Whether you're having a wedding reception or birthday blowout, one of the biggest expenses is the alcohol. Here, BRIDES magazine offers up ideas on how to save money on the bar tab without sacrificing fun (or looking cheap):
1) Forgo the Full Bar
Providing only beer, wine, soda, and a signature drink can cut your bill in half.
2) Find a BYOB Venue
Choose a site that will let you bring your own liquor. Buy it by the case to save 10 to 15 percent off the cost of single bottles. Return unopened bottles, if that's allowed in your state.
3) Say Yes to a Different Bubbly
Instead of the real French stuff, serve sparkling wine like Prosecco (Italy) or Cava (Spain), which mimic champagne's bubbly personality but not its price tag.
4) Avoid Designer Labels
Choose nonbrand liquors and house wines instead of premium brands. Most guests won't notice.
5) Use Trays
Have waiters offer glasses of champagne and wine from trays. This way, you can serve less expensive varieties without worrying that your guests will judge the drink by the label.
6) Think Tuesday
Are most of your guests local? Get married on an off night (Sunday through Thursday). People tend to drink less when they have to go to work the next day.
7) Go Ethnic
Plan a themed reception, then limit beverages to a few appropriate options—wine for an Italian celebration, or Coronas and margaritas for a Mexican party, for example.
8) Work with Your Waitstaff
Ask that servers clear just empty glasses from tables, to avoid driving guests back to the bar when their half-finished G&Ts disappear.
9) Open as Needed
Have bartenders start new bottles only when needed, or else you'll be charged for that fifth of Johnny Walker Red even if no one orders a single whiskey.
10) Time It Right
Avoid overtime. At the Omni Hotel in Chicago, an extra hour of open bar ($7 per person) would cost $1,050 for 150 guests.
—Yolanda Crous, BRIDES magazine