Real Planner Advice: 5 Tips to Cut your Bar Bill

When you are the host of your wedding related events,  the idea of having a cash bar often comes up as a way to save money.

champagne service
However, you are the kind of host that doesn’t want to create a Wedding Faux Pas and have your guests pay for their own drinks….. But at the same time…. you’re worried your friends and family might drink your budget away…..
No cash BarWedding Budget Love

Here are a few tips that will help manage bar expenses so you can still be the kind and generous host you want to be….and  without making your guests pony up the cash during your events.

To start, let’s go through the descriptions of how bar bills are tabulated at events.
Full Bar Weddings

There are generally 2 options for beverage billing in an event.
First option: Some venues/caterers “package” their bar bill.. .
If they are “packaged”, they are structured in several tiers from high to low. The beverages are then tabulated based on how many guests you give for your final headcount. 200 guests = 200 x your per person bar “package” price.
Whether all of your guests  indulge  in alcoholic beverages or not, you are charged “per headcount”.
This sometimes is attractive to hosts as the “package” prices are sold at a “reasonable” price point.
How to cut your wedding bar bill
Second option: Some venues and caterers charge “per consumption”, which means “per drink ordered” by each individual guest.

Here are the 5 Easy Tips s to cut your Bar Bill:

Tip #1: Specialty non-alcoholic beverages are a creative way to tie in the details of your wedding and are an inexpensive option that everyone can enjoy.
Specialty Drink

Greeting your wedding guests with butler-serviced non-alcoholic beverage directly after your ceremony will help quench their thirst before “hitting the bar”.
It’s smart for 2 reasons: #1 : It takes the immediate pressure off the bar directly after the ceremony (reduces wait time for drinks at the bar). #2: It instantly refreshes guests with a non-alcoholic thirst quencher before they move onto Cocktails.

Tip #2: Limit Beverage Offerings.

Limit Bar Options

….You met your fiance in Mexico ….maybe margaritas are the only cocktail available…
…Your dad’s favorite beer is Blue Moon…… that’s the beer of the night!
..Or maybe “Orange” is one of your wedding colors…. choosing a coordinated cocktail “hue” or “theme” for your specialty drink, and limiting it to 1 alcoholic drink with just beer and wine as the other offerings saves HUGE money on the bar bill.
It also helps the bar service move along swiftly and efficiently (think no lines at the bar for guests).
All of the above said, limiting the options will help predict the final bill and a great way to personalize the event.

Tip #3 Offer a Full Bar for your cocktail hour then switch to Beer & Wine (only) for the remainder of your reception.

Brilliant Ice Sculpture - Specialty Drink Luges

Brilliant Ice Sculpture – Specialty Drink Luges

Keep your Martini luges and specialty cocktails just for cocktail hour to get the festivities rolling.
Being a good host is also about protecting your guests from over indulging as well, not just to protect your bar bill. Offering specialty “Liquor drinks”  all night may invite trouble. Switching to beer and wine later in the evening matches the progression of most reception itineraries as they naturally move into the dinner portion of the evening.


Tip #4:  Close the bar during speeches & formalities.
Father of the Bride Speech
This time frame is a very short “feeling” of time. Remember every little bit helps when cutting your budget. Closing the bar for the half hour during your wedding speeches will barely be noticed by your guests.  It also helps keep your reception itinerary on schedule and ensures no one will miss your Dad’s speech waiting for a drink at the bar.

Tip #5:  Have wine served at your guest tables for dinner.
This will save you money and is also a thoughtful way to ensure your guests are feeling well taken care of at their dinner table. Providing a choice of white or red wine for the guests is the norm,  and will satisfy most guests during your wedding dinner.

Wine Service

You might think, “Well… adding more options will increase my bar bill….I’ll just have an Open/Full Bar all through the reception”. Real Planner Advice: Adding wine to your dinner service will limit your guests’ trips to the bar for more “mixed” drinks. Choosing your wine strategically (quality, price point and value) is a way to help “plan” your bar bill budget.

Knowing your “group” (your actual guests) will help you determine which of these tips will work best for you. 
For example:
 Are your guests big liquor drinkers? or Do most just like to have beer and wine?

Bonus Tip #6:
Choose an experienced wedding planner that has food and beverage background can help you with your decisions.  We are here to help make sense of all these details, potential faux pas, budgets, and planning. Please feel free to contact us at anytime.

………So ~ Eat, Drink & Be Married!!

Stay tuned for upcoming Real Planner advice: Food choices and how to save!

And for more planning advice, please visit Style, Inspiration, & Design often!
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Kate Sanders – Real Planner/Event Director – Lisa Sammons Events / Story Contributor – Style,Inspiration,&Design
Lisa Sammons – Owner/Principal Planner & Lead Designer – Lisa Sammons Events /Contributor & Features Editor:  Style, Inpsiration, & Design

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