Ways to save on alcohol—without your guests every knowing
Schedule a morning or midday reception with only a signature fruity cocktail like mimosas. Or hold the reception on a Sunday night, when guests are more likely to exercise restraint and the festivities can wind down by 10 p.m.
If you've arranged to purchase wine yourself, buy it by the case to save money; just make sure your savings aren't eclipsed by a corkage fee, which can run as high as $18 a bottle.
Close the bar during a seated dinner, and serve only wine and soft drinks. "You could save as much as two drinks per person," says Christina Taylor, a wedding coordinator with Candid Concepts in Renton, Washington.
Know your crowd. If you have a lot of light drinkers, ask the caterer if you can
have a "by consumption" plan, which means you'll be charged by the number of
drinks that are poured. But if the guests are known revelers, opt for the flat-fee-per-person rate—around $25 per head, according to Joyce Scardina Becker, of Events of Distinction in San Francisco—so there are no surprises at the end of the party.
Have the catering staff briefed: no preopening of bottles, scooping up of drinks before glasses are empty, or automatically pouring wine in anyone's glass.
Skip the champagne toast. Let guests clink with whatever's in their glass, whether it's water, wine, a cocktail or Gatorade. Make sure, though, that no one's glass is empty.
Be creative: Laura Weatherly of Engaging Affairs in Washington, D.C., sets up fruity sangria bars (heavy on the OJ and club soda). Los Angeles planner Sasha Souza offers mocktails like tequila sunrises with flavored syrups (recipes at torani.com). "Make it look good and people will never ask ‘Where's the liquor?''" she says.