A Guide to Serving Alcohol at your Rocky Mountain Wedding

May 8, 2020
A Guide to Serving Alcohol at your Rocky Mountain Wedding

The key to hosting the most memorable wedding your family and friends have been to is to plan an epic reception complete with good food, great music, and even better drinks! From champagne toasts to specialty cocktails, deciding what booze and how much to offer can be tricky. Don’t worry though, Rocky Mountain Bride has you covered! Below, we’re sharing answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding serving alcohol at a wedding reception.  

Some venues give couples the option of providing their own alcohol. This allows you to save some money and gives you the ability and freedom to truly choose the brands of wine, beer, and liquor that you and your guests love. But, when you’re given so much freedom, how do you know how much of each type to purchase? While there are numerous free calculators online, we recommend following these simple rules:

1 bottle of vodka and whiskey for every 10 people

1 bottle of rum and tequila for every 20 people

1 bottle of gin for every 15 people

1 case of wine for every 100 people

1 24-pack of beer for every 100 people

Pro tip: more is always better; there’s nothing worse than running out of champagne before the champagne toast…*awkward* — leftover booze can always be repurposed and used for another gathering, party, or date night at home with your new spouse!

With that being said, consider who your guests are and what they tend to drink. If you have lots of beer drinkers coming, buy more beer! If you’re still unsure about what and how much to buy, contact your local liquor store or beverage provider for guidance. 

Pro tip: find out if any unopened bottles can be returned

Is it appropriate to have a cash bar?

Whether you’re stocking the venue bar or not, it is commonly an option to offer a cash bar. However, this is something we do not typically recommend. Why?

Guests coming to your wedding have made arrangements to be there. Most are spending a good chunk of change to fly or drive to the destination, rent accommodations, and buy you a lovely gift. While they are so excited to celebrate you and the love of your life, they are also excited to relax and enjoy themselves, (i.e. sip on a drink and dance the night away).

Our recommendation is to include an open bar at your wedding if you have the budget for it. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but guests typically do not want to help pay for the party. And, most will likely not be carrying cash on them.

Pro tip: If a cash bar is the only option for you and your fiancé, it’s important to let your guests know beforehand. Whether you include this information on the invitation or wedding website, this will allow them to budget for a few drinks and stock their wallets with cash (or not) for a night of fun!

Should I warn guests about alcohol consumption at a higher altitude?

Yes! Many Rocky Mountain wedding destinations, especially those in Colorado are at a higher altitude than where your family and friends live. If your wedding guests like to enjoy a drink, or 2 or more, you should help prepare them for the big celebration!

We definitely recommend warning your guests about alcohol consumption when coming to a higher altitude. This can be done by including an insert about drinking at altitude in your invitations, sharing tips on your wedding website or even providing Altitude Kit in their welcome bags with tips. Here are a few things to consider if you’re hosting a wedding at high altitude:

Remind guests to drink plenty of water throughout the event! It might even be a good idea to have a note on your drink menu reminding your guests to stay hydrated. Drinks can hit you a lot faster at altitude…it’s not a myth, we promise!

Consider sipping on beverages that are lower in alcohol.

Every beverage and/or catering service should provide water for all your guests toward the end of your wedding, however, it should be provided throughout. If you can’t tell, hydration is key!

Tell guests to arrive a few days early to allow their bodies to adjust to the altitude.

If a guest is experiencing altitude sickness, alcohol should be completely avoided. Sorry!

Provide transportation from the reception to ensure the safety of all guests.

Is there any liability that comes along with serving alcohol at our wedding?

Yes, any time alcohol is being served, there is always a potential risk. We recommend working with a beverage catering company that provides insurance and coverage at each event. Plus, the bartenders are TIPS certified, so you can rest easy knowing that no one will be over-served and your guests can have a fun night, responsibly. Many venues will also offer this through their own bartenders.

Pro tip: If you’re hosting a reception in a location like your backyard, consult your insurance agent for the best Liquor Liability policies and other coverage you may need for the event. It’s relatively inexpensive and worth every penny.

What are the best options for serving alcohol at our wedding while staying on a tight budget?

It’s definitely still possible to provide the booze while on a tight budget. Opting to serve beer and wine rather than a full bar can help cut costs when browsing for alcohol options. Why? Liquor can add up quickly if you’re selecting top-shelf brands.

As long as your guests have something boozy in their hands when it comes time to cheers, they tend to be happy. If you want another option for your guests without offering a full open bar, consider offering 1-2 signature cocktails! This gives the feel of an elevated event without breaking the bank.

Is it more cost-effective to pay per person or per drink? 

This is an option that couples will often find themselves debating when making selections for their wedding day. However, from our experience, we also recommend opting to pay per person. Why? Paying per person, as opposed to per drink, allows your guests to enjoy themselves all night long without you having to worry about the bill running up as the night progresses. Sure, it may be more cost-effective to pay per drink especially if your Aunt Karen doesn’t drink, however, it’s a gamble every time because you don’t know how much your sorority sisters from college will drink. They may out drink Karen and her entire extended family tripling the bill in a matter of minutes.

Pro tip: do the math, many services will break down how many drinks are included in the cost for paying per person; at my wedding, it included 3 drinks which made the decision pretty easy considering non-alcoholic drinks were not free when opting for the pay per drink option.

Note: it can be difficult to find beverage services who will allow you to pay based on consumption rather than attendance. 

Do I need a signature cocktail?

The short answer is no. However, in our experience, when a wedding has a signature cocktail, it’s always a huge hit! Not only is it a conversation starter amongst guests, but it also shows off your personality and adds to the overall style and experience of your big day. We also love seeing His + Hers (Hers + Hers, His + His) drinks as well. When it comes time for your wedding guests to toast to a lifetime of your love and happiness, put a signature cocktail in their hands that has flavor and meaning behind it. 

Not sure what to name your specialty cocktail? Consider using the destination of your wedding in the title or utilize your new last name. You can also play off your wedding theme and colors or bridal terms such as “Bloody Mary Me!”

Pro tip: Couples don’t have to choose between an open bar and a signature cocktail because your signature cocktail can often be added onto your all-inclusive bar package, just ask your bar caterer or venue.

A signature cocktail also makes for a great welcome drink! Welcome drinks are the new trend that everyone is raving about! Try one out at your wedding, your guests will thank you for the refreshing treat while they wait for your grand entrance. 

If I want a signature cocktail, how do I go about creating something fun and unique to myself and significant other?

When choosing a signature cocktail, we recommend keeping it personal, seasonal, and drinkable! There are a lot of ways to add personality to your drinks!

    • Use your wedding colors!
    • Pick a drink with a story behind it.
    • Go with His + Hers!
    • Or, choose a fun name for your cocktail that reflects you and your fiancé’s unique flair. Putting a simple spin on a classic is a great place to start when creating a specialty cocktail.

Remember, keeping the drink seasonal will help the overall style of your wedding feel cohesive and intentional. Seasonal drinks allow your bar catering company to choose fresh and local ingredients.

Pro tip: No one wants to drink a hot Apple Cider Old Fashioned in the summer heat.

Need some inspiration? Check out our specialty cocktail section here. Or, ask a mixologist for help! 

 Advice from the Pros

Ensure you love working with your beverage catering company and enjoy the bartenders! They are the ones who will be interacting with your guests and providing the experience and service you’re hoping for. Attending your beverage catering’s tasting events is a great way to get to know them and it is also a fun way for you and your fiancé to try specialty cocktails!

Pro tip: Include your beverage catering company in your final walkthrough! Your vendors want to be there to make sure all details line up, like the timing of the champagne toast or the layout of the floor plan and bar area.  

The decisions are endless and often overwhelming when it comes to planning the beverage options for your big day, so don’t think twice about calling in the pros! 

Bar Catering Experience: Oak & Olive Venue: Realm Stationery: Lucky Onion
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