Allix Cott is the Head of Editorial Communications at Carats & Cake. Launched in 2013, Carats & Cake curates the best of weddings across the country in order to allow couples to find top vendors and venues by location. The platform empowers local businesses by bringing their brands to life through real content and enabling them to run more efficiently through smart, elegant tools.
Often a focal point for your cocktail hour or reception, your wedding bar is a statement-making structure that can add originality to your event. Adorned with garlands, crafted out of wood, or equipped with custom cocktails, it’s important to work with your day-of vendors on ways to make your drink station (and the drinks themselves!) standout. For tips on elevating your bar and cocktails to fit the elegance of your affair, we’ve collected advice from the industry’s top planners, caterers, and other wedding experts on ways to make your specialty bar both functional and unique.
Make your back bar a focal point.
“Your wedding bar is an opportunity to reflect exactly whom you are as a couple whether stylish, edgy, classic, or upbeat. All of these personalities can play out in a beautifully designed custom bar as well as translate into your bar’s backsplash.” – Calder Clark, owner, Calder Clark
Allocate space for servable beverages.
“Having cocktails ready upon your guests’ arrival saves time, and ensures you’ll have happy guests that don’t have to wait in a long line for their first drink. Anything that is muddled, shaken by hand, contains egg whites, or involves elaborate tools, techniques, or garnishing can certainly be served from the bar with proper staffing and detailed planning ahead, but are best avoided as your welcome beverages.” – Jay Crabb, Beverage Director, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events
Opt for varying shapes.
“At this historic estate, guests enjoyed the stunning views of rolling hills and a custom round bar that served as a distinctive focal point. Lush garlands using local vines and greenery were draped around the edges, which tied cohesively with the overall design of this timeless celebration.” – Francie Dorman and Britt Cole, co-founders, 42 North
Tie-in edible drink decor.
“I love to design a signature cocktail to fit the setting and the couple. For this summer lakefront wedding, we created a seltzer with berries and fun laser cut signs. To make the decor functional, we made it edible while also serving as information and signage. This way, your guests won’t be holding onto something that they don’t know what to do with.” – Jen Stiebel, owner and founder, SoCo Events
Incorporate lamps for added softness.
“Adding lamps to the ends of your bar gives your cocktail hour a romantic ambiance. Choose shades that correlate with the overall style of your event to create cohesiveness throughout your space.” – Tracie Domino, founder and creative director, Tracie Domino Events
Drape garlands for additional greenery.
“Add some green. Greenery and florals on or around the bar can liven up the space. Garlands are a gorgeous way to add elegance and tie-in your lush surroundings.” – Julie Bunkley, owner, Invision Events
Play with your cocktail color palette.
“I love choosing a signature cocktail that plays into the wedding color scheme. No need for artificial dyes—use fresh fruit juices, edible flowers, or herb garnishes to add a natural pop of color.” – Christina Millikin, Owner, Glow Events
Integrate copper accents.
“The pop of contrast created from the copper furnishings of this all-white bar really came across in the final photos. Set against the white curtain, and placed alongside white florals, it gave their final images an added sense of flair.” – Melani Lust, owner, Melani Lust Photography
Get creative with ice.
“I love having fun with ice, whether it’s creating an ice sculpture for a champagne bar or engraving the couple’s initials into the ice cubes.” – Tessa Brand, owner, Tessa Lyn Events
Highlight homey and welcoming.
“Make your bar look and feel like a more residential piece, so your guests feel at home when ordering a drink. This stunning setup was both inviting and favorably reminiscent of home.” – Brooke Keegan, owner, Brooke Keegan Weddings & Events
Go custom with signage and napkins.
“Handwritten signs are great for personalizing your bar and incorporating a touch of whimsy. For this event, the couple adorned their structure with custom napkins and a wooden sign embellished with their cocktail menu.” – Sherene Hulugalle, owner, Wisteria Lane Flowers
Stick with a theme.
“Embrace the theme and location of your party. For this welcome party on the beach in Fiji, we had a tiki bar built for the event.” – Ali Phillips, president, Engaging Events by Ali
Serve savory garnishes.
“One of my absolute favorite ways to elevate a wedding bar is to set up plateaux de fruits de mer on the corners of your bar top. The multiple tiers of crushed ice, seashells, citrus, and lobster tails make for an impressive presentation and a refreshing way to enjoy a glass of bubbles or a French 75.” – Halle Heyman, director of events, Haven’s Kitchen
Embrace rustic simplicity.
“We added rustic elements to give the bar more of an intimate charm. Wooden decor and distressed metal accents made the structure that much more welcoming and inviting for cocktail hour.” – Sonia Hopkins, owner and principal event designer, XOXO Bride Events
Enjoy seasonal beverages.
“Simply by incorporating colorful herbs and garnishes with a glass of champagne, we were able to add a splash of festivity to this welcome beverage. Not only was it fun for the guests, but the spirited addition really tied in with the time of year, as well as the wedding’s jewel-toned color scheme.” – Rachel Krieger, Sales Manager, Blue Plate Catering
“Consider adding a large back-bar shelving unit to play double-duty. It can not only house beautiful florals, flickering candles, and pretty rental pieces, but also display the bartender’s glassware and bottles for practicality.” – Jennifer Ederer, owner and creative director, Modern Day Events and Floral
Go back to your roots.
“Your family’s country-of-origin or favorite family libation, is a fun way to weave a tale at your reception-bar. An Italian bride and Greek groom chose to offer a Campari Prosecco spritzer and a ‘Greek Pair’ with Ouzo, pear purée, lemon, Greek honey syrup, and champagne.” – Lisa Dupar, owner, Lisa Dupar Catering
Integrate fresh florals.
“Adding full-headed blooms to a structured bar transforms the industrial feel into an utterly romantic atmosphere” – Leslie Mastin, president, Leslie Mastin Events
Don’t skimp on size.
“Depending on the large size of your cocktail hour/reception guest list, you should have anywhere from four to six bartenders serve your guests to allow for benefits like shorter lines and quicker service. A grand bar also creates a fun gathering space for everyone to mingle.” – Melissa Davis, owner, Melissa Davis Designs
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