HOW-TO: Set Up a Retro Ice Cream Sundae Bar at Your Wedding

DIY ice cream sundae bar for a wedding

Oh, the nostalgia of a mid-century ice cream parlor! Those sweet and creamy soda fountain treats. The retro-colored decor we all love. Well, with the warmer summer months coming up, why not recreate this sentimental scene at your wedding reception with a Retro Ice Cream Sundae Bar! It’s a fantastic way to combine a dessert buffet, a guest activity, and even a favor station all in one. We guarantee your guests will think you’re the coolest newlywed hosts yet!

Great Ideas for Creating That Ice Cream Parlor Look

Need some tips on recreating that throwback look and feel? Each of our finds below provides a fabulous decorating, serving or favor packaging idea that will do just that!

DIY ice cream sundae bar set up ideas for weddings

#1 Decide on how to dispense the ice cream to guests at the reception.

(a) Source authentic (or replica) ice cream dispensers to really bring guests back in time. Love this aqua/turquoise colored one with rows of mason jars alongside filled with toppings! You might inquire about renting an ice cream dispenser that is actually operational.

Or if you just want it as a great accent piece, you might luck out at a thrift shop, a yard sale, or an online supplier of vintage items. (Note: If you’re unsure about the condition of an old machine, don’t risk serving ice cream from it!)

#2 Select the ice cream flavors to serve guests. Include classic ice cream flavors, too!

(b) Since your focus here is nostalgia, play this up by offering popular flavors for guests to choose from. Love this selection featured here: Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Dutch Chocolate, and Peaches and Cream. Of course, if you have a sentimental choice as a couple, include that, too!

TIP: When buying ice cream by the gallons, consider stores like Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, and Costco that typically sell them by buckets. You will need to check for pricing when looking to serve ice cream to a large group of 20 or more people.

(c) Ice cream fudge sundaes would definitely be a hit! Be sure to have this classic American dessert idea available to guests with vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate fudge, crushed nuts, and a cherry on top with whipped cream.

(d) Make the scene colorful by presenting bowls with a sprinkled edge! Such a creative option for serving up simple vanilla ice cream.

Image sources and product suppliers:
a – / b – Simply Charming Socials / c – Ghirardelli / d – Pink Pistachio

#3 Offer up various toppings such as crushed candies and nuts, crumbled cookies, and fruits.

DIY ice cream sundae topping ideas with candies, cookies, nuts, and fruits

(a) Provide a wide choice of toppings. Most guests will probably have a serious “sweet tooth” so include M&Ms, sprinkles, marshmallows, toffee and chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, and the like among the goodies. Others may prefer healthier options like fruits, berries, nuts, toasted coconut, and granola. Include vintage-inspired labels to represent the names of the various toppings being served.

(b, c)  Present an array of toppings in handy containers. The ever-popular mason jars are perfect for this. But any kitchen canisters or canning jars would do. If you prefer open containers, sorbet bowls, parfait glasses, or large ramekins are great options, depending on how classic or casual your reception is. Just be sure to provide labels for each container, plus individual scoops or spoons for each topping.

d. Include bottles of syrups marked with labels like caramel, strawberry, chocolate, and butterscotch.

Image sources and product suppliers:
a – Martha Stewart Weddings / b – Sweetly Chic Events  / c – via Pinterest / d – Crafty Wedding

#4 – Set out scoops, signs, labels, and cone wrappers.

Ice cream sundae supplies for scoops, cone wrappers, and signs.

(a) Present sugar cones in pretty cone wrappers that are color coordinated with the retro look of your event.

(b) Display a charming sundae bar sign. In keeping with the retro look, recreate those classic hand-written ice cream parlor signs with a chalkboard-style custom sign like this one. You can order it pre-made online or (if you have the calligraphy skills) you can DIY your own.

(c) Use retro-style ice cream scoops. This is another authentic touch we love! Order these scoops online in the prettiest pastel colors, or search for a couple among your mom’s or grandma’s kitchen gadgets. Guests will get a kick out of scooping ice cream the “old school” way!

(d) Affix pretty ice cream labels to the lids of pint cups for guests who would like to take home a treat! This is a cute favor idea when there are little ones who have to leave earlier from the reception.

TIP: Use pretty plates, trays and cake stands. Aside from toppings containers, display ice cream cones and cups, cookies, paper napkins, and spoons on plates, trays and cake stands, including glass cylinders. These will add varied heights and visual interest to your sundae bar. Oh, and a fun striped table skirt can double as a sign, too!

Image sources and product suppliers:
a – The Frugal Crafter / b – Rockin’ Chalk (etsy shop) / c – World Market / d – Katarina’s Paperie

#5 Provide bowls, cups, including sugar cone cups and bowls.

Sundae cones, cups, and bowls for serving ice cream sundaes at weddings.

(a, b, e) Sundaes are usually served in tulip ice cream dishes or goblets. So do have pretty ones on hand. But for smaller, handy servings, provide crispy waffle bowls, classic ice cream cups in red and white, and sugar cones.

(b) For a convenient way to serve ice cream in cones, consider ice cream cone stands that you can rent, which are a convenient option!

(c) You can also get plain white cups and glue them with printables to match your wedding color palette.

(d) For an attractive display of ice cream cones, provide cones with edges that are decorated with colored sprinkles.

Image sources and product suppliers:
a – Barbara Bakes / b – Southern Weddings Magazine / c – Eat Drink Chic / d – Sprinkles for Breakfast / e – Pink Peppermint Design

If you love the Vintage Ice Cream Parlor theme so much, you might also consider hosting a summer birthday party with the fun ideas we presented in this other post.

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