So, what’s everyone having? Alcohol can be a hot-button issue between hosts and guests. Because with different guests, come different perspectives around drinks at a party. Some folks think alcohol is an essential part of high-level celebrating. Others focus on the fun, friends, family aspect, and don’t necessarily care whether alcohol is available. First and foremost, the choice is yours–and your budget’s. And you can certainly use the beverage menu to set the tone, style and theme of your event.
The Bar: Open or Cash?
If you do choose to serve alcohol, decide who pays. Will you foot the bar bill or will your guests? If you feel strongly the bar needs to be open for everyone to have the best possible time, clearly set your expectations–and cost ceiling–with the venue. No matter what size your wedding is, this bill will likely be the greatest amount (usually far more than the food), so be prepared and diligent about what you pay for. Asking the venue to track and prove how much alcohol was served is completely acceptable.
You can also split the difference. Cover just beer and wine, and ask guests to pay cash for hard liquor or mixed drinks. If you’re creative, and you love the idea of a signature drink, add that one drink to menu, and let guests pay if they want anything additional. Or set up a cash bar, but serve champagne in fancy champagne flutes just for toasts. Do remember that with a cash bar the venue is making money off of your guests. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a deal on your final bill that takes that revenue into account.
Even if the bar is totally cash, you can still control what’s served. The venue, and their bartenders will stock the brands and follow whatever guidelines you agree to beforehand. Speaking of brands…
Brand A vs Brand B
If you don’t happen to be a beer, wine or liquor connoisseur, chance are you have no idea why someone would choose Maker’s Mark over Bushmills. (There are multiple guides available if you want to learn, though!) Again, the primary reason everyone is at your event is to have fun, so don’t worry about making sure every single person has their favorite available. You can set the budget, tell the venue what you want to serve and ask them to serve the best brands that money will buy. Or you can dig into some research and determine what you want available to your guests.
Beer, however, is a different story. Unless you have a specific theme you’re going for, the best way to please your crowd is to offer a spectrum of choices. Include a basic lager most beer drinkers will find familiar, a light beer for folks counting calories, and a fancier IPA and a pale ale for the beer snobs. And, of course, if you have a favorite, make sure it’ll be on the menu!
But if you choose to have a dry party–for whatever reason–your guests should respect your decision and go along with the fun. Even signature cocktails can be mocktails, so you won’t be missing out!