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All the ways to sparkle

In an ever-expanding world of alcoholic beverages, many couples choose to customize their bar offerings on the big day. This can be a fun and indulgent way to commemorate your special bond, let everyone in on that inside joke, share something that you love with the people that you care about the most, or reignite a memory from the first date that started it all.

Nothing says “celebrate” like sparkling wine. This effervescent revelry in a bottle is the standard for special occasions around the world. Incredibly versatile, sparkling wine can be served as a simple Champagne toast to kick off a reception or as a dazzling cocktail to wow your guests.

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If you are planning your own bubbles bar and don’t know where to start or how much to serve, wedding websites like the Knot offer practical calculators to help stay within your budget and determine how much to purchase for each guest. Your wedding planner should be able to offer advice and direct you toward resources as well.

The key to creating your bar is to know your audience. Families may be seasoned cocktail aficionados or conservative drinkers, enjoying only a glass of wine with dinner. If sparkling wine is on the menu and your bridal party loves beer, opt for dry and lean beers like gose or sours, which are good beers for wine lovers. For those guests who don’t or can’t drink alcohol, keep them included with sparkling alternatives such as a mocktail, sparkling cider, or kombucha.

When it comes to choosing sparkling wine for your big day, don’t feel as if you are restricted to Champagne alone. Many sparkling wines are budget friendly as well as delicious. Choose a less expensive bubbly for cocktails and punches such as prosecco from Italy or cava from Spain. If your guests love bold flavors, try a sparkling red wine such as a dry Lambrusco later in the evening, while making sure to switch into your reception outfit first. Don’t forget to save a special bottle for you and your sweetie to savor in a quiet moment together.

A note on glassware: it’s ok to not use flutes. Standard white wine glasses are preferred by champagne makers and some of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world. If you enjoy wine in a tumbler at home, stock them at your bar as they are versatile for different kinds of drinks. Spend the extra money on a few more bottles of bubbly, instead.

Multiple stations during cocktail hour or in the reception areas are helpful to avoid crowds and lines and keep the dance floor open! Sparkling punch is ideal for a serve- yourself bar and can be batched ahead of time and displayed in a large water pitcher. Sparkling punches are also customizable for every season by swapping out ingredients and garnishes to match your taste and aesthetic. Be sure to make a sign so that everyone knows whether or not there is alcohol included in the beverage. Mimosas and Bellinis are must-have cocktails for brunch weddings. If your wedding is an upscale affair, have a Champagne tower set up near your bar as a show-stopping focal point.

What better way to show out-of-town relatives what the Finger Lakes region has to offer than an exclusive wine tasting at your reception or cocktail hour? Many local wineries, sommeliers, or cocktail catering companies offer tastings to walk guests through different expressions of wine. If hiring someone to arrange the tasting is out of your budget or unavailable, create your tasting. Arrange wines in order from lightest to darkest, or driest to sweetest, place pairings next to or behind each wine, and be sure to have descriptions of each one. Since you will need someone to open bottles or keep an eye out for, god forbid, empty bottles, ask that amateur sommelier cousin to check in and share their knowledge and a few sips with guests. Although often associated with opulence, sparkling wine is famously delicious with salty and crunchy finger foods such as french fries. A popcorn cart with different toppings next to a wine bucket or passed hors d’oeuvres of caviar and potato chips make crowd-pleasing snacks before dinner.

Setting up a DIY bar can save money as you may not have to pay for a bartender’s wages and gratuity. Chill bubbly at least the night before and have buckets and extra ice ready to keep wine chilled. Chilling wine ahead of time ensures that your bubbles will stay crisp even over ice at room temperature. Make sure you have staff regularly rotating for clean-up and have elegantly disguised trash and recycling cans available.

Hiring a professional bartender is recommended if your guests love cocktails. The classic champagne cocktail is approachable for beginners and amateurs or try the more advanced Seelbach cocktail and beloved French 75 cocktail for the brave. Many weddings now offer custom cocktails to represent different personalities, and a professional bartender can work with you to create something special.

Below are some recommended local sparkling wines to stock at the bar. Happy mixing!

Stocking the Bar

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