers on one side and a family who knows when to say when on the other. And our friends pretty much fell into the same two categories (non-drinkers and experienced drinkers). You know where I could see a self-serve bar being especially problematic? At weddings where there are large numbers of older teens! I’d say I did quite a bit of underage drinking at weddings once upon a time.