The bar bill amounts to one of the reception's biggest expenses, so it's understandable that not every couple can afford hours and hours of open-bar boozing. But there are many ways to save big without having to resort to a cash bar, which is never a good idea! We repeat, a cash bar is never a good idea! Instead, try one of these ideas:
1. Serve two creative signature cocktails. Give your guests a taste of your personality as a couple by serving a signature drink or two. You'll limit the amount of alcohol imbibed since you can incorporate inexpensive mixers, and you can choose a less expensive brand of alcohol. Not only will this selection help you stick to your budget, your guests will enjoy learning more about you through your drink choices.
2. Stick to wine and beer. Mixed drinks with expensive liquor can quickly add up, so give your guests a choice of wine or beer to sip throughout the night.
3. BYOB. Ask if your site allows you to 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.
4. Have a limited open bar. You can opt for an open bar just during cocktail hour, then switch to beer and wine during dinner and the rest of the reception.
5. Go ethnic. Plan a themed reception, then limit beverages to a few appropriate options: red wine with an Italian celebration, or Coronas and margaritas for a Mexican fiesta, for example.