Ask a Wedding Expert: How Can We Save on Alcohol at Our Reception?

Leah Malin, director of catering at the Seaport Hotel, says an open bar can be affordable. (Cheers to that.)

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When it comes to serving alcohol at your wedding reception, there are two simple truths. First, having an open bar can be frighteningly expensive. And second, most of your guests probably won’t appreciate having to pay for their drinks at a cash bar. That doesn’t mean you should be resigned to having an open bar that you can’t afford, though. According to Leah Malin, director of catering at Boston’s Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, there are several ways couples can save on alcohol costs at their wedding reception and keep the drinks flowing. Read on for her top tips.

The Question:

How can we save on alcohol costs at our reception?

Malin’s Answer:

First, create your signature sip wisely. Unlike something that has a bubble base, top-shelf liquor drives up the price of signature drinks. On virtually all menus, prosecco, champagne, and sparkling wine come at a lower price per service and are a crowd-pleasing option that won’t risk as much over-consumption. Bonus: Prosecco-based cocktails are always synonymous with celebrating!

Also, consider tossing the toast. More and more couples are opting out of a pre-poured toast, and having guests toast with what they already have. This eliminates waste and allows guests to keep drinking what they like.

Another tip? Stop service during key “movement or moving” moments. Close the bar when guests transition from cocktails to dinner, or during dances and formalities. This is an easy way to slow service (ensuring guests don’t get too tipsy) and it also eliminates background bar noise. On average, this can save about 45 minutes of bar time, which can mean significant savings, without your guests even noticing the bar is closed!

Lastly, do double duty and choose a venue that has beverages already included in the package. For example, our wedding package features inclusive pricing, meaning it covers not only food, service charges, taxes, and parking, but also tableside wine service, the toast, and a bar for cocktail hour. Purchasing a package is overwhelmingly more cost effective than if a couple purchases drinks on a consumption basis, especially because guests often lose track of their unfinished drinks while dancing and will grab another. Choosing a comprehensive package means you’ll save overall because the per-person price is for more than just food. It’s a simple, one-stop shop for many of the services you’ll need.

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