Welcome, Please (Over) Serve Yourself


I want to have a party, but I can’t afford a bartender. Bartenders are at all of my friends' parties. How do I make a cute, nice bar area that is self-serve without looking like I’m cheap or behind the times?

  • A., from Los Angeles, CA


No one on Mad Men ever had a bartender, and they all managed to be the chicest of drunks. (Though they drank at work- I’m going out on a limb and assuming you’re drinking at home.) All they needed was a bar cart or brass tray on top of the credenza or sideboard, a few bottles of booze, and some chic glassware. That’s all you need too.

Being waited-on is over-rated. Having a staff is for lazy people. (This is my version of an entertaining-on-a-budget pep-talk. Aren’t you feeling pretty good now?) Take some shiny or colorful trays, add votive candles, cocktail napkins, flowers, the booze, and some drinking vessels. Arrange it all on a serving tray in a thoughtful, artful way. Make the bar tray inviting and lavish-feeling. Celebratory. That’s it. Ready to (over)serve anyone.

The only caveat I would offer is if you are having a larger or reception-level event, where you are expecting more than 40 guests. In that case, I would find an of-age college student to tend bar at the gig. Edit down your booze offerings to be able to afford someone to serve. Or buy Smirnoff and put in in the Grey Goose bottle. You know what I’m saying. Honestly, even if someone could tell the difference, and I’m sure they couldn’t, no one would dare say anything. How much does a bartender cost? Perhaps as much as two bottles of medium-ok tequila?

My guess is that if you are having that many people over, you have some budget for your party. So, as far as answering your initial question, I’m going to surmise you’re talking about a swanky smaller gathering, in which case, DIY, using any side table surface in your house from which guests may serve themselves, is tray chic.

If you need some clarity, some change, or a refresh either inside or out, you’re in the right place. Aubrey Thorne is an astrologer, integrative coach, and feng shui designer in Los Angeles. She works with clients all over, both in-person and online. Feel free to contact Aubrey to ask a question or to schedule a consultation. 

Aubrey Thorne