Northern California Wedding Planner | How to Plan Your Bar Menu

We have all been a wedding guest at some point or another right? In between snacking during cocktail hour and grabbing a slice of cake most guests wouldn't think about the logistics that went into ordering wine and beer for the open bar they are enjoying.  That's the art behind a well planned event, you aren't running out of ice or cups and you certainly aren't out of the white zin that everyone is loving! 


Planning your bar menu is more than just what you will serve, but also about the quantities of each that you will order.  How do you figure out how much red, how much white or how many kegs? Here are the tips we share with our clients and hope you find helpful:

1.  Consider the setting
Many venues have specific rules about hard alcohol or prohibit serving hard alcohol all together, double check your contract before stocking the bar of course! For a summer outdoor wedding you may want to pair more of the chilled and sparkling wines, or plan a few refreshing signature drinks in lieu of a full wine or cocktail menu.  Not only will it keep your guests cooler but it will also keep your bar costs down because you are only buying mixers/ingredients for two signature drinks for example vs a full bar or extensive wine list.  Make sure to plan on getting plenty of ice to keep the kegs and drinks nice and cold! Non-alcoholic beverage station with water, iced teas, lemonade etc will also give your guests more options and keep them hydrated.

2. You know your guests
While your caterer or bar service provider may know a lot about hosting events, you know your group better than anyone.  If these folks are beer drinkers you have to take that into consideration when deciding on how many kegs or cases of beer you will need and how many bottles of wine you will need.  

3. Size Matters
If you are trying to get an accurate estimate on how many servings are in a keg or wine bottle etc you should make sure that you know what cups you will be using to serve the guests.  For example, if you bought personalized 16oz cups off of Etsy, you are using a cup that is considered oversized.

4.  Budget
Hosting a wedding or any large event is expensive, plan smart and focus on the essentials.  Here are a few helpful calculators to ensure that you don't overshoot and purchase more alcohol than you need.  If your venue or caterer is providing the alcohol, you will need to set a budget with them to determine the amount that you will be comfortable with hosting.  For example if the country club has a $1200 bar minimum you would have a hosted bar up until that dollar amount, after that it would be become a "no-host bar" and guests would pay for their drinks.  Many couples opt for no-host cocktails which means that your guests can get beer and wine but would pay for their own cocktails.  Make sure to ask about corkage fees as well, these add up!

If you are providing your own alcohol, you can look for deals from Bevmo or World Market for deals or even your local grocery store may offer specials.  Costco often has great pricing for large magnum bottles as well.   How much alcohol do you need? Here is a handy (free) calculator:

We strongly advise asking for help from your vendor team so that you aren't stressing over how many bottles and servings you need the week of your wedding! Have questions? We are happy to help just shoot us a message on our contact page. 

 ~ Happy Planning!