Wedding Day Decisions: Planning Your Drink Options

For many people, a wedding just isn’t a wedding without that glass of bubbly with which to toast your future. They’ll also be looking forward to sipping celebratory drinks over the hors d’oeuvres and along with their meals.

The booze can add up to some serious bucks, but you definitely want your guests to have a good time. So what are your options? And how much alcohol should you be planning for?

Open Bar
Expensive. Lavish. Generous. guests will love it…maybe too much, in fact. Count on a higher potential for tipsy or outright drunk guests with all this unchecked freedom. Also, expect an increase in the number of unfinished drinks that people will abandon, misplace, or forget about. Guests will certainly enjoy the ability to order as much of anything they want with an open bar, but this option will hit your pocketbook the hardest.

If you like the generous statement that an open bar provides but either just can’t fit it into the budget or are worried about the potential abuse, consider offering an open bar during the cocktail hour only. Provide a limited bar (below) for the rest of the reception.

Limited Bar
Limit your alcohol to beer and wine, along with champagne during the toasts and perhaps also the cocktail hour. Traditional mixed drinks like a champagne punch, displayed and served as a fountain, can be another inexpensive addition or even the sole choice of complimentary alcohol if you’re on an especially tight budget.

A side note: an all-cash bar is tacky; people shouldn’t have to pay for anything at your wedding reception, including alcohol. But a cash bar for mixed drinks along with complimentary beer and wine can be an acceptable compromise.

Oh, and one other thing. Everyone always focuses on the wine, but here’s a word on beer: if you’re limiting your options to beer and wine, why not treat your guests to a variety of microbrews or craft beers rather than just the same one or two tired labels seen everywhere else? It’s a small touch, but a nice one, and beer enthusiasts will be impressed and appreciative.

Specialty Drinks
This works especially best for early receptions like luncheons or brunches. Here you’d limit the alcohol you provide throughout your reception to champagne and one or two mixed drinks that go well with your theme, season, or time of day. Bloody marys or mimosas (champagne and OJ) work great for early receptions, for example, while margaritas and pina coladas would be a hit during a summer reception. The key here is that the amount of alcohol you use is far less, and you don’t have to go for the top shelf stuff, so you’ll save more.

Online Planning Tools
Check out the online wine and liquor calculator, available from Time, Inc’s Real Simple website, to get a great estimate on how much booze to buy, based on your event preferences. Just plug in the options and let it provide you with a detailed shopping list including how much of what you should expect to shell out for:

Select your event preferences to see an estimate of how much booze you should expect to buy

Real Simple's Online Wine and Liquor Calculator: select your event preferences and click "Get Results" to see an estimate of how much booze you should expect to buy.

And if wine will be the showcase drink, Real Simple also has a food and wine pairing guide to suggest the best wine to serve with your meal. Sadly, no such online tool here for craft beers.

As Leslie Sbrocco, author of "The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide" puts it: "There are no wrong matches. But there can be magical matches".

As Leslie Sbrocco, author of "The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide" puts it: "There are no wrong matches. But there can be magical matches".

Photo credits: All screenshots from by Time, Inc.

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avatar About Jason

Enthusiast of traveling, writing, cinematography, all things tech, good coffee, and craft beer. Founder of Mediasoft Technologies, Inc. & Author of "e-Plan Your Wedding". Follow me at @jason_melendez and check out my blog.

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