(Closed) Self-Serve Bar, your thoughts?

posted 5 years ago in Food
Post # 3
1399 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@NikkiKillpretty:  We had a cocktail hour with passed canapes and margaritas at a nice hotel, then we had our wedding and reception on a sailboat. Beer, wine coolers, soda, water, etc. was kept in coolers. People helped themselves, and occasionally we walked around offering people drinks. It worked out just fine.

Post # 4
753 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Lots of people say not to self-serve, but after thinking over all the logistics I say screw it. For what it would cost me to get a bartender I could do lots of neat things that would make for easy self-serve. I admit a couple of my friends will have to help move any leftover alcohol from Cocktail Hour over to the reception bar in the next room but that’s the main inconvenience.




At Cocktail Hour: 


I’ll have 4+ Drink Dispensers all lined up along a few 2′ x 4′ tables placed buffet style side by side. They’ll be filled with various carefully chosen Sangria on a table. The only mxed drinks will already be in those dispensers.


These are the containers I have in mind (unsure on size at the moment I may go up a size):




For glasses I’ll have a table of mason jar mugs that everyone can have and keep for the night and to take home if they want them. The ice will be in a large bucket next to the sangria with a scoop.


I’ll have rustic looking buckets filled with some beer and soda with ice. Coolers will be placed under the table with more beer, I’ll ask that guests just move a few from the coolers into the buckets if the ones in the buckets get low. And in one section of the table I’ll have a few hard liquor options.




At the reception: 


Wine glasses will be at the table and each table will have two bottles of wine there to start. These bottles will also have the table numbers displayed on them. I figure this way there will be less of a rush for people going to get wine at the reception.


The reception bar will have bottles of wine that people may take back to the table and the beer buckets from before. Coolers will be placed under the table with more beer/soda, I’ll ask that guests just move a few from the coolers into the buckets if the ones in the buckets get low.


I also may have one FINAL Sangria available in a drink dispenser and this time I’ll fill a large one so those that don’t like beer or wine but still want to drink alcohol can (hopefully) be happy. 


This is the dispenser (my friend already owns it and will loan it to me): 






Post # 5
16 posts
  • Wedding: August 2013

We’re doing self serve. Our reception is really laid back and in a barn so it would suit it.

Basically we are buying bottles of beer and cans/bottles of pop and having them in big colourful plastic tubs and metal pails with lots of ice. We are having jugs of water and of juice on the side as well. And a mini tub with large bottles of fizzy water and soda water. We are also having a few bottles of squash so people can make it up if they like. Wine wise we are having box wine (wine in a box with a dispensing thing attached) [which I think has a bit of a bad image in the US but doesn’t really over here] Then just a table of glasses.

With the people coming it should work very well

Post # 6
6256 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: March 2014

I think as long as you won’t have teenagers there, (or if you know they will be very well behaved), you’ll be fine.

Post # 7
259 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

 We are having a 70ish guest wedding that will have food stations and a self-serve beer and sangria (in dispensers) area, and wine bottles will be on the table. We bought nice silver metal buckets that we will put ice and the beers in, as well as some bottled soft drinks.

I think it will be fine. I have been to other weddings that did the same and it worked out well.

Post # 9
2212 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

The last wedding I was to had self serve wine, beer, and cocktails in drink dispensers.  Worked great!

@lovelyduckie:  May I suggest this drink dispenser?  I bought it for sangria at our housewarming party last summer and it was awesome:  http://www.amazon.com/Buddeez-Unbreakable-2-Gallon-Dispenser-Removable/dp/B004TWWPMG/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1364583578&sr=1-1&keywords=drink+dispenser

The cone part with the ice is surrounded by liquid, and it stayed super cold, and we only had to refill it once in 6 hours in the August heat.  Not sure the last one you linked to that just has ice sitting in the base would work as well, but borrowing is definitely better than having to buy another one!

It’s $36.99 right now, but as with everything on Amazon, the price goes up and down.  I bought mine for $19.98.

Post # 10
3625 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Sorry to be a buzzkill but despite being a private residence and thus no official insurance issues, it’s still a huge liability to do self-serve alcohol. For example, if a guest did drink enough to hit over the limit (which really isn’t very hard) and got into an accident, the victim (and his/her family) can sue everyone involved, which may include you for supplying the alcohol and not having someone there regulating consumption. You as the host would be responsible for identifying when a guest has had too much to drive since you don’t have a hired bartender. In addition, if you have children, there’s always the off-chance that you’ll end up “serving” alcohol to an underaged minor.


All in all, if you do decide to do this, I still would recommend event insurance and checking to see what that covers if you do want to do self-serve alcohol.


Here’s a blog post that details some issues to consider with regards to self-serve alcohol: http://www.daringdevoted.com/feature-article-the-liabilities-of-a-wedding-especially-when-serving-alcohol-and-how-to-avoid-being-sued/


Post # 11
16 posts
  • Wedding: August 2013

@Fluffmallow:  Umm well it’s a british thing (and other places in the commonwealth I think) . It’s a concentrated fruit syrup made by with fruit juice and sugar. To drink it You dilute it with water (about 4/5 times water to squash – people like it different strengths personally in a large glass I would put about an inch of squash then water other would only put half an inch or less.


Oh and we have children and teens coming effietrinket Their parents will police them and many of the teen will probably have a glass or wine or a beer anyway. And legally we will be fine.


Post # 12
3569 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

I think there would still be liability issues. I think a better idea is having beer and wine out for self service. I think it’s a bad idea to have mixers and alcohol like vodka or rum out. A better idea would be to do two or three big batches of signature drinks, and maybe have a friend or family member in charge of stirring and refilling it.

Post # 13
753 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@DomesticDiva:  I was debating that one, it seems to have the best design of the bunch. But I was debating if 3.5 gallons of sangria is too much if I end up doing 4 + dispensers? Especially at the price its at now.  Or perhaps it’s better to go for maybe 2 Sangria options and just not worry about anyone having to re-fill them… 

For a while it was on my wishlist 🙁 but I haven’t seen a drop to the price you mentioned yet. What time of year did you buy




With regard to being sued over someone being an irresponsible drinker…people serving themselves too much alcohol is a risk every time you have people over for drinks. Do we really need to have a TAPS certified individual present every time someone has a BBQ or a housewarming party? A bartender is overkill for smaller weddings, people can serve themselves drinks at all other celebrations during the year (4th of July, Xmas, etc…) , why not our wedding too?



Plus I intend on providing transportation options, if I have a guest that choses to go way overboard on drinking (and their partner does nothing to stop it) and THEN on top of it they decide to drive….

I understand the point on liability, and its valid, but the there’s only so many ways I can guard people from self-destruction when all I’m trying to do is celebrate being married. If I’m always worried dabout being sued then I would just crawl into my bed all day and not venture out at all. Just by living life you’re always at a risk of being sued in this day and age. If I give a friend a ride home out of the generosity of my heart and an accident occurrs they could sue me there too. 




Post # 14
8576 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

We are doing a self-serve. We actually have 4-5 people in our family that LOVE mixing drinks, so they will be taking turns at the bar, works for us!

We are thinking of renting slushi machines for our signature drinks though.

Post # 15
7211 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2015

@NikkiKillpretty:  I don’t know anything about the insurance stuff, but if I were doing this, I would definitely have two different containers– one with non-alcoholic– rather than have it all mixed up. Also… if you’re doing a big container like this people’s hands will get all wet from digging around in the ice. Women dressed nicely might not love this,

Post # 16
259 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@lilbluebird:  We bought event insurance and we aren’t too worried. We are renting a venue and weddings do this all the time because the venue does not have liquor license to sell alcohol.

Underage drinking and over intoxication can always be an issue, even with bartenders. Libability can be mitigated by limiting the number of available beverages and by having the insurance. If you have the event insurance and stick with beer and wine, you will likely be fine.

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