I got married recently. And while many aspects of the ceremony and reception required lots of thought and planning, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the part I thought the most about is what exactly people were going to drink. Having spent several months agonizing (and tasting), here are five tips for stress-free wedding booze planning, without driving you to madness or poverty.
Know Your Venue
Figuring out how your wedding venue will handle alcohol service is the first step in planning, of course, and at least in our case was actually a driving factor in where we chose to have ours.
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Many venues, especially traditional ones, offer little flexibility when it comes to customizing your experience. They might only offer you a few choices for wine (which is probably heavily marked up), and the bar options might also be minimal. If you don’t really care, then no worries, but then this piece isn’t for you!
Know Your Audience
Most obviously, are they big drinkers? If so, do they care if what they’re drinking is good? While of course you want to enjoy the drinks at your own wedding, if your family and friends can’t tell the difference between Barefoot and Barolo, you might want to consider just having some special bottles for the married couple, or maybe the head table. The same holds true with spirits, especially with an open bar, which leads into my next tip nicely…
Make Pre-Batched Cocktails
I’m a huge advocate of pre-batched custom cocktails instead of the generic open bar. For one thing, they help make your wedding stand out, and can feature drinks that you (the people who matter most) like to drink. They also help control cost, and can speed up bar service, all of which are things you and your guests will appreciate.
I like to pick two or three drinks to offer, of varying styles and strengths; a light vodka- or gin-based cocktail, sometimes with a sparkling wine float, a stronger whiskey-based cocktail, and maybe a wild card if you like. If all the bartender has to do is pour and shake/stir, all the better.
With Wine, Less Is More
I’ve seen people get carried away with the wines at their wedding: too many options just confuse people. We’re sticking to one sparkling wine, one white, and one red. The key is to remember that people will be having the wine before, during, and after dinner, so you want something versatile. With white wines, it’s nice to pick something that’s broadly pleasing: we’re going with Chablis, but you could also do well with a crisp Spanish white like Albarino, or a restrained Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. For reds, we’re opting for a Washington Syrah, though a slightly lighter-styled Cabernet Sauvignon or a Grenache might be a good choice as well.
Let The Staff Do Their Thing
Once the reception starts, relax and let the people you’re paying take over. Experienced caterers will be more than capable of handling any potential problems that arise, and I’d encourage you to trust their judgment, especially if they say that Uncle Jimmy’s had enough to drink.