Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding - What You Need To Know
Simply Stated Photography
Editorial Category: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding - What You Need To Know

Planning a wedding is tough work! From narrowing down the guest list to planning the perfect honeymoon, your plate is full with tough decisions.  We caught up with The Pour Guys, Knoxville's premier bartending service, for their best advice and their most commonly asked questions about serving alcohol at your event. 

Most Commonly Asked Questions:

What types of wine should we serve?

The answer depends on the season.  Typically, in warmer months at wedings, white wine is more popular than red.  Guests that might normally drink red wine will actually opt for white for two reasons. They don’t want to accidentally stain their clothing or they don’t want to have purple teeth stains in photos.

  • Most Popular White Wines - Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.  
  • Most Popular Red Wines -  Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir. 
Jimmy & Kim Photography

What types of beer should we serve?

Typically, the most popular beers with the average crowd are your light, domestic beers such as Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Bud Light.

We do also recommend that our couples offer their guests something more full-flavored such as :

  • India Pale - Sweetwater IPA is great! 
  • Brown - Newcastle is a crowd pleaser
  • Lager - Yeungling is a great choice!
  • Wheat beer - Blue Moon (who doesn't like blue moon?!) 
  • Dark beer -  YeeHaw Dunkel is the perfect choice for dark.

We recommend serving  3-4 types of beer. If you give your guests more than 3 or 4 choices , many will take a while to decide what they want.  This can cause delays in service and long lines at the bar. 

We want a “signature drink” for our event.  What kind of drink works best?

Signature drinks are a great way to set off a themed event, or to showcase the individual personalities of a couple on their wedding day.  However, signature drinks can also cause significant delays in service and backups at the bar if they are too complicated and take too long to make.  The best signature drinks appeal to a wide variety of people—such as fruity, vodka-based drinks, or simple, whiskey-based cocktails like a Lynchburg Lemonade.   They can be made in a large batch and do not require muddling or extensive shaking.  Please don’t hesitate to ask us about your idea(s) and we can usually come up with a way to make it happen! 

Should we purchase keg beer or bottled/canned beer?

Good question!  This is one of the most common questions we are asked.  For the vast majority of events and clients, bottled or canned beer is going to be much easier to deal with logistically than kegs.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. With bottled or canned beer, you can offer your guests 3 or 4 different flavors.  With keg beer, it's all the same flavor, unless you get multiple kegs, and then it’s highly likely you’ll have too much beer.
  2. If you don't drink the whole keg, the leftovers go down the drain, so to speak.  With bottles or cans, you get to keep your leftovers and drink them at another time.  
  3. Keg beer tends to slow down service.  It takes much longer to pump and pour keg beer than it does to pop the top off a bottle and hand it to a guest.
  4. Logistically, kegs can be a nightmare for our clients. Many keg vendors will provide the tap(s) and bin to ice the keg(s) down, but if the vendor from whom you are purchasing the keg(s) does not provide setup or delivery, you'll need to buy or borrow a 30-40gal trash bin for each keg, rent a tap for each keg, (an extra tap is always a good idea, as some vendors do not check regularly to make sure they work before they rent them,) and furnish around 40lbs of ice per keg.  Keg(s) need to arrive at the event venue around 3-4 hours before the bar is scheduled to open in order to settle.  You'll need to make sure they’re iced down AT THE BAR location, as they are too heavy to be moved after they've been iced.  The goal is to make sure they stay SUPER COLD (39°F is ideal temp) and that they sit still for at least a couple hours, otherwise you will potentially lose around 30% of each keg to foam.  
  5. The Pour Guys do not own or provide setup for kegs.
Amber Lowe Photo 

Should we purchase boxed wine or bottles of wine?

Boxed red wine is perfectly fine, though it can slow down service a tad, as the pour speed from the spout slows at the end of each box due to lower pressure.  However, there is no good way to keep boxes of white wine cold at the bar, as we cannot ice them down in our coolers without the boxes becoming soggy and/or risking the breakage of the plastic bladders.  We advise all our clients to purchase bottled white wine, as we can keep the bottles on ice in a cooler to ensure we serve cold white wine throughout the event.

How many bars do we need?

It really depends on the specifics of your event and the layout of the venue.  However, a good rule of thumb, is if you have 125-150 guests or LESS, one bar is typically fine.  If you have 300 or less, usually two bars is sufficient.  If you have more than 300, you’re probably going to need 3 or more bar locations to serve your guests in a timely, efficient manner.

How many bartenders do we need?

Again, this depends on the specifics of your event and the number of bars from which we are serving.  Other factors to consider are whether we’re using real glassware or disposable cups, as more staff are needed to pick up real glassware than disposables, and to replenish glassware at the bar(s) as needed throughout the event.  Also, if there are multiple bars, we usually need at least one additional bartender to ensure we have staff available to go between the bars and ensure each has what they need.  (NOTE: Alcohol cannot be left unattended, so a bartender cannot leave the bar to go retrieve supplies from another location.)

Should we serve drinks prior to our ceremony?

The short answer is, probably not.  When we serve drinks prior to a ceremony, we see two things happen:  1) Some guests are more concerned with getting a drinks at the bar than finding their seat for the ceremony, so the ceremony can’t start on time.  2) Guests begin drinking well before food is available and can get tipsy too quickly because they’re drinking on an empty stomach.  Additionally, if you are renting real glassware for your event, the number of glasses needed (and therefore the cost,) can easily double if serving prior to the ceremony.

If your wedding is outside on a hot day, we do highly recommend offering your guests water prior to your ceremony, and if you really want to offer some kind of alcohol, we recommend limiting the choice to champagne, wine, and/or water.  We do not recommend serving liquor of any kind prior to the ceremony.

How long should the bar be open?

The average length of an open bar is about 4 hours or less.  Our company policy is no more than about 5 hours at the most.  For weddings, we typically don’t open the bar till after the ceremony ends.  We always close the bar at least 30 minutes prior to the end of any event, unless the event venue’s policy is more than 30 minutes.  Certain exceptions can be made, but they are rare and often involve very special circumstances.  These restrictions are in place to ensure responsible service and the safety of all our clients and guests.


Image courtesy of Knoxville Wedding Photographer, Blush Creative Photography

Should we have a champagne toast?

For some folks, a champagne toast is an extra expense they’d rather do without, as they prefer their guests to toast with whatever they’re already drinking, though they may choose to simply offer champagne as one of the beverage choices throughout the event.  But others may really want to have a traditional toast with their favorite bubbly.  Either way is fine with us!  However, if you do decide to have a toast, make sure you let us know, and keep in mind the following:

The best, most efficient way to offer your guests a toast is to have someone (maybe a DJ,) make an announcement to invite guests to the bar to get a glass champagne.  If someone (maybe a wedding planner or coordinator,) can give the bartender a heads-up about 10 minutes before that announcement is made, they can start popping bottles and pre-pouring glasses so service is super quick--everyone just comes up, grabs a glass, and goes back to their seat for the toast.  This is much faster than going around the room and handing a glass to each guest.  Also, it's less wasteful, because those guests who don't care for a glass, simply do not come up and get one.

How long does the beer and wine need to chill prior to service?

Once the beer and wine has been stocked in insulated coolers and covered with ice, it will be ice cold in approximately 40-45 minutes at the most, even from room temperature or warmer.  Beware if you choose to use galvanized metal tubs or other open, non-insulated containers, especially in the heat of the summer, as it takes longer to fully chill bottles of beer and wine, and the ice tends to melt quickly, requiring more ice to be added throughout the event.  Galvanized metal tubs are super popular with “rustic” themes because they do look nice, but they are not the most functional choice to keep beverages cold.

If we choose to bring all the supplies, (cups, ice, coolers, etc.) do we need to set up the bar, or should we let the professionals?

We always prefer our clients to let our professional bartenders take care of setting up the bar the way that works best and most efficiently for them.  We train all our bartenders on the proper way to ice down beverages and to set the bar consistently in the same way as much as possible for each event.  However, we do have some clients who prefer to provide all the bar setup themselves, usually because they are working with a very tight budget.  In this case, we offer the following tips to ensure the bartender can make sense of the bar when he/she arrives on site to begin service:



*Leave out one bottle of each flavor of beer and wine for a display on top of the bar so guests can easily see their options. 

*Bottles should always be put in a cooler first, then ice poured over them.  Not visa versa.

*Lay beer bottles/cans down rather than standing them up--you can fit a LOT more in the cooler.  (Wine bottles should be left in the upright position in the cooler.)

*Separate flavors side by side, not one on top of another.  This prevents the bartender from having to dig through one flavor to get to another.  

*Sprinkle a little ice (not much) between every 2-3 layers of beer in the cooler, then pack a good layer of ice on top (fill it to the lip, but make sure it will still close completely.)

*Once iced down in a cooler, beer and wine will be ice cold in approximately 40-45 minutes.

*Only ice down what you need to start with for the first 1.5 hours or so--do not ice down everything all at once.  You can typically return any wine that hasn't been iced down or opened.

*SAVE YOUR BOXES!  Do not break them down or throw them away--we'll need them at the end of the night for your leftovers--MUCH easier than hauling full coolers or having loose bottles rolling around in your trunk.

Thanks so much to The Pour Guys for sharing their tips with us! Be responsible when serving alcohol to your guests and always hire a licensed and insured bartender.  There's a reason you'll hear The Pour Guys mentioned and recommended so much in Knoxville, they're simply the best! Check out their Bride Link Profile for contact info !

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