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emilyrose's avatar

Best way to save money on alcohol at weddings?

Asked by emilyrose (2269points) January 7th, 2009

My best friend is getting married and has solicited my advice about how to deal with the booze situation. She and her fiance don’t have a lot of $ to spend. She works for a nonprofit, he is currently unemployed (they just moved and he’s still looking) and their parents do not have a lot to give them as far as I know. I think drink tickets are too tacky. What are some good ways to save money, provide enough complimentary booze to keep people happy, without breaking the bank? I am almost positive that the place they are getting married does not allow any outside alcohol, but I am waiting on info about a corkage fee if they do allow it…..

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44 Answers

EmpressPixie's avatar

My sister had a dry wedding. No one complained. They would have, I’m sure, if they felt they could get away with it, but they did not.

Perhaps a cash bar with the exception of the toast? Thus the toast is complimentary, but the booze won’t break the bank. It’s not the dream of free booze, but it’s something.

elijah's avatar

Is it to late to shorten the guest list? Because honestly, it’s tacky to accept gifts from people and not make sure they have a good time.

emilyrose's avatar

They are expecting about 100 people as far as I know. Wedding is still 9mos out so they don’t have rsvps yet but pretty much know who is coming. I think what will work best for this couple is some kind of hybird approach. Lots of wine on the table for example, plus the toast of course, plus maybe a cocktail hour with complimentary beer and wine…...
They will NOT have a dry wedding ; ) I know that works for some people, but not these folks!

EmpressPixie's avatar

How formal is the wedding?

jasongarrett's avatar

They could provide a couple of kegs of beer, and have a cash bar for liquor.

susanc's avatar

I understand from researching my son’s rehearsal dinners that it’s not considered cheesy to expect people to buy their own mixed drinks at the bar. The strongly alcohol-dependent don’t think twice.
“Lots of wine on the table, plus the toast of course” – is nicely openhanded and will keep people cheerful – also puts the focus on the wedding. Get people seated soon after they arrive – don’t let them hang around wondering what to do.

emilyrose's avatar

it is not super formal, but not super casual either. The venue is a nice bed and breakfast that is also a restaurant. The venue is a brewery and winery as well. I’m not sure if they can do a keg at this venue…that would be the obvious easy thing to do but not sure its allowed. Still waiting on some info from the bride ; )

TitsMcGhee's avatar

True story – dry weddings SUCK. I would say that one of the “hybrid” approaches will probably be best… They should keep in mind that wine can be very expensive. I think keeping an eye on what kind of beer, wine and liquor they’ve chosen. Wine and champagne especially can get pretty pricey. And yeah, mixed drinks are pricey too, so I wouldn’t expect those to be on the house at all.

fuzzyjay's avatar

What me and my wife did was buy the wine and champagne for everyone (our wedding was small so it was a case of each) and then had a cash bar for any other drinks everyone wanted.

jsc3791's avatar

I have been to ceremonies where some wine and beer was available for free (until it ran out) and anything beyond that, including a full bar, was to be paid for in cash. I don’t think anyone minds having to pay for some of their drinks.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Only invite non drinkers.

mamasu's avatar

My wedding was only white wine and beer. I worked it out with the caterer/wait staff that I would provide it. I hit costco, picked up champagne for the toast, a couple of cases of wine and several cases of beer for minimum money. I also provided plenty of sodas for non alcoholic refreshment. It didn’t cost much.

It’s nice to provide a good time, but your friend doesn’t have to turn it into a drunken bash. Liquor is expensive. A decent wine and some decent beer shouldn’t cost that much as long as they aren’t paying a middleman to provide it.

MrItty's avatar

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cash bar. People going to the wedding just expecting to get free drinks aren’t people you care about, because they don’t care about you.

I’ve seen in the past five years:
Cash Bar
Dry Bar
Open Bar until X:00pm, then Cash
Open Bar for the wedding party, Cash everyone else.
Open Bar until the toast, then Cash

Any one of those is perfectly fine. If anyone actually complains, they’re not someone whose concerns should matter to you.

Judi's avatar

For my daughter we paid for a red and white wine and asked that they serve it rather than put it on the table. I have been to to many functions where the wine was never drank and the money wasted. The champagne was brought out just for the toast. The facility had a “bar” in the other room and if people wanted beer or anything stronger they could go buy it themselves. Out of about 400 guests maybe 5 were not satisfied with the wine provided.

basp's avatar

Titsmcgee
I disagree with your statement that dry weddings suck. In my opinion, they are far better. No body pukeing in the hallway, lampshades are safe from ‘uncle drink’ who feels he must parade around like a foolbwhen drunk, no drunken arguments that turn into fist fights in the parking lot, but most important, everyone has a much better chance at driving home safely.
I respect your opinion, but I really detest drunks.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@basp: Just because the wedding isn’t dry doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a drunken mess, either. I just know that my brother’s dry wedding caused tension in my family because it materialized as a judgment of morals and a tension over religion. The whole thing was a huge headache, and by the end of it, I think we all could’ve used a drink or two.

augustlan's avatar

At my first wedding, I think we had an open bar cocktail hour with finger foods during the first hour of the reception (when we were not present yet, still getting pictures taken). Then we provided champaign for the toast. In between, guests were on their own for alchoholic beverages.

basp's avatar

TitsMcGhee
Good point. But with drink, the potential for problems is intensified. I can deal with that kind of tension better than I can deal with drunks.
But, to each his own.

emilyrose's avatar

Luckily most if not all guests will be staying on site as it is being held at a bed and breakfast…..

cdwccrn's avatar

Don’t have it at all. Alchohol. That way, people don’t drink and drive.

galileogirl's avatar

An open bar and a lot of young people-barfing in the parking lot, bridesmaids in the cloakroom, drunken foul-mouthed bride. a passed out groom. cameras and video everywhere. What fun!!

Nimis's avatar

Whoa. What’s with the open bar backlash?
We went to eight weddings this year.
Yes, eight weddings. People are dropping like flies.

They all had open bar and none of them had:
– anyone puking in the hallway
– molested lampshades
– drunken arguments
– fist fights
– young people barfing in the parking lot
– drunken foul-mouthed bride One foul-mouthed bride. But she’s like that sober too.
– passed-out groom
We may have had some bridesmaids in the cloakroom…but they weren’t puking.

As for the question, buying your own alcohol will definitely save you a lot of money.
Just have some members of your wedding party help lug it to the venue.
Also, Bevo is pretty awesome and will let you return any unopened bottles.
The labels just have to be intact, so tell your bartenders to only chill a few bottles at a time.

Jack79's avatar

….get married in Poland? ;)

The only real way to save money is to buy the alcohol from a supermarket or something. And either change the place or make some sort of deal with them. If your friends can’t afford it, then they simply should’t pay it.

Another solution is to simply not have alcohol or just make a huge fruit-punch for everyone. If they’ll allow it of course.

An even cheaper solution is to not get married at all, but who ever listens to me?

Nimis's avatar

Jack: Your daughter sounds like a fan.
Though I’m guessing she’s not yet of drinking/marrying age?

Triozoo's avatar

Buy in bulk :)

Jack79's avatar

Nimis: I don’t see the relevance here but no, the only thing she drinks is milk. She’s not even allowed cocoa yet (actually she doesn’t like it). She’ll be 4 in March :)

Nimis's avatar

Re: But who ever listens to me?

Jack79's avatar

sorry I read your post all wrong. I thought you said “your daughter sounds like fun”. Yes, now I know what you mean, and no, she’s not getting married anytime soon. She actually insists she wants to marry me when she grows up lol

emilyrose's avatar

People—this wedding will have booze and no drunk driving and no puking. Any helpful suggestions, please?
@judi—I like the idea and have passed it on to the bride.

Nimis's avatar

If they don’t allow any outside alcohol, aren’t you kind of shafted?
Corkage fee is pretty norm.

At which point, I’m going to second my own suggestion and say:
Yes, Nimis! Good prices and a great return policy?
That sounds like a great option! Wait, can I even do that?

LKidKyle1985's avatar

heres what you do, buy about 200 dollars worth of everclear (195 proof or something stupid like that) and just mix it with punch and make that open bar, and maybe give people the option to buy beer at cost. everclear goes a loong way. It wont be the best tasting drink, but when was booz suppose to taste good.

laureth's avatar

I married a homebrewer. He made a big batch of beer and a big batch of mead for only the cost of the barley and honey and yeast, plus about four months advance notice.

The mead was flavored with rose petals because that’s one of our traditions, ever since he made some for our first Valentine’s day. But the best part is that this stuff was all primo delicious (just like homemade food is often better than storebought) and it was very inexpensive.

Do you have any homebrewing friends who would make you a few cases of beverage as their wedding gift? That’s what we usually contribute to friends who have gotten married for the last few years. It’s very popular. :)

emilyrose's avatar

@laureth—- fun idea! If someone did that they would probably have to hide it in their hotel room though. My friend and I spoke this morning about turning all of the hotel rooms into speakeasys. I think that may end up being the easiest way to do it! “Go to room 308 for whiskey, 300 for champagne” etc. It will be like a treasure hunt! My friend says the rooms are not so far from the reception so this may be our under the radar option. HA!

basp's avatar

Emilyrose
I sincerely hope there is no problem with over drinking and the couple should have booze if that is their desire. But it is really hard for me to believe that with that many guests,there won’t be some sort of drinking issue.
Having said that…. Best wishes to the couple! I hope they have a wonderful wedding filled with happy memories.

Nimis's avatar

Emi: Love that speakeasy/treasure hunt idea!

emilyrose's avatar

@basp—the only person they have to worry about is ME! but seriously, we are all adults and can handle ourselves responsibly. It depends on the crowd I would guess, and ours is a good one.

galileogirl's avatar

Nimis: I guess we run in different social circles hehehe. I was describing a family wedding. No one can tell me there will be no drunk driving issue unless they have limo service back to the retirement home.

BTW The maid of honor got pregnant at the reception.

Judi's avatar

@galileogirl ;
That sounds Like Tony and Tina’s wedding! The show in Vegas!!! id they serve lasagna in aluminum foil too?

galileogirl's avatar

No this was Chaz and Kris at the Grange Hall. With a bridal party all under the age of 25, a free flowing champagne fountain and open bar proved to be a mistake.

Nimis's avatar

@galileogirl Well..our bridesmaids were in the cloakroom too. ;)

elijah's avatar

Having 1–2 hours open bar of top shelf products is much more important than a full night open bar with cheap crap. Just wine on the table or passed isn’t a good idea, not everyone likes wine. A wedding isn’t all about the bride and groom, guests should be able to have a few drinks of their choice. I think you could do an hour of open bar while people are standing around waiting for photos to be done, and then maybe another hour after dinner. Worst case scenario- the couple opens a few envelopes to pay the bar.

galileogirl's avatar

Judi-we served lumpia, adobo and pansit

ItsAHabit's avatar

You could serve punch and inexpensive champagne which would be poured for a toast.

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