7 Alternatives to an Open Bar

That Your Guests Will Love!

Congrats, you’re hitched! Maybe you’ve been saving financially for this big day for years, maybe your engagement was a little out-of-the-blue, or maybe times have been tough lately and you've have to dig into your wedding budget for everyday life. No matter what economic state your bank account is in, who doesn’t enjoy saving some some money here and there? Especially when you find yourself feeling like an ATM continuously spitting deposits and cheques out for DJs, caterers, photographers-the list goes on. Of course you want to invite all of your friends, family, and co-workers, and show them the best party they’ve ever seen! Not to mention wanting show your guests how much you appreciate the impact they make on your life as a couple by supplying them with endless amounts of food, favours, and of course- unlimited alcohol. Open bars are an awesome way to show your guests some love, but when the time comes around to "pay the Piper”, you may wish you tried to be a little more savvy with your wedding budget. Here is a breakdown of ways you can still treat your guests to some complimentary goodies while avoiding that hefty open bar charge.

Purchase Your Own Alcohol (For Backyard/Private Property Ceremonies)

Despite hiring a bartender to serve your guests at your backyard wedding, you may still need to decide whether or not you will have the bartender buy your alcohol or if you will do it yourself. One way to save some cash is by purchasing the alcohol yourself. While it does require some extra work on your part, buying everything yourself means that any unopened containers or liquor or boxes of beer can be returned for a full refund (at least in Ontario they can- make sure you know what your province or state regulations are before trying this one at home). We do recommend asking your guests what they enjoy drinking before the wedding (perhaps even feature it as a choice on your RSVP) so you can be well equipped for their taste. None the less, more often than not, there will be leftovers that (unopened) can be returned for your money back!

A Beverage Barrel or Canoe

Another alternative to offering a full open bar at your backyard wedding is to offer guests a canoe or barrel with complimentary beer or coolers. Whether or not you want to account for multiple beverages per guest or just one, they can help themselves to a complimentary drink instead of cracking out their wallet one more time. Canoes, barrels or whatever else you can come up with (heck, why not spiked cider for a Fall wedding?) can add a nice element to your decor. So call up Uncle Jim that loves to fish and ask him to borrow his canoe for your big day!

Note: Make sure to delegate the task to someone to keep replenishing the canoe/barrel, etc. throughout the evening if you’ve purchased enough to keep it full.

Make Your Own Wine

This is an option for both backyard and (depending) some venue weddings. Venues may charge you a “corking fee” for bringing your own alcohol in to serve, but with homemade bottles of wine costing as low as $3.00/bottle, it may be worth considering to lower your beverage bill. Plus, this allows for a great opportunity to personalize the labels to match your decor, or write your wedding date for a nice touch.

Pouring Service Vs. Bottle of Wine on Tables

Having bottles of wine on each table is an old tradition within the wedding industry to ensure that your guests’ thirst is quenched throughout dinner. However, often times, there are full bottles of wine left over at the end of the evening that have to be poured out (what a waste!). Pouring service will keep your guest’s glasses topped throughout dinner and speeches but ensures that you only pay for whatever is actually consumed. Not all venues offer this service, but it is certainly worth negotiating for. Furthermore, this type of service discourages guests from overindulging before the party even starts! Less wasted wine = less wasted guests and more money in your pocket at the end of the night. Just ensure that the venue assigns enough servers to pour so your guests aren’t waiting with empty glasses.

A Featured Cocktail

An open bar is the easiest and quickest way to rack your bar bill up thousands of dollars. While it is often a hospitable gesture of the host to offer an open bar, with the budget in mind it may not be possible for every couple. If you would still like to offer something to your guests free of charge, we recommend a featured cocktail or drink. This is a great opportunity to incorporate personality and flare into your bar service. For example, choosing a feature cocktail based on something sentimental to you as a couple (ie. your favourite drink as a couple or what you drank the night you had the best time in Playa Del Carmen). Featured cocktails are also a cool way to incorporate your theme (ie. a spruce twig garnish at a mountain-inspired wedding). This limits the amount of alcohol being consumed free of charge, and still shows your guests a little appreciation.

Want to take it a bit further? Why not offer only free wine and beer to your guests? This method will also limit the amount of hard liquor being consumed on your bill.

Complimentary Prosecco, Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Supply your guests with a classy glass of something bubbly, either all night long, or just for a toast. It’s a nice touch that guests will appreciate, and helps create a special moment on your special day.

Ditch The Shots

“How about a round of shots for everybody?” Says second-cousin Jake who we’ve met twice at Aunt Clara’s Boxing Day Party. Shots are a quick and dirty way to drive your cost up on an open bar. Depending on how rowdy you want the party to get, the “no shot open bar” rule could save you some tipsy bridesmaids and sloppy groomsmen. In my experience, shots usually lead to people taking advantage of your generosity, so how about we let second-cousin Jake buy the round himself, shall we?

Photography by https://momentusstudio.com/

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