You’ve already booked your wedding caterer—congrats! Now comes the fun (and truly crucial) part: alcohol. Hosting an open bar at your wedding is a huge expense. On average, couples hosting a 200-person, four-hour wedding reception will spend upwards of $8,000 for a fully stocked open bar. If your jaw just dropped, know that ours did too when we first heard that astounding number. If you’re a couple on a budget (and aren’t we all?), don’t despair—there are plenty of awesome ways that you can cut alcohol costs without totally eliminating the booze.
1. Offer Signature Cocktails
A fabulous way to personalize your drink selections while simultaneously managing bar costs is to offer one or two signature wedding cocktails in lieu of a full bar. Signature drinks allow you to get creative and add another layer of customization to your day, but more importantly, you’ll save tons of money while still giving your guests some liquor-y love.
2. Serve Only Beer and Wine
Another alternative is to forego the hard stuff and serve only beer and wine at your wedding. With this option, you can create variety by choosing different brands, flavors, and types of bottled booze without totally draining your wallet. Consider a mix of dark and light beers, seasonal or local picks, and red, white, sparkling and rosé wines. Another fun tip? Offer “tastings” of local craft brews and wines; your guest will be so thrilled to try something new and delicious that they won’t even notice there’s no liquor.
3. Skip The Champagne Toast
It may not seem like much of an expense at first, but providing a glass of champagne to every guest in the room can really add up, especially if you opt for a quality brand. If you want to limit your alcohol expense while hiding the fact that you’re trying to cut corners, simply have your guests “cheers” with whatever drink is in their hand. After all, there’s no rule saying you have to toast with champagne, and this can save you hundreds of dollars.
4. Use The 1/2 Full Trick
If you have your heart set on having a champagne toast on your wedding day, you can limit costs by employing the 1/2 full trick. At most weddings, the catering staff fills each guest’s champagne glass 3/4 of the way full, but simply request the glasses be filled only half way and watch your costs shrink. Many people don’t even finish their champers anyway, and we guarantee they won’t notice the slight difference in pour.
5. Place A Bottle Of Wine At Each Table
A great way to include a little alcohol into your wedding celebration without providing a whole bar is to include a bottle of wine or two on each table at the reception. Guests will be more likely to be conservative when they’re sharing with the rest of the table, and it’s a great way for guests at the table to strike up a conversation. You can also ask the catering staff to keep an eye on the bottles and replace them when they’re empty so no one feels shortchanged.
6. Shorten Your Open Bar Hours
If the idea of making your guests pay for their own drinks at a cash bar makes you cringe (as it kind of should, TBH), you can decrease your expenses by simply shortening the number of hours that the bar is open. You’d be amazed how much you can save by closing the bar an hour early. Plus, this option gives you peace of mind knowing that guests have plenty of time to sober up before the festivities end.
7. Limit Liquor To The Cocktail Hour
Make the cocktail hour a real cocktail hour by providing hard alcohol only during this time, then switching to only beer and wine during dinner and dancing. You can even make a cute sign saying something like, “Liquor up now before we switch to beer and wine!”
8. Pay Per Head, Not Per Drink
Some caterers may try to convince you to pay per drink at an open bar, but if you know that your friends and family love to imbibe, insist that you pay by the head. A single drink can cost you $7 or more, while most per-head catering costs end up being around $20 each for a four-hour reception. This way, you can rest easy knowing your guests can throw back as much as they want, and you won’t need to worry about receiving a crazy-expensive bar tab when you return from your honeymoon.
9. Eliminate Top-Shelf Liquors
Finally, if an open bar is on your dream list of wedding day must-haves, you can always eliminate the most expensive, top-shelf liquors from your bar selection. Most guests won’t even notice, as there should be plenty of other options, and it will save you from having to pay top dollar as your guests get their drink on. Trust us, pretty much everybody will be too busy enjoying the free, low-to-mid-range adult beverages to care that you skipped out on the $60 bottle of vodka.
10. Host A Day-Time Wedding
Guests tend to drink more at night, so consider hosting a daytime wedding, which can help you save money in more ways than just alcohol costs. For example, most venues offer a discount to couples hosting a daytime wedding because they will still be able to book another event that night. Extra bonus for morning types: if you serve brunch fare (which who doesn’t love?), your catering bill will be significantly cheaper.
Featured Photo Credit || amelia + dan photography