Planning for beverages at your backyard wedding reception doesn’t stop at deciding which cocktails are the tastiest. (Though if you’d prefer to pretend it does and drown yourself in delicious libation ideas, click here.) There are so many other logistics to consider when setting up your ideal wedding reception bar. Will you provide a full bar or only beer and wine? Will there be every cocktail under the sun or only a couple signatures? How many bartenders will you need? How much alcohol should you purchase? The answers to these questions are outlined for you below— in addition to my (perhaps unsolicited) opinions.
Will you provide a full bar?
There are a few options here. You can either provide:
- A full bar, fully paid for by the wedding hosts
- A full bar, but wedding hosts only cover beer and wine
- Only beer and wine served
- Beer, wine, and a signature cocktail (or two, or three) offered and paid for by the wedding hosts
I lean more toward having beer, wine, and a couple of signature cocktails. Here’s why I decided not to go all-out with a full bar:
- It requires hiring more people. When there are multiple types of drinks being ordered, everything is much less streamlined and more bartenders are needed.
- The alcohol costs are higher and you will end up wasting money on bottles no one ever drinks.
- Everything is much more complicated, especially if you are the one organizing and purchasing the alcohol. Also, how do you do the math on predicting how many people will be drinking how much of what?
- Signature cocktails are classy! Well, as long as you don’t choose “Sex on the Beach” or “Jungle Juice.” For some great signature cocktail options, read my post Elegant . If you want to be a little bit cutesy, you can choose a “his” and “hers” favorite (or “his and “his, or “hers” and “hers!”).
- By not opening the bar up to unlimited shots and Irish Car Bombs, you avoid having the bros get too wasted. For me that is huge, considering that pretty much all of my fiancee’s friends are hard core bros. (Love you guys! Party on!)
- Especially for a backyard wedding, the less unnecessary stuff and the more refined, the better.
Will your bar be tended?
Another option not listed above is to have a DIY cocktail bar:
This will save you money in that you do not need to hire a bartender. (Though it is smart to hire someone who can re-stock and clean up the area frequently– but this person can double up as help elsewhere during your reception). However, you will end up paying a little more than necessary as you will be unable to predict how much and what type of alcohol people will want. But look at the bright side– you can always keep the leftovers to stock you and you partner’s new bar at home!
The DIY bar method will please many of your guests in that they can drink whatever they want, and it can be fun for them to pick from a variety of interesting garnishes and mixings!
The downside is that as I mentioned above, you will have people getting their hands on every type of alcohol and amount of shots they desire in that moment. But if that sounds like a rockin’ good time to you, then go for it!
If you decide to have your bar be tended, use an app like Task Rabbit for inexpensive and easy hiring options. It enables you to see prior reviews for each person and compare hourly rates. Here is how I determined the number of bartenders to hire:
I eliminated the need for servers of beer and wine, as beer will be placed in a non-cooler-looking container for people to help themselves, as such:
Wine bottles will be opened and placed on the bar for people to self-serve, meaning that the bartender(s) only need to tend to the beer and wine by restocking the table or non-cooler every hour or so. This leaves his/her/their attention to focus almost exclusively on serving the signature cocktails. If all the ingredients are properly set up ahead of time, they can really bang them out (side note: is that an inappropriate phrase? I’ve never known for sure) and line them up on the table, meaning for a backyard wedding of under 70 guests, you should only need… drum roll please… one bartender! If you are toward the higher end of that number, you can always go with two to be safe. My best friend had a wedding of 60 in her backyard with one signature cocktail and one bartender, and it was perfectly smooth serving.
How much alcohol should you purchase?
Good question, I’m so glad you asked. I found this helpful chart that answers that question (props to WeddingForward!):
Though, citing the bros I mentioned earlier, I would definitely double the specified amount of beer (adjusted for 70 guests) and lessen the amount of red wine a bit. You definitely want to think about your guests and how many cocktail types vs. beer vs. wine types there are. It’s also important to think about the expected weather for the month of your wedding— you’ll probably have fewer people ordering chilled white wine at a winter white wedding than on a hot summer day.
I’m curious to know: what kind of bar would you set up for your backyard wedding? Once you decide and are ready to think about the types of cocktails you want to serve, check out this fun post: . Happy planning!