Today’s wedding reception can offer some special finishing touches that are innovative, fun and delightful to your guests. Our WedNet team has put together some of our favorite finishing touches that add to the ambiance of the reception.

Naturally, any special service that you bring to your reception must be appropriate, professional and meaningful; otherwise you and your guests may be put off. The first in our series of ideas will be Espresso/Cappuccino Bars. We invite you to revisit this site periodically so that you can discover which finishing touch you may want to add to your special day.

Espresso Cappuccino Bar

By far this WedNet’s most recommended and favorite service for a wedding reception. Specialty coffee drinks are not only the hottest rage in the country, but it is a healthy and socially responsible alternative or addition to serving alcohol. An espresso bar can provide a cosmopolitan touch of elegance as well as a sophisticated flair to the reception.

An espresso bar caterer should be able to provide your event a full menu of espresso beverages made from high quality, fresh coffee and milks, a professional server (referred to as a ‘barista’) and the equipment and ability to serve your guests quickly and with flair. Here’s our list of what to look for and what to ask for.

What to Look For
◾The espresso caterer should be at least two years in the specialty coffee industry.
◾They should have professional commercial espresso machines (not retail, home units)
◾The barista should be professional having worked or working in an espresso café.
◾The espresso caterer should provide setup service prior to guest arrival in the area of service.
◾The menu should offer a variety of espresso drinks such as cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and flavored drinks.
◾If desired the caterer should have porcelain as an option for formal receptions.

What to Ask For
◾Where do you purchase your coffee from?
◾Is your coffee source a roaster or a wholesale distributor? How fresh is the coffee?
◾What kind of espresso machine(s) do you have available?
◾Is your machine mounted on a cart? What does it look like?
◾If your machine is not on a cart does it require a special table? Do you provide it?
◾What are your electrical (voltage and amperage) and water requirements?
◾Will you offer nonfat or low fat milk? Hot chocolate?
◾What Italian syrups do you provide for making flavored lattes and mochas?
◾If we require your servers (baristas) to stay longer can that be arranged?
◾Do you charge by the hour or by the number of guests?
◾Do you offer all your drinks in decaf?
◾Do you offer whip cream?
◾Are there any special equipment load in requirements?
◾How are your barites dressed?
◾What does your espresso station look like and how much space does it take up?
◾Do you provide protective mats for the carpeting?
◾Can you provide 3 or more references for jobs similar to our reception?
◾Do you charge for setup and delivery?
◾What is your minimum service time?

Espresso and specialty coffee is not a fad, it is a lifestyle that says quality not quantity. Nonetheless it is still new to many Americans and therefore not everyone will want a cappuccino or mocha, in fact, in some areas of the country where espresso coffee is still very new only a fraction of the guests will order a drink. However those that do will greatly appreciate the service and probably have more than one drink. If there are children and young teens request that hot chocolate, steamers and Italian sodas be available. (Italian soda is a tall drink of soda water with Italian fruit flavor syrups served over ice.) In fact for hot spring and summer weddings request that the menu include iced espresso drinks; they are delicious and extremely refreshing.

Some words about Quality. There is no greater turn off than a bad espresso or a cappuccino that is prepared like a latte. Quality of the coffee and its proper preparation of the drinks are essential. It is critical that the coffee beans are fresh (less than 7 days old at the most.) Notice that we say coffee beans, not preground coffee or coffee pods; your guests who are connoisseurs will know the difference. This means that the caterer should bring grinders to freshly grind the bean to that fine espresso grind that gives espresso its rich crème and intense taste. Additionally the caterer’s espresso machine should be a commercial unit that can output steam and shots of espresso with decent recovery time. Likewise the barista should be experienced with drink preparation as well as be fast without appearing stressed, hurried or overwhelmed.

Espresso is an art. When made properly it should be prepared with flair and the drinks should look beautiful. Ideally there should be three cup sizes for the drinks that your barista will be making. One cup should be a 3oz – 4oz demitasse cups for those who drink shots of espresso, the second should be a 6oz to 8oz cup for cappuccinos and third a 10oz – 15oz cup for lattes, mochas, and flavored drinks. Your barista should be extremely personable and communicative. Espresso often can be a new experience for a guest and the barista should be able to describe the drinks and make suggestion for the first time espresso drinker. Finally, the espresso bar setup should have an appropriate look for your wedding reception. A neon signed outdoor espresso cart may be fine for the convention center but not necessarily for your elegantly decorated reception. However, don’t despair if your espresso caterer of choice has a garish setup, ask if the cart can be camouflaged and decorated with a coordinating fabric.

Prices are relative on several factors, but in general the number of guests should not be the major factor in price since the machine is limited to only so many drinks per hour. Most commercial machines with one to two groups can produce only 60 – 125 drinks per hour depending on the amperage of the machine, the speed of the barista and the type of drinks that are being made. As a general guideline our WedNet research team has found that one can expect a price range of $110 – $250 per hour with usually a 2 to 4 hour minimum. Often there is a setup and, or, delivery charge. Tipping the barista not required and should be done if service was outstanding.

In conclusion having an espresso bar is one of the hottest services you can offer at your wedding. So many f your guests will enjoy the option of ordering a Double, Half-Decaf, Non-fat, Dry, Cappuccino with a Vanilla shot, Hold the Whip cream, Thank you!