Stock Your Bar Checklist

August 11, 2019

Apart from your wedding venue, dress, photographer (of course, cheeky self promotion here) your wedding reception bar will be the next popular element of your wedding. Not only for you, but your guests too.

Nobody likes it when the tequila is done by 21h00, so you want to make sure it is properly stocked and of course staffed. A general rule of thumb is allocated around 10 – 20% of your wedding budget for your bar (I know right!). This should cover all alcohol which includes mixers, garnishes, fees, tips, tools (those pesky bottle openers) and so on.

It’s not all doom and gloom, in fact it’s the complete opposite, yes the wedding bar does take up a large part of your wedding, but this is where ALL the fun starts, you get to research all kinds of options. Do you go all out with an open bar, or partial open, do you supply only the wine, have a signature drink and so on, FUN FUN FUN! This guide will help you go through all those decisions, from bar style to how much. So, crack open that bottle of wine you have been saving and let’s get to it!



Open Bar – Open Bars are probably the most popular bar style and as the name suggests, it’s OPEN! Guests can order as many drinks as they like and the hosts pays for everything. An open bar usually has wine, beer, champagne, liquor, mixes and shooters.

Soft Bar – A soft bar only offers a few choices which usually includes, red and white wine, champagne and beer. The guests would pay for anything else consumed.

White Bar – Again as the name suggests, only white beverages will be covered such as vodka, gin, white rum and white wine.

Dry Bar – A NO alcohol option. If you and your guests prefer not to drink, then the dry bar is exactly for you. Provide a mix of fruit juices, sodas, flavoured waters, coffee, tea and maybe add a few of your favourites, such a non alcoholic champagne for the toasts.


Depending on your venue’s rules and requirements you actually have a few options to consider. The low maintenance and probably the best option (so there is no hassle for micro-managing) is having a professional bar that has already been stocked and staffed by the venue or a third party full bar service. This will most likely include already marked up alcohol prices and service provider fees.

If you are the DIY type, then your best alternative is stocking the bar yourself. But you will have decide what type of alcohol to buy and of course, how much is enough?! I highly recommend that even with your DIY bar, hire a professional bartender rather than a self-service bar (you know that uncle from Australia has a heavy hand!).

And lastly those in-between couples who buys all the alcohol, but doesn’t want to deal with anything else. Hire a Bartending Service that provides all the extras such as a professional bar tender(s), setup, clean-up, rentals (if need be) and so on.

For those in-between couples who just want to purchase the alcohol but don’t want to deal with anything else, a bartending service that provides a bartender, rentals, setup, clean-up, and so on is also a great option.


The general rule is that each guest will consume one drink per hour of your wedding reception (JINKIES!). Some guests might drink more whilst others might drink less, but this is a great average starting point for you. If you have a 6 hour wedding reception with 100 guest, you should have enough alcohol for 600 drinks (I know right, your mind is BLOWN!).

So after reading that, remember to keep the standard volume to quantity ratio:

•Bottle of wine (750 ml) = 5 glasses
•Bottle of champagne (750 ml) = 8 flutes
•Bottle of liquor (750 ml) = 18 cocktails
•Keg (50 litres) = 100 500ml draughts

And use the following wine to beer to liquor percentages to determine the split for each type of alcohol:

•For a limited bar (wine, beer, champagne, and limited liquor): 50% wine, 30% liquor, 20% beer
•For a soft bar (wine, beer, and champagne): 75% wine, 25% beer

Okay so now that you have seen that, please remember this is just simple averages to start off with. If you want to be more in-depth with your calculations maybe go through your guest list and make a note of what alcohol they drink and do percentage adjustments.

As the classics say, when in doubt, overestimate! Remember you would rather want to have extra bottle at the end of the night than to run out of anything. You will be THAT couple!



Corkage Fee

If you are set on providing your own alcohol, just be sure to check that corkage fee is stated in your venue contract. Either you will have to pay a bottle fee or per person served, which could add up very quickly!

Liability Insurance

Another strongly suggested item to consider, liability insurance in case of the event of an alcohol-related incident or accident during your wedding. This doesn’t matter if your going professional, do it yourself or third party. Check and then double checked that your are covered!


Generally a service fee or gratitude is not included in your contract. Depending on the number of staff during your wedding, consider a 10 – 15% tip of your final bar tab. Also put out a little container for “Tips”. If the service fee and tip is included, there is no need to tip extra unless you want to.

A Physical Bar & Glassware

Most wedding venues do an actual bar, but if not you might have to rent one. Or find an old cabinet in your folks garage and Bob’s your uncle you have an up cycled bar cabinet! Also don’t forget you might have rent glassware from your caterer or a rental company if you are stocking your bar by yourself.



Cans / bottles vs The Keg

I know what you are thinking, getting a keg would be the cheaper option, but just wait. Once you have factored in the bucket, the extra ice, delivery fee and glassware. All of a sudden the cost per bottle isn’t that much different from a keg. The other advantage of purchasing cans or bottles is after the wedding you can still use them for a future use which you can’t do with the keg.

Limit Options

If you are going to the DIY way, less is more! You will want a mix of beer, wine and cocktails. Try and stick to two wines (both for red and white), two beers (dark and light), three hard tack (brandy, whiskey and gin are the most popular). As long as you have enough options to cover all the basic options. If you have a tight budget, maybe drop the beer and offer your guests a signature cocktail during that harvest table time and then move to wine for the dinner and the reception.

Rethink the Champagne Toast

I know right, you are thinking “Sharyn you have lost the plot”, champagne is LIFE! I totally agree! Sadly the champagne toast is becoming one of those traditions couples are opting out. Cutting this out is also another way to save a little money. The speeches will just be as awesome!



I absolutely these! The cocktails I have seen (and maybe tasted!). It is a statement piece of the reception, a signature adds a little bit of the couples personality, its fun and of course it’s pretttttttty!

How to Create Signature Cocktails

If you are anything like me, you get the cocktail menu and turn page after page, so many options and then I just go for something I know, the good old Mojito. There are so many yummy cocktail options out there, try and narrow your favourite liquor(s) down and build your personal cocktail from there.

Don’t forget to add a twist or two, like adding a spice or fruit to a margarita or swap sweet for sour. The possibilities are endless and as long as you have fun experimenting the different flavour combinations to make sure your personalities shine through. Your guest will LOVE them, and maybe your photographers too!

Cocktail Ideas & Inspiration

If you search Pinterest for cocktail ideas, you’ll get thousands of options to choose from! But don’t forget the final ingredients… Both of your personalities!

Click here to download a PDF version of the bar checklist.