Bottoms up! Your guide to reception drinks
02 Jun 2011
Bottoms up! Your guide to reception drinks
PROVIDING drinks for guests at weddings is usually an afterthought. But with a little insight and planning you could save money and please your guests at the same time.
The amount and types of drinks you serve on your wedding day will be determined by the number of guests attending and the ratio of drinkers to non-drinkers.
Begin by writing a list of all of your guests, tallying up how many children are attending and how many adults are likely to be designated drivers.
This will give you a good starting point when trying to calculate how much alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink needs to be provided.
If you are having a traditional sit-down meal or buffet reception then this is usually preceded by a drinks reception to congratulate the happy couple and to allow time for stragglers to make it to the venue.
The traditional drink offered here is champagne, but this is dwindling in popularity due to its expense and is being wisely replaced with a good Cava (Spain’s answer to champagne) or Bucks Fizz.
Other excellent aperitifs to offer to arriving guests include sherry, proper Pimms, a kir royale or personalised cocktails.
Don’t forget to plan here for non-alcoholic reception drinks too such as juices and sparkling soft drinks such as traditional homemade lemonade or ginger beer.
If you are having a winter wedding then a warming cup of mulled wine would work well, and there are non-alcoholic versions available too.
During the meal it is usually expected for there to be red and white wine as well as still and sparkling water on the tables.
And a glass of something bubbly is usual at the end of a meal for the toasts.
The average consumption per head for an afternoon reception is ¼ bottle of champagne, ¼ bottle of white wine, ¼ bottle of red wine, 70cl of mineral water and 1/2 lt of juice.
Add evening drinks to this and you could be looking at a small fortune from your wedding budget spent on alcohol.
Don’t feel like you have to provide an open bar in the evening as some guests really will abuse your hospitality.
If you don’t want your bar bill to amount to a large mortgage payment then it is quite acceptable to only provide the reception, meal and toasting drinks, having a pay bar available to guests for the rest of the night. Or have an open bar for half an hour to an hour as a gesture of good will.
Another option is to buy a keg of beer and boxes of wine to be served for free in the evening, with guests having to pay for liqueurs themselves.
To hire or not to hire
Whether you choose to provide your own bar service or hire one in is entirely a matter of preference and there are pros and cons to both options.
You may find that your caterer can provide a bar service for you, which works out well in most cases.
Beware, as some caterers will charge corkage if you choose not to use their bar service.
If you do choose for them to bring in the booze for you then check that they will also be providing essentials such as glasses, ice buckets and ice.
Stocking and running your own bar at your wedding will save you money.
You will need to arrange for a friend or family member to set up and man the bar, and will also need to hire glasses, ice buckets and utensils, as well as buying ice and the drink itself.
To save money with this method don’t choose household branded liqueurs, instead opting for supermarket own brands and doing the same with your wine choices.
Supermarkets offer some fantastic wines, and you can get great deals on mixed boxes for functions from the major shops if you ask in store or check out their websites.
What to Choose
If your caterer is providing a bar service for you don’t be led by their wine recommendations, as some may simply lead you to the most expensive bottles.
Instead go for grape varieties that you know you enjoy and wines and spirits that are priced within your budget. You could even ask for a tasting or try some of the wines out at home before making your final decision.
And don’t feel you have to serve champagne throughout the day. This effervescent wine is a real treat but can run in at a horrendous cost when you are catering for lots of guests, so go for a good sparkling wine or house champagne – no one will really notice.
You also shouldn’t feel the pressure to buy expensive French wines to serve during your reception meal. Only connoisseurs will be able to tell the difference, so this extravagance would go largely unnoticed.
Instead talk to wine merchants and specialists and choose some of the fabulous New World wines that are available.
While considering your choice of wine think about the food you are serving as you don’t want your guests to be overwhelmed by anything too powerful.
South African, South American and Californian reds will offer juicy red fruit flavours through to oaky tones to complement the heartiest of dishes.
While a buttery chardonnay from Australia or New Zealand will refresh the palates of your diners with their zesty notes and act as the perfect partner to poultry dishes and salads.
You could ], of course, scrap the wine altogether and serve beer and cider with your wedding meal. The micro-brewery industry has grown tremendously over the last few years as drinkers become more and more interested in local, speciality beers, ciders and perries.
And the idea of matching beer and cider to food has grown too, so you should be able to find a variety to match your meal.
Non alcohol drinkers can often become sidelined at weddings, being left with the dregs of warm orange juice and water as an afternoon reception heads into the evening.
If you want your booze-free guests to be catered for to the same level as drinkers then consider them while out shopping for your wine.
Producing soft drinks for adults is one of the fastest growing markets in food and drink production in the UK and there are hundreds of different varieties of non-alcoholic drink on sale.
At your wedding you could choose to serve pink lemonade, hot apple cider, fresh southern style iced tea, imaginative non-alcoholic cocktails and cordials mixed with sparkling water.
Some ideal drinks to buy for your non-drinkers include:
nBottlegreen presses – many flavours such as cranberry and orange and ginger and lemongrass
nBottlegreen cordials – available in flavours such as plum and apple, aromatic sweet lime and others
nDuchy Originals – mint and strawberry cordial, elderflower cordial and lemon refresher
nThe Feel Good Drinks Co – sugar free and totally natural sparkling cranberry and lime
nBelvoir Fruit Farm – cordials in flavours such as elderflower, ginger, passion fruit and mango, gooseberry and mint, raspberry and rose, blueberry and blood orange and mandarin
nBelvoir Fruit Farm presses – flavours such as apple and blueberry, apple and elderflower, cranberry, elderflower and pomegranate and rhubarb and ginger
nShloer – various sparkling grape and fruit juices mixed with spring water