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Groom 101

How to Build the Perfect Rehearsal Dinner Bar

Jimmy Horner Rehearsal dinner bar

A great way for the groom to get involved is to plan the rehearsal dinner bar. Designing the menu and stocking the drinks can be a lot of fun and will help save money in the long run. Although some venues won’t allow you to bring your own liquor, most will at least let you have some say in what will be served. Other venues will leave the bar entirely up to you to either cater or set up yourself.

The first thing to remember is that a rehearsal dinner bar is much different than what will be at the reception. Something to consider is the size of your guest list and the different types of guests you’ll be hosting. You’ll want to make sure you have something for everyone without blowing your budget. Here are some helpful conversations points to get you started:

Is alcohol appropriate?

First things first. Some families don’t drink and prefer not to have alcohol served. Be conscious of this as you plan. Also check with the venue to see what rules it may have, such as allowing only beer and wine, beer/wine and liquor, whether you can provide the alcohol, if there’s a corking fee for wine, etc. Once you have green lights from both families and the venue, it’s time to get down to business.

Who’s paying?

Wedding customs are changing. Traditionally, the groom and his family were in charge of planning the rehearsal dinner. Nowadays, it may be a combination of both families (or the couple themselves). Talk it over and decide if you’ll be offering a cash or open rehearsal dinner bar. This will help you set a budget for alcohol. Next determine how many guests there will be, figure three drinks per person and estimate the average price per drink. Then set your budget and stick to it. Another popular option is to provide drinks until a certain time in the evening where the bar switches to a cash bar.If your venue will be providing the alcohol, check to see what type of packages it offers — gold (well drinks and basic beer), silver (premium beer, liquor and wine options), platinum (top shelf alcohol, wine and local brews).

What drinks should be served?

Beer and wine are probably the easiest choices to offer. A good wine list usually consists of a common white wine such as a chardonnay or pinot grigio, which most people are familiar with and enjoy. For red wines, a cabernet sauvignon or a merlot are good options. Another option is a white zinfandel, which complements a wide variety of food. For beer, decide if you’ll be serving beer on tap or by the bottle. If you’ll be having a keg or two, a light beer is a great cost-effective option. You could also consider offering a good local beer or a smaller keg of premium beer or microbrew.

Liquor can be a bit trickier with so many options available. A good rule of thumb is to choose more popular liquors such as vodka, bourbon, rum or gin. If you have a favorite drink, such as a martini, it’s nice to include it as an option for you to enjoy along with your guests. A few favorite drink options are:

    • Bourbon and cola
    • Rum and cola
    • Martini (vodka or gin)
    • Manhattan
    • Margarita
    • Gin or vodka tonic
    • Tom Collins
    • Long Island Iced Tea

It’s also wise to decide ahead of time if you’ll allow shots, which can easily get expensive and may even lead to some guests getting a little crazier than you might want on the night before the wedding. Remember, guests at the rehearsal dinner often range from frat brothers to your grandmother. Consider what’s appropriate.

TMR Recommendation: Because the rehearsal dinner bar can be a major part of the event, it’s helpful to make it as diversified as possible. While it’s tough (not to mention very expensive) to have every drink possible, you can please almost everyone by putting a little thought into it beforehand. Offering some well known names in liquor along with good beer and wine choices will help you create a night to remember.

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