Yes, the bar bill will be one of the biggest expenses at your reception. You might not be able to afford hours upon hours of open-bar boozing, but there are ways to cut those costs without asking your guests to pony up. Instead, consider these options:
Serve signature cocktails
In addition to giving guests a taste of your personalities, signature cocktails cut back on how much booze you’ll buy by limiting it to specific recipes. Pair these with a few beer and wine offerings to make a dent in the liquor order.
Skip liquor altogether
Mixed drinks really add up, since there are mixers, garnishes, bartending costs, and liquor involved. Instead, choose a few beers and wines that will pair well with your menu, and make those the evening’s only choices.
Have a limited open bar
If you can’t imagine nixing the cocktails altogether, break the evening up into two parts. Have a full open bar during cocktail hour, then serve beer and wine during dinner. Most guests will naturally make that switch anyway (you’ll see way more beers in hand on the dance floor than cocktails!), and you’ll spend less on liquor.
Buy it yourself
If your venue allows you to bring in your own liquor, purchase cases yourself from a liquor store that accepts returns of unopened bottles. Ask a pro to help you make sure you purchase enough, and know that you’ll be saving a hefty percentage by not ordering through your venue -- and possibly getting some money back at the end of the night.
Depending on your menu, you can easily choose a bar package that supports the theme and eliminates the extras. If the meal will be Italian, opt for red and white wines, plus an Aperol Spritz. Serving Mexican food? Pair it with Coronas and a margarita bar.