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What Drinks Should I Serve at my Wedding?

Choosing what drinks and how much to provide at your wedding can be a major headache and a major dent in your budget. Of course we all want to celebrate with bubbly, but we also might have a limited budget and probably don’t want everyone to get sloshed.

I went to a wedding where the father of the groom gifted drinks for the day as the wedding present. Very nice, except it was his homebrew and he made enough for a bottle per guest. Given that many of the bride’s family didn’t drink, this left the groom’s family (mine) with a lot of alcohol. Grandma’s hangover the next day is the stuff of family legend!

Equally I have been to a wedding where the bride’s family didn’t drink alcohol – my husband and I were the only people on the top table who did and felt a bit awkward ordering it.

Based on these, and many other wedding drink experiences, here are a few hints to help you plan the day, maintain costs, reasonable levels of sobriety and still throw a good party.

Welcome drinks – this will normally be bubbly, but in the winter a mulled wine is often offered. Arrival drinks will often be included in a wedding venue’s package. Make sure there is a good supply of non-alcoholic drinks for younger people, non-drinkers and drivers.

If you are providing the drinks separately, consider making a fruit punch or Buck’s Fizz, this offers a refreshing alternative to bubbly and reduces the amount of alcohol. Non-alcoholic drinks need not just be fresh orange, there are some lovely recipes available for homemade lemon or limeades with a twist, such as cranberry or mint.

If you are going to serve a signature drink, the welcome drink is the time to do it. Signature drinks are often cocktails that are coloured to match the wedding theme. Or another idea would be to decorate your bottles with personalised wine labels, so’s to match the rest of your table stationery.

The time between arriving at the reception and sitting down can be quite lengthy, so think about how your guests are going to be entertained. Having waiting staff going round and topping up glasses is the ideal way to allow your guests to sit down and relax with family and friends. Depending on the time of day it is worth having nibbles available as guests may not have eaten much during the day.

Drinks with the meal – it is expected that drinks would be provided with the meal. As a rule of thumb allow half a bottle of wine per person. You can either have them on the table for guests to help themselves or ask waiting staff to top up.  Again you will also need to supply non-alcoholic drinks and make sure water is readily available on each table. The type of wine you serve will depend on the time of year and the menu.

You may also consider serving beer, many of the local breweries now supply real ales in bottles.

Most meals would also include tea or coffee to accompany the cake.

The Toast   – the toast will normally be drunk in bubbly. Champagne and sparkly wine are often the same thing – Champagne is the reference to where it is produced. If the sparkling wine states “method traditionelle,” “method champenoise” or “bottle fermented” it has been made in the same way as champagne but in a different country. When choosing the bubbly go with what you like and within your budget. If you are having a small wedding you might want to splash out on Veuve Cliquot or Moet & Chandon, but Prosecco and New World sparkling wines can be just as nice and a lot cheaper.

Open Bar – there is no expectation in the UK that there will be an open bar all day and through the evening do. You may wish to do it and that’s fine, but the bill will soon build up. Alternatively you can give everyone a free first drink – particularly nice for people attending the evening “do” only; you can have a free bar until a certain time, say 8pm; a free bar until the bill comes to a pre-set amount or a free bar for wine and beer, but not for cocktails and spirits. It really is up to you and your budget.

Whatever you choose go with what you like, feel comfortable with and can afford – and avoid the homebrew! Cheers.

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