The Thrifty Wedding: 10 Ways to Save on Beverages

This is a series focused on how any couple headed to the altar can find ways to cut back on spending without sacrificing their vision for the big day. Stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series.The next one will be on wedding cake/dessert.

According to The Knot’s 2018 Wedding Study, the average amount of money spent on a reception bar was $2,564. Of course, the amount you spend on drinks for your wedding will depend on your own style, the number of guests, the number of drinks you estimate for each person, as well as the type of drinks you want. Here are a few tips to keep your beverages costs low, without disappointing your guests.

1. Skip the champagne toast. The champagne toast is a very common part of wedding receptions. However, giving everyone in the room a glass of champagne can really add up, especially if you choose to get a quality brand. Instead, have your guests toast with whatever drink they have in their hand, rather than spending money on a whole new drink for everyone. Removing the champagne for the toast can save you hundreds of dollars.

2. Provide bottles at the table. One way to keep costs down is to provide a bottle or two of wine at each table at the reception. Guests are more likely to drink less when they know they’re sharing with a whole table, and can see how much is left. You can ask your catering staff to keep an eye on the bottles and replace them, so you’re not actually cutting them off; your guests will just naturally cut back on their alcohol intake.

3. Pay per head and not per drink. If you know your guests are going to get about 3 or more drinks each, you may want to consider paying per head and not per drink. Each drink is usually $7 or more. However, the typical cost per head is about $20. If you think your guests will drink multiple drinks on average, you’ll save more money paying per head and not stressing about how many drinks everyone ordered.

4. Offer up signature drinks instead of a full bar. Offering a few signature cocktails allows you to be creative and personalize the experience, without spending money on a full bar. 

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5. Have a daytime wedding. If you choose to get married during the day (which will likely offer you a venue discount as well), you’ll save money on alcohol. Why? Guests are less likely to drink excessively during the day, so you can budget for less alcohol at your reception. You could also combine this with our previous tip, and choose to only offer some more daytime drinks like mimosas, bellinis, and bloody marys, instead of a bar.

6. Buy your own alcohol. You can save a bunch of money by purchasing your own alcohol. Before you decide to do this, please make sure to run it by your caterers. If they're on board, you can buy alcohol in bulk from a variety of stores, typically at a cheaper cost than if you are buying drinks from the caterer. Another bonus of this option is you can get to select your favorite brands (or brands you know your guests will enjoy), instead of being stuck with the brands the caterer uses. If you can find a liquor store that allows you to return unopened alcohol, that’s even better as you'd be able to return whatever you don't use.

7. Remove the expensive alcohol. When reviewing options with your caterer, choose a package that doesn’t have top-shelf brands. Pick a beverage package that speaks to the quality you feel comfortable serving and paying for. If your guests aren’t going to notice the different between high-end liquor or wine and the cheap stuff, don’t pay extra for it. You can also feel good cutting costs where no one will notice.

8. Shorten your bar hours. You can save a lot of money by closing your bar an hour only. Think of it like cutting off alcohol before the end of a sports game. Just make sure everyone is aware when the bar closes. Choosing to limit the number of hours the bar is open, also allows you a little peace of mind knowing that guests will be able to sober up before they leave.

9. Limit the liquor to cocktail hour. If you’re having a cocktail hour as a part of your big day, you can choose to limit the liquor specifically to that hour, and only serve beer and wine during the reception. The liquor is the most expensive part of that equation. By limiting it to only an hour, you’ll save yourself a lot of money, without getting rid of alcohol entirely.

10. Skip the alcohol altogether. While the majority of couples (92%) choose to have alcohol served at their wedding, a small percent choose not to. Instead, you can offer mocktails, sodas, non-alcoholic beer and wine, milkshakes, etc. Whatever you choose in this category is almost guaranteed to be cheaper than having a bar at your wedding, since alcohol is so expensive. 


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