As a wedding planner, we get ask often “how much alcohol should we buy for our wedding?” First piece of advice: hire a professional bartending service or allow your catering team to handle ALL that responsibility and liability. Why yes it will most likely cost more but what does your stress level cost?
However, here are a few tips from my over 22 years of event experience and 21 years of bartending experience.
Guest experience is a huge take away from any event and the last thing you want is a guest waiting for a cold drink on a hot summer day. We recommend one bartender per every 70 guests when serving beer and wine only. Once you add any liquor components, we encourage adding a second bartender to the same ratio. Also remember the cocktail hour is when the bar will be hit all at once, so this is a great opportunity to host more than one bar area to spread guests out. Also keep nonalcoholic beverages at a totally different drink station. It’s wise to offer water and/or lemonade at the ceremony or during the welcome time prior to encourage hydration prior to a night of partying and drinking. Plus, your catering company should offer nonalcoholic beverage throughout the evening until the last guest leaves. Don’t forget to serve food during your cocktail hour as it will help slow the drinking and counterbalance alcohol ratio.
I worked in restaurants and bars for almost 25 years, and I still moonlight as a bartender when vendors need help. It still surprises me to see the amount of alcohol some clients show up with for their event. I’m all about a “good party” but I think they forget about the level of liability THEY and WE as vendors hold. And for me that ONE night is not worth my 22-year career so I will always follow every state law, moral and ethical procedures.
First it is a client’s responsibility to make sure their bartending services are fully certified, licensed and insured. The client also needs to make sure the venue/bartenders have the correct permits to serve that day. Remember NC holds a brick-n—mortar law; meaning IF that property doesn’t have the license to purchase and resell the alcohol you cannot host a cash bar without a special permit for a nonprofit event.
The Permit must be present and posted/displayed behind the bar the day of the wedding. A one-day special permit may be obtained more than 14 days prior to wedding date. https://abc.nc.gov/permit/qualifiicationSOTNP/
Second, if your vendor allows you to provide your own alcohol to cut costs HOW much do you bring?
8-12 cases beer (3, max 4 types) We don’t recommend kegs unless they can be delivered to the venue earlier in the week and set up where they will be served. A shaken keg can take days to settle so all you’ll get is foam when trying to pour. If you don’t want bottles/cans in your photos add koozies or glasses for beer to be poured in. (That’s 288 beers)
3-5 cases of wine (1 white, 1 red, 1 sweet)- smaller bottles, your bartenders will appreciate not working out with large bottles all night. Don’t forget the glassware.
A few bottles of prosecco, rose, or champagne (That’s 240 glasses of wine)
Having liquor? Remember it’s ONE night, not an entire week at a night club. All you should need is: 2 vodkas, 1 gin, 1 tequila, 2 bourbon/whiskey, 2 rum, 2 triple sec, 1 peach schnapps (1 extra of whatever your signature drink hosts). Don’t purchase gallons/handles. Simple fifths with pourers are best for your bartenders to accurately count while they are pouring and mixing drinks. Don’t forget the mixers. You’ll need 2 of each- pineapple, OJ, cranberry, Soda Water, Tonic, Sour. Have several Sodas too! Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and Ginger ale. Don’t forget fruit, stir straws, bar napkins and the different bar glassware.
If shots are your thing… have at it. We at Knot Your Average Events do not allow shots or doubles at our events. For us, we’ve seen how those can change the dynamic of the event and level of liability. Ask your vendors and venue their rules on shots and doubles.
Please note it’s illegal to pre-mix batches of alcohol because the bartender can’t effectively count drinks. Mixtures and certain liquors settle due to weight throughout the day so uncle Bob might get a watered down first few while Grandma Betty snags a fully shot filled beverage. Everything needs to be labeled and state what’s inside. It’s best to have each signature drink created as they are ordered. Sangria is one of the only exceptions.
Don’t forget to make last call 35 minutes prior to your exit so that your bar can officially close 30 minutes prior to you leaving. That’s an ABC law in NC which also encourages time to rehydrate prior to leaving. Bartenders shouldn’t encourage grabbing multiple drinks at that last moment just because it’s last call…
If you are serving alcohol, we highly recommend offering transportation back to your hotel room blocks. And if you are taking part in alcoholic drinks, we encourage to make sure to have a safe mode of transportation to your hotel or home for the evening. It’s not worth an accident after such an incredible event.
Speaking of liability, starting in 2022 Knot Your Average Events will require security if liquor is present and is encouraged for any weddings hosting alcohol. We’ve noticed the venues that already require this element host less issues related to alcohol. This past year was filled with guests attempting to BYOB (super dangerous), finding lots of moonshine, a guest passing out at their table, a bartender over serving, a guest attempting to walk down a highway to his hotel, no permits, and a few other issues… and after hearing several BIG court cases in other states we don’t want to host that level of liability in the future and we want to protect our clients, guests and our staff. Here are a few great options for security:
William Joyce, CEO
Mid-Atlantic PPS Group LLC
3000 Bethesda Place, Suite 403
Winston Salem, NC 27103
Office: (336) 727-3870
North State Security Group
7990 N Point Blvd Ste 120, Winston-Salem
Greg Forbs Action Three Security
You can also reach out to your local police and sheriff’s office for information about an off-duty officer working your event.
Here’s just a few of my credentials when it comes to planning events and serving alcohol:
Recreation Parks & Tourism BS Degree & Recreation Management MS Degree from UNCG
Accredited & Certified Professional Planner w/ the Associated Bridal Consultants
1 of 55 MASTER Wedding Planners in the World
2013-2016 Co-Director of the Local NC Triad ABC Chapter & 2017-2021 ABC NC State Coordinator
Certified Beverly Clark Event Planner
Certified Wedding Planner with The Bridal Society
Certified Sandals Wedding & Honeymoon Specialist
Certified Trainer & Professional Bartender with Brinker International
Executive Board Member of the Triad Bridal Association
Exclusive Triad Luncheon Coordinator for the Perfect Wedding Guide of NC 2010-14
Award Winning and Published Event Planner
Co-Author of Planners Unplugged Book
Part-Time Professor at UNCG & ACC
Mixologist from the Professional Bartending Institute
TIPS & Safe Serve Alcohol Certified