How to Cut Your Alcohol Budget Without Going Dry

Drinking martinis at a wedding

When attending an evening wedding, if you’re a drinker, you’re probably scoping out the bar situation right away. No we’re not all alcoholics, but some people like to imbibe a bit so they can kill it on the dance floor. I’ve been to dry weddings where the dance floor was still pretty lively and the reception was really nice, not to mention the couple saved a ton on drinks. What if that’s not your style though? You’re thinking, “I know what my guests expect and they expect me to serve some liquid courage!” This can be a huge source of stress because alcohol, liquor especially, can get pricey. If you’re looking at a substantial amount of guests, your per-head drink charge can be downright scary. So how would you cut back, but still serve alcohol? You don’t want to spend the same amount on booze as you did on the wedding dress, but you don’t want to go dry. Well check out the suggestions below and just see if you don’t find some ways to cut back without cutting your guests off.


Pouring champagne

You could treat your wedding more like a barbeque and ask guests to bring alcohol as part of their gift to you. You may need to let them know this, however, so it doesn’t seem like you’re asking them to bring the alcohol in addition to the rest. If you do this, you get your drinks paid for by the party with the only loss being some minor registry gifts that you can pick up yourself later.

You could also have a bar shower! These are very common. Like a lingerie shower, the bar shower is a party where the guests bring items for stocking up, but this one’s for your home bar. You could host a party for this purpose, but instead of stocking your home bar, it can be for the wedding. You don’t necessarily have to tell the guests this little fact; they don’t need to know what you plan to do with the alcohol. Also, by the time your guests are drinking at your wedding they won’t care where it came from, just that it’s available.

It is important to note, however, that this solution, as well as any others that require outside alcohol, is only possible if your venue allows it. So check your contract!

Do Just Beer and Wine

You can also go the traditional beer and wine only route. I’ve been to weddings like this and as a person who prefers liquor, it never bothers me that much. Sure, who doesn’t want a cranberry and vodka at their disposal, but wine gets you there just as well. With wine and beer, you cover a lot of bases for the average drinker. There’s bound to be something everyone at least tolerates. As long as your guests have some kind of substance to get them tipsy, it’s likely no one will complain.

Have a DIY Liquor Bar

Wine bottles

Consider this idea instead of a fully stocked bar. Pick out a fair amount of alcohol in the months leading up to your wedding and start amassing a collection. Then at the wedding, you serve only what you’ve bought at a “serve yourself” cocktails table. You can also have a bartender here mixing drinks with what you’ve provided. The savings from this method are in the deals. You can find and buy the cheapest liquors and scout the beer deals at your local grocery. If you do this over time, the price won’t seem like such a burden and your guests will still have options.

Don’t Start Serving Drinks Until Later

You can always stop and start the clock. After cocktail hour, have a hiatus on the drinks until sometime after dinner. Serve guests champagne for toasts and then just hold off on the bar for a while. Starting the drinking later after everyone’s already starting to dance will lower the amount you have to serve, and proportionally, your cost. For one, some people will leave early. Not everyone stays for the whole reception. These people will have still gotten their champagne and can leave happy. If you keep guests busy with dinner and toasts, they shouldn’t begrudge the bar not being open yet.

Do Exclusively Themed Drinks

Again, control seems to be the key. If you’re trying to cut back on the alcohol budget, sometimes it’s best to hold the reins. You can cut down the menu to include only a few different themed drinks that are eclectic enough that everyone can find something they like. Get really cute with this like offering a spiked cider drink at a fall wedding along with some apple ale. If you’re worried about everyone having something they like you can also do beer and wine; your budget will still be less burdened than if you did full liquor options.

If you do entirely themed drinks, you will know exactly which kinds of alcohol you need and about how much you need too. This can cut the fat big time. And talk about an easy time for the bartender.

Offer Delicious Virgin Options

Punch bowl at reception

People drink more when they’re thirsty. Once they start drinking, they think less about other beverage options and just keep chipping away at their drink of choice. But delicious drink options don’t have to be alcoholic. Keeping virgin options available and easily accessible will enable you to cut down on the bar a bit while keeping people satisfied. Cover all your bases. Serve water everywhere, possibly in bottles so guests can grab them easily when they’re thirsty. Create some lovely light drinks like lemonades and seltzers as alternatives to the long line at the bar.

If you get a bit creative and plan ahead, you can certainly cut back on the about of booze draining your wallet. Alcohol can be a huge strain on the overall financial plan, not to mention on your nerves. But, if you think about all your options, you can come up with acceptable ways to cut back on the expense while still serving every dance floor’s best friend.

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