Friendly Visit: Nicole Clayton of On The Rocks Bartending

The Bar at a wedding reception: The proverbial Cinderella of the whole shindig. Bare with me on this metaphor (I promise I haven't cracked open the Pinot - yet!)... It often goes ignored in the planning process, given little attention or thought, with the assumption that it'll quietly do it's job in the background while the pretty people have a party around it. Then on the big night all of a sudden it's the most popular thing in the room - everyone wants to hang out with it, everyone wants it's attention, people just can't get enough of that poor, overlooked, hardworking Cinderella; now bright and shiny and getting it's moment in the spotlight. Makes you want to put a little more effort into making sure it's ready for the job right?

We sat down with Nicole Clayton, owner of On the Rocks Bartending to talk about the relatively new world of professional bartending services and what they can do to improve the bar experience at your reception.

Fay - Most people rely on the caterer to take care of their bar. What are the advantages of using a bartending service instead?

Nicole - One of the biggest advantages is that our focus is solely on the bar. We personalize every single aspect of the bar package based on the needs of our clients, the theme of the wedding, and the characteristics of the couple themselves. Caterers are mainly focused on their food and can't put as much attention into the bar service. A lot of times this means the bar service will suffer. I wish more people realized services like On the Rocks existed and utilized us to make unique bar setups and service because guests spend so much time at the bar - it can really set an event apart!

Fay - Having receptions at private residences is a big trend at the moment. What are some things that people need to be cognizant of when planning a reception with alcohol on private property?

Nicole - People have to realize that even though they are hosting a party at their home, they need to hire professionals to serve liquor. Serving alcohol has innate risks and if you don't employ a bartending service with liquor liability insurance and utilizes training in responsible serving; then you are putting yourself and your guests at incredible risk. If someone leaves your property intoxicated and gets injured, causes an accident or injures another person then you can be sued for damages. Also there are steps to take to ensure that your homeowner's insurance covers an event at the property. Both your planner and a professional bartending service are vital for this process.

Fay - How important is considering transportation options for guests post reception?

Nicole - Booking transportation for guests is a great idea! Especially if your location is not close to hotels or major highways (i.e. all those barns and farms we're seeing people have their receptions at). This way you assure that guests arrive at their destinations safely and aren't tempted to drive while intoxicated.

Fay - Your planner will guide you through the process of deciding on a type of transportation and details such as frequency of service and size of vehicle appropriate for your event.

Fay - Can you share an example of some advice you give couples choosing the beverage selection for their wedding?

Nicole - Choose options that will please the majority of your guests. This is mainly directed to beer selection. With craft beer's increasing popularity there is a temptation to fill the bar with interesting craft beers that you personally enjoy. Instead, pick a favorite craft and provide at least 1 or 2 domestic options that people are familiar with.

Fay - What's the best (and worst) part of your job?

Nicole - The best part is working with my clients. I love it when at the end of an event, they come up to me and are appreciative of everything my staff and I did to help make their event great! I love to see my clients happy!
The worst part is unloading and packing up everything for the bar!

Fay - And now the most important question... What is your beverage of choice?!

Nicole - Captain Morgan and Sprite! It's simple and delicious.


Many thanks to Nicole and On the Rocks Bartending for her insight!

Til we Gather Together again... I'm off to enjoy my favorite beverage! If y'all ever see me out and about in Durham and you're wondering; it's a French 75 ;)
-Fay