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Most likely, your caterer will supply non-alcoholic beverages like tea and lemonade. However, unless you hire a professional bar service, either through your caterer or independently, you will probably be faced with purchasing alcohol yourself.

Many couples choose to serve beer and wine only. Sometimes this is because of personal or religious reasons. But sometimes this because they are trying to save money. In reality, many couples don’t realize that including hard liquor in your bar package is the most cost-effective choice.

If purchased at a big-box or discount store, a 1.75 liter of rum, vodka or bourbon alcohol costs no more than $25.00. And each bottle has almost 40 servings. That equals out to about 63 cents per drink.

A bottle of beer, one serving, is anywhere between 75 cents to $1.25 a bottle, depending whether it is domestic or imported.

Compare this with a standard 750 ml bottle of wine, which is only 5 servings. An $8.00 bottle is $1.60 per serving!

I provide my couples with a spreadsheet style Beverage Calculator based on these industry guidelines:

  • If serving beer and wine only, 75% of your guests will drink wine, while 25% will drink beer.
  • If serving beer, wine and liquor, 50% of your guests will drink wine, 20% will drink beer, while 30% will drink liquor.

In each case your wine budget is larger than the rest, but if you add liquor, it can come down 25%. Try to determine what will be most popular with your guests and adjust accordingly.

Hiring a bartender is another way to keep your costs down, even if your venue doesn’t require it (most do.) When people can just reach in and grab a drink, they tend to drink more than if they have to ask for one.

Also, an experienced bartender will pour the correct amount for each drink. This ensures that there isn’t any over-pouring, costing you money and serving drinks that are too strong.

They will also make sure your guests aren’t getting too intoxicated and will cut people off if necessary. From experience, it is easier for someone in authority to cut someone off than having a friend or family member confront the guest.

If transportation isn’t being provided, always make sure that the number for the local taxi company is available for those people who might not be comfortable with using Uber or Lyft. Some guests might not be set up with these services and this is not the time to start.

And finally, please don’t have a cash bar. If you were inviting people to your house for dinner, would you make them pay for drinks? As the host of your wedding, you should provide your guests with alcohol for free. It would be better to skip the alcohol altogether than to make people pay.

While most couples will have alcohol at their wedding, some choose not to. And that is fine. Unless your guest know already that there won’t be any alcohol, I would let them know by either stating it on the invitation, or including the information on your wedding website.