There's an nice piece here inspired by people complaining about crap beer at office parties.
Leaving aside the utterly wankerish entitlement of anyone who'd be genuinely put out by the standard of beer that's provided at a wedding reception, one thing that I think is interesting is that the expectation of cheap, lowest-common-denominator beer at work events seems to be almost universal. You could put this down to penny-pinching, or the fact that corporate events firms may not always be particularly down with the kids, but I'm not convinced that's the whole story. I've been to some reasonably lavish work does (though I'm talking "reasonably successful and self-confident tech firms" here, not hedge funds or anything) and the beer still wasn't interesting - just more aspirational brands of basic lager. So maybe there's more to it than price?
I'm reminded a bit of an Andy Warhol quote:
"What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking."
Your beer choice is, among many other things, a badge of social identity and hence a line of social division. A work social event, on the other hand, is meant to be all about reinforcing a sense of shared identity and shared direction - "one team one dream" and all that sort of crap. It's not about the hipster web developers drinking Gamma Ray while the middle-aged database administrators chug Black Sheep and the warehouse team neck Carling. Everyone, from the CEO to the Office Junior is on the same team, they'll all eat the same food, they'll all dance to the same old tunes, and they'll all drink the same bottles of Becks..