How to Stock a Bar for a Wedding Reception: The Ultimate Checklist

Your wedding day is filled with happiness, festivity, and cherished moments. A vital part of a memorable wedding reception is a well-equipped bar that appeals to all your attendees. Whether it’s a grand event or a cozy get-together, a properly set-up bar can elevate the experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you how to prepare a bar for a wedding reception that will have your guests raising their glasses in honor of your unique day.

Calculate the Guest List

The size of your guest list plays a significant role in determining how much alcohol you’ll need. A general rule of thumb is to estimate one drink per guest per hour. Consider the duration of your reception and the preferences of your guests. Are you inviting many cocktail enthusiasts, or is your crowd more into wine and beer? Tailor your selections accordingly.

Types of Alcohol

When it comes to stocking a wedding bar, variety is key. You want to cater to a wide range of tastes, so be sure to include a mix of:

  • Spirits: Offer a selection of popular spirits like vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and tequila.
  • Wine: Provide both red and white wine options, as well as a sparkling wine or champagne for toasts.
  • Beer: Have a mix of lagers, ales, and perhaps a few craft beer options.
  • Non-Alcoholic Drinks: Don’t forget about guests who prefer non-alcoholic beverages. Stock up on alcohol free beer, soda, sparkling water, and a variety of juices.
  • Mixers: Essential for crafting cocktails, include tonic water, soda water, ginger beer, and various fruit juices.
  • Garnishes: Offer a selection of garnishes like lemons, limes, oranges, cherries, olives, and cocktail napkins.

Signature Cocktails

To add a personal touch to your wedding bar, consider creating one or more signature cocktails. These can be named after the bride and groom or have a special meaning to you both. Providing a unique drink option can be a conversation starter and make your reception even more memorable.

Stocking Quantities

Here’s a rough estimate of how much alcohol you’ll need based on the number of guests:

  • Spirits: One 750ml bottle serves about 17 cocktails. For 100 guests, you might need 6-7 bottles of each type.
  • Wine: A bottle serves about five glasses. For 100 guests, you’ll need around 20 bottles each of red and white.
  • Beer: Plan on two drinks per guest per hour. For 100 guests over a 4-hour reception, that’s about 800 ounces, or roughly 67 standard 12-ounce beers.
  • Mixers and Garnishes: Buy in bulk to ensure you have enough for the entire event.

Shopping List

Now that you’ve determined what you need, it’s time to create a shopping list. Be sure to include everything from alcohol and mixers to glassware and cocktail napkins. It’s always a good idea to purchase a little extra to account for unexpected guests or spillage.

Bar Tools and Equipment

To ensure your bartender (or designated helper) can work efficiently, gather the necessary bar tools and equipment:

  • Shakers: Essential for mixing cocktails.
  • Jiggers: For precise measurement of spirits and ingredients.
  • Strainers: Used to strain cocktails and prevent ice and fruit from falling into the glass.
  • Muddlers: Ideal for crushing herbs and fruit for cocktails.
  • Ice Buckets: Keep plenty of ice on hand to chill drinks.
  • Corkscrew and Bottle Opener: For opening wine and beer bottles.
  • Bar Towels: Keep the bar area clean and dry.
  • Coasters: Protect your tables from water rings and spills.

Display and Presentation

The way you present your bar can add a touch of elegance to your wedding reception. Consider these ideas:

  • Bar Décor: Use flowers, candles, and personalized signs to decorate the bar area.
  • Signature Drink Menu: Create a beautiful menu featuring your signature cocktails.
  • Glass Racks: Keep glassware organized and easily accessible for the bartender.
  • Chilling Stations: Set up ice buckets and coolers to keep drinks cold.
  • Bar Backdrop: A backdrop with your initials or wedding date can be a stunning focal point.

Responsible Service

While you want your guests to enjoy the drinks, it’s crucial to ensure responsible alcohol service. Make sure your bartender is trained to recognize signs of overconsumption and has a plan to handle any potential issues. Additionally, consider providing transportation options for guests who may have indulged a bit too much.

Mocktail Bar

For guests who don’t consume alcohol or designated drivers, create a mocktail bar. Offer a variety of alcohol-free cocktails that are just as delicious and refreshing as their alcoholic counterparts. This thoughtful touch ensures everyone feels included in the celebration.

Stay Flexible

Weddings can be unpredictable, and it’s essential to stay flexible. Have extra supplies on hand in case you run out of a particular type of alcohol or mixer. Your bartender should be prepared to adapt to the preferences of your guests and mix up different cocktails if needed.

Consider Dietary Restrictions

Don’t forget to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions. Offer gluten-free beer options, non-dairy milk for cocktails, and ensure that your mixers and garnishes are suitable for all guests.

Last-Minute Check

As the big day approaches, double-check your bar supplies and make sure everything is in order. Confirm the delivery or pickup of alcohol, ensure the bar area is set up correctly, and that your bartender is ready to go.

Cheers to love, laughter, and happily ever after!