If you’re hosting a party or planning a wedding, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the details. These days, DIY venues like barns, parks, and community centers are popular places to hold a variety of private functions. They offer customers the flexibility in selecting their own caterer or purchasing their own beverages, saving potentially thousands of dollars. With that freedom, however, brings its own set of challenges. Specifically for the bar, you have to make some important decisions about your menu selections. If you’re not going through a beverage caterer, you’ll need to decide what to buy, how much, as well as how and when to transport everything to the venue. You’ll also need to have a plan in case you run out of your guests’ favorite drinks during the night or end up with a lot of leftovers that will need to be removed.
It’s important first to have a budget in mind, while also being realistic. Every event is different but guests generally have more of a “party” mentality at weddings vs. business-oriented events. Thus, they tend to drink a lot more. When you factor in that guests are not paying for their drinks under these “open-bar” arrangements, you’ll need to plan accordingly. The rule of thumb is two drinks per hour during the “cocktail hour” (which can actually last up to 2.5 hrs.) and one drink for every hour after that. However, this is a very general estimate. A weekend wedding reception full of party-minded 20-somethings will consume more alcohol than a Tuesday night networking event at an office. Consider the day of the week, the age and expected number of attendees, and the purpose of the event to help narrow down the quantities you’ll need to stock. Remember also the length of service. Most people don’t attend an event for the full duration, and there will always be some teetotalers in the group as well.
Are you offering a featured drink? The novelty of an “exclusive” signature cocktail, for example, will most definitely attract way more consumption than the standard fare. You can generally expect cocktails to be the most in-demand when the other options are beer and wine, with beer (especially local/craft) coming in second. Wine tends to be favored more highly among women and at professional-level networking style functions.
There are definitely a lot of considerations. Working with a professional bar service is a great resource as you plan your event. They have experience with all sorts of functions and can offer you valuable insight into drinking habits and expectations. They can formulate some specific guidelines for your shopping list. Keep in mind though that your hired bar provider doesn’t have a crystal ball. We can’t predict how your particular group will drink or what specific beverages they’ll drink more of.