I think I might just supply the drinks myself...
We were at a wedding show earlier this month and a couple came up to us for some advice on how to do their own bar for their wedding, we get this question a lot and the conversation always goes the same way so I thought I’d put it into a blog!
The first question this couple had was; what and how much do I buy? This depends on how you set the bar up, I told them; will you have a bartender or just lay out bottles of beer, cider etc. for people to help themselves? The couple had not thought about this so I advised not to lay bottles out as it normally results in some people drinking loads while others get nothing! They decided on a bartender! They then had to think about hiring one or paying the catering service to serve alcohol. They were expecting up to 100 people so I advised on 2-3 bartenders, for about 5 hours this will cost them about £150-£200 (plus corkage charge if that applies) but still there is no saying everyone will get a drink so the next question was; how much do I buy?!! We normally say people have one drink per hour so this would be about 500 drinks. We always recommend looking at offers at the supermarkets as these are often very good, you can get beers down to about £1 per bottle so you will be looking at £500 for just bottles. The couple wanted to serve spirits and mixers too, so they asked what I suggested; I told them they could buy half the bottles but sometimes you can get sale and return on boxes of beer so you can buy a little extra and return after the wedding (just be careful not to open the boxes unless you need them) and get spirits and mixers.
The third question was what do I buy?!! Well as you can’t predict what people drink you need to get a good variety; I recommend, gin, vodka and rum as a minimum, (dark and spiced rums are also very popular) for mixers and soft you will want Tonic Water, Lemonade, Coca Cola and Soda Water (as a minimum) for 100 people you would probably get about 10 bottles of each spirit at about £15 per bottle that is around £450, you would need about 1.5 litres of mixers per bottle and you would get 40-50 litres (about £50). They then asked about reception drinks, you can ask your caterers to pour your own prosecco but can expect a corkage charge for up to £15 per person and then a minimum of £6 per bottle of prosecco, up to £16 per guest; that’s £1600 for 100 guests! Or hire your bartenders to come early and do the reception.
This discussion brought about the question of where to get the staff from?! This is a tricky one!! You would either need to source the bartenders yourself using people you know that are not invited to the wedding or friends of friends, however it becomes your headache on the day if they then cancel last minute due to illness, family or relationship drama or because their partner surprised them with taking them on a spontaneous romantic holiday (we’ve seen it all and more!!) You can go through an agency but the rates are about £14 per person per hour and often you need to pay the agency a fee to set up an account with them, it is well worth it to not have to worry about who’s serving on your bar on your wedding day!!
At this point in the conversation the groom was very quiet and a little pale, he then started reeling off the numbers I had given him; sooo £3-500 for the bottles, £150-200 for staff, £500 spirits and mixers and £1600 for reception…… £2550-£2800, to do it myself?!! And I need to buy it all myself, get it all there, sort the staff and do everything?!! And that’s just for the basic bar, no fancy drinks like this one?!! (Holding up his delicious elderflower spritz) Yes that is the cost of a DIY basic bar, you can return any unopened bottles of spirit and boxes of beer but you need to take it all back yourself.
And how much would you charge to be there?…. So I answered; well for 75 people we turn up for free to do a cash bar or you tell us what you want to spend and we provide you with tokens to give to your guests (so they all get the same amount of drinks) and then guests can pay by cash or card for whatever drinks they want extra! We worry about what to buy, how much and the staff!! We sit down with you before the day and design a menu of whatever you want and make it available on the day, even design the menus to go with your theme!
The last question was my favourite; are you free on my wedding day?