Every couple wants their guests to have a great time at the reception, and the open bar is usually part of that equation. No one would invite their friends and family over for dinner and expect them to pay for drinks, so I think having an open bar is a must. Depending on your guest list (you know who they are!) free booze can be pricey. Here are some suggestions on how to cut costs and still have a great party.

First, you need to know what your venue allows. Some venues allow you to purchase you own alcohol, while others require you use a bartending service. In any case, I always advocate for couples to use a licensed and insured bartender to limit liability.

If you find that your venue’s policy is for you to provide the alcohol, your budget is going to be determined mainly by three factors, the time of your reception, how many guests you have and what type of alcohol you serve.

Couples who have done their research, already know that day or mid-afternoon weddings can be a budget-friendly alternative to evening receptions. And when it comes to your bar, this is no exception. According to this Bride Box article, “guests tend to drink less during daytime gatherings” and will probably stay away from the hard stuff, sticking to wine or beer. Brunch receptions and mimosas are a natural pairing, and remember a true mimosa is half champagne, half juice.

However, if you are not willing to compromise on your evening affair, then there are other ways to keep costs down.

Skip the Champagne Toast. Let your guests toast with anything they have in their hand. People aren’t going to be disappointed if they did not get champagne. They won’t even miss it at all. The gesture is really what matters here.

Have a Signature Cocktail. In lieu of a full bar, find or create a cocktail that complements your theme or wedding colors. Having a beach wedding? What about serving Sex on the Beach or a Blue Hawaiian? For rustic barn weddings try a Lynchburg Lemonade or an Ice Pick.

People will tend to drink less if the cocktails have a high sugar or fruit juice content. You can always spruce up your presentation with interesting drink ware, such as mason jars or square tumblers, and decorating with colored straws, umbrellas, stirrers or fancy fruit picks.

Finally, you will need to determine how much alcohol you need to buy. I provide my couples with a beverage calculator. You can get an estimate based on size of your guest list, whether you will have beer, wine and spirits or beer and wine only. And remember, if you are providing a signature drink, mixed drinks can require anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 ounces of alcohol, so pick your drink wisely and calculate accordingly.

Your wedding reception should be the most amazing party you will ever host, but don’t stress over what alcohol you serve. In the end, everyone will find something to drink and have a blast in the process. If your music is on point, then your reception will be too. So raise your glass, stop worrying about what’s going in it and start interviewing musicians and DJ’s. Cheers!