At the Bar — Cost Effective Ways of Managing the Bar

Surprisingly, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make about your big day is what type of beverages you will offer to your guests at the reception. Do you go old-school with a bowl of punch, limit to beer and sodas, or go all out with an open bar? Whichever route you choose will have a vastly different effect on your budget. If you have your heart set on an open bar, but you are worried about cost, there are several things you can do to manage the final tab, many of which will be unknown to your guests.

  1. Ask your venue if they offer different levels for the open bar. If your plan is to allow your guests to order mixed cocktails, you may be able to cut back by using cheaper brands of liquor. Most people won’t notice, and it will keep the totals much lower than with high caliber liquors.
  2. Establish a set price for the open bar. For example, if you don’t want to spend more than $5,000 on the bar, make sure that is known. Once you are getting close to the $5,000 mark, have someone give you the heads up and allow you to make the decision about whether to increase the limit or ask them to do a last call for drinks, at which point you can switch to just beer and wine.
  3. Only offer cocktails during cocktail hour. Give your guests an hour to enjoy liquor drinks, but switch to beer, wine and champagne once the reception begins.
  4. Create one or two signature cocktails, but no open bar. This will allow your guests to have a cocktail, but it will keep heavier drinkers from taking advantage of multiple choices and drinking throughout the night.
  5. Limit champagne to the toast portion of the reception. Based on how many guests you expect, purchase enough for each person to have one glass, and then revert back to beer and wine. You can also save money by serving sparkling wine instead of champagne, or filling the glasses halfway instead of ¾ full.
  6. Consider an earlier wedding. Your guests won’t drink as much during a day wedding as they will at night.
  7. Pay per person and not per drink. If your venue will allow this option, it could save you money if you know you have a lot of friends who like to drink coming to your big celebration. Just the opposite, if you know your guests will not indulge in the alcohol, pay per drink instead of per person.
  8. Offer non-alcoholic drinks that sound fun and different! Have them available like you would a signature cocktail so that some guests go for those instead of the alcoholic beverages.