Not always considered a separate "vendor" (especially if the bar & bartender is included with your venue contract), brides often overlook the fact that the bar and the events surrounding it can have a memorable impact on the outcome of your party.
How Many Bartenders Will Be Provided For My Event?
A good rule of thumb to follow is a 1-75 or a 1-100 bartender-guest ratio. Why the difference in ratios? It all depends on the logistics and dynamics of your party. If you'll be offering a full service bar, mixing drinks and cocktails will take longer than serving only beer, wine and soft drinks. In this instance, you or your vendor may consider providing more than one bartender. Another logistical issue to take into account is whether your ceremony and reception/cocktail hour will be held in separate locations or in the same building. This will determine whether all of your guests will arrive at once (i.e., your ceremony was in another room but in the same building- so all of your guests will walk into the reception area pretty much at once), or whether they will trickle in (they are all driving from the first location, therefore their arrival times will be staggered). If you know your guests will all arrive and head to the bar at once, you'll definitely want to provide more than one bartender to cut down on lines and wait times.
How Will Tips Be Handled?
This is an issue I have confronted many times. And the etiquette question still remains in the air: is it faux pas to have a tip jar out at a wedding reception, especially one that has a hosted bar? If you ask me (and Emily Post, for that matter), it is always a no-no. I believe that if you're inviting a guest to a wedding they should not be required to pay for anything (and if you can't afford to pay for their drinks you should have paired down your guest list. That's another post though). I can't tell you how many times I've had to ask a bartender to remove the tip jar from the bar. They always tell me the guests aren't required to tip, only if they want to. I tell them it's tacky to even make them think twice about giving a tip. Anyways, I have so many stories to tell about this one- if you have time and a glass of wine, we'll go over them- otherwise the lesson to this story is: Ask how tips are handled upfront, and come to a mutual agreement (like whether you or your family will be providing a separate tip dividend) before your day.
Am I Able To Bring In My Own Alcohol? Is There a Corking Fee?
Some bartenders and traveling bars will allow you to add your own alcohol, usually at a fee. Most venues that supply the bar will not, just do to liability reasons. If they do allow it, however, make sure you find out and understand completely what kind of charges will be involved.
How Do You Charge For Alcohol?
Some vendors will charge as they go- thus only charging you for alcohol consumed. Others will require you to choose the quantity you want upfront, and charge you regardless of whether your party consumed it or not. Some will allow you to request an "on deck" option, such as an extra keg on deck should your party go through the kegs you've already paid for. If you don't use it, you don't get charged for it.
Don't be afraid to disect your contract- your alcohol and beverage bill can get out of control before you know it if you're not in control. Some beverage contracts can be quite confusing, especially if there are corking fee clauses and the like involved. Do not be afraid to ask again if you are still confused, and don't be afraid to request that you (or a designated person, such as your wedding coordinator)be notified after a certain agreed-upon amount of alcohol is consumed, before any more is opened. Remember: accept the guidance of your vendors, but ultimately it's your party and your pocketbook-Your vendors are working for you.