Q: My fiance's family is very religious and refuses to be around alcohol. How do we handle this at the reception?
The easy answer is: Hey, this is your party and you can booze it up if you want to. The hard reality is that these are your future in-laws, and you don't want to start off on wobbly feet. Fleur Pang, owner of A Warm Reception in Duxbury, used to live in Salt Lake City - a land of tee totaling Mormons-and says that many brides simply had two separate receptions or one reception split between separate rooms (one wet and one dry). If that sounds like a logistical nightmare, consider an afternoon wedding with a tea reception, followed by an optional after-party featuring high-octane libations. Yet another compromise might be to have a brew-free rehearsal dinner. "That's more the groom's parents' thing anyway, and it would show them respect," says Linnea Tangorra, owner of Tangorra Wedding Planning in Newburyport.
Q: What's the first thing to consider when planning a bar menu?
Keep it simple. There's no need to have all the fixings for Long Island Ice Teas or Slippery Nipples. These kinds of drinks don't reflect how special a wedding is. A bar should be someplace to get a cocktail that is simple yet elegant, and provide wines that will complement the food.
Q: What are a proper bar's essentials?
Aside from beer, wine, and juice, all you really need is gin, vodka, and whiskey. With these three, you can make just about anything you want. When it comes to wine, just offer one red like a pinot noir, and one white, like pinot grigio. A lot of people think you need variety, but the fewer bottles you open, the less waste there is when the party is over. And don't be afraid to ask for a tasting ahead of time - you try the food, so why not the wine as well?
Q: How do you keep your guests from getting sloshed?
The one downside of an open bar is that some guests don't know when to say when. It's best not to offer sweet, frilly drinks that go down too easily. As bartenders, we do monitor guests and will make a drink weaker than usual if someone concerns us. The key is to not let them know - we might add a floater of liquor on top, or a little booze on the straw, so at first taste, the drink seems stronger than it is. Regardless, it may give you peace of mind to offer cab vouchers to anyone who wants them.
Q: To toast or not to toast with champagne?
I'm seeing fewer people doing the champagne toast. It can be so wasteful. It's like serving cake while everyone is dancing - maybe 20 percent of the guests actually partake. As long as you have wine on the table, you'll be fine. If you do want something bubbly, think about making a signature cocktail using Prosecco and fruit purees.
Q: How do you really impress guests?
First and foremost, they want to feel like royalty. So instead of just pre-pouring cocktails into glasses and leaving them on a tray, have servers walk around with a shaker and pour them into glasses. And personalize the drinks. If you meet on Cape Cod, offer a Cape Codder. If you fell in love with lychees on a romantic trip to Thailand, have a lychee martini. Don't be afraid to deviate from the standard. One couple knew their friends and family were big beer fans, so they had pitchers at the tables and even played beer pong during the cocktail hour. After all, this is your night, so make it about you.
Q: How much can - or should - the newly-weds drink at the reception?
I always recommend brides and grooms down a glass of water for every cocktail. Have the bartender put in a cocktail or champagne glass to give the illusion that you're imbibing like everybody else. The night will go so quickly. If your memory is foggy, then all you'll have is photographs.