wedding guest drinking

Creative Ways to Keep Your Open Bar Reception Classy

In Honor of National Tequila Day Last Week, Let’s Take a Look At a Very Important Piece of Your Wedding Planning–

The open bar.

A moment of honesty here. Initially this post was going to be about the pros and cons of having an open bar at your wedding, but who are we kidding? An open bar reception is just the right thing to do. It’s a kickback gift for all the family and friends who traveled near and far to see you commit forever to the love of your life.  They have paid for flights and purchased entire dishware sets and margarita machines all because of their love for you. They deserve this—a night of celebration, dancing and yes, free booze.  

 

wedding guests dancing

So, what’s the issue?

Of course, there are always concerns about those family members and friends who like to have a “really good time” (AKA, sloppy drunk Uncle Sean and drunken diva Aunt Debra). So instead of trying to convince you to go alcohol-free, here are a few creative ideas to keep everyone having a good time, while making sure they don’t end up dancing pantsless on your cake table before the night is over.

wedding guests

1. Offer a signature drink and limit the bar.

By “limit” I don’t mean limiting the amount of time people can drink or the number of drinks they can have, which some couples opt to do. Because doing that may also limit the lowered inhibitions that would lead people to the dance floor.  We are talking instead about limiting the drink options.  You don’t have to serve every guest their liquor of choice the whole night, which may inevitably cause the dancing on the tables we discussed earlier. (Think of your newly-turned-21-year-old cousin Dylan, taking Fireball shots like candy).  

Consider serving only wine, beer, and a signature drink or two of your choice.  You can make the signature drink something fun that matches your personality as a couple.  My personal favorite would be the frozen margarita because well, ice cold tequila, oh and memories of that awesome Spring Break trip to south Texas senior year in college. Make it your own, it is after all, your day as a couple.  If a guest doesn’t like the signature drink, that will prevent excessive trips to the bar, but a beer or two might get them just giddy enough to participate in the “Chicken Dance” as the night rolls on.

signature wedding drink

2.  Bring out a food truck

This may sound a little weird, but the point is to make sure that your guests have food the whole night.  A full stomach is a great way to slow down the abundance of alcohol hitting a person’s system.  I was a guest at a wedding once, where the couple offered table service for dinner, but towards the later parts of the reception they had friends bring their food truck out and offer free fries, appetizers and other “greasy style” bar food. Yes, people kept drinking the whole night all their drinks of choice, but there were plenty of guests who took breaks to check out the food truck options. If your venue won’t allow a food truck, consider bringing out some after dinner salty snacks that may match your menu.

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3.  Hire the “Soup Nazi” as your bartender

There is an episode of Seinfeld where all the friends fall in love with this amazing soup shop.  The owner however, is called the “Soup Nazi” because of his incendiary temperament and the strict manner he requires customers to behave when ordering.  If he doesn’t like your behavior, then “no soup for you.” This is the bartender you need for your open bar, just substitute “soup” for “drinks.”  No one wants to be the bride having to monitor their guests drinking behavior, and it really isn’t a task you want to pass along to your wedding party if you can avoid it.  If you’re having a Tahoe wedding, Tahoe local and Liquid Craft mobile bar owner is the perfect choice for this.  

So, try hiring a bartender who isn’t afraid to say no if they believe your guests are headed towards a “Coyote Ugly” style bar dance after one more drink.  If you know you have that crazy cousin who has a history of going too far when alcohol hits their system, you can also give your bartender a head’s up to be on the lookout for excessive bar trips so that they can either make the cut off or begin cutting back on the alcohol.  

Guests toasting

Cheers!

Hopefully, these tips will allow you to keep the alcohol flowing at your reception and the party poppin’ without the fear of someone ending the night swinging from the chandeliers. Of course, as an added buffer you can always remind guest that the entire evening will end up in photos that last forever. Now, twist open the tequila and get your guests on that dance floor.

 

Wedding guests dancing

Downtown Reno Engagement

Downtown Reno Engagement | Gabby + Drew

These two love beer so we, of course, kicked off their downtown Reno engagement session with a few pints at one of their favorite haunts, The Lincoln Lounge.  Drew and Gabby met while they were both working in the political realm, so I find it somewhat ironic that we ended up at a pub named after an iconic president.  I totally blogged them out of order and you can see their wedding photos via this link!

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Trinity Overlook Park Portrait

Bishop Arts District Engagement | Dallas, TX | Ashley + Tim

I was thrilled when Ashley and Tim told me they were interested in having their engagement session done in my hometown of Dallas, TX and even more ecstatic when they picked the shooting itinerary that I secretly was the most excited about: a romp around the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff.  I’d been wanting to photograph a Bishop Arts District engagement session for years because of it’s quaint shops and bright colors and textures.  I had a feeling that it was going to be fun, urban and colorful and it totally paid off.  I always like to start sessions off with an adult beverage and this one was no different.  Unfortunately, our original plan was to meet at the uber colorful and outdoor space of the Foundry but I arrived to discover it was closed for a special event.  Womp, womp.

Instead, we ended up at the beginning of the district at Parker Barrows, which had fantastic open windows, local beers on draft, and cool subway tile.  We wandered our way through the district, stopping when inspiration struck and sampling chocolate (a must do!) at Dude, Sweet Chocolate, where the employee went above and beyond to let us sample almost everything in the shop.

We finished up at the Old Kemp House where local artist Eric Mancini has given it his colorful make-over and created a work of art.  There was a swing!   Finally, we drove over to the nearby Trinity Overlook Park to capture some golden hour goodness and the Dallas skyline.

No trip of mine to Dallas ever goes without a stop at Fireside Pies for dinner, usually in the company of my mom and her sisters.  My aunts weren’t available but Ashley and Tim accepted my invitation and we had an awesome evening over amazing pizza and great wine!

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Mercury Hall Wedding

Mercury Hall Wedding | Austin, TX | Lisa + Michael

You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful Texas summer day than the one Lisa and Michael were graced with for their Mercury Hall wedding in Austin, TX.  Perfect bluebird skies brightened up their day and although it was warm, by Texas standards it was downright pleasant, especially in the shade.  Their wedding featured an outdoor afternoon lunch catered by Hoover’s with some of the best brisket I’ve had in quite some time, beers from Real Ale brewing company (Fireman’s 4 is my Texas summer jam), and a traditional Reiki ceremony from her maid of honor Katie.

Lisa was incredibly stunning.  Two wedding dresses were double the fun and I was head over heels for her Watters ceremony dress.  It was flowy and delicate – a great compliment to the Austin afternoon.

I hadn’t been back to Mercury Hall in quite some time.  It’s such an incredible venue right in the heart of Austin, TX!  Despite the fact that a very important basketball game was on simultaneously, the dance floor eventually got going and even grandma couldn’t keep her feet still.   I’m so happy I was connected with this rad couple via Thumbtack – I had such a blast dancing with their friends and family.  We all know that I love Austin and I can’t wait to return for more weddings at Mercury Hall!

Also, super huge thanks to my good friend and fellow wedding photographer Lisa for stepping in and being my second for the day.  This was an adventurous weekend and I actually photographed a wedding the day before in the Bay Area, took a red eye to Texas and slept on the plane and then went straight to Lisa and Michael’s wedding for more wedding fun.  It was an absolute blast of a whirlwind weekend!  I knew when I made arrangements that it was either going to be amazing or terrible and it was amazing.  Working is always more fun with a good friend alongside you!

Venue: Mercury Hall | Officiant: Reverend Jacqueline (Jackie) Hammett | Florist: Petals, Inc | Bakery: Coco Paloma Desserts | Catering: Hoover’s Cooking |  Guitarist: Josè Manuel Tejeda | DJ: Toast Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Watters and Pronovias  from Serendipity Bridal | Bridal Party Attire: BHLDN | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: JC Penney and Bows-N-Ties | Makeup: Rachel George at W3ll People | Hair: Bethany Lessick | Hairpieces: Aya Jewellery | Second Photographer: Lisa Hause

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Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding | Brittany + Crystal | Sneak Peek

The island of Isla Mujeres is a magical place where you ride golf carts from place to place, eat fish tacos from a man in a plywood stand who presses his own homemade tortillas to order, swing through the rafters of the bar on the main street after one too many tequila shots, and, apparently, have one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever had the opportunity to photograph.  Big thanks to Brittany and Crystal, who not only entrusted me to capture their Isla Mujeres destination wedding at the Zama Beach Club, but also gave me an entire afternoon to tromp around the island taking portraits before the ceremony.  It was basically my dream come true: beach, fish tacos, plenty of hilarious women, and a wedding.  Here’s a few images from their incredible day.  I can’t wait to share more, including the ones from a day after trash the dress session in the ocean!

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Reno portrait Session

Downtown Reno Engagement Session | Nicholl + Jason | Sneak Peek

I met Nicholl and Jason at the AHA Wedding Faire, where, in a show of blind faith, they bid on my donated portrait session gift certificate without stopping by my booth, looking at my work, or meeting me first!  When they finally did come by and announce they won the session and I started feeling their personalities out, I was quick to suggest one of my favorite ways to do an engagement session: pub crawl through their favorite haunts.  They were overjoyed with that idea and our plan for a downtown Reno engagement session was hatched!

Here’s a sneak peek from our awesome day, which included a super cool pub with a HUGE craft beer selection, afternoon sushi, and a lot of laughter.

Thanks Nicholl and Jason for such a great day!  More from this awesome couple coming soon!

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Tahoe Happy Hour

Vacation like a Local: the Best Happy Hours in Tahoe South

  Whether you’re putting the icing on the cake of an otherwise amazing day of skiing, or just doing some day drinking in honor of your vacation, here’s a local’s guide to the best happy hours in Tahoe South.

Jimmy’s at The Landing Resort and Spa

Jimmy’s remains one of my favorite places to imbibe in Tahoe and not just because of their new happy hour specials!  Happy hour occurs daily from 3-6 pm and features a small plates sample menu from classically trained chef Maria Elia, $8 glasses of the red and white wine of the day, $5 draft beers and $8 margaritas.  I love their California twist on Greek cuisine and everything on the menu is stellar.  The fig, feta and pear flatbread pizza is not to be missed and the pork belly souvlaki is always a wise choice.

The Chart House

In addition to it’s impeccable views, The Chart House features one of the best happy hours on the lake!   Sundays to Fridays from 4:30-6:30 PM, The Chart House offers a variety of $7 martinis, $6 cocktails, $5 wines by the glass, $4 well spirits and $3.25 premium drafts.  If that isn’t enough to convince you to stop in, perhaps the $6 Ahi Nachos or $5 calamari small plates will.

Basecamp Pizza

After a long day at Heavenly, there is no need to trek far for an exceptional happy hour.  Basecamp Pizza is located in the center of the Heavenly Village and features live music almost every day of the week.   Happy hour occurs daily from 2:00-6:00 PM and features $5 house wine and $3 drafts.  If you’re hungry after shredding all day, look no farther because their happy hour also offers a $12 personal sized pizza and draft beer special!

Azul Latin Kitchen

If pizza isn’t what you are craving, just head around the corner to the Heavenly Village’s newest addition Azul Latin Kitchen.  Happy hour happens here daily from 2:00-6:00 PM and features a $5 taco and Tecate special, $5 house margs, $3 draft beers and wells, $1.50 chips and salsa and more.  Just a tip though: you must sit in the bar to take advantage of happy hour prices.

3rd Annual Angora Lakes Tri

Every year, my bff Meghan Kelly throws an awesome unofficial tri called the Angora Lakes Tri.

And by “throws” I mean she: tells people to show up, sorta of wrangles volunteers, and forces her husband Pat and usually Boyfriend to write down our finish times and suggests that people write things on their legs in permanent sharpie.

It’s the best day ever.

The starting line of the third annual unofficial Angora Lakes Tri (photo by Gretchen Eicher).

The tri is a bit unorthodox and once again the order of events suited me: we ride our bikes from Kiva Beach to the Angora Lakes parking lot, where a volunteer with a car has our running shoes and swim stuff.  Put your running shoes on and run power walk UP the steep hill to Angora, swim across the lake, get a 2 minute time bonus for jumping off the cliff, swim back, run back, ride back, celebrate, drink beer.

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Here I am, swimming with style (photo by Court Brock).

I have a tendency to pass people on the swim and make up a lot of time and this year was no different.  That being said, I had zero chance of catching up to the overall and men’s winner Lee who had 10 minutes on me.

Competitors cliff jumping for the 2 minute time bonus (photo by Court Brock).

You can read Meghan’s write up and see the official results via this link.

Read about year 1 here.

Read about year 2 here.

The finish line (photo by Sheriff Underhill).

Superbowl Sunday

I’m not sure if you were on Twitter during the Superbowl blackout, but it was hysterical.

Way more hysterical and entertaining than the game itself.

Superbowl Sunday Taco Feast.

I’m not really a fan of pro football, but I am a fan of good food, friends and get-togethers.

We ate amazing fish tacos and things wrapped in bacon and decorated our faces and yelled a lot.

It was good times.

M took my camera hostage (she loves it) so we have a ton of photos from the festivities.  If so inclined, you can check them out here.

Himmel Haus

Last week was Chris’s birthday so we had a small celebratory dinner at our new German themed restaurant in town: the Himmel Haus. I totally meant to wear my fake plastic bib dirndl from the Septoberfest Photobooth but sadly I ran out the door without it!

They have an impressive number of German and Austrian beers on taps and your options for size include normal, large, excessively large, larger than excessively large and a boot.

Drinking birthday beer, Himmel Haus Style

I’m moving today so between packing my house, trying to finish wedding photos for Matt and Sara, planning our Masquerade Ball, family portraits and a climbing photoshoot for my friend Ann Raber, I’m swamped!