4 Ways to Save On the Bar Tab at Your Wedding Reception

Brides, it's time to get creative..

<p>Server with Tray of Cocktails</p>

Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Weddings are expensive, and finding creative ways to keep your budget low can be a challenge. One cost that can really add up? The bar tab! A cash bar at your wedding reception seems like an easy solution, but is it really an option? We asked our experts to fill us in on cash bar etiquette.

While a cash bar sounds like a viable money-saving option in theory (you know, since you wouldn’t have to pay for any of the booze!), there really is no context in which asking your guests to pay for their own drinks all night is good etiquette. Think about it: If you were invited as a guest to a wedding, and then found out that you’d have to pay for alcohol when you got there, how would you feel? The wedding reception is a hosted event, so instead of putting all the booze costs on your guests, consider a few more creative ideas, instead.

A Limited Bar

Hosting a full bar can be pricey, so consider scaling down the offerings to keep costs under control. A few wines and beers (ideally ones the two of you really enjoy!) will give guests some choices, without you having to spring for all sorts of options and then winding up with barely-consumed bottles of liquor that you can’t take home with you. You could also add liquor to a limited bar, again choosing just a few options instead of a full range (such as two wines, two or three beers, and two liquors with mixers).

A Signature Cocktail

Don’t want to spring for vodka, gin, and whiskey on your bar? Create a signature cocktail to offer alongside wine and beer. To keep things really affordable, pick one with ingredients that are included in a standard bar package (like a Vodka Sunrise, with vodka, orange juice, and grenadine) so you don’t have to spend extra ordering specialty ingredients. Batch cocktails, like a punch, can also be cost effective.

Specific Bar Hours

While there will always be a guest or two who only drinks one thing, most will start off with a cocktail, then have a glass of wine or a beer at dinner and stick with that beverage for the rest of the night. Talk to your caterer about offering a full bar during cocktail hour, then switching over to wine and beer service at dinner. Instead of opening the bar back up when it’s time to dance, keep the selections to just beer and wine, which will be much more affordable (and easier to serve!).

An Outside Alcohol Source

If it is allowed, bringing in your own alcohol can be much more affordable than ordering it through your caterer or venue. Get quotes from a few different companies that include a variety of beverage options so you can compare prices and types of packages. If possible, find a supplier who allows you to return unopened bottles, which will allow you to get some of your money back at the end of the night. As a bonus, if you’re allowed to keep anything that’s opened, you’ll probably head home after your wedding with a fully stocked bar!

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