You need to provide your guests with some type of refreshments (food & drink) at your reception. However, the choice is up to you as to what you serve and how you serve it. You decide what type of alcohol to serve or you can choose not to serve any alcohol.
The bottom line is …. You should not feel obligated to provide an open bar for guests for the entire evening. It is your decision (based on your wedding budget and other factors) whether to have a cash bar, limited bar, open bar or some other variation.
* Open Bar throughout the entire reception. This is usually the most costly option. Some facilities will charge a per person rate (i.e. $15-35/per guest) or charge you based on the amount of alcohol consumed such as per open bottle, by tenths of bottles consumed or per drink.
* Another issue to consider with an open bar is the liability involved as guests may be tempted to drink more. Each state has different laws, so be sure to check with your reception facility and caterer regarding liability insurance.
* Open Bar for the cocktail reception(1 – 1 ½ hours) and cash bar during the remainder of the reception.
* Cash Bar for liquor (mixed drinks) and serve complimentary beer and wine throughout the reception. You can serve a variety of bottle beers or purchase a keg of beer.
* Be creative – instead of offering your guests the typical run of beers, try to include some of the newer micro-brewed beers. You can still offer the old stand-bys for those guests who are committed to “their” brands, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the feed back you’ll receive on being somewhat adventuresome!
* To save money on your alcohol bill, serve a champagne punch as your choice of alcohol.
* Always include a wide assortment of interesting and delicious non-alcoholic beverages. Try hot apple cider for a winter wedding, pink lemonade or fresh brewed ice tea for a summer time wedding.
* Serve specialty drinks like Margaritas, Pina’ Coladas or Sangria. For an early afternoon reception, try Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.
* Have a wine bar that serves a variety of specialty wines. These don’t have be expensive either — there are plenty of great moderately priced wines available.
* To save money, serve house brand liquors versus top shelf… (i.e. Smirnoff vs. Absolut).
* During the cocktail hour, have the wait staff serve wine and champagne on trays to your guests. First, if you have many guests, it will cut down on the line to the bar. Second, it will make your guests feel as they are receiving “top-notch service”. Third, you can save money on your bar tab when guests choose a glass of wine or champagne versus hard liquor.
* If you’re having a champagne toast, find out if the guests will see the champagne being poured. If not, it’s a good place to save some money by selecting an inexpensive brand, since most people just sip for the toast! It may enable you to spend a bit more on the wines you’ll be serving with dinner.
* Offer your guests a choice of red or white wine with dinner. Many times if wine is served with dinner, guests will be less likely to order another drink (i.e. hard liquor) which can cut down on your bar costs.
* Consider an international coffee bar during the dessert hour. You can serve Kahlua, Bailey’s, Tia Maria, Grand Marnier and other cordials that your guests will enjoy with coffee.