The Wedding Bar: To Host or Not to Host?

While food costs generally make up the greatest wedding expense, alcohol is a close second. If a full open bar for your entire wedding reception is definitely not an option, there are a few other ways to get around it and keep your guests happy:

Cocktail Hour
This is the hour or so prior to the dinner reception when guests begin to arrive, start to mingle, and grab a few apps. Hosting the cocktail hour is a great way to welcome guests and get them ready for the party about to start.

Signature Cocktail
Whether or not you host the cocktail hour, consider offering a complimentary signature drink. Typically, a signature cocktail is a special libation the couple has chosen, and possibly  named, for their wedding and is usually a representation of something the bride and groom both like or is a symbol of the relationship.

Soft Bar
A soft bar generally includes beer, wine, soda, and juice. According to Myriam Michel, owner of M&M Elite Planning in Boston, you can save anywhere from $6 to $10 per person by choosing to eliminate hard liquor.

House Brands
After the first couple drinks, who’s going to know? Skip the name brands and opt for lesser known varieties – depending on the brand, you can save anywhere between $5 and $20 per bottle by choosing Absolut instead of Grey Goose or Beefeater instead of Bombay Sapphire – and  guests will still be able to get their favorite mixed drinks.

Michel, who has worked with brides with varying budgets, offers a couple of other options, including specialty bars and hosting off-site weddings.  “A specialty bar is a chic, interactive way for guests to experience cocktails you’ve chosen.” Why not set up a martini bar (with options from apple to chocolate) or a wine bar with six to seven varieties and tasting notes for each?

And, choosing a reception location that doesn’t offer its own food (so, no hotels or restaurants)  can help with costs because you purchase the liquor yourself, Michel adds. Ask your caterer to help you with quantities.

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