Wedding Planning 101: The Dos and Don'ts of a DIY bar

DIW bar with lots of pink drinks in glasses and a wooden welcome sign In a bid to cut costs and create a more personal affair, more and more couples are opting for DIY drinks bars.

Elliot Allison of Hawkes, London's first urban cidery, says: "More and more couples are opting to stock their own wedding bars, no doubt in a bid to save money where possible as the cost-of-living soars. And whilst stocking a bar isn't rocket science, it does take more thought than simply heading to your nearest cash and carry to buy a random mix of wine, beer and spirits. In fact, just like in all areas of wedding planning, failing to consider exactly what you want and the type of day you'd like guests to enjoy will likely lead to an expensive exercise in what not to do."

Read on for Elliot's guide to the dos and don'ts of stocking your own wedding bar...

fruity red and green cocktail next to a red and green bouquet What to buy?
Whilst most weddings stick to the tried and tested offering of a glass or two of fizz, wine and beer, don't feel you have to adhere to this standard menu if it's not your thing.

Serving a signature cocktail or punch is an easy way to add some personality to the reception. Opt for something simple that doesn't require too many ingredients and can be pre-mixed for ease of serving. A fruity apple, berry or pineapple cider can be added to muddled mint leaves and topped with fizz or rum for a refreshing Fruity Mint Cooler – perfect for enjoying on a hot summer's day and also easily adapted for guests that don't drink alcohol.

Although seemingly a bigger outlay, if measured correctly, spirits served with mixers can go far so don't forget to add some gin, vodka, rum and scotch or whisky for those that aren't keen on wine and beer. Tonic, cola, OJ, lemonade and soda water should cover most guests' mixer requirements but if you want to add a little individuality, go for ginger beer, bitter lemon, cordials (lime or elderflower), pink lemonade and flavoured tonics.

Kegs of beer or cider in place of bottles or cans will provide better value for money. Heading to your nearest bulk-buy discount store isn't always the cheapest and is certainly not the most exciting way to stock your wedding bar. If you're looking for something a bit more unique it's worth doing your research. There are likely many local independent wine, liquor, cider and beer brands creating far more delicious products who are worth approaching directly in order to discuss options for your big day. If you do want the convenience of sourcing from one retailer, order through a company that allows you to return unopened bottles for a refund. This will not only save you money but will also help to reduce unnecessary wastage.

makeshift bar on three ladders with panels connect the three covered in food and drinks How much to buy?
In terms of quantity, it's best to plan for two drinks per guest per hour. Some will drink more and some less, but this is a good general rule of thumb and shouldn't mean too much leftover booze to transport home the next day. Standard volume-to-quantity ratio is as below:Bottle of wine (750ml) = 5 glassesBottle of fizz (750ml) = 6 flutesBottle of liquor (750ml) = 15 double measuresKeg (15.5 gallons) = 124 pints And depending on your budget, save the fizz for the toasts.

Make your bar look the part
Aside from the dancefloor, the bar is usually the busiest area of any wedding, so making it look the part is key. If there is no dedicated bar area, all you need create your bar space with a couple of tables, with tablecloths that reach the floor to cover recycling tubs underneath. Shelving behind the bar to display available drinks and store glassware is useful or if this doesn't work due to the space, make sure you have a drinks menu placed on the bar listing the options and somewhere to store the glassware safely. Most weddings have a theme or stick to a particular style, even if couples don't intend for this to happen, but if you're not sure what your theme is, consider the décor of the reception venue as well as your own style preferences.

A simple way to add some visual flavour to an otherwise plain looking bar is with some fairy lights, chalkboard signage, and flower arrangements; fresh or otherwise. Rather than relying on traditional wine coolers, try making your own floral ice bucket to keep drinks cool. Simply fill a large bucket with 2-3 inches of water and freeze. Place a smaller bucket inside and fill with stones or baking beads so it's weighted. Then fill the gap in between the two buckets with water, tightly tucking in flowers or fruit slices, so they don't float to the top, and then freeze overnight. When you're ready to use, take out the inner tub and gently remove your unique homemade ice bucket.

three cider cans in a row with colorful logos on silver cans And don't forget to...

  • Double check if your venue charges a corkage fee – it's always worth trying to negotiate these costs if so
  • Order non alcoholic options! Fruity cordials mixed with sparkling water or sparkling tea kombuchas feel a bit more special than run-of-the-mill colas and lemonades
  • Stock up on garnishes – lemon, lime, cucumber, berries, mint, coriander, even fresh chillies! Garnishes can be added to cocktails, fizz, spirits, soft drinks and even water for that extra, memorable touch
  • Source glassware. You'll need three types minimum – highballs or tumblers for soft drinks, spirits, cocktails and beers, wine glasses, and flutes or coupes for the bubbles
  • Hire glassware through a company that will collect the unwashed glasses direct from your venue to avoid having to transport and/or clean up the following day
To find out more about Hawkes or to order some planet-friendly cider for your celebration, visit

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