It's no secret that the bar is the most popular spot at any reception. After your guests down their celebratory flute of champagne, chances are they're going to make a beeline for the bar, wherever it is. This is the place where your guests will congregate, taste your carefully-selected signature cocktail, and visit again and again throughout the night. And since this place is obvi going to be popular, why not make it an area to remember?
After all, if you incorporate the bar area into your overall design scheme, you may even save money. For instance, if your bar is covered in flowers, who needs a flower wall? And if you include signature signage here (think: a monogram insignia!), you don't need it anywhere else. But with that in mind, there are a few things you must consider first. One is that your wedding bar should complement your venue's setting. You don't want a rustic wooden design if your event is in a ballroom, just as you don't want a dark circular display at a romantic garden party.
Next, it's best to think about accessibility—because that's exactly what you need this bar to be, accessible! Size and shape factor into this, so chat with your on-site coordinator, event planner, or rental manager to see what size you can fit in your space without going too big. Your guests need to move around, after all.
From there, the stocking of the liquor and glassware is up to you! But to get you started, we pulled photos of unique bar set-ups that set the tone of the event in one single shot. (Hey, this is an important design element!) You'll be that much closer to figuring out which monogrammed, personalized, and statement display is right for you, your wedding, and your thirsty guests.
Play With Varying Shapes
"Consider a round bar, such as this custom-built bar for a mountainside wedding in the mountains of Vermont,” says Britt Cole and Francie Dorman, founders of 42 North. A round bar not only has a stunning visual impact (as well as a “wow” factor) but it's also a great way to relieve lines during cocktail hour. “The roundness allows guests to circulate from all angles with full access to enjoying a cold cocktail!" they added.
Turn Your Bar Into Your Focal Point
“For a tented summer wedding, we like to create a floorplan that makes the bar a focal point and gathering area,” suggests Tracie Domino, founder and creative director of Tracie Domino Events. Whether outdoors or indoors, strategize the design of your event space to fit around your bar setup.
Integrate Decorative Details
“Decorating a cocktail bar facade with a motif pulled from your wedding invitations is a festive way to incorporate a thoughtful detail into your happy hour,” says Aleah and Nick Valley, founders of Valley & Company Events. “Crests and botanical prints are especially fun and unexpected and can amp up the design factor during cocktails,” they added.
Consider Pre-Party Preparations
“Batch beverages in advance of guest arrival,” says Jay Crabb, beverage operations manager at Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events. “Batching your ingredients for a cocktail, punch, sangria, or non-alcoholic drink saves time and prevents long lines at the bar, giving everyone the chance to enjoy a delicious beverage,” Crabb adds.
Don’t Skimp on Artisanal Bites
"We love a grazing table for a summer cocktail hour, fit with umbrellas poolside,” says Laura Ritchie, principal event designer at Grit & Grace. “It feels effortless, summer, and chic all at the same time.”
Don’t Forget Entertainment
“We always suggest a small group of live musicians instead of piped-in music because of the added elements of movement and vibrancy,” says Clay Johnson, singer for The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra. “An instrumental duo or trio playing upbeat melodies create an inviting atmosphere for connection and conversation without breaking the budget.” Keep the music familiar and maybe even a little nostalgic for all the people who have come to support you on your big day.
Opt for Something Portable
“Everyone goes to the bar, so why not make the bar part of your decor and a nice focal point?” says Merilee Hennings, owner of EverAfter Events. “We loved this gold cart displayed with cold champagne for guests to enjoy for this outdoor event.”
Make Sure Decor Is Seasonal
When hosting a cocktail hour outside in the summer, remember the temperatures! “I typically stay away from dark heavy furniture pieces and gravitate towards linen and light-colored pieces,” says Neillie Butler, owner of Mariée Ami. “Also, be sure to think of drinks that help cool your guests down such as a signature vodka drink or a chilled glass of Rosè.”
Use Florals for Garnishes
While flowers and herbs work beautifully as decor, you can take it one step further by turning your arrangements into garnishes. “It'll bring the table's natural decor right into the cocktail itself,” says Francesca C. Damico, events associate at Haven’s Kitchen.
Make the Bar Double Sided
“No one likes a line at the bar, so having a double-sided bar allows your bartenders to work more efficiently and get those drinks to your guests quickly,” says Vanessa Vierra, owner and creative director of Vanessa Noel Events. “We also opted for a large bar menu adhered directly to the bar to help guests choose their drink selections before they arrived at the bar.”
Embrace Farm-To-Table Creations
“A great way to feature summer's garden bounty is to create a beautiful farm-to-table display featuring ingredients such as just-picked herbs and fresh-pressed juices,” suggests Marie Artale, creative projects manager at Cedar Lakes Estate. Guests can pick and choose their favorite ingredients to create their own signature cocktail.
Promote a Completely Mobile Setup
“While this bar trailer company, Petite Street Mobile Bistro, provides a cocktail tasting fully loaded with crafty drinks, they are always open to creating a bespoke cocktail that is a direct representation of the couple and their drink preferences,” says Paulette Alkire, lead wedding planner at Chalet View Lodge. A whimsical bar option can also provide a photo-worthy spot for you and your guests.
Go Completely Custom
“The bar was actually built by the groom,” says Jeannette Tavares, chief creative director at EVOKE. “They wanted a modern, timeless bar that felt clean and beautiful!” If you can't actually build your own bar, accomplish something similar on a smaller scale by incorporating personalized details, like custom drinks (favorites of the bride and groom) into the setup.
Go All-Out With Glassware
The bar is a focal point for guests, and glassware is stunning when it's in a presentation state. “Shiny and on display, colored goblets in varying shapes and sizes enhances the guest decision-making process when finalizing their desired cocktail of choice,” says Sonia Hopkins, owner of XOXO Bride Events. “I love to upgrade the glassware to entice the eye.”
Give Guests Creative Freedom
With a “Rosé Your Way bar,” or something similar, guests have the option to create their own cocktail based on their unique preference. “Guests pick a Rosé based on the flavor profile suited for their personality and garnish it with candied edible flower petals,” says Alison Awerbuch, chef and partner for Abigail Kirsch Catering & Relationships.
Don’t Underestimate Your Design
Your bar should be considered along with your other decor choices because it's a highly visited part of your floor plan. “This bar was a focal point under the tent, so we used a one-of-a-kind bar front that gave the feeling of old-world charm to complement the aesthetic of the venue,” says Ashley Culicchia Cash, owner and creative director at The Graceful Host. “Then we added a boxwood wall backdrop and included two huge urns with coordinating blooms and greenery to finish off the bar look.”
Craft Colorful Drinks
Keeping the "signature" in cocktails, this couple chose two drinks that represented the school colors of the college where they met. “We still see couples choose signature cocktails that say something about their story and help make the day extra special!” says Amy Mendes, event manager at Mezze Catering.
Get Resourceful With a Bar Back
“Create a summer garden-chic design by adding a little warmth of grey to your traditional white bar and finishing the design with a rustic bar back,” says Jacklyn Dahn of Revel Décor. “In addition to creating more space on the bar, utilizing a bar back provides another surface to bring the summer garden theme to life with soft touches of greenery and candlelight."
Incorporate Your Location
“Wow the guests at your summer soiree by highlighting the destination and season in your bar décor,” suggests Rachel Abrams, director of weddings and celebration sales at Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. “Our couple chose a stunning white lattice bar, and added elements of vibrant tropical floral to say, 'Welcome to paradise!'"
Think Bright Colors
Create the feeling of summer with a bar that embodies bold, vibrant hues. “Bright colors, festive cocktails, and buckets of booze and you've got yourself the perfect summer bar,” says Kristin Doggett, co-founder and creative director at Bellafare. Lean into fun patterns to add an extra playful element to your set up.
Create a Flower-Covered Base
To say that we're obsessed with this natural organic beauty would be an understatement. It's a fresh take on a traditionally flower-covered bar, and you can just tell it's authentic to the couple and the venue.
Design Signature Signage
This bar literally makes you say "cheers," which is exactly what your guests will be doing as they mix and mingle with the strangers in line. Talk about the perfect icebreaker for perhaps a night-long conversation. Note: The light gray is a great color choice as it works well with the greenery, white signage, and concrete floors.
Build a Statement Shelf
Even if your bar appears minimalistic from the front, put a party in the back. A statement shelf, like this circular one, allows you to display all the pretty glassware you spent an arm and a leg renting. Plus: It's functional for the bartenders who are working so diligently to keep the drinks flowing!
Bring the Outdoors In
This is a cool idea if you want to bring the outdoors inside your tented celebration or ballroom affair. Most rental companies even have faux options if you're into the idea of building an entire hedge of greenery on your own.
Break out the Monogram
A monogram detail in the middle of the wedding bar lets everyone know exactly who they're celebrating while also looking fancy and elevated in pretty, gold script.