How to Host a Wedding With No Hard Liquor

Looking for alternatives to serving hard liquor at your wedding reception? Read our latest guide to pull it off.

By Jennifer Prince

Wedding With No Hard Liquor
Photo by Eight Weddings Photography

The First Look ✨

  • Many couples wonder whether to have an open bar or a dry wedding. Offering beer and wine without hard liquor is an excellent in-between option.
  • Hard liquor has a high alcohol content and can be rough on the wedding budget. Alternatives include beer, wine, cider, Champagne, and mead.
  • Create a signature cocktail from a low-proof alcohol or have a daytime wedding to alleviate having to use hard liquor.

To serve or not to serve, that is the question. When it comes to hosting a wedding with no hard liquor, that is. And no matter the query, Hamlet had it right. There are two sides to consider. When pondering your wedding alcohol, opting out of serving hard liquor may sound blasé; however, doing so can be beneficial, and here’s why.

What Is Hard Liquor?

 Zola: How to Host a Wedding With No Hard Liquor Photo Credit // Lisette Gatliff Photography

There is a technical definition of hard liquor. In essence, it’s a distilled beverage made with grains, fruits, or vegetables that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. This type of beverage tends to fall into the category of spirits, and not the scary kind. Drinks—such as vodka, whiskey, rum, bourbon, and scotch—are considered hard liquor due to processing and proof number.

Reasons to Leave Hard Liquor Off Your Wedding Alcohol List

Hard Liquor Is Expensive Compared to Other Alcohol

Yes, there are some expensive wines. However, with wedding alcohol, most of the expense of an open bar comes from cocktails mixed using hard liquor. Whiskey, bourbon, and vodka are more costly than most beer and wine options per ounce.

When a caterer or venue offers open bar wedding alcohol packages, they need to have a cost per person. Quite often, they calculate a budget, including a specific number of cocktails that include hard liquor. Axing expensive beverages can give you more wiggle room in your account.

You Don’t Want a Dry Wedding, but Want to Include Wedding Alcohol

Although the guests are there to celebrate you, many are disappointed when a wedding is completely dry. Forgoing hard liquor and offering lower-proof options is a fabulous way to meet in the middle. Offering beer and wine instead of hard alcohol is an excellent in-between option.

The Alcohol Percentage in Drinks That Use Hard Liquor Is Higher

Even though most cocktails are diluted with soda, juice, or seltzer, hard liquor is hefty. For example, most vodka has an alcohol concentration of 40 percent, whereas beer averages five percent and wine 12 percent.

Lower Proof Wedding Alcohol Can Keep Guests Sober Longer

Why worry about the alcohol percentage in drinks? Well, people can get drunk quicker on high proof cocktails. You want your guests coherent and able to enjoy themselves more. Therefore, offering lower alcohol options for wedding receptions is best. A beer and wine only wedding may help your wedding reception not turn into a wild party.

How to Host a Wedding With No Hard Liquor

Does no access to high proof liquor equal no fun? Not necessarily. If you get creative, you can offer your guests a unique beverage experience without the financial burden—or proof—of hard liquor.

Schedule a Daytime Wedding to Minimize Expectations

The chances are that guests won’t expect a full or open bar at a brunch wedding. Offer bloody marys, mimosas, and a Champagne toast for a daytime event. Doing so will alleviate the need for any other wedding alcohol.

Have a Signature Cocktail That Includes Beer or Wine, Instead

We love the concept of a signature drink for an open or cash bar. Alcohol options for wedding cocktails don’t have to be limited to distilled spirits. Each partner can pick a cocktail that includes beer or wine. Have your bartender create a fruity sangria or beer punch to serve. They’d love to get creative and formulate a recipe specific to your reception. This is a great way to make your cocktail hour more exciting, while still keeping the alcohol costs and booze at bay.

Offer Only Beer and Wine on Your Open Bar Wedding Alcohol List

 Zola: How to Host a Wedding With No Hard Liquor Photo Credit // Eight Weddings Photography

Just as with any open bar, your guests can go up and get drinks at their leisure. Have the bar operated by a bartender, and make your beverages an experience. Serve beer in chilled mugs instead of in bottles or cans. Pour red or white wine into lovely glasses that guests can have refilled as necessary. Remember to figure out how much beer and wine for wedding festivities will be needed so that you don’t under or overbuy.

Use Only Locally Produced Alcohol at Weddings

Many of your guests will be coming in from out of town. Take the opportunity to showcase nearby breweries and wineries. Research what is produced in your area, and don’t forget about cider and mead. Going local is a fabulous excuse to treat your wedding guests to nearby flavors. Talk about the awesome craft beer for the beer drinkers or local wedding wine.

Skip the Bar and Place a Wine Glass at Each Place

Indicate that you’re only going to have one or two things on the wedding alcohol list with a designated glass. Have a variety of wines—such as sparkling wine, white, red wine, and rosé—on hand that is easy to serve tableside. Staff can go around with wine and ask guests which type they prefer. They can ask for more, but chances are that they won’t go overboard when it’s poured at the table.

When calculating your wedding budget, several things can cause those dollar bills to fly away. Plunging excess money into hard liquor may keep you from incorporating other elements into your dream day. Choosing to forgo spirits on your wedding alcohol list can ease your budget and still create a fun atmosphere. We promise that even Hamlet would approve.

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