Alcohol can be a significant expense at your wedding reception. Whether you are hiring a private caterer or the reception facility, they should offer several options when it comes to serving alcohol:
- Open Bar/Well Bar
- Cocktail Hour
- Limited Bar
- Dry Bar
Open Bar/Well Bar
Open Bar is the most expensive option. Your guests will be able to order any drink that they want and you foot the bill. The bartender or caterer will count all the used bottles of liquor and charge you accordingly.** The problem with the open bar is that people tend to drink more than they usually do. If you are worried about this, hire transportation for your guests. This will add to your expenses, but it will also ease your mind.
To cut back costs slightly, be selective on your alcohol. This is called a Well Bar, only "house" liquors being used - instead of the top brands.
Open bar during cocktail hour is an option that will help you save on alcohol costs. Select a time (usually cocktail hour) and have an open bar during that time. Once the cocktail hour is up, have a cash bar for the rest of the reception.
Limited Bar is another option to save you money. Serve a selection of drinks (such as wine, beer and vodka drinks) during the reception. All other drinks will be cash bar.
If you or your family just don't drink alcohol, you can serve sparkling water, sodas and mixed nonalcoholic drinks. It's OK not to serve alcohol at your wedding. You could serve champagne to toast with, if you like.
**Consider having a friend or relative watch the bartender/caterer as he totals up the amount of bottles used. You want to make sure that there are no mistakes.