How to Save Money On Your Wedding Bar Tab

wedding bar
Photo by Ten 10 Photography

It’s no secret that weddings are super expensive. Between your wedding dress, your wedding photographer, and your wedding venue, your budget can feel pinched really quickly! But when planning for your big day, don’t forget about one very important aspect of your reception: the bar.

First things first: are you planning on having an open, limited, hosted, or cash bar? Here’s what they all mean:

  • Open bar: You pay a flat fee (often from $15 up to $60+ per person) and guests can drink as much as they want for free.
  • Hosted bar: You, your parents, or another host pays for everyone’s drinks at their cost (so beer will be cheaper than a fancy cocktail).
  • Limited bar: Some drinks are paid for by the host, some drinks aren’t. For instance, you could offer beer and wine only, or your signature drinks.
  • Cash bar: Guests pay for their own drinks.

Whether or not to have a cash bar remains an etiquette question among couples and wedding guests year after year. Is it acceptable to have one? While there are obvious perks to having a cash bar (it’s cheaper, plus it’s safer in terms of certain guests’ not being able to overindulge), it is still considered taboo by some. If you have the option, a limited bar (beer and wine only) is going to be a better bet. However, if you need to have a cash bar for budget reasons, then just be sure to give guests a heads up so they know to expect a dry wedding ahead of time.

Here are a few ways to save money on your wedding bar tab while still treating your guests:

  • Consider going with a limited bar. You can offer fun drinks like “Something Old, Something New” (an old fashioned) and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” (Blue Moon). Or opt for you and your groom’s favorite drinks, and let guests choose between a “Bride” and a “Groom!”
  • Beer and wine tend to be the most commonly ordered drinks at a wedding, so consider hosting beer and wine only. You could also add on a signature cocktail if you have a lot of guests that you know drink spirits.
  • Skip the champagne toast. The additional cost of champagne (and glasses!) can really add up. Have guests toast with the drink of their choice instead.
  • Find a wedding venue that lets you BYOB. While some might still charge a corkage fee, more times than not you’ll end up saving money if you buy your alcohol from a big box store (like Costco) in bulk instead of paying for an open bar directly from the venue. Just keep in mind that in most states you’ll still have to have the alcohol served by a licensed bartender (unless you’re getting married at home).
  • Alternatively, find a venue that lets you bring in your own caterer. Being able to shop around for the best prices means you’ll be able to find a beverage caterer that offers a better price than you might be able to buy it for yourself.

Bottoms up!

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