Let’s just get one thing straight here – dry weddings are the absolute worst. As a transient resident of the self-proclaimed “Bible Belt,” it blows me away when I hear stories of old Georgia families hosting dry weddings. How can you not even allow a drop of booze to grace the lips of your guests as they profusely sweat their makeup away in a reclaimed barn? But on the other hand, open bars can be expensive, and overindulgent guests can be wild cards. Beer and wine are always an option, but then how does that match your theme? You’ve spent too damn long developing your color scheme to let a bottle of Stella set the tone.
Luckily, there’s a happy answer to this conundrum. Meet the wedding cocktail! The wedding cocktail — or cocktails, as is the case when you go full on “his and hers” — is a drink that liquefies the personalities of the betrothed. And it’s the cherry on the ice cream, the pièce de résistance, the crowning glory of your wedding extravaganza. Below is everything you’ll ever need to know to choose your signature cocktail.
Why Even Bother?
You might be asking yourself, between the flowers, cake, table runners, centerpieces, entertainment, catering, dresses and suits, who the hell has the time to come up with a signature drink? But just as a gown can be the cornerstone of the event, a cocktail can really be the cherry on top of the metaphorical wedding sundae. “A cocktail can be a centerpiece to a wedding as much as a cake,” mixologist Jeff Naples explains. “It brings together all the parts of the wedding — the cake, the presents, the theme, the aesthetic, the feel.”
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“Beer and wine can be all you have, but it will also say ‘boring’ to your guests,” agrees Rose Rowberry, bartender at Ghostbar at the Palms in Las Vegas. “To amp it up a bit, you can provide a his or her cocktail, which adds a bit of variety.”
Imagining The Perfect Libation
So you want to make a badass wedding cocktail, but where do you even start? Do you pick a drink that you both had on your first date? Or maybe you go seasonal and whip up a concoction that uses ingredients that speak to the weather of your ceremony? These questions can be a good launching pad but can also be extremely intimidating.
To limit stress, it’s best to design your drink just like you would select your wedding attire. Kleinfeld Bridal recommends that brides begin shopping for their dresses nine months prior to the wedding date, and we think that works for your signature cocktail, too. The research component is important, so warm up those Pinterest fingers and start exploring different cocktail combinations that might be a fit for you. Don’t let those super-cute blogs and spritzers keep you in a box, though; the drink in the grand scheme is designed to reflect you.
“Think about the flavors of your life,” Naples advises. “Not necessarily liquor flavors, but your favorite foods, your heritage, smells that make you smile, colors that represent the union — all of these items usually end up being the colors of your wedding.”
Take the time to mind-map the different flavors of your relationship. Those standout flavors and adjectives are going to be the key components in your couple cocktails.
The Balance Between Classic and Trendy
If you’re still struggling with whipping up the most original, beautiful, sexy cocktail, Rowsberry says a good place to start is to embrace the bubbly; in other words, Champagne. “Any celebration calls for it, and there are so many cocktails you can make with Champagne,” Rowsberry says.
From there, different infusions and add-ins come into play. It’s common to see flavors such as rosemary and lavender among classic cocktails. These flavors provide a lighter, elegant twist without a ton of effort.
But while the classics are good, it’s important to also consider the libation trends of today. Naples says that we’re currently undergoing a revival of ’40s cocktails, and classic punch recipes are making a big comeback. Many theme trends are embracing more rustic, classic motifs; there’s no better time to go all in and sip vintage.
But don’t choose something just because it’s cool or trendy. “This is your special day — let the cocktails and drinks represent you and your story,” Naples says.
Design + Dress + Drinks = Wedding Harmony
Any good event is centered around understanding the theme and how all the elements tie in together. According to Jennette Kruszka, director of marketing and PR for Kleinfeld Bridal, popular bridal trends right now are sleeves, lighter fabrics, pants, and even color.
When pairing your gown with a cocktail, lighter fabrics will definitely benefit from lighter drinks utilizing ingredients such as Champagne, flowers, and less-boozy spirits. If you’re going to rock a colored wedding dress (#ownit) or if you’re simply just looking for another way to tie the color scheme together, it’s important to think about your signature drink. The best part is, making a colored drink doesn’t have to involve ~gross~ food dye or mixers from your early 20s.
To keep your hued drinks classy and consistent with the theme, Naples says, reach for fruits and natural, seasonal bounty. “It’s easy to build beautiful color palettes using wine and fruits,” he explains. Naples also says it’s key to focus your energy (how many more espresso shots can we honestly handle??) on what’s important. “Rather than worrying about the color of the liquors, spend time and energy choosing flower garnishes that naturally complement the wedding colors and aesthetic.”
Rowberry agrees that fruits, herbs, and flowers are the way to go. But she also says juices are not to be overlooked. “If you want your Champagne to be ‘blushing’ like the bride, add a tiny splash of cranberry juice to give it a ‘pink’ hue.”
How To Avoid Mixing Mistakes
In wedding planning, pitfalls are bound to happen. Flowers get mixed up, catering falls through, and sudden rain forecasts can be abundant throughout the process; however, there are some easy ways to avoid them in choosing the perfect dress and a flawless cocktail.
Kruszka says the worst thing a bride can do is bring too many people into the room at a bridal appointment. Having too many people involved in the process can cause a lot of conflicting personalities to arise. “Make sure you bring people you can trust and that you select a dress that works for you – not for them,” she says.
Cocktail mixology is the same. Having too many voices or stimuli in the planning process can take away from what a signature cocktail is all about – the personalities of the happy couple. Still, if you’re not going to have a huge variety of drinks at the bar, try to create a drink that will be more of a crowd pleaser. That doesn’t mean throwing your personality out the window, but choosing a drink that isn’t too sweet or too sour. Also, consider avoiding a cocktail that is heavy on the alcohol.
The more steps you take to avoid any rogue bridesmaids or groomsmen, the better.
The Final Swig
Above all, it’s important to remember that signature drinks should revolve around one thing – the union being celebrated. When guests pick up your cocktail, they should feel something. They should be taken on a journey of how your relationship started, the ups and downs you’ve experienced, and the passion that has brought you to this one special day tied together with the words “I do.”
We’ll happily drink to that.