One of the most expensive parts of the wedding reception can be the alcohol. You want to put on a great party for your guests, but at the same time keep the bar tab reasonable. There are a few ways that you can cut costs on the liquor without appearing to cut corners.
At any type of party, the hosts need to set their priorities. Do you want to focus your budget on the flowers, or the music, or the food and drink? Perhaps if she can save a little money on the cost of the reception, the bride could afford to give more special custom bridal jewelry sets to her bridesmaids (it goes without saying that custom bridal jewelry for the bride has a place in the budget – the wedding gown simply isn’t complete without it!). Or maybe cutting down on the alcohol would allow you to take a longer honeymoon, or simply to avoid overspending. There are many good reasons to look for ways to cut costs at your reception.
It would be easy to say, we will save money by having a cash bar. Although that would be the least expensive option for the bride and groom, it is not really very nice to expect your guests to pay for their own refreshments. The trick is to save money while still being gracious and hospitable.
A good place to start is with a frank discussion with your caterer, before signing the contract. If you let them know that you very much want them for your wedding, but can only hire them if they help you with the liquor budget, they may have some good suggestions. (Or if not, you may want to choose a different caterer.)
An easy way to keep the bar tab under control is only to serve “rail” or non-brand alcohol. If each guest consumes two cocktails at $5 each instead of $7 apiece, that would total a savings of $400 for 100 guests. An even better way to save is to bring in your own liquor if your venue permits it. You can often find much better prices on wine and alcohol at warehouse type stores, especially if you live in or near a state that does not tax alcohol, like New Hampshire. Some stores will even permit you to return any unopened bottles, so you do not have to worry about over-buying.
Other tactics include having an open bar during the cocktail hour, and then serving only wine and beer during the dinner. Most guests will be perfectly happy with this arrangement, and a glass of the house white will cost you a lot less than a Grey Goose martini. Another great idea is to serve one signature cocktail instead of having a full open bar. It looks very chic to have a special drink just for your wedding, and it can also save money, depending what you choose (if it has a flavorful juice or syrup base, nobody will be able to tell that you used the non-brand vodka).
Managing a budget for your wedding is always a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the bride and groom want to make everything just perfect, but on the other hand, almost every couple faces the reality of what they can actually afford. The alcohol bill can be an easy place to cut costs without taking anything away from the beauty of your wedding day.