“Without question, the most important element at a wedding is the bar,” says wedding planner Mark Niemierko, who has organised receptions from Kensington Palace to the British Museum. “People will leave saying it was the worst wedding ever if they cannot get a drink.”

But what should you be toasting with? It’s often not champagne these days. “At UK weddings, I’ve seen a move of late to replace it with English sparkling – namely Gusbourne,” says Niemierko. “The couple might be spending half a million but like to appear less ostentatious.”

French Bloom La Cuvée 2022, a non-alcoholic sparkling wine
French Bloom La Cuvée 2022, a non-alcoholic sparkling wine © Guillaume Perimony

Prefer a teetotal toast? There is a wealth of alcohol-free champagne alternatives. “For the wedding of Jefferson Hack and Anna Cleveland, we served a non-alcoholic adaptogenic elixir called Love Conquers All – no sugar, all organic,” says events planner Liz Linkleter

French Bloom (left), a non-alcoholic sparkling wine from the Languedoc, has been taking off in the US. Its new vintage expression La Cuvée ($120) has also been proving popular among shoppers looking for non-alcoholic wedding gifts.

Spring’s Limoncello spritz

© Kristin Perers
10mlLemon juice
  1. Build all ingredients into a wine glass filled with ice.

  2. Stir gently.

  3. Garnish with a lemon peel.

At the other end of the toasting table, wedding guests have been reaching for shots. “We’ve served trays of tequila for toasts throughout dinner a few times lately,” says Linkleter. “At the end of dinner, we like to serve mini Espresso Martinis. We also do Black Velvet shots [a cocktail of Guinness and champagne].” Skye Gyngell’s Spring restaurant at Somerset House has hosted many wedding receptions, including that of FT Weekend food columnist Ravinder Bhogal. One of its signature toasts is a Limoncello Spritz made with their own homemade limoncello (see recipe, left).

Liz Linkleter’s Espresso Martini

Linkleter’s go-to recipe is by Fred Campbell of Cock & Tail. This makes three mini “Espressinis”, or one full-sized Espresso Martini.

25mlSapling Vodka
20mlKahlua Coffe Liqueur
25mlStrong espresso coffee
  1. Shake over ice and double strain.

  2. Garnish with cacao nibs (not coffee beans).

At a more health-conscious wedding organised by Niemierko, the aperitif was a green shot served with a side of vitamins. “That more celebratory, participatory kind of drinking is trending,” says Tyson Buhler of US hospitality drinks group Gin & Luck. “Get guests involved and it helps everyone let their guard down.” He suggests a cocktail fountain: “Serve something fairly low-alcohol like a Bamboo – we call our version a Garden Tiger: a vermouth- and sherry-based Martini, or wine-based punch, and allow guests to help themselves.”

Stop dinner from dragging on by relegating tea and coffee to a dedicated bar, says Niemierko, and serve post-prandial cocktails and sipping spirits from a well-stocked drinks trolley. “Press for” buttons that allow guests to order from the table are also fun, but avoid the obvious “Press for champagne”, he says: “One six-year-old bridesmaid at a Niemierko wedding had a ‘Press for Oreo milkshake’ button at her place setting.”

Death & Co’s Garden Tiger by Javelle Taft

45mlTio Pepe Fino sherry
37.5mlMartini & Rossi Ambrato vermouth
7.5mlEdénico Guava eau de vie
½tspMassenez Pomme Verte apple liqueur
½tspSimple syrup
1 dashCelery bitters
  1. Build all ingredients over ice.

  2. Stir then strain into a single Old Fashioned glass.

  3. Twist lemon peel over the glass and discard.

Personalised canned cocktails are a nice way to put your stamp on proceedings, and miniatures of local liquors make good wedding favours. “For a Cotswolds wedding,” says Chenai Bukutu of ByChenai Events, “we gifted bottles of Blackfords limoncello.” A surefire way to send everyone home in good spirits. 

A cocktail fountain by US cocktail bar Death & Co
A cocktail fountain by US cocktail bar Death & Co © Death & Co


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