Alcohol and Wedding Receptions—Everything You Will Need to Know
Author: Jean Bachcroft
Article source: http://www.goarticles.com/. Used with author's permission.
Sure you want your guests to enjoy themselves at your wedding
reception, but if you don't want to break the bank or the law here's what
you will need to know, including how to calculate how much to buy.
Unquestionably, one of the hottest topics that must be dealt with when
planning a wedding reception is whether to have an open bar or a cash
bar. Why does this particular topic tend to be so controversial?
Well, for one thing, some people will tell you that it would be rude to
invite guests to your reception, then ask them to pay for their own drinks.
On the other hand, an open bar—at which your guests drink for free,
perhaps into the wee hours of the morning if they last that long—could
leave you with a bill that will forever remain etched in your memory.
Both points of view are well taken. It's true that one wouldn't ordinarily
invite people to dinner or a party with the expectation that they will pay
for what you serve. But it is equally true that people tend to be overly
indulgent, not to mention downright wasteful, with alcohol they aren't
paying for. They will take a sip or two, set their glass down and begin
talking, then walk away. Later, instead of returning for their glass, they
will head for the bar to order yet another drink. So, what's the answer?
There really isn't a correct answer, but there are options. You could:
*Serve free champagne punch. Since it is relatively light in terms of
alcohol content, your guests aren't as likely to become obnoxious, even
if they've had more than their fair share.
*Have an open bar for the first hour or two. This approach will prevent
you from feeling, and looking, like a cheapskate but will allow you to
keep your bank account in the black.
*Have each table set to include the allocated bottles of wine or
champagne. For example, a table seating six to eight people might be
decked with two bottles of wine or champagne. Since you can expect
each bottle to hold between 4 and six glassfuls, everyone will have one
to two glasses for dinner and the toast. (Obviously, you will want to have
the toast as early as possible to avoid an embarrassing situation in
which guests will be forced to hold up empty glasses.)
*Use the open-and-shut-case approach. This requires purchasing beer
kegs or cases of good-quality beer, plus several cases of good-quality
wine. Since you have purchased the supply in advance, you will
determine just how much is being spent on drinks.
For guests who insist upon drinking until the cows come home or would
like something stronger, make a cash bar available.
*Have waiters and waitresses serve drinks from a tray. This approach is
not only stylish, it is also quite cost effective because you remain in
control of how much is consumed.
Choose a few different drinks to be served, including beer and wine.
Then have the staff circulate throughout the reception area at
pre-scheduled intervals. Perhaps the waiters and waitresses might offer
drinks when the reception starts, then just before or during dinner, then a
few times later in the evening but not throughout the night. With tray
service, you guest will not pay for their drinks, but this will still be a lot
cheaper than having an open bar.
If you are planning to have your reception in a home or backyard and
you will not be using a caterer, here is what you will need to know.
In this situation, a cash bar is simply not one of the available choices. It
is against the law to sell alcohol without a liquor license. (You wouldn't
want to spend your honeymoon in the pokey.)
If the home is not equipped with one, you will need a rented bar (or a
sturdy table or two, dressed to the floor or ground with linen). Plan to
stock the bar or table(s) with beer, vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, cordials
(liqueur), brandy, gin, wine, sparkling juice, and possibly punch.
Offering a sparkling white wine is also nice. If you are planning to serve
champagne (Although only a sparkling white wine made in the
Champagne region of France can be truly called champagne, people
often refer to any bubbly by that name.), expect to pay more. A decent
bottle (You will only disappoint the true connoisseur, and they are a
dying breed.) will cost between $10 and $12 and will serve seven to
eight glasses. Even at these prices per bottle, you may want to reserve it
for the toast.
Borrow or shop for a bartender's guide (Mr. Boston Deluxe Official
Bartender's Guide, for example). For your mixologist, you might also
stock such things as lemons, limes, celery, maraschino cherries, and
olives. You'll also want to have soda water, tonic water, sparkling water,
coke, ginger ale, and a few other soft drinks, plus swizzle sticks and
cocktail napkins. Last, but not least, remember to have an ample supply
of ice (crushed and cubed) on hand.
Standard Guidelines for Consumption
Expect each guest to have four to five drinks at the reception. You'll get
twenty-five drinks from a fifth of liquor, providing you're using a
one-ounce pony to make them with one ounce of alcohol each. Using
one and a half ounces of alcohol (that is, a one-and-a-half-ounce jigger),
you'll get eighteen drinks per fifth of alcohol. A single case of alcohol
contains twelve bottles. Assuming that you're using one ounce of
alcohol to make every drink, then one case will yield 300 drinks.
If you would like to serve beer on tap, half a keg will yield 260
eight-ounce glasses of beer. Seven cases of beer will yield the same
With regard to unopened bottles of alcohol, don't be too concerned
about over stocking. It is better to have too much, rather than not
enough. Besides, unopened bottles of alcohol can usually be returned
to the store.
The Law and Your Liability
Needless to say, it is against the law to serve alcohol to anyone under
the legal drinking age. The sobering fact is that courts have consistently
ruled that restaurants, caterers, and hosts are financially liable when
minors who are served alcohol are injured, become involved in a car
accident, or break the law.
You can also be held liable for an adult who suffers an injury, become
involved in a car accident, or step outside of the law after drinking too
much in your home. Caterers and restaurants are subject to the same
Your best protection against legal liability involving alcohol is to plan
ahead and react sensibly. If your reception is to be catered, discuss a
plan of action with the caterer before hand. He or she undoubtedly will
Avoid serving salty foods since they make people thirsty. Foods high in
protein—such as meat, fish, eggs, and cheese—will help to keep your
Once a person is drunk, it's too late to reach for the pot of coffee. Giving
your happy drunk coffee will only make him or her hyper and jittery. If
you need to sober someone up, try to get the person to drink water,
which will dilute the alcohol in their system and flush it out.
By no means, let that person drive—no matter what they say. Instead,
call for a taxi or find another driver to take the person home. About the Author
Jean Bachcroft is a former public relations director, founder of Bachcroft
and Aloha Labels, and the publisher and editor-in-chief of Town and
Country Shopping Bargains Magazine. For designer wedding, holiday,
and year-round mailing and return address
labels, visit Bachcroft Mailing and Return Address
Aloha Return Address Labels
bargain shopping articles, visit Town and Country Shopping
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