What are Some Cheaper Alternatives to an Open Bar?

Updated 05/07/14

Meg Smith

If you're looking for ways to keep wedding costs down, consider scaling back your bar offerings. But what are some ways to keep the booze flowing without resorting to a cash bar (where guests have to pay for their own drinks—never recommended!). Our etiquette experts are here to answer your cocktail hour questions in our daily post.

We can't afford an open bar. What are some alternatives?

The bar bill amounts to one of the wedding reception's biggest expenses. But if you can't afford hours and hours of open-bar boozing, there are many ways to save big without having to resort to a cash bar (never a good idea!).

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, but also, 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 in 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.

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