Stocking Your Wedding Reception Bar

Stocking Your Wedding Reception Bar

Oh, we’re talking about stocking your wedding reception bar? Like….. what does that mean exactly?

One of the decisions you’ll likely make when opening discussions with a venue is what to do about food and beverage—- including what you’ll decide about a bar.

More than just open bar, or cash bar, more than times of service or if it needs to close early—- it means deciding what types of beer and alcohol you’ll be serving at your wedding reception.


Your venue may have only a couple of choices in how a bar is stocked (top shelf vs. well—- lesser than options). The costs can be very different and likely have a huge impact on your wedding budget. (You do have one of those right?) Choosing your wedding reception venue includes your vision for food and beverage, i.e. YOUR BAR.

🍸Considerations for the wedding reception bar:

🍸 What do you and your guests typically drink?

Perhaps you have a cocktail loving crowd— they like top shelf liquor and prefer those with simple mixers, or they drink a specific cocktail that you are aware of. (Maybe Dad drinks Bourbon and Mom and her sisters all prefer margaritas). Knowing the kinds of drinks that your guests prefer, and what liquor is needed to make those will help you talk about this at your wedding venue. Your wedding venue knows the in’s and out’s of it’s beverage/drink service and can guide you.

🍸 Will you be serving only beer and wine?

More than a few couples opt to offer a selection of local craft beers and wines. No shame in this game! The goal is to present a nice array of both, and maybe offer a small selection of basic liquors and mixers to complement this (example: vodka, bourbon, scotch, rum)

🍸 Are you having a small wedding or are at a venue where you can provide your own alcohol/beverages?

Lucky you! In this case you can do whatever you want, guided by what you want to serve and your budget!

🍸 Should you think about having a signature wedding cocktail?

We’re doing a deeper dive about Signature Wedding Cocktails coming up! But know that in some situations, having a signature cocktail can reduce the amount needed on your bar. Often a couple that incorporates a signature cocktail will serve only beer and wine to round out their cocktail hour offerings.

Here’s the really great news—— you are the boss! Working closely with your own wedding budget as your guide you’ll be able to decide what works best for you. Armed with information as to what comprises a top shelf bar and the brands that fall within that, along with the needs of your guests, you will be able to come up with a plan that works for you.

What is a top shelf or premium bar? Where do the terms call, or well come in? Frankly it can be depending on what liquor is called in your area. Often ‘call’ is the same as premium, a brand name. Top shelf or premium is usually a difference in brand name and their individual pricing in the market. For example, in the vodka market, ‘well’ can be a brand such as Popov with ‘premium’ as Stoli or Absolute, ‘top shelf’ might be anchored by Grey Goose or Tito’s. The key here is to educate yourself ahead of your appointment with the food and beverage manager at your venue.

🍸 Know the terms, know the brands

🍸 Know what your budget is for your bar

🍸 Know what you need, vs. what you want

Stocking Your Wedding Reception Bar


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