Wedding planning can be daunting, and when it comes to finding and hiring wedding bartenders, it’s no different. The reception is one of the biggest wedding expenses, and keeping guests and the bridal party happy with beer, wine and drinks is usually high on the priority list. Finding the right bartender for your wedding depends on many factors like – the size of your wedding, state liquor laws, your budget and the wedding theme. Generally speaking, there are some pretty standard guidelines for hiring wedding bartenders.
This article is written by Courtney Smith, Co-Owner and Founder of Chesapeake Bartenders, based in Maryland.
What kind of bar service do you want at your wedding?
Talk to your significant other about what kind of alcohol service they envision. Do you both love craft beer? Do you have a favorite shot? Does the groom love Skrewball whiskey because it reminds him of you? Will there be signature wedding drinks? An ongoing trend we are seeing is the beer and wine only bar, with His and Hers drinks.
Does your wedding venue allow outside vendors, caterers and bartenders?
While this may seem obvious, I cannot tell you how many times people request a wedding bartending quote from our team, before they speak to the venue about whether or not outside vendors are allowed. Simply put, some venues require you to use their catering team, photographers, etc. which means you cannot hire a company like Chesapeake Bartenders to tend bar for your wedding. Once you find out your venue does allow outside vendors, then you can proceed with finding professional bartenders.
Ask about certifications and state laws
It is really important to hire bartenders that are certified and understand at least basic liquor laws in their state. Why? Liquor laws are not something you want your wedding bartenders…or you, to be violating. While you might be tempted to hire your favorite bartender from the dive bar down the street, sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. For example, in Maryland where we are headquartered, event bartenders are not required to be certified but it is highly recommended they have something called a TIPS certification. This means they have taken an in-depth training on liquor laws, signs of over serving, and liability. In Delaware, the laws are even more strict and might require a separate liquor license for your wedding. In hiring professional bartenders, you can be assured they know the state and local laws, and are abiding by them – but of course ask any and all questions to be sure!
Look at online reviews + ask for references
Do some due diligence and look at sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. to see what their customers have to say about them. While online reviews are not everything, and may not be 100% accurate, at least it should give you an idea on the kind of service they provide.
Find out what is included in the company’s bartending packages
This one might not seem so obvious. You reach out, you ask for a quote, and that’s it right? Well, this is your wedding we are talking about, so there are important details to address. A good wedding bartending company will ask questions like: “how many guests will you have?” or “do you need us to provide equipment like the bar, coolers, linens, etc.?” You want to know exactly what is included, so you don’t end up assuming they are providing something they don’t provide. For example, will they have classy-looking ice bins and ice scoops to use in drinks? Do they provide a printed menu listing the cocktails? How many tables do they provide? These details are important, and you don’t want to glaze over them.
Is the liquor provided by the bartending company?
This is a very important one. Again, laws are going to vary greatly state to state. In Maryland, DC, Delaware and DC, where we provide wedding bartending services, it is very much illegal for our company to provide alcohol in our bartending packages. Why? We do not have a liquor license, because our bartenders do not do any cash transactions for alcohol. Simply put, we do not “sell alcohol.” We provide the service of pouring alcohol. We provide a separate quote for alcohol from a reputable alcohol retailer, and the guest purchases the alcohol directly through them. Other states might be different, but in these states, if a bartender includes alcohol or “all you can drink” in any of their packages, it should raise a red flag. Be sure to look up state laws regarding who needs to have a liquor license to sell alcohol. The wedding venue you choose will likely be well-versed in the liquor laws pertaining to their venue, so be sure to double check with them as well.
Schedule a site visit with your wedding bartenders
Any good wedding bartender will want to know all the in’s and out’s of your venue. If there is a bar provided, they will want to see it, in order to see the size, set up and “flow.” Often, site visits for weddings are included in event bartending contracts, because it is ideal to know every detail prior to the wedding. Where will the bartenders park? Where will they load the equipment? Is there an on-site event planner they will be working with the day of your wedding? All these details need to be seen in person, in order to really determine the bar set up and beverage catering flow.