The food and beverage portion of your wedding tends to take the biggest bite (or drink) out of your wedding budget. The bar tab can skyrocket if you offer an open bar + have some heavy drinkers at your wedding. Here are six ways to cut the wedding bar tab without having to close the bar completely.
1. Go Wholesale
Find out if your venue allows you to supply your own alcohol. If so, use a wholesale club membership like Costco or BJs to stock your wedding bar. You can buy the liquor, mixers + champagne + drop it off at your reception venue one or two days before your wedding.
2. Serve a Specialty Drink
Instead of offering an open bar during the cocktail hour, serve a specialty drink. This limits your costs to whatever ingredients it takes to make the specialty drink. You can continue to offer the specialty drink during the reception too, but open the bar for the reception as well.
3. Cut the Cocktail Hour
Instead of offering an hour-long drink fest, offer half an hour. You can also shorten the number of hours you serve alcohol during the reception. For example, close the bar during dinner when wine + champagne is typically served. You might also opt to close the bar an hour or so before the reception ends.
4. Opt Out of the Champagne Toast
Hold the toasts + hold the champagne. If you decide to have toasts, just hold the champagne. People can use their wine or other drinks for toasting. It is not a requirement to toast with a glass of champagne.
5. Negotiate the Corkage Fee
When you provide your own alcohol, especially wine, some venues charge a corkage fee. In other words, they charge you to open each bottle. Some couples assume they are saving money by buying their own alcohol + quickly figure out that the venue is charging $2+ for each bottle they open + serve. If your venue charges a corkage fee, ask them to waive the fee or to discount the fee.
6. Offer a Limited Bar
Instead of having an open bar, offer a limited bar. For example, have a beer + wine bar instead of opening it up to whatever drink your guests order. You can also opt to offer an open bar but remove premium liquor bottles as an option. This can shave hundreds of dollars off your bar tab. Simply request that the venue/bartender not serve any liquors that are out of your price range.
7. Fire the Bartender
Find appropriate “tubs” to fill with ice. Stick beers + bottles of wine in the ice. Have your guests be their own bartender. This can save the hourly rate you would pay a bartender to serve drinks + it gets rid of the option for hard liquor or mixed drink prices. You can get pretty creative with the coolers you use, such as canoe for an outdoor lake wedding (how fun!).
Drink but Don’t Spend
It is totally possible to serve your wedding guests some drinks or cocktails without blowing the majority of your budget on alcohol. All you have to do is get a little creative with your serving strategy.
I’m Kristie McCauley, a former certified wedding planner + lover of wedding planning. I share tips, advice + how-tos with brides + grooms that are planning their own weddings. Check out The Wedding Workshop, a self-paced course that walks couples step-by-step through the process of planning their own wedding.