So you’ve chosen your venue, you’ve got your caterer locked in, now to think about that all important social lubricant we all love (possibly a little too much at weddings, let’s face it) – alcohol.
Setting up your own bar at your wedding is easy right? A couple of trestle tables, some eskis, a few champagne buckets, a bunch of glassware and everyone will be cheers-ing their way to the dance floor? Wrong.
When Adam and I got married on a family property a few years back, we thought the same thing. So it came as a bit of a shock when we were hit with the reality of a DIY bar by a family member who worked in events:
• What if it rains? You’ll need a pop-up bar tent.
• Have you organised staff? You’ll need at least 3 people serving for that many guests.
• What about a wash station? You’ll need somewhere to clean the glasses that has access to hot water. And somewhere to dump the dirty water.
• Oh and you’ll need a coolroom. 40 cases of beer and wine won’t chill themselves.
• You want Margaritas?! Well that’s another table, another staff member, and about $200 worth of cocktail glassware. And be prepared to spend a day juicing limes…
So what we thought was a simple exercise turned out to be a major component (and cost) to our wedding.
The idea for our business, The Canavan, was born from this experience. We came out the other side of our wedding totally buzzed on how we might possibly be able to make the whole wedding planning escapade a little easier for couples. And it seemed (back in 2011) that no one else was really offering an all-in-one bar package.
So with or without a Canavan on hand, there’s a few considerations when designing your DIY bar and deciding how much you want to invest into the experience:
It’s a wedding, not a house party
An open-eski free-for-all might be the vibe you’re after, but if tripping over bottles before the speeches start is not your cup of tea, you need service staff. That’s more than one guy with a bottle opener by the way. A general rule of thumb is two for behind the bar, one glassy, then add another staff member for every 40 or so people over 80 guests to keep things running smoothly.
Self serve vs. table service
This comes down to how casual your wedding is, and will generally follow how your food service is run. If it’s formal sit down table service for food, then you can’t expect your guests to get up and down every time they want to wet the whistle. Things like ice buckets on tables and funky ice tubs of beers dotted around the place are a good middle ground if you don’t want to fork out for extra service staff.
Defining the space
One of the greatest pleasures of our job is providing a fun environment for guests to hang out in, and having a good old yarn through the hatch. People just really LOVE going to the bar… and not just to get a drink. So think about how you define (and design) your bar area with lighting, furniture, plants and plenty of free standing area. The biggest difference between us and using a caterer to do your drinks service is that the van serves to define the space, and the bar becomes an experience itself.
There’s no more beer?!!
These four words (especially when uttered in the first 2hrs) instil the mortal fear into most wedding parties (particularly the groomsmen). Be realistic when ordering your alcohol. Divide your guests up into heavy vs. light and male vs. female drinkers, and estimate the number of each drink type you think will be consumed over the duration of your wedding. You’d be surprised how it adds up (especially when it’s free). Look for alcohol suppliers that allow you to return unopened cases, or have a back-up plan (i.e. someone sober who can do a bottle-o run) if need be. It’s always better to have a little too much – those bottles of wine and cases of beer are excellent bargaining tools for next-day helpers and general gestures of thanks.
Cocktails, mocktails and punches
Simplicity is key here. Cocktails that sound fancy, but are really just mixed drinks (such as Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime – a Moscow Mule) are much easier to prepare (and serve) on the night. Easier still is having a large non-alcoholic fruit punch for the non-drinkers, that can be easily spiked with spirits or champagne. Keeping cocktail service to a specific time of the day (such as the welcome drink, or pre-dinner aperitif) will ensure you’re not blowing the budget on spirits and just need to cater to one drink per guest.