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10 Mistakes You Will Make On Your DIY Wedding Bar

July 29, 2018 by Tom Bronock

Here, we’ve compiled the 10 most common mistakes people make when planning the bar at a wedding or event. Read on for our top bar staff tips, with advice on how to avoid these and make your wedding drinks as memorable as the wedding day. If you are looking for a mobile bar hire company, the below will certainly help you when making your decision.

1. Choosing the wrong bar menu

Don’t be fooled, this is one of your most difficult decisions and most get it wrong. Simplicity is key. Do not go over-board; we suggest keeping bar menus under eight drinks, too many drinks means slow service and products running out if popular.

Make sure your menu is also on display on the bar top so guests can choose while they wait. For a little bit of menu inspiration check out our cocktail recipe ideas.

2. Buying the wrong drink ingredients

Critical – get the right ingredients. If you skip any ingredients, it will ruin the drinks. Worse still do not skimp on quality ingredients either. It’s sacrilege! If you’re struggling for inspiration, we have a myriad of great cocktail recipes to help you get your creative juices (and drinks) flowing.

3. Not buying enough drinks

The thing that keeps people up at night… running out of booze. Now honestly, there is no magic formula but consider these things:

  • Guest numbers & demographic (split demographic simply into drinkers and non-drinkers)

  • Event length

Now the trick is to consider “how many drinks per head?”

Here’s our formula to help you work out the number of drinks you need:

Moderate Drinkers: 2 drinks per head, per hour.

Heavy Drinkers: 3-4 drinks per head, per hour.

Now we have our drinks per head, we need to look at our menu (see above) and breakdown the drinks. For the sake of this post we will consider a bar serving beer, wine and spirit/mixers. We are going to split the drinks equally but adjust any ratios to suit your guests’ tastes.

Let’s imagine 75 guests, all moderate drinkers, for four hours of service:

8 drinks per head x 75 guests = 600 drinks

200 x Wine (contains four 175ml glasses per bottle)  = 50 bottles

200 x Beer (contains 24 bottles per case) = 9 cases

200 x Spirits (contain 28 single measures per bottle) = 8 bottles

200 x Mixers (contain 6 x 150ml measure per litre) = 34 litre bottles

Always round your numbers up… not down. We also tend to add 20% additional contingency for peace of mind. Virtually every supplier will allow returns on undamaged stock.

If you plan on serving cocktails, the company you hire the cocktail bartenders from will assist with drink ingredients and numbers.

4. Forgetting the water

Water is kind of a big deal for the human race. It’s also as important when said humans have been drinking a skinful! Please make sure you arm the bar team with plenty of bottled water for your guests, this will become particularly important at the end of your event.

5. Not buying enough ice

A warm drink is the ultimate mood killer! Running out of ice is the ailment that will turn delicious beverages into an undrinkable ruin. Fortunately, the cure is simple. Buy enough ice.

Ice quantities break nicely into two categories for consideration- drink ice and chilling ice.

We are going to work to our standard 12kg bags of ice.

Cocktails: 40 drinks per 12kg

Spirit/Mixers: 60 drinks per 12kg

Chilling Ice: 12kgs per 15L chilling tub per hour (up that to x2 if it’s hot)

How easy is that?  

6. Running the bar with amateurs

First things first, make sure you get the appropriate bartenders to run the bar. Whether it’s a standard bar or a cocktail bar you need a professional to run the bars. Don’t skimp on this, as we have seen bars be overwhelmed, when run by your friend’s 18 year old daughter from the village. There are hundreds of bartender hire companies out there. Use them.

7. Not hiring ‘enough’ staff

Very important. You have to ensure adequate ratios of staff to guests. We typically recommend 1 bartender per 35 guests for a standard bar, and 1 mixologist per 20 guests for a cocktail bar. Under-staffing is the most stressful mistake. It stresses the organisers, the guests and the staff.

8. Not hiring a bar back (what’s a bar back? See below)

So you have hired your bar staff and they are ticking over nicely at the bar making drinks constantly. All seems to be going well until you look around halfway through the event and there are piles of dirty glasses. The aesthetics are ruined and this problem will just get worse and worse.

This is a very common problem, a bartender’s primary concern is keeping the drinks flowing. If they are busy, they will not be collecting glasses. Make sure you have provision for a helper… or in the techie, industry lingo, a bar back. Bar backs can not only assist the bartenders with replenishing ice, stock and glasses, but importantly they ensure the event floor is kept spick and span.

9. Not giving the bar structure and location enough thought

Making and serving drinks to a volume of people requires plenty of bar space. When considering the actual bar, we suggest looking at 2 metres of counter per 50 guests. Your best bet is to hire in a bar that is built for the job (trestle tables are no good) and ensure this bar has plenty of space within it and minimum 1 shelf for ice and ingredients during service. A back bar is also needed for other storage but this can be a trestle table with boxed in linen.

Critically though, locate the bar in the right place. Bar operations use a lot of equipment, glassware and stock. So much in fact, that its extremely rare that you can fit it all on the bar. Easy and discreet access for the bar teams to a back of house storage area is really important.

10. Ordering the correct glassware

Glassware comes in all shapes and sizes. When ordering glassware you must order the correct items. With cocktails particularly, this is non-negotiable! Take advice from your bartender hire company when ordering glassware and know the distinctions:

Rocks/Tumblers: these are short glasses and typically we would suggest a minimum size of 10oz.

Highballs/Slim Jims/Collins Glasses: these are the taller glasses you would typically receive a double spirit/mixer in. Aim for 12oz in size.

Martinis/Coupes: the classic cocktail glass. Size-wise we need to be careful- don’t go too big or too small. We think 5-8oz will be spot on.

So, if you follow the above, we think you are in with a good shout.

If you’ve read our list and still need a helping hand, contact us with your enquiry and we’ll be happy to help with our expert advice on the best bartenders and mobile bars for your special day.

Good Luck!


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