|Belles On A Budget: A How-to Site for Weddings on a Budget||
Photo: Aesthetic Life Studio
Beverage costs can quickly add up for any wedding. Whether you are serving alcohol or not, there are many things to take into consideration when deciding on drinks and a bar. Below are some ways to keep those beverage prices down…
1. Go with the classics. One of the easiest and most effective ways to save on bar costs is to just serve beer and wine. It’s simple, it’s easy, and there is something for everyone! Plus, electing to forgo the liquor will give you a much more affordable per person price.
2. Try to BYOB. This completely depends on your venue. Most hotels with onsite catering will not allow you to bring in your own alcohol without some hefty corkage fees, but that local garden or community center may require you to buy your own alcohol. Some sites, like state parks, may not allow alcohol at all, so make sure you ask before booking. No matter how you cut it, if you can supply your own alcohol, you will most certainly save money. If you can do this, we recommend starting with a local winery with reasonable prices and stocking up- you will most likely get a large case discount on top of the already reasonable winery prices. Or if you have a Trader Joe’s with a wine section nearby, stock up on the Three Buck Chuck! Wherever you go, try to buy most of your booze at one place, and ask for a case discount before you commit to the sale to cash in on some extra savings.
3. Go for a keg- it’s classier than you think. Especially since no one can see it behind the bar! And kegs are among the most economical beverage options when you compare price per drink. The key here is to make sure it is used, because once the keg has been tapped, you’ve paid for it! So choose your favorite brew and make sure all the beer-lovers know that’s what they are drinking that night!
4. Rethink the champagne toast. Yes it is a nice tradition, but how much is that 5-second act of a raising a glass of champagne going to cost you? Including a champagne toast for everyone present at the reception typically adds a few dollars to the per person cost. As an alternative, consider just having champagne for the wedding party (which many venues will supply for free) and have everyone else toast with the beverage of their choice. You will save on bar costs, but still be able to experience all of those good wishes from all of your family and friends.
5. Have an earlier last call. Close the bar 30 to 60 minutes before the end of your reception. Not only will this save you money since you are eliminating an hour of the per person per hour bar fees, but more importantly, you’ll help keep your guests safe by limiting the amount of alcohol they consume before heading home. Many reception venues will require you to stop serving drinks early for this reason.
6. Beware when bringing in wine. Sometimes couples like to bring in an outside wine to a venue because it is special to them, to cut costs, or because it is a favorite of theirs. Before you commit to bringing outside wine into your venue, though, ask your event manager or catering contact about corkage fees. Corkage fees are charged by the catering company to open a bottle of wine, but really as a sort of penalty for providing your own wine, and can run as high as $10-$15 a bottle! If you can’t get these fees waived or at least lowered, you could end up paying almost double to serve that wine.
7. What about soft drinks? Usually it costs a few dollars per person for unlimited soda, which can easily add a few hundred dollars to your reception bill. Ask your venue what the cost per soda is. If this is a decent price and you think the most guests will only have one or no soda, consider paying soda per consumption versus per person
8. Weigh the bar options. Typically, a caterer offers three to four different bar options, an open bar that charges a set fee per person for all the beer, wine, or liquor that guests can drink; a limited open bar that offers all you can drink beer and wine for a set price per guest, a consumption bar that charges the bride and groom the price of each drink consumed, and a cash bar that makes guest pay for any alcoholic beverages they would like. Some venues have a fifth option, where a bride and groom can elect to pay for a certain amount of alcohol (i.e. 20 bottles of wine, 5 bottles of liquor, or one keg of beer) and after that amount is consumed, guests are responsible for paying for their drinks. Which option is most cost-effective for you entirely depends on you and your guests. Have many big drinkers in your party? Then going for an open bar or limited open bar may be the best choice. Or will most attendees have one glass of wine throughout the evening? Then maybe being charged by consumption would be the most cost effective.
9. Join wine clubs! Many wineries have free case club memberships where if you purchase a certain amount of cases you get a nice discount or free wine as a reward. If you are one of the lucky ones that can provide your own alcohol, make sure to sign up for this club at your winery of choice for some extra savings.
10. Offer a signature drink. A fun way to limit the amount of liquor consumed by guests is to offer one or two “signature” drinks available. These are usually mixed drinks with a fun personalized name the bride and groom give them. The advantage to offering these mixed drinks is that you can control the price of the drink by selecting a cheaper type of alcohol or a drink that has less liquor in it, and by making these affordable drinks the only liquor included in the bar, you will reduce your overall bar costs.
11. Is yours a morning or afternoon wedding? Fabulous! This will equal big savings on alcohol. Stick to day time drinks like mimosas, bloody marys, mojitos or white wine and pass up the other pricey bar options. Guests will also drink less during the day so may be worthwhile to select a consumption bar rather than an open one!
12. Choose drinks that go with the feel of your big day. Coordinating your drinks with the overall ambience of your would can also save you some cash. Having an outdoor garden party affair? Try having those adorable self-serve lemonade and iced tea stations and skip the soda. These are cheaper and go well with the summer, refreshing garden party theme. Having a wedding at a winery? A perfect excuse to just serve the wine that is made there (that you’ll get a discount on, of course,) and skip the pricey liquor. Any way that you can limit the amount and kinds of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) will save you in overall costs.