First things first…
From champagne toasts and signature cocktails to coolers, kegs and open bars, it can be tricky for couples to decide on drink service for their weddings. Some of the decision depends on culture, faith and family, and some depends on budget. Here’s a breakdown of your options and our best bets for your big day.
Bar Types Pros & Cons
Guests love this option
Bar cart or mobile service
Playful and fun for guests; budget-friendly; and non-alcoholic mobile carts available
Not a fit for every venue or wedding style
Saves you money
Unhappy guests could say it’s tacky
Beer & Wine Only
Affordable crowd pleasers; limits guest inebriation
Creative and personalized to you, plus it keeps costs down
The Verdict: Expert Picks
O’Looney’s Liquor and Wine: “We love signature cocktails here,” said Kacee Hudson of O'Looney’s. “We have a very knowledgeable staff, we have experienced bartenders and mixologists who want to craft the signature cocktails for the couple.”
On The House Mobile Bar: “The bar is the number one vendor that your guests will interact with at your wedding,” Jen Houser, owner of On The House Mobile Bar, said. “The guests come to celebrate and honor you as a couple, but they stay for the drinks and the after-party. Choosing to serve a signature cocktail allows creativity and personal touches to who you are as a couple. It also provides a visual and tasteful enhancement for your special day that your guests will leave talking about. Serving signature cocktails is the perfect way to make a memorable statement.”
Editor’s Pick: A combination of signature cocktails, beer and wine, and even a mocktail (or two) so there is something for everyone. And we’re big fans of mobile bars!
O’Looney’s Liquor and Wine is the perfect vendor to use when you’re trying to serve your guests while planning on a budget.
One of the best reasons to use a local liquor store is to save money by buying in bulk and saving added fees and gratuities found when using a middle man (like a bar and bartender service). Other great reasons include expert advice on what to stock for guests (there are a lot of different liquors and brands, and their teams can help you narrow it down to the musts).
“A big part of coming to O’Looney’s is knowing you’ll be dealing with a team who knows what they’re doing so you know you’ll be taken care of,” said O’Looney’s-own Kacee Hudson.
O’Looney’s also offers mixologist advice, wine knowledge and drink calculators so you don’t over buy when trying to save in bulk.
6 Ways to Help Overserved Guests
Party just a little too good? Here are some ideas for helping your guests get home safely:
- Offer shuttle service
- Free pre-paid Uber rides
- Bar rules (two-drink limit)
- Hangover wedding favors
- Assign designated drivers
- Plan ahead with a wedding venue that has lodging or is walkable to lodging so guests don’t have to travel far for a safe place to stay that night!
Ditch the Drinking!
A great party doesn’t rely on alcohol. Mocktails can be just as festive without the risks, or as an additional option to make sure all guests have something to sip. Here are some options to bring mocktails into the mix at your reception:
- On The House Mobile Bar Cart offers four mocktails that sound just as good as they look: Lavender Lemonade, Shirley Temple, The Sunrise and Berry Limeade. “Making a delicious and visually pleasing beverage is vital to any bar service,” Houser said. “Mocktails are a rising trend for everyone to enjoy. They are a safe and delicious option that mimics cocktails but where everyone can feel included in the celebration.”
- Flourish Coffee Company provides delicious hand-crafted signature lattes with Arkansas-sourced espresso beans that will keep your guests caffeinated, no matter the time of day.
- Hire Heritage Catering for a two-in-one catering and bartending service to craft a mocktail dedicated to your furry friend for guests to enjoy!
Then, you must…
Serve. Good. Food.
Guest Cravings & Five-Star Ratings
Festive food trucks and mobile carts your guests will love
- Slader’s Alaskan Dumplings | @sadcoak
Located in central Arkansas and features buttery, curry-covered Alaskan dumplings filled with beef, chicken or cheesy potatoes. (Perfect for winter-time!)
- Lili’s Mexican Street Food | @eat_elis
Mouth-watering street food located in the heart of central Arkansas, Lili’s offers an array of delicious Mexican cuisine menu items – including their famous cheese dip!
- Smoke Beast BBQ | @smoke.beast.bbq.ar
Some of the best southern comfort food is located in central Arkansas with BBQ that falls off the bone.
- Loblolly Ice Cream Truck | @loblollycreamery
Book the Loblolly truck so your guests can enjoy refreshing and creamy ice cream that melts in your mouth!
Northwest Arkansas’ newest elevated cocktail service is the perfect addition to your reception or cocktail hour that your guests will rave about for years!
A must-have modern coffee cart perfect for the coffee lovers out there who want to keep their guests caffeinated with signature drinks.
The One Thing Guests Never Stop Talking About…
Time and again we hear wedding guests rave (or dog) on the food at weddings they attend. It’s taught us that a key way to ensure your guests have the best time is to invest in the best food possible—be it Southern comforts or five-star fare—putting thought and effort into the quality of their meal will make a lasting impression. This is an area to splurge for sure.
“The food is a reflection of the couple and their vision for the day,” Shellie Morrison said. “Food stations and trendy hors d’oeuvres signify a more casual and fun party atmosphere, while a sit-down meal is classic and traditional. We want the guests to rave about our food and service. Our happiest moments are when we work with couples that loved our food at past weddings they attended.”
“It's important to feed your guests good quality food because we only want the best for those we love. A wedding is a gathering of all your favorite people, and you want to make sure they have the best experience.”
“Each couple will get a personalized experience from start to finish through working together to curate a menu, service style and wedding details,” Justin Malonson said. “ We work hard to ensure we provide the best value in Arkansas without sacrificing flavor or presentation.”
Next, you need to…
Get Your Guests on the Dance Floor
We’ve all been to weddings and receptions where there is a bit of a lull between the formal dinner of the reception and then the transition to the party. Antonio Williams from Entertain4NWA and Jared Cornelius from Mega DJ Company have handy tricks to get your guests out of their seats and onto the dance floor fast. Step one? “Hire a BOMB A** DJ or Band,” Jared said. “If the entertainment is good, people aren’t going to want to miss out on the party.”
More pro tips:
“Choose the right music,” Antonio said. “The right music will set the mood and create the atmosphere for your wedding reception. Make sure to pick a variety of music genres. Have the music you choose reflect the personalities of the [couple]. Whether it’s current hits or timeless classics, choose a mix of music that people of all ages can enjoy.”
“You as the newlyweds need to be on the dance floor,” Jared said. “Your family and friends came to celebrate the two of you, so that means wherever you are, they will follow.”
“Create unique experiences,” Jared said. “We call these impact moments. This can be a CO2 cannon, cold sparks or throwing out a bunch of those foam light-up sticks.”
Secret Weapon: The Ultimate Playlist to Get Your Guests on the Dance Floor
We asked Antonio and Jared for the songs that they say never fail to get guests onto their feet. Here are their picks for the ultimate dance party reception—Jared says a few may surprise you, “...but guests of all ages tend to run to the dance floor when they hear them,” Jared said.
Mega DJ Company picks:
- “Let’s Get It Started” by Black Eyed Peas
- “About Damn Time” by Lizzo
- “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
- “Wannabe” by Spice Girls
- “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado ft. Timbaland
- “I Love It” Icona Pop
- “Give Me Everything” by Pitbull ft. Neyo
- “Friends In Low Places” by Garth Brooks
- “Big Energy (Remix)” by Latto & Mariah Carey ft. DJ Khaled
- “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
- “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars
- “Yeah!” by Usher
- “Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid
- “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
- “Low” by Flo Rida ft. T-Pain
- “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
- “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
- “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton
Real Couples on Hiring a DJ vs. Band!
Molly Talbert: “Our planner sent us [a few] videos of several different bands, so we watched them all and decided on Universal Crush out of Nashville,” Molly Overton said. “They were phenomenal! People came up to us all night telling us how great they were!”
Savannah Schaller: “When Wade found the Grooveline Band out of Dallas, Texas, we knew we had to have them,” Savannah said. “We hired their 18 Piece Set, gave them an idea of the music we wanted playing, and they absolutely nailed it! Our dance floor was full the entire night, which is exactly what we had hoped for.”
Nicholas Miano: “...A DJ gave us the full pantheon of music as options for what we wanted to play,” Nick said. “We created an eight-hour, 28-minute playlist with the exact songs we wanted to be played and combined that with a DJ’s expertise for maximum party fun.”
Olivia Burkman: “We hired a DJ for the reception,” Olivia said. “They did such a great job creating the perfect atmosphere for both mingling during the cocktail hour and dancing on the dance floor. We wanted the evening to feel like an intimate dinner party in the garden, turned party-on-the-patio.”
Elizabeth Capacho: “We hired Brock Entertainment to be our DJ,” Elizabeth said. “Brock Entertainment took care of all our musical needs. We made a playlist for them in order to share our taste and style in music. Our families are culturally diverse, and it was so fun listening to all the musical hits from not only several decades but listening to Latin and Korean hits.”
Sara Hedgecock: “We made playlists and articulated our taste to [DJ Rick from Brock Entertainment], and he ran with it,” Sara said. “Thinking through every song - from the music played during our first dance, cake cutting, champagne toast, and more - was my favorite part of the music planning process. It was another place to incorporate meaning into our special day.”
How Arkansas Planners Get the Party Started
Amanda Reed Weddings: “The best advice I can offer to get the party hype is for the couple to get out there,” Amanda Reed said. “If they are clearly having fun, their guests will quickly follow suit and before you know it, you’ll have a packed dance floor!”
JLK Weddings: “My ultimate favorite is having the emcee do the anniversary dance with the guests after the couple's first dance,” Christa Wilkins said. “The anniversary dance is where the emcee asks the crowd for the longest-married couple in the crowd to come to the dance floor to dance alongside the newlyweds. This activity is a great ice breaker for the guests.”
White Sage Weddings: “Begin with the first dance and have the couple themselves invite guests to join them on the dance floor,” Arden Harris said. “We just think the energy is incomparable!”
Madison Nichole Weddings & Events: “The best thing you can do to have the best party at your wedding, is to pick the right DJ,” Madison Soderquist said. “Take the time to meet with prospective DJs and pick the one that you could see yourself being with. If they get you excited for your wedding, you're sure to have a killer dance floor!”
Gretchen Larkan: “Guests will mimic the just married couple's energy,” Gretchen said. “I always tell my clients this. Whether you have a DJ or a band, it’s really up to the couple to set the vibe and expectation of the dance floor.”
A Viral-worthy Reception
In the day and age of viral TikTok videos and Instagram reels, here are some viral-worthy tips and tricks to entertain your guests (and the internet!)
Surprise your guests with…
…a choreographed dance to get the party started!
…a song performed by a family member (or even a famous country star!)
…a performance dedicated to something meaningful to you!
…props! Hand out boas, glow sticks, party hats…anything to get the party started!
…a live band or emcee! Emcees are the perfect way to make sure guests’ fun doesn’t lose its momentum when the live band needs to take a break!