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A Wedding Planner’s Guide to Serving Drinks at Your Wedding

wedding reception champagne

Along with a good meal, enjoying a few drinks tends to be something people look forward to when attending a wedding. If you’ve never hosted a large event, planning a drinks menu can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of drinking time to fill and you may have multiple events to cater if your wedding is taking place over a few days.

What to Serve & When

There’s no right or wrong way to serve drinks at your wedding. You’ll probably want to consider things like your budget and the size and age of your guest list, but ultimately, it’s up to you. Here are some suggestions to get you started…

1.    Welcome Drinks

Many couples choose to serve drinks and canapes after the ceremony. This gives guests a chance to mingle and catch up before the reception. It’s also a good way to keep them occupied while the wedding party is having their photos taken.

I’d recommend keeping things light at this point. You don’t want guests getting too tipsy before the party has even begun! You should also do your best to cater for everyone on your guest list including children and anyone abstaining from alcohol. 

2.    The Reception

For the wedding breakfast, most people opt for a simple selection of beer, house wine and soft drinks. You may also want to serve tea and coffee towards the end of the meal. You’ll need to decide whether you want to have drinks served by waiters or bottles on the table for guests to help themselves. The first option will require more waiting staff, so bear this in mind when you’re allocating budget.

As the evening progresses, people may want something a little stronger such as a cocktail or a glass of spirits. You can include this as part of your celebration (everyone loves cocktail hour!) or simply make these options available at the bar once the meal has finished.

3.    The Toast

It’s traditional for guests to have a glass in front of them for toasts. This tends to be champagne, prosecco or sparkling wine. You should also offer a non-alcoholic alternative.

Other Things to Consider

If your wedding is taking place over a few days, you may need to choose drinks for other events such as an evening drinks reception, a rehearsal dinner or brunch.  

If you’re struggling to calculate how much alcohol you’ll need for your wedding, this article contains a handy guide. It also includes some useful tips about matching wine to your wedding breakfast menu.

Finally, you’ll need to decide whether you want an open bar (where the cost of any drinks is covered by you), a cash bar (where guests pay for their own drinks), or a combination of both (where you pay for certain beverages or operate an open bar for part of the day or up to a certain price threshold).

Do We Have to Serve Alcohol at Our Wedding?

Absolutely not – you make the rules! I’ve planned weddings where alcohol has not been served for religious and/or cultural reasons and guests have been explicitly asked not to bring any. Essentially, if you feel strongly about not having alcohol available, feel free to skip it. Alternatively, if you and your partner choose not to drink but don’t mind if others do, it might be nice to give people the option.

Creative Ideas & Inspiration

When it comes to serving drinks at your wedding, you can be as creative or traditional as you like. Your chosen wedding venue and/or caterers should be eager and excited to bring your vision to life. These days, there are also lots of unique, stylish mobile bars to choose from. Prosecco van, anyone? Here are some other creative ideas I love…   

a selection of cocktails

1.    Create a Signature Cocktail

I’ve been a huge fan of signature cocktails ever since the incredibly talented Mambo Mobile Bars created the ‘Benessamy’ for a black tie charity event I organised a few years ago. As well as being a fun, personal addition to your wedding, serving one or two signature cocktails can be a practical choice as bar staff won’t have to open, and therefore charge you, for lots of different spirits. Choose a cocktail you love, a drink that reminds you of somewhere special or ask your mixologist to create something new and unique, just for you.        

2.    Go All Out for Your Favourite Tipple

If you’re known for enjoying a particular alcoholic beverage, you could make this a focal point at your reception. Gin bars featuring a range of mixers and different garnishes have become hugely popular. You could do something similar with vodka, rum, rosé or prosecco. Whisky bars go down well, and I’ve even seen a bright orange mobile bar dedicated to serving glasses of Aperol Spritz!    

3.    Serve Something Seasonal

If you’re looking for inspiration, seasonal drinks are a good place to start. A glass of Pimms always goes down well on a hot summer’s day. I’ve also seen Winter Pimms (Pimm's no. 1 mixed with brandy, vanilla, and maple syrup and topped with ginger beer) served in December. Mulled wine and mulled cider work well during the colder months too. Alternatively, you could think about the fresh produce that’s in season around your wedding and build your signature cocktails using these ingredients.    

4.    Keep It Local

Wherever you’re getting married, I’m sure there’s an abundance of local food and drink you can lean on to make your day extra special (and delicious). Just as you might want to plan a menu filled with the best local produce, I’d also encourage you to serve regional wines, beer brewed locally, or cocktails made with locally distilled spirits. Perhaps you’re getting married in an area famous for producing a particular type of fruit, vegetable, or ingredient. Could this inspire your drinks menu?

Still not sure where to start? Benessamy can help! Discover our Wedding Planning Services or get in touch to arrange a consultation.

Val x

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