Your wedding reception is a party. And just as you’d treat your guests to a bottle of wine or a few
cocktails when you invited them over to your place for the evening, so too should you offer your wedding
guests drinks at your dinner and reception. Aside from offending guests who may have had an open bar at
the last wedding they attended or hosting, you also run the risk of sending revelers home early when they
start to feel the pinch in their wallet. There are, of course, ways to cut down on costs for your wedding’s
bar bill without alienating guests and without turning your reception hall into a dry county. Consider the
following as you plan for a night of imbibing on your dollar.
Budget and Weigh Your Options
When choosing a venue, factor the cost of food, drink and wait staff into the overall budget. This is
important because some venues will require you to buy their alcohol or charge a corkage fee or charge
fees for glassware, etc. This is particularly important if you plan on sourcing your own alcohol. It’s
not a bad idea to get a good idea of how many people will be attending your wedding reception as
Going Full Open Bar
Full open bar is what wedding guests enjoy the most - but it’s also the most costly for you. You can
modify an open bar to control costs in a number of ways. The best way is to make the open bar open
for only a limited time - say, before dinner. You can also choose to go with well liquor and keep
the more expensive liquor on the top shelf.
Another popular option to combine with an open bar for only a certain period of time is to follow
it up with a limited bar. For example, you can have full cocktails before dinner, but then switch
to wine, beer and soda only after dinner.
Offer one or two signature cocktails on a complimentary basis to guests and combine that with a
cash bar. That way, you limit the types of liquor and ingredients you have to buy without leaving
truly picky drinkers high and dry.
This is where you really want to check with your venue and get a good estimate on your guest list
before moving forward. Sourcing your own liquor can save lots of money, but corkage fees may apply,
or the venue may disallow it outright. Find this out before you sign a contract with the venue.
Just be careful that you don’t buy too much or too little. Perhaps work out a deal with the venue to
supply you with emergency alcohol if yours runs out, or have a big after party planned for any
The best way to save when going wholesale and sourcing your own liquor is to keep it simple Get one
beer, one white wine, one red wine and one type of gin, vodka and rum. Get as many champagne bottles
as you’ll need for each table. Hopefully, the venue will be able to cut you a deal on mixers, such
as tonic and soda.
Don’t Forget to Tip
At the end of the night, you’ll owe your caterer or whoever served your food and drink about 15 to
20 percent on top of the final bill. Don’t forget to factor this into your overall expenses.
To avoid long lines, consider having two or more bar locations-even if one just serves beer or wine.
This may cost you more, but it’ll be worth it. And, of course, make sure that the establishment is
properly licensed and that your guests have proper ID.