You want to keep your guests watered at the reception, and by ‘watered’ I mean merry, and yet you don’t want them merrily drinking you over your budget. Find out what to serve for your first reception drink and at your wedding breakfast, the pros and cons of the free bar versus the pay bar and so much more.
The first reception drinks you serve your guests should be a little special. You could offer champagne or BucksFizz and seasonal drinks are always popular. For winter weddings consider serving warm, spiced mulled wine as your initial reception drink before the usual wine and champagne at the wedding breakfast. For a balmy mid-summer’s wedding nothing beats an ice cold Pimms or cool ice shots, boozy cocktail sorbets and vodka laced snow cones!
For something extra special create your own signature cocktail by blending your favourite drinks with a personalised name for a fancy new drink your guests will love.
The bride and groom are traditionally toasted with a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. A choice of red and white wine should then be served at the reception tables alongside water for non-drinkers as there will often be under 18s, drivers and tee-totallers amongst your guests.
The days of the bride’s parents paying for the wedding are all but over. Today we are more likely to pay for our own wedding and to have either a pay bar where your guests buy their drinks, or one with a cap on the tab, where your guests will enjoy drinks on you until the money runs out and they have to pay for their own.
The free bar at a wedding is a popular destination once the speeches are over and the dance floor is in full swing. Most guests will drink responsibly but there is always a small risk that some will drink the bar dry simply because they don’t have to pay for it. If you are inviting guests you are concerned might do this, or if you simply have a very tight budget, then a pay bar might be the answer, but there are options too.
Most of us have had drinks on a bar tab at some point. You put your credit card behind the bar and drinks can be ordered to the tab (short for tabulation, or list) and then added up and paid for in one go at the end.
Voltaire Champagne Bar, London
Running a wedding bar with a tab can be done in two ways – you could either make it a free bar for your guests all night and pay the final bill at the end, or you could put a cap on the tab so you agree to pay a certain amount and ask the bar staff to keep an eye on the bill. Once the bill reaches your agreed limit, the bar tab closes and guests must pay for their own drinks. In pricey venues this can be a good option if you’re watching the pennies. If you’re not tied to one bar however then hiring in a mobile or pop-up bar is a great idea.
Stylish pop-up cocktail bars
A pop-up bar is a mobile bar that comes to your venue, whether your reception is in a building or the open air. The beauty of the pop-up bar is you can often choose how it looks, what it serves and where it stands. So you could hire a pop-up with an illumination that matches your colour scheme or have drinks served festival style in the great outdoors.
Mobile bars come in all sorts of shapes and themes too so you could hire a black London taxi cab bar for a stylish city wedding or a funky 1960s VW camper van bar for an outdoor retro themed wedding.
Wedding drinks accessories
Bring your wedding theme or colour scheme to your wedding drinks with personalised wine and water bottle labels. Theme it Art Deco for a 1920s vintage inspired wedding or Rock n Roll diner for a retro 1950s style wedding. Serve all sorts of personally inspired cocktails, add beautiful finishing touches to fancy glasses.
Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.