Almost as traditional as the wedding cake is the champagne toast, and celebrating by partaking of bubbly, wine and spirits. And no matter what kind of food you serve, your guests are going to need to wash it down. What follows is a brief guide to slaking your guests’ thirsts.
First, however, rest assured that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a “dry” reception. Your guests will understand if you choose not to serve alcoholic beverages, much as they understand that smoking is also forbidden in most public places. They will get the point even strongly – and even sing your praises – if you let it be known that a contribution in honor of the occasion is being made to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or some similar organization. Of course, no-one has to know that the savings to you can be much more substantial than the amount you donate to charity. (At the same time, you can inform your guests that leftover food from the reception is being donated to feed the hungry.)
Even a dry evening can tolerate one small glass of champagne as a toast to the bride and groom. But if you want to remain consistent, sparkling cider or white grape juice can be substituted.
Even if you decide to serve alcoholic drinks, there are ways you can cut down on costs. But having a cash bar (asking guests to pay for certain drinks) is definitely NOT one of them. Better not to have any liquor at all on the premises than to offend your guests in this rude and petty way.
A well-stocked open bar throughout the reception is the most generous option, but be forewarned: this extravagance could end up costing you as much as all the food. (You also do not want to be in the position of encouraging guests to overindulge, especially those who may be tempted to drive home. In fact, you might want to arrange for carpooling or a cab company to be on call for just such an eventuality.)
A more judicious option is to have a limited bar, with a narrower selection of drinks, and possibly restricted serving times, such as just before dinner, during the toast, and perhaps for a short while after dinner while dancing continues. You can easily manage this by having soft drinks and punch available in copious supply throughout the event. You can even have two punch bowls – one spiked and one not – filled and replenished at all times, creating, in effect, an open bar atmosphere.
An elegant way to confine drinking time is to have waiters circulate with trays of alcoholic beverages at two or three appointed times during the affair.
When the bar is open, the following drinks should be available:
• Wine (red, white and blush)
• Beer (regular and light)
• Liquor (vodka, gin, rum, tequila, bourbon, scotch, vermouth)
• Mixers (plain soda, tonic water, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda)
• Juices (orange, grapefruit, cranberry, Rose’s lime, tomato)
• Cola (regular and diet)
• Garnishes (lemons, limes, cherries, olives)
Of course, you may serve champagne throughout the affair, but you might want to save the best stuff exclusively for the toast. The above list should suffice, but sparkling wine could be added. If you are handling the liquor consumption yourself (as opposed to the venue or caterer), it is wise to place someone experienced in charge of this aspect of the reception. Also, make sure that the insurance coverage is in effect for alcohol-related incidents. If the alcohol service is being handled by the caterer (or venue),double check that all the details (as well as everything in the opening checklist of this chapter) are included in your written contract.