Waffles and chill: 14 essential ice cream bar tips

Updated Mar 15 2021
14 essential ice cream bar tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Zac Wolf Photography

Look, cake is the tits. But sometimes you just want to shake things up and offer up something a little different, dessert-wise. We've covered candy buffets, donuts, and dessert pot lucks before, but today we're getting COOL. Enter the ice cream bar!

Lillian and Jon's woodland forest wedding meet kitties wedding featured a most nom-worthy gelato bar for which we wanted to climb into the screen. Let's look at their bar and learn how you can take your ice cream bar game up to 11.

14 essential ice cream bar tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Zac Wolf Photography

Keep it on ice

This is the biggest difference between a regular dessert buffet and an ice cream bar: keeping shit cool. We'd suggest large buckets full of ice as the easiest option. Alternately, if you have the budget, you could consider renting a soft serve dispenser.

14 essential ice cream bar tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Aaron EpsteinCC BY 2.0

Pre-roll the ice cream

If you have the time, consider pre-rolling the ice cream into neat little balls. It will require the above tip of keeping it on ice even more than before, but it prevents guests from having to dig around in a big vat of ice cream. That can surely get messy as hell.

Consider a dairy-free option

If you have the budget and resources to allow for more than one or two flavors, consider offering a sugar-free and/or dairy-free option. It'll open up the playing (eating?) field for those with dairy allergies and those limiting sugar.

14 essential ice cream bar tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by _e.tCC BY 2.0

Cups and cones

Cups (like these!) are definitely the easier option, but guests love a good cone, too. Feel free to provide one or both, just don't forget to provide something. Oh, and napkins. Lotsa napkins.

Or use big mugs like Lillian and Jon did:

14 essential ice cream bar tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Zac Wolf Photography

Cheap ramekins are your friends

You can find cheap ramekins almost anywhere, and they make great topping holders. Alternately, if you have a really large crowd, you may be better off with larger angled jars and some scoops.

Add some height with tiered trays

Adding a little height to the display makes it more visible and just makes it look more full and rad. You can even make these out of plates and thrift store candle holders, if you're feeling crafty. But here are a few we found. Some are pretty damned cute.

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Nick GrayCC BY 2.0

Guests dig toppings

It's not a sundae without toppings, right? Feel free to keep this super minimal to save money, especially since we know most guests will stick to the classics like chocolate syrup and whipped cream. But don't shy away from offering something a little different like bacon bits, maple sauce, or dried herbs.

  • whipped cream
  • nuts
  • sauces
  • cookies
  • fresh fruit
  • M&Ms
  • chocolate chips
  • maraschino cherries
  • coconut
  • sprinkles
  • marshmallows
  • gummy bears
14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
DIY Printable Wedding Sign by The Arty Apples

Don't forget signage

You don't want folks missing the bar entirely, so opt for a little decor to entice guests over. If it's a big display by itself, you can skip this if you like.

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by AnnieCC BY 2.0

Use a chalkboard for signage

Chalkboards or rollable chalkboard contact paper are a great way to easily get everything labeled. Plus, it's just super adorable.

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Shari's BerriesCC BY 2.0

Wooden spoons can serve as signage

You can buy wooden disposable spoons (some more eco-friendly!) for pretty cheap. Guests can use them for eating, but you can also use them as signage for your toppings, too. Don't miss the little wooden scoop option, too! Sooo adorable.

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Jessica RossiCC BY 2.0

Make it a waffle sundae bar!

If you're doing breakfast for dinner or a brunch wedding (or are Leslie Knope), consider a waffle sundae bar! Who wouldn't want to pile some ice cream on a waffle and go to town?

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo by Wild About You Photography

Go simple with a tier of pre-made cones or treats

If all of this is starting get overwhelming, I feel you. Pare it down to just one treat, maybe even pre-packaged for ease. Ice cream sandwiches, pre-made cones, Ben & Jerry's cup catering, whatever floats your boat. Speaking of floats…

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecreamy
Photo by White Shutter Photography

Or: simplify with a signature dessert float!

If you're looking to keep the budget low, go the way of the signature cocktail with just one signature float. Root beer, Coke floats, booze-y sorbet cocktails, etc. that way you're offering just one kind of ice cream as a tasty optional treat.

14 essential ice cream tips as seen on @offbeatbride #weddings #icecream
Photo courtesy of Kim

Screw it: get an ice cream truck

If you've officially scrapped the project now altogether, you can always go the way of the food truck. Ya'll know we love 'em. Call up your local ice cream joints or Google "ice cream truck [your town]" and see what's available. Guests love a surprise visit from FOOD during the reception, trust me.

Ice cream keychain

More treat buffet ideas

Are you planning on rocking the cream at your reception? What tips did we miss?

  1. We had an ice cream truck, and it was AWESOME!! The ice cream truck we booked didn't charge an hourly rate–we only had to pay for the ice cream treats that were sold. We put an ice cream ticket at each place setting to keep the amount reasonable. It cost us about $300 for 100 guests.

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