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Beyond Beverage Basics

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Looking for a way to ramp up your wedding’s alcohol selection?

Wedding drinks don’t have to just mean a traditional open bar, though, according to event guru Sara Renee Lowell of Sara Renee Events in Parkland, Fla., having an open bar, or at least a beverage setup that allows for every guest to find something they like, is essential.

“Even if you limit the brands of alcohol or selection of drinks,” an open bar is a must have,” Lowell says. “Guests shouldn’t have to be told ‘I’m sorry but that isn’t available.’”

Whether it’s just one brand of vodka along with one brand of every other main spirit (think rum, tequila and whiskey) and a limited selection of beer and wine or a full-blown bar, there are many creative ways to keep every guest well-hydrated and taken care of. Here are five ideas for blowing beverages out of the water on your big day.

1. Serve Signature Cocktails – With a Twist

Many wedding bar setups feature signature cocktails that might be named after the bride or groom, and such options can help personalize beverage offerings. For an even more personal experience, consider crafting cocktails named after wedding VIPs such as a close friend that wasn’t able to be in the wedding party or family members who may not be in attendance.

To speed up cocktail service and alleviate lines at the bar, Lowell suggests having signature cocktails that can be passed around during cocktail hour so guests can have something to tide themselves over before hitting the main bar.

For a budget-friendly alternative to a complete open bar, split the difference in doing just beer and wine by adding two or three signature cocktails for guests who want something a little stronger.

2. Create Cocktails That Match Your Venue

Don’t be afraid to get a little specific with cocktails or beverage options. Lowell says one way to offer a unique beverage experience is to match them with your venue or location. If the happy couple got engaged in Scotland, why not play that up with whiskey cocktails? For Mexican-themed weddings or destination weddings, make sure you offer something that fits the tone – what’s a wedding in Mexico without margaritas?

3. Dinner and Drink Pairings

Looking for a way to gently encourage guests to pace themselves? Do it with a coursed beverage pairing like one you’d see going out to a fine dining restaurant with a prix fixe meal. If you’re offering various courses for dinner anyway, make it even more unique with wine or beer pairings made to fit with each dish and include them on menu cards.

4. DIY Drink Treasure Chests

For casual affairs, consider the laid-back backyard BBQ vibe and let guests help themselves to drinks. Grab large buckets or coolers and think of them as little treasure chests you can fill with whatever you want – maybe a selection of favorite craft brews or bottled cocktails.

5. Make-Your-Own Drinks

Have a guest list that includes people who are a little particular about their drinks? Channel restaurants like Chipotle where everything is customizable and include make-your-own drink setups – think Bloody Mary or Mimosa bars for brunch weddings; a gin and tonic bar with various types of gin, flavored syrups and fun garnishes; or set up a variety of mixers and alcohols so guests can play bartender themselves.

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