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In recent years DIY catering and DIY bartending have become popular ways for couples on a tight budget to keep their wedding spending under control. Unfortunately, a lot of couples assume that they can simply ask their uncle or friend to take turns running the bar. Having an amateur bartender may actually wind up costing you money both in terms of alcohol poured, and also in terms of potential legal issues. Here are some key things to understand and questions to ask before you hire a bartender.
• Check with your venue and caterer
If hiring your own bartender is important to you, you need to decide that before booking a venue. For insurance reasons, many venues and caterers have restrictions on who is and isn't allowed to serve alcohol on site. Some caterers and venues allow you to purchase your own alcohol off site, others do not. Make sure you fully understand the costs and requirements of running your own bar. Some venues and caterers do not offer bartending services or alcohol. If you do not want to hire your own bartender, you may want to look at a different venue.
• Know your guest count
75 guests per bartender is a general rule of thumb, so if you're having a 200 guest wedding, you'll probably want to play it safe and have three bartenders. Having too few bartenders can result in long lines, frustrated guests, and even delays in your reception (hard to do the father daughter dance if dad is waiting for his drink). Having too many bartenders is, well, a waste of the money you're trying to save.
Whether you are hiring an individual or a bartending company, make sure they have liquor liability insurance. Check with your wedding planner or venue about the laws for serving liquor in your state.
• What else do you need?
A great way to decide if the bartender you're talking to is professional and a good fit is to ask some questions. How many glasses does he or she recommend? How much ice? How many drinks per person per hour? Any suggestions on budget friendly drinks?
• How much alcohol?
You know your crowd best, but generally speaking you should budget for two to three drinks per person for the cocktail hour and one drink per person per hour for the rest of the reception. If you will be purchasing alcohol yourself, make sure to determine how the alcohol will be delivered to the reception site. Ask about return policies as well. Most large liqour stores have a special sales staff for events and will work with you.
• Add it all up
Once you've determined how much the alcohol, insurance and staffing costs are - compare that to any estimates you may have received from the caterer or venue. In the long run it may be less hassle and less money to let someone else hire the bartender.
If you do decide to hire your own bartender, don't forget to check GigMasters for great bartending professionals in your area.