7 Alcohol Fails to Avoid When Planning Your Wedding Reception Bar

Here's what not to do if you want to put your guests in good spirits!

Guests making a toast at reception

Photo by Lindsay Hite of Readyluck

Knowing what (and how much) alcohol to serve at a wedding can be tricky. It's a balancing act: You want to cater to your guests' diverse palates, have enough drinks flowing, and, at the same time, not spend more than you need to. Whether you've got a big booze budget or not, there are a few ways to ensure that you keep costs reasonable, guests satisfied, and the party fun.

So if you want to raise the bar when it comes to your own wedding bar, here are the mistakes you'll want to avoid making in order to put your guests in good spirits.

1. Not Catering to Your Crowd

First things first, know your crowd, advises Maren White, Weddings Director at The Greenbrier. "You made the guest list and should, therefore, have a decent idea of how many people drink and what their preferences are. This will help you determine the type of bar you want to offer." If they're all wine connoisseurs, splurge a little on bottles that your guests will appreciate. Signature drinks and premium liquor are always good ideas for the cocktail-loving crowd.

If you're catering to a beer-drinking crowd, spice things up with some local microbrews.

2. Offering up Shots, Shots, Shots!

Shots sound like a lot of fun in theory, but can wind up being a huge headache in more ways than one! Senior Creative Event and Trend Specialist, Rachel Bruzek, of D'Amico Catering agrees. Hosting shots can become a beverage provider, homeowner, and caterer's nightmare, she warns. "Guests can get intoxicated extremely fast. Homeowner's insurance and liquor licenses are also at stake, as well as the guests' reputation. Not to mention, it becomes an embarrassment for the host to have a member of the bridal party cut off and taken out of a venue for being too drunk." Yikes!

3. Trying to Bring Your Own Booze

Especially the wine. Corkage fees were invented to allow guests to bring in a specialty wine to their event, not for groups to purchase Two Buck Chuck in an attempt to save money, cautions Angie Casper, Director of Catering at Alexis Hotel in Seattle. "Couples often underestimate the value of a professional catering company handling this for you, as they tend to under or overestimate what they'll need," she explains. "Often they fall short of white wine on a hot day or are left with several cases of wine at the end of the event." In the long run, she's seen couples go through all the work of providing their own (not great tasting) wines and not save a dime. Eek.

4. Forgetting the Beer

Lots of liquor is great, but what about the beer!? As Ani Keshishian, Creative Director of Anoush Banquet Halls & Catering and L.A. Banquets, points out, a fully stocked bar with the full selection of liquor options and only two choices for beer isn't even a glass half full if your guests are all beer drinkers and your new boss can't order his favorite brew. "Just because it's not a cocktail doesn't mean that it's not important."

5. Getting Too Specialized

For signature cocktails, Bittercube founders Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz say simplicity is always best. "Each signature cocktail should be based in the classics, with enough of a twist to differentiate itself and create a unique experience for your guests." As for beer, offering a selection of just an IPA and a stout is too specialized, according to Josh Tart, Director of Catering at RiverPlace Hotel in Portland. "We're seeing more and more of this with the rising popularity of craft beer." Providing a broader variety of both beer and cocktails won't drive up the cost as many people think or tempt guests to overdrink, he says.

6. Not Having Enough Options for Non-Drinkers

So many times, I see bars with a fantastic variety, but too few options for the non-drinkers, notes wedding photographer Kate Lyon of Kate Marie Photography. "Make sure you have a variety of sodas, water, and coffee for later in the reception!" Your non-drinking guests would have more reason to stay to party if they don't feel left out.

7. Ignoring the Bartender-Guest Ratio Suggestions

As Lyon points out, there's nothing worse than waiting in line for too long to get a cold drink, especially if it's hot outside! "If your wedding is large, consider having two bar stations, set in different areas," she recommends.

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