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Last week, we talked about the types of bar services that are offered for wedding receptions. Now, we need to work on planning the bar budget. So, let's jump right into it.

How Much Should I Expect To Spend?

Here are some statistics to consider when planning your bar budget—a bottle of wine yields 5–6 glasses (60-72 glasses per case); and a bottle of Champagne yields 6-8 flutes (72-96 flutes per case). You can get 18-20 pours out of a 750 mL bottle of alcohol and 20-22 pours out of a liter of alcohol. Referring back to our 4-hour, 100-guest wedding reception example from the previous post, we know that 400 drinks (100 X 4) are required. Factoring in the number of guests, the duration of the reception, and the costs to purchase bottles and cases of wine and alcohol, you can now plan your budget.

Wait . . . we forgot the ice! The rule of thumb is to estimate that each guest will require one pound of ice.

So, 100 guests means that you will need 100 pounds of ice. Based on this formula, you would need 10-10 lb. bags or 5-20 lb. bags of ice. I would suggest that you buy a few additional bags to chill the beer, white wine and Champagne (or sparkling wine).

​ Don't get too bogged down in the numbers. Relax. Your bartender will help you through this process. As a part of our service, we provide a bar consultation and a comprehensive bar shopping guide, should you decide to purchase your own alcohol and bar supplies.

  " Knowing the drinking habits of your guests is a major plus."

Beverage Catering

Knowing the drinking habits of your guests is a major plus. Just like the catered food, consider treating your bar the same way. By requiring your guests to pre-select drink items from a bar list, you'll have some idea of how to stock your bar. Why have a full bar, if your guests are beer and wine drinkers? That way, you know not to purchase that expensive bottle of scotch or gin, especially since you know that cousin Bertha and other members of your family are Cognac drinkers. Consider it "beverage catering". Surveying your guests' drink preferences can save you a lot of money. You tend to overspend, anticipating what people will drink. Whatever you do, make sure you have a sufficient amount of vodka on hand. People consume vodka more, and it mixes well with just about anything.

  " Opting for the higher quality, top-shelf brands can make a big difference in your bar costs."

Blame It On The Alcohol

Will you serve the designer, top-shelf brands; the mid-range premium brands; or the cheaper rail brands? Opting for the higher quality, top-shelf brands will make a significant difference in your bar costs. The price of a bottle of Ciroc would probably be the equivalent of two bottles of Smirnoff or Absolut. Something to consider. Think about it.
Many alcohol connoisseurs will argue that there's a big difference in the taste of the more expensive brands. That's not always the case, though, especially if you plan to serve "mixed" drinks. Can you honestly tell the difference between a vodka and cranberry ("Cape Cod" or "Cape Codder" are the more technical terms) made with Stolichnaya or Absolut? See . . . my point exactly, when it comes to the top-shelf brands versus the other less expensive brands.
If you are unfamiliar with top-shelf brands, google it, or go to your nearest liquor store and check out what's on their top shelf. Those are your top-shelf brands. In fact, that's why they are called "top-shelf". When in doubt, opt for the brands on the middle shelves to serve to your guests at your wedding reception. Sometimes, there is a difference in taste with the cheaper, less pricy brands.
Consider substituting Prosecco or Cava, or other types of sparkling wines for Champagne. They are excellent alternatives. Your guests may not even notice the difference, either. And, in case you didn't know, Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. Any other sparkling wines produced outside of that region cannot be called "Champagne". That's one of the major differences between Champagne and other sparkling wines.

  " The trendiest option nowadays is the limited "beer and wine only" service."

Limit Your Bar

As mentioned in the previous post, a limited-service bar which means limiting your bar offerings, can be help cut down on bar costs. The trendiest option nowadays is the limited "beer and wine only" service. With this type of bar service, beer and wine are the only alcohols served at the bar. This is a very cost-effective option. Other limited options include signature/specialty cocktails, cocktail hours, and BYOBs. These will be discussed in detail, in next week's blog post.

We Love The Bartender

Finally, before I wrap this up, you need to determine how many bartenders you will need and the costs of their services. This is determined by the number of your guests. One bartender can accommodate 75 – 100 guests. I would suggest one bartender per 50 - 75 guests. That would make for a faster and more efficient bar service, especially if you plan to serve signature/ specialty cocktails. It would also cut down on the wait time and long lines at the bar.

Before contracting the services of a bartender, check out what the market rate is for bartenders in your area. You need to factor in the cost of their services, in addition to the cost of the alcohol. The costs will vary per bartender. Call around and get some quotes. Or, check out event hiring sites online like Gigsalad. Bear in mind that most companies require a minimum amount of hours to contract. At Mixin' Mimi, we require a four-hour minimum for our bartending services

Also, be prepared to pay additional, in order to allow your bartender ample time to arrive at the venue and to set up the bar. Depending on the bartender's duties, I would say to allow at least an hour and a half to two hours for setup, and at least an hour to breakdown the bar. Finally, as mentioned in the previous post, make sure your bartender has liability insurance.

Whewwww! I think that just about covers it. Next week, more about limited-service bar options and an overview of some of the latest trends in wedding reception bar service. Until next time . . . serving up the art you can taste.


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