Glorious Garnishes For Captivating Cocktails

Having signature drinks at your event, whether they are alcoholic or not, has become a must have for an interesting, lively affair. Signature cocktails are the epitome of fun and creativity so, the garnishes and accoutrement you use to adorn them should be something that also shows your flair, fun and festivity!

How about fruity ice cubes and cocktail stirrers for summertime drinks? Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries will all light up a lemonade or sweet tea as well as a wine spritzer!


Why not serve chocolate drinks with an extra dash of chocolate ….  Try decorating the edge of martini glasses with chocolate sprinkles for a chocolate martini. A dash of mint? Why not!


Multi-colored sprinkles add color to a wide variety of drinks from shots to fruit punch!


Vodka-soaked, chilled cranberries add zest and pizazz to a Cranberry-tini or even a simple glass of champagne!

Your guests will adore a peppermint cocktail with a peppermint garnish for a winter wedding:

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Last but, not least – make sure the glasses are the right size and shape for the drink and the garnishes. It will make all the difference in the world!

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-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Open Bar, Cash Bar or Alcohol Free ?

When it comes to the reception, what kind of bar you will have is a big question. First, there is the expense and then the responsiblity of guests safety when driving home, then personal taste, and what kind of friends and family will be attending. To simplify, there are three types of bar:

Open Bar – is  a bar  at which drinks are served free. The venue will charge a price per person for the bar and you will also have to factor in tax and gratuity. In addition, an open bar that offers all top-shelf liquor will certainly be more expensive than one offering lower-priced spirits. Some couples choose to offer only beer, wine and soft drinks throughout the evening. Others offer a signature drink during the cocktail hour along with the open bar. There are seemingly endless options so make sure you have a detailed description of what you want to be served in your contract.

Cash Bar is a bar where drinks are sold by the glass. basically, each geust will pay for each  drink. You may be tempted to have a cash bar for a variety of reasons, from cutting costs on your already swollen wedding budget to wanting to avoid having your guests overindulge before having to travel home from your wedding.  Be prepared, there may be some feedback since most guests have an underlying resentment about a cash bar. In fact, most wedding etiquette sites insist that a cash bar is considered ‘tacky’ no matter how cute the sign … yikes!

Alcohol Free – This is a reception where there is no alcohol served at all. Your wedding festivities don’t have to suffer due to lack of alcohol, there are many options for beverages other than booze. You can serve fun, fruity beverages and still even have your own signature drink. If you do not drink alcohol or have alcohol related issues, don’t feel bad and don’t make any excuses. You can also sleep knowing that everyone can drive home safely and there won’t be any drunken mishaps during the reception.

Whatever choice you make , it should be clearly listed on the invitation so that guests know what to expect.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

The Bar is Open

Believe it or not, alcohol is one of the biggest expenses at your wedding reception and the bar tab can sometimes exceed the cost of dinner considering that the estimate is $10 per hour per guest. If you are serving top shelf liquor and above average wine or beer, you will find yourself scratching your head and wondering how everyone drank so much. Of course not everyone drinks, not everyone overindulges and not everyone will drink the same amount. Allowing 3 alcoholic beverages per hour ( the average) seems like a lot to me. I can honestly say that I could barely drink  3 glasses of wine over the course of the entire evening, much less per hour. Of course, this an ‘average’ number so you have to factor in the guests who can drink 6-8 glasses (easily) in the course of the evening. 6-8 glasses if wine equals 2 entire bottles.

So how do you decide what and how much to serve your guests? Most of the time, the catering manager will be able to help you calculate your ‘spiritual’ needs. There are also scores of party drink calculators online. There are also several different routes you can take to tackle the cost of the bar tab.

Cash Bar – Is where the guests pay for their own cocktails. The upside is that when guests pay for their own drinks they are less likely to overindulge and become heavily intoxicated. Less likely – not entirely out of the realm. The downside is that you may seem like a cheapskate. Some of your guests may have traveled a great distance to be at your wedding and at great expense plus a gift and hotel room and now you are asking them to pay for their own drinks? If you choose this option, make sure it is clearly defined on the reception card so guests will know to bring the cash with them. If your budget allows, providing wine at the tables is a nice touch.

Limited Bar – There are different ways to handle a limited bar. The first is to have the bar open during a cocktail hour before the reception and then after dinner is over, serving up all different types of alcoholic refreshments. During dinner guests will be served wine (usually) and nothing else. Another type of limited bar is where you serve only  wine, beer and a small selection of hard liquor. Either of these is a less expensive option but, it is still important to go over the numbers with your catering professional.

Open Bar – This is where all drinks are paid for by the couple and guests can order a seemingly limitless supply of alcohol. Of course this is the most expensive option but, it doesn’t have to break the bank entirely since you can cut back by not serving top shelf liquor or expensive wines and beers. For a very formal reception, drinks should be served by watstaff and your guests should never have to wait in line at the bar. Make sure you have adequate waitstaff since waiting over half an hour for a drink can be quite frustrating for even a lightweight drinker like me.

Even better  – you can customize the alcohol portion of the evening any way you see fit.  Offer a particular fancy beer that everyone loves, serve wine only with customized labels featuring a picture of the two of you, create your own signature drink (one that matches your color scheme) to be served during cocktail hour or only serve champagne or champagne cocktails  during this time…. be creative!

Of course you can also omit alcohol entirely. If no one in your party is a drinker, why offer it? I can neither condemn or condone this. But, I will say that I do like a glass of wine from time to time and particularly at a wedding where I would be very disappointed to have to toast the couple with sparkling cider.

No matter which option you choose when serving alcohol, it is always important to ensure eveyone’s safety. I am not suggesting a breathalyzer at the door but check to see if the bartenders or waitstaff are trained to cut someone off when they have had too much to drink. It might be a good idea to have someone who is a light or non-drinker as the ‘designated doorman’. This person will politely and firmly remind guests when they have had too much to drink in order to drive or when they have become out of control or belligerent. Nothing spells disaster like a drunken guest and you don’t this to be what people remember about the evening.

The point of having a drink or two is to loosen up and have an enjoyable evening… not to wake up the next morning in a hotel room with Mike Tyson’s tiger and a missing tooth.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago

Wacky & Tacky – Good weddings gone bad!

I don’t know when it happened but a while back someone decided that weddings were a good time to make bad choices. Almost as if masses of people simultaneously had the same thought “Let’s turn our wedding into a sideshow!” and then it spread like wild fire.

I am not talking about some of the god-awful wedding or bridesmaids gowns or even the ridiculous theme weddings that some people think are clever and unique. Generally these folks know exactly what they are doing and are trying to make a statement or prove something. More power to them for decimating a somber moment. I am referring to weddings that appear to be  tasteful and then – BOOM! The tacky shows up and has no where to hide.  

After having watched one of the most tasteful weddings in my lifetime on BBC America, I thought it was a good time to cover the other end of the spectrum.

Eleven tackiest things you can do at your wedding:

#1-  Brides do not smoke in their wedding gown. Invest in nicorette.

#2- It is not acceptable to have the wedding cake look like anything other than a cake.

#3- Wedding gowns with logos on them are  advertisements and unless the owner of the logo is sponsoring your entire affair – leave the patches on your windbreaker . Either way it is completely tacky. The only thing on your gown should be lace or beading.

#4- Keep shoes on during the reception.  No one wants to see your feet. It is also a safety issue since there may be the chance of broken glass. If your feet hurt, buy a second pair of lower heeled matching shoes and wear them. Or better yet – buy a pair of shoes that are comfortable to begin with.

#5 – Buy a gown that fits. Exposing too much cleavage does not make you sexy or more attractive. Having rolls of back fat spilling over a strapless gown is not appealing. Wearing a dress so short that you  need to invite your gynecolgoist is not a good idea, either. This is not a money issue, brides will spend thousands of dollars on designer gowns and then even more money to have them altered only to look like a Vegas Showgirl.

#6- Garter removal. I get it – you guys are married  and in love and you want everyone to know that you get to ‘do it’ tonight. But, for the love of God –  someone please get rid of this awful wedding ritual. No one uses garters anymore and the whole pulling up the dress thing is downright creepy, especially when it goes just one tiny bit too far.

#7 – Toasting should be a time for raising glasses and spirits. The best toast can bring the guests to tears of joy in two sentences. The worst can last forever and mention things that are way to personal.

#8 – The first dance or any dance is a bad time to crank out a tacky tune.  Boyz II Men, “I’ll make love to you” comes to mind. Check and re-check your playlist and try to save the make out dance party music for another time.

#9 – No bare midriffs for bridesmaids, guests or (heaven help us) flower girls. You have your entire life to show everyone your smokin’ body and I think gramps could live a little longer without life support not having to worry if his 4 year old great-granddaughters nipple is showing.

#10-  Cash Bar. You heard me. A cash bar says “I really only care about  me and not you”.  If funds are low, have a smaller affair. If you can only afford a small amount, restrict it to bottom shelf liquor or wine and beer. Or wine only. Or just have the reception at Olive Garden with the immediate family.

#11 – Having any conversation with any guest about the cost of the wedding. This is prior to the event, during the event or after the event. Unless said guest is one of your nearest and dearest, they don’t need to know firsthand how much your nuptials set you back. Before the event it makes you appear to be asking for money, during or after it is bragging and both are unacceptable. Let everyone speculate about your lavish affair and smile, knowing it was well worth it.

Whether your wedding budget is $10,000 or $10,000,000 you can avoid most of these mistakes by using reputable professionals. At each and every Bridal Expo you can rest assured that our vendors have your best interests at heart.  Take their advice and use their ample experience to avoid being featured on a tacky wedding website!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago