Culture

The Case for Having Your Wedding Reception at a Bar, Brewery or Distillery

Newlyweds sit in wicker chairs surrounded by tiki paraphernalia.
Megan and Josh Herrington held their wedding reception in a tiki bar, an atmosphere that was markedly fun and unpretentious. Photos courtesy of Megan and Josh Herrington.

One of the greatest tensions that shoots through almost any wedding centers on drinking. It’s a topic that’s launched thousands of clicks, on articles like First We Feast’s “A Complete Guide to Drinking at a Wedding” and Deadspin’s “How to Drink at Weddings Without Making an Ass of Yourself.” And it’s no wonder. Weddings are events that typically kick off in a church and require the purchase of a nicer piece of clothing than you’ve likely bought yourself all year. The question of where knocking a few back fits into the day plagues everyone from the bride — see BrideBox’s “How Much Alcohol Should I Have at My Wedding?” — to the majority of the guests.

It’s a question that’s plagued brides, grooms and their guests virtually as long as weddings have been around. And if you’re the kind of couple that wants to get a little loose with your friends on your big day, there’s an easy answer: have your reception in an emphatically spirits-friendly location. As it turns out, the more casual wedding atmosphere in a brewery or bar has benefits beyond encouraging your friends and family to have a good time.

For Megan and Josh Herrington, who live in New Orleans, the choice to have their wedding reception in a tiki bar was inspired as much by the food as it was by the drinks.

“When we talked about getting married, since we eat Mexican food so much, we had to have it at a place that offers unlimited tacos. Chicken? Prime rib? No thank you!” Megan says. What this couple needed was a taco bar.

Looking around for a place that could host their friends for a big taco party, they settled on Felipe’s Taqueria, which had recently expanded an upstairs space into a full tiki bar.

“It was the perfect culmination to the day. We had an outdoor reception in the park and a bicycle second line to the reception. It was so great. My husband built a pedal pub two years ago for Mardi Gras, and we put the whole wedding party on the pedal pub. Everyone else rode bikes, electric cars and scooters [from the ceremony to the reception].”

The unstuffy atmosphere of a tiki bar atop a Mexican restaurant broke down the usual barriers of decorum that people feel at weddings — do I talk to other guests I don’t know and meet other important people from this couple’s life? Or do I stick with the folks I know? Can I ask the bride’s grandma to dance?

A bride and groom are holding hands and cheering with wedding guests clapping around them. The tiki bar set the tone for the Herringtons' reception — guests felt comfortable enough to let loose and celebrate the couple accordingly.

“People sat in lounge seating areas. It was super casual. I would turn around and see my mom talking to Josh’s best friend from college and his coworker,” Megan says. “For who Josh and I are, putting our friends and family in a traditional setting would have been stifling! Big old cabana seats and lounge tables — it had such a casual and cohesive atmosphere.”

Having a wedding reception inside of a bar may be a little too casual for some. In that case, breweries and distilleries that double as event spaces and play host to weddings year-round may be an answer.

“From doing these events and talking to other wedding planners, the people who usually choose to do these unusual weddings are pretty laid back and fun in the first place,” says Carmen Miranda, the event coordinator for Terrapin Brewing Company in Athens, Georgia.

Miranda recalls one couple in particular who got married in The Tree Room — a rough, industrial space in an old warehouse that has no roof. “All of their friends were waiting outside in the parking lot and then they all rode over here for the party.”

When the wedding party arrived — some people dressed formally in suits, others wearing jeans and v-neck tees — they, too, tucked into a meal of tacos.

But not every reception in a spirits-friendly location has to be a laid-back affair. Chelsea Pecco and her husband, Jamie Evans, got married at the luxurious St. Nicholas Abbey rum distillery in Barbados. The emphasis of their wedding was on experiencing the lush grounds of the distillery and sharing the couple’s love of spirits with their guests.

“We met and got engaged at Tales of the Cocktail,” says Pecco. She and her husband come from the hospitality and spirits industries, so when they were scouting a location for their wedding, they wanted a place where they and their friends could enjoy their shared interests and feel comfortable partying, too.

Both before and after the reception, the Abbey was open to the guests to tour and learn about the process of producing rum. “When we got engaged and we started talking about what we wanted, our biggest desire was to throw a badass party, to make everyone happy,” Pecco says. And they accomplished their goals “... because [the rum distillery] is a unique experience even if you’re not in the liquor industry.”

Getting a little drunk with our friends is what many of us do to celebrate everything from birthdays to the completion of big projects, and a wedding is meant to be one of the biggest celebrations of all. Hosting a reception at a place that celebrates some aspect of spirits culture is one way to make sure everyone feels comfortable getting into a celebratory mood. And if someone has too much, who better than the staff of a bar or brewery to make sure an over-served guest finds a taxi home?

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