Don't let poor planning interrupt the party.
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While we're totally on-board for making your wedding day entirely your own, the one thing that's almost universally necessary (you know, aside from the vows) is an open bar! Most guests attend weddings expecting some form of readily-available alcohol, and many consider it a burden if they have to carry their own cash or cards and personally shell out on drinks. That's why, if you can swing it, it's courteous to make the process as easy and seamless as possible by covering the cost yourselves. It'll make your nearest and dearest happy, it'll make your bartender's job easier (no one wants to deal with angry guests), and it'll ensure that your party is as exciting as you crave.
If you're already planning on offering a full open bar, it's important to plan ahead. There are several things to keep in mind when putting together your booze station, and a lot to take into account if you want to do it right! That's why we sought out help from a woman who would know best—Jacqueline Strum of ThirtsyNest, the first wine and spirits registry! Here, she shares her best advice for building the open bar of your dreams. From what to serve and when to serve it to how much alcohol you should supply, we've tackled your biggest questions with expert-approved answers. Read on for the must-know tips for having a great open bar at your reception.
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Similar to any other wedding planning decision, the first thing you'll need to do is decide how much you want to spend. A general rule of thumb is to plan for one serving per guest per hour. Based on a wedding of about 100 guests that runs five hours, you'll need 500 servings of alcohol for an open bar. Your budget will determine what those servings are made up of.
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Think about your family—do they generally polish off a bottle of Scotch after Thanksgiving? Or are they more on the conservative side, sticking to one glass of Chardonnay during hors d'oeuvres? These are big clues to consider what makes the most sense for your wedding guests. For some, a full bar might not be necessary, but other groups will appreciate the endless options that a full bar allows.
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Your venue and season are huge factors in deciding on the makeup of your bar. For example, outdoor weddings taking place during the summer generally call for more refreshing styles of drinks, like rosé and spritzers. On the other hand, an indoor winter wedding should stock bold red wines and Old Fashioned cocktail ingredients. Also, take into account the actual time of day. If your wedding is in the evening, keep in mind that people do tend to drink more once the sun goes down.
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Once you've decided on your budget, guests, and timing, you can look into the components of the type of bar you'd like to create. Depending on your crowd, you may want to bring in only wine and beer, a larger quantity of wine and beer paired with a small amount of liquor, or an even distribution. If you know that your loved ones typically drink cocktails, make sure to bring in enough ingredients so that your bartender can mix up signature sips all night. Is your group largely made up of beer drinkers? You may want to stock the bar with plenty of different options.
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Know That There's No One Right Answer
At the end of the day, everyone's friends and family are a little different, so this advice should be taken as a baseline barometer. You know your guests best! Finally, don't stress. No matter which option you go with, everyone's going to have an amazing time!