You may want to rethink having a fully stocked open bar for seven hours, if you’d prefer that your wedding guests not get drunk. (Photo: Neustockimages/Getty Images)
Sometimes it’s the random friend who doesn’t know anyone at the wedding, so he hits the bar to medicate his social anxiety. Sometimes it’s the bride’s tipsy aunt who decides to cut herself a slice of cake … before the couple have had a chance to. Sometimes it’s the groom, who is so wasted during the garter belt removal that a video of his antics goes viral. Yep, some people can’t handle their alcohol at a wedding.
“Weddings are a situation you don’t live in everyday life,” Amanda Braddock, the events director of Purslane Catering in New York, tells Yahoo Style. “You definitely don’t go somewhere where you’re given a seven- to eight-hour open bar (at no cost to yourself) on a regular basis. It’s hard to know how to behave or how to contain yourself.”
One might argue that the endless flow of alcohol is what makes weddings great — and it certainly provides a social lubricant for a mix of people who’ve never met. But if you’re planning a wedding and don’t want to see your best college buddy get physically ejected from the venue, you might want to take a few extra precautions. Or, at least you can make sure your caterers or bartenders are doing so for you.
1. Limit the bar options
The main thing you have control over from the start is what you offer and when. “The best way to avoid having people get too drunk is to not have a full bar,” Nannette Taft, co-owner of Drink Slingers bartending service in Austin, tells Yahoo Style. Taft has a “no shots” policy at her events. If you really want to be conservative (and thrifty), you could keep the offerings down to beer, wine, and nonalcoholic beverages. To that, you can usually add a couple of specialty cocktails to make things feel a little more, well, special.
If you’re offering a limited cocktail menu, remember that martinis are pure alcohol, and it’s probably unwise to offer nothing but straight liquor before anyone has eaten. A safer but equally delicious bet is something mixed with juice or soda and served on ice, Taft advises.
2. Size matters
At a fully catered event, it’s up to your vendor to choose glass size, but this is something to keep in mind at a DIY affair. “When I order glassware for weddings, I try to go with single rocks glasses, single high balls, and miniature coupe glasses for cocktails, instead of those giant double martini glasses,” Braddock tells us. “If you’re getting a Manhattan in a double rocks glass, that can be a big issue.”
3. Timing matters, too
“Even though they call it ‘cocktail hour’ right after the ceremony, sometimes it’s better to have just beer and wine at that time,” Taft says. Save the full bar or special cocktail offerings for after people have had a chance to eat something.
You might also consider having a shorter reception. Seven straight hours of drinking can take their toll on anyone, while four or five go by in a happy flash.
4. Water, water everywhere… and also soda
“We have water dispensers at every bar and are constantly pouring water at the tables,” Braddock says. She’s also seen bartenders offer up water, to persuade a tipsy guest into slowing down without being too confrontational. “They’ll say, ‘Here’s a pint of water. If you can chug this, have another drink.’”
Taft encourages clients to include “mocktails” in the specialty drink menu, and her staff subtly pushes those nonalcoholic drinks somewhere in the middle of the party.
5. Let bartenders use their discretion
Overconsumption is certainly something the pros know how to handle.
“Most of our bar staff is incredibly gifted at cutting people off in ways that they’re not offended or even know that they’re being cut off,” Braddock notes. If you know in advance that one of your guests can get out of hand, you can tell your caterer in advance, and they can determine a discreet way of weakening those pours. This is also why Braddock’s policy is not to leave wine bottles on the table for self-service.
6. Designate drivers or the equivalent
You and your spouse want to leave the party worry-free, so before the wedding, ask a responsible member of the wedding party to be in charge of making sure guests have safe, sober rides home. Or, if your budget allows, arrange for a shuttle service to take wedding guests back to their hotel.
Let your guests remember this as the best party you ever threw, not the biggest hangover you ever gave them.