Non-alcoholic beverages, like tea or lemonade, are typically supplied by your caterer. But what about alcoholic drinks? Unless you hire an independent company or add it on to your catering contract, you will probably have to purchase them yourself.

Many couples choose to serve beer and wine only. Sometimes this is for personal reasons. But often, it is because they believe they will save money by omitting hard liquor.

This is not necessarily true.

Let’s look as some numbers.

  • A 24 pack of bottle beer can run from 18 to 25 dollars, depending on if it is domestic or imported. That is 75 cents to $1.05 per serving.
  • A 750 ml bottle of wine has 5 servings and averages about 9 dollars, which is $1.80 per serving.
  • A 1.5 liter bottle of rum, vodka or bourbon is typically around 25 dollars at your big-box or discount retailer and has 39 servings and is only about 65 cents per serving. The lowest cost per serving of them all.

Now you can see that wine is the most expensive option per serving, but how much do you actually need to get? That all depends on your crowd, but industry guidelines suggest the following:

  • A reception with beer and wine only, you can estimate that 75% of the people will drink wine and 25% will drink beer. That’s a lot of wine.
  • However, if you offer beer, wine and liquor, 50% will consume wine, 20% beer and 30% hard liquor. While that is still a lot of wine, it is much less.

So, in reality if you had 200 people, using the numbers given above, adding liquor to your party can save you over $600.00. With that savings you could add a champagne toast or photo booth!

When serving alcohol, it is important that you hire a bartender to serve your drinks. First, people tend to drink more if they can just reach in and serve themselves, instead of having to ask for it. And second, a bartender will pour the correct amount of alcohol each time. Over-pouring wastes money and people get drunk more quickly.

An experienced bartender knows when to cut off people before they get too intoxicated. And from experience, it is better to have a professional cut of a guest rather than a friend or family member.

And you will have to make sure that mixers, like club soda, tonic and sodas are provided by the bar service company or buy them yourself. Most vendors will not allow pouring shots or drinks straight up.

Unless transportation is being provided, you may want to to have the number of a local taxi company on hand. Some guests might not be set up on Uber or Lyft and this is definitely not the time to get them up to speed.

And finally, please avoid having a cash bar. You wouldn’t invite people to your house for dinner and expect them to pay for drinks? You are the host of your reception. Let your guests drink for free.

For those couples who prefer to have a dry wedding for whatever reason, that is perfectly fine. I would just include that information on your invitations or wedding website for anyone that might not know. You might want to think about providing sodas and coffee instead.