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While you may see open bars and mixed drinks as a more traditional staple of a wedding, recently more couples are opting to add a unique pick-me-up to receptions with the addition of gourmet coffee service.

In most cities across the country, you’ll find a slew of artisan coffee shops, and many offer catering services. While some might be more in tune with catering for office meetings or more low-key events, it can never hurt to ask about hiring a barista for your big day. Here’s what you need to know about the hot new trend.

What’s Included

At Espresso Dave Coffee Catering in Portsmouth, NH, it’s all about gourmet espresso. Baristas serve a variety of espresso-based drinks, available in both regular and decaffeinated. They offer everything from lattes with seasonal flavor shots to cappuccinos and iced drinks. Tea lovers can even indulge in chai lattes.

David Salzman, aka Espresso Dave, started the coffee catering business 24 years ago, but has seen an uptick in coffee bars at weddings in the last five years.

“To this day,” says Salzman, “people will comment they’ve never seen an espresso bar at a wedding, which makes me smile!”

For those who are looking for something different, but not necessarily caffeinated, Espresso Dave’s also offers smoothie, Italian soda and hot chocolate bars.

For most coffee catering companies, you’ll get professional baristas, a selection of coffee varieties, flavor toppings and custom-made drinks for your guests. Some go further with themed drinks, seasonal drinks, or extra details like the Beverage Toppers Salzman invented. The thin, edible wafers, credited as the ‘secret weapon’ of winning Team Enza on TLC’s “Four Weddings,” can display a wedding monogram or icon on top of drinks to add an extra special touch.

What It Will Cost

The cost of espresso bars vary depending on your locale and specific setup, but many companies are based on a per-hour service fee.

At Pacific Perks Coffee, a company in the Portland/Vancouver area, you can book a full-service “coffee shop on wheels” complete with flavored lattes, smoothies, steamers, and hot chocolate. For service for up to 50 people rates start at $325 for two hours. At American Espresso Catering in Mishawaka, Ind., prices including two baristas start at $350 for 25 people for two hours. Serving the Denver metro area is Sinfully Delicious Catering, which has The Combination Cart that includes a server for all of its custom-made coffee drinks, as well as options for non-coffee drinkers with elements of its smoothie bar.

What Makes It Unique

Thinking outside the box of traditional bar service adds a unique touch to your wedding day. Cupa Cabana, an espresso catering company serving the Northeast, says hiring a dedicated coffee caterer allows them to focus on a specialized beverage menu for guests. According to the company’s marketing team at Trinity Web Media, Cupa Cabana is able to create custom, detailed drinks, whereas venues and traditional caterers often need to focus on quickly serving guests an end-of-the-meal coffee.

“Many people have approached us at weddings and said the same thing,” says owner Marianne Cordillo. “They always say, ‘What a great idea, and what a great way to indulge guests!’”

While not as common as espresso bars, you can also add a special beverage touch by adding an artisan tea bar. At Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co. in Huntsville, Ala., couples can opt for a full-service tea station complete with a fully customizable experience with up to five tea selections. Piper & Leaf’s tea bars can feature both hot and cold teas and start at $500 plus $5 per guest.

“We serve our tea in our signature mason jars that the guests get to keep,” special events coordinator Rachel Gross says. “Most jars have a personalized label, which really helps create a very unique drink experience that will be hard for guests to forget!”

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