DIY: Wedding Coffee Bar (Wedding Fika)

I always liked the idea of doing something different or unique with my wedding someday. I always enjoy thinking outside of the box with anything design, including events. When I met my now-husband, who is a coffee-absorbing European, the idea of having a coffee bar at our wedding soon ended up at the top of my wedding priority list.

Once we started actually planning everything, and had picked an early October wedding date, the reality of a wedding coffee bar became more and more possible. With the concept of Swedish fika* culture in mind, and just our general love and adoration for coffee, it was a perfect substitute for us in place of a traditional alcoholic bar (for personal reasons within my family, I never planned on having alcohol at my wedding). Fortunately, I was marrying someone who loved the idea and didn’t care about whether or not we had alcohol at our wedding or not. But he did care about coffee!

When you think of an October wedding, you think of fall weather, fall colors, and lots of fall flavors, particularly with coffee! I knew I wanted to use some kind of antique or retro piece to actually build the bar on to make it more fun and unique. I also knew I wanted options – we initially settled on having a large Keurig available with a variety of K-cup flavors and blends, as well as non-coffee alternatives. We ended up deciding on using my mom’s retro red crockpot and have homemade apple cider to accompany the coffee selection. Perfect fall coffee bar, right?

Well, in typical South Carolina fashion, Mother Nature decided that was way too easy.

Our wedding day, in the middle of October, ended up being in the high 80s to low 90s in temperature. Not very fall like, if I do say so myself. 😐 So, the week of the wedding, we had to come up with a Plan B. Nobody was going to drink hot beverages all evening, not even the Swedes. We still wanted coffee as an option, but had to dial down the temperature a bit. We ended up nixing the hot apple cider and made homemade cold brew coffee and a last minute iced chai tea punch.

We had never done the punch before and didn’t have time (or enough ingredients) to do a test run, so we made it all the night before the wedding and said a prayer. Good news: the punch ended up being the showstopper of the night and we had people even taking some home in empty water bottles. A strong DIY wedding win. 🙂 It was also super easy and most of it can be done the night before.

The easiest part of a coffee bar, of course, is utilizing time-saving options, such as having a Keurig with K-cups instead of traditionally brewed coffee.

Hot or not, most of us in attendance will drink coffee morning, noon, and night in the winter, spring, summer, and fall, so we didn’t entirely 86 the traditional coffee plan. Having a Keurig cuts back on any waste you’d wind up with in making a full pot of coffee that sits there and (ironically, in this weather) get cold. While, in full disclosure, we ended up taking a majority of these K-cups home afterwards, we were still happy with the setup as a whole. At the very least, having the hot coffee included afforded the aesthetics we were going for. It looked good in photos. 🙂

If you’re lucky enough to have the cooler weather one picking a fall or winter wedding date is likely looking for, you could further expand on a coffee bar, such as adding something spicy like apple cider, wassail, or Russian tea to accompany your fresh (or instant) brews. Alternatively, you could make your beverage bar more interactive or just more fun and playful by turning it into a DIY coffee/cocoa bar with varying additives and ingredients for a cup of hot chocolate or even cup of coffee. Give guests the option to add things like marshmallows (varying sizes is a fun and visually appealing display concept), cinnamon sticks, candy canes, or other peppermint treats!

In true fika form, we couldn’t just have drinks at our Fika Bar – you have to have something sweet to go with that coffee or tea!

We went out to a local apple orchard the day before the wedding (which also doubled as a fun outing with Paul’s parents in town from Sweden) and scooped up a bunch of cinnamon and apple cider donuts. Well, we got the apple cider in there somehow at least!

Donuts are one of my most favorite wedding treats. Not only are they delicious – and who doesn’t love a donut?! – they can be so much fun to style and decorate with. Donut walls are a fun (and delicious) statement piece, but once we started setting up all of the furniture and large pieces the night before the wedding at our venue, we got an opportunity to get creative since our bar ended up sitting out in the open and away from a wall or backdrop.

We used a tabletop mug rack (this one is from World Market, and they also have it in white and copper) to display some of the donuts, with some extras stowed below in the bottom of the antique bread bin we used with a vintage olive bucket. My bucket was a junkin’ find, but you can find similar ones at Hobby Lobby, Cotton Blossom Exchange, and even Amazon.

I am a huge fan of working with what you’ve got. If you keep up with all my wedding projects, you’ll find for a lot of them, I shopped our own house for our design needs. Other than the consumables, the only things we spent money on specifically for wedding décor purposes were the extra mugs (we just got a large, unified amount of these sweet little off-white Ikea mugs), our drink dispensers (more on those below), and all of the fresh flowers. For all of our display base pieces (such as for the coffee bar, our wedding favors, and the wedding cake), we made no exception. We used a small vintage dresser I’ve had since I was little, painted creamy white with a new set of crystal drawer pulls, for our wedding favors. For the wedding cake, we borrowed a pale yellow, farmhouse-style hall table from my mom that was the perfect height and had two doors underneath that we propped open and stored the cake plates and extra napkins. And for the coffee bar (this is my most favorite piece we used out of the whole wedding), we borrowed this antique bread bin from my dad. (MAJOR kudos to my dad for hauling this thing down all the way from his house near Raleigh just for the occasion.)

This is an original bread bin that was my dad’s grandparents’ many years ago. He scored the good stuff lottery by getting a lot of original antique pieces that were his grandparents’, including his dining table and another dining table he ended up turning into his desk at home. (My dad gives me serious antique envy, but is also serious antique goals). I was so blown away when he offered to lend us the bread bin, which is a pretty great height for just about any of our projects we took on, so of course I had to jump on it!

This is pre-full setup, but a great shot of the full piece from the front. I actually had no intention of opening up the bottom and using it, but while we were playing around with it during night-before setup, my mom and I came up with this great idea. My mom has always taught me when styling anything, from your home to an event, you utilize all of the space you have to the best of your ability. That includes the uncommon or unusual spaces! Especially since those tend to end up being some of the most special parts of a design.

We put some unused stuff (bags and whatnot that we used to bring stuff over to the venue – why not put it to more use!) to fill up the bottom of the bin so that we could use this wooden apple tray right on top. (We used a spare white kitchen towel to cover up everything underneath and to make it look extra cozy! It matches the towel we used in the olive bucket where some of the donuts went.) We utilized this space for available-at-hand mugs and punch cups, and the olive bucket nestled perfectly alongside it.

Side note: in addition to styling tips, my mama also taught me to always balance out sweets with protein, so I used a crystal dish of my grandmother’s (that my mom owns now) to offer a variety of peanuts for guests to snack on as well.

There were zero complaints, and this is one part of the wedding that did not come home with us afterwards!

Although most coffee lovers typically have their own preference of coffee brand or brew, we tried to give people enough options while not overspending or having an unnecessary quantity of options, or K-cups.

We decided to stick to a pretty good old faithful – Starbucks. We got a dark blend, a blonde, and a decaf (we had one pregnant person in attendance!).

We also maintained our fall theme, regardless of temperature, by having pumpkin flavor syrups (we got a three pack containing Pumpkin Spice, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Caramel Pumpkin from Tuesday Morning. It was so good, we got an extra pack for the house.) We also offered sugar, sugar substitute, half & half, milk, and a cinnamon sugar blend.

We kept our carafes of milk and cream cool by storing them below the drink dispensers in a galvanized container. These carafes were perfect because we needed ones that had lids or covers, but were not complicated to remove or use while keeping the lid on. These are from Ikea, are thick and durable, and came in multiple sizes to fit specific needs. The lids are cork material and slide easily off and back on. They also have slimmer models, which would probably work best for daily household use, but these were perfect for this particular need.

Speaking of dispensers – I have to talk about those a bit, too. We spent a great deal of time shopping around for the perfect drink dispensers. When it came to the things we had to fork out money on for the wedding, we knew we wanted to buy things we would likely use again down the road. Initially, we didn’t need any dispensers for the coffee bar, just for the reception dinner. For that, we found some gorgeous 2 gallon dispensers that had a copper finish spout and woodgrain lid at Target that were in our price range (and on clearance at the time!). Not only did we love them enough to know they would be reused any time we needed to dispense any beverages down the road, the look and style of them also matched our at-home style. In fact, both of them are currently incorporated in our kitchen décor, which I may come back later and share a couple of shots of once I get those spaces photographed to show how we reused them.

Once we revamped our coffee bar menu, however, we were in need of a couple of more drink dispensers. We didn’t want to get two more of the 2 gallon ones because those took up a lot of room. We needed something that wouldn’t take up too much space, but also serve the purposes we needed. We considered traditional punch bowls, but didn’t like the idea of having anything open since this was an outdoor wedding and reception.

Well. Target to the rescue – again. We went to pick up some other last minute things right before his parents got to town the week of the wedding, and actually went down the cliché wedding aisle just to see if they had something else we were looking for. Instead, we found the answer to another prayer of ours – the perfect sized coffee bar drink dispensers (shown above). Now, these are not glass. They likely will not last a lifetime, and empty, they are pretty light. But they were cheap (ten bucks!) and had a gold effect going on with the spout, which went with our style as well and fit right in with everything else we’d already planned for the coffee bar.

We’ve actually already put these to use again since the wedding, using one of these for cold brew that we made and took to a baby gender reveal recently. Because it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to use outside of the home and also easy to store. I also have a fun Christmas project in mind for at least one, if not both, that I can’t wait to share closer to Christmas!

All in all, our Fika Bar was a success. With probably most anything, there’s always something (or things) you’d do differently or do a little better, if you could do it over again. But considering everything about our wedding was DIY, and we did most things on our own between the two of us, we are so proud of the outcome. Something we had dreamed of for what felt like a very long time, and was in all actuality, was to sit down at one big table with both of our families and people who have been with us since the beginning of our journey, and have a fika. Enjoy one another’s company. Eat some good food, drink some coffee (or whatever you’re in the mood for), laugh a lot, and savor the moment. And we got to do that. Both of our families sat down side by side at this beautiful table, with us at the end just taking it all in. It couldn’t get any better than that.

So if you’re like us and are looking for an alternative bar for your wedding, or whatever event you’re planning, consider having a fika with your tribe. Make it your own, make it unique to you and your story, make it fun. Giving people something new or different to try can wind up being one of the best parts of your event, which in our case, it was. Bringing elements of Swedish culture into our stateside wedding was really important to both of us, and it really felt like we accomplished that with our fika bar. Also, wedding fika should definitely be a thing here in the states, especially here in the south. It’s so similar to having some sweet tea on the front porch whenever folks stop by, they really should just go hand in hand.

I hope sharing our fun little project inspires you to get creative with your event planning, too! Utilize your real estate to the best of your ability, make it fun, make it playful. Most importantly, make it you!

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*Fika is not easily translated, as it literally means “coffee break”, but is more than just a mere coffee break. It is a social concept in which you take time specifically for sitting down with friends, relatives, coworkers, whomever, in a tradition observed daily (sometimes multiple times a day) by Swedes. It can be had at home, at work, or out and about, with anyone you want to spend time with or get to know better. In addition to sitting down for coffee, it is almost as crucial to include some type of sweets, such as a cinnamon bun, cake, or open-faced sandwich if you prefer.

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