Almost as synonymous as chicken dinners at a wedding are drinks. Now I am not saying that you cannot have a wonderful reception without alcohol....far from it. Traditionally, however, wedding celebrations combine music, food and drink to celebrate the nuptials. For the purpose of this article I am going to assume you will have drinks available...the non-alcoholic fun stuff will be saved for another time.
First thing you need to do is decide on whether you are going to provide (pay for) all, part or none of the libations. This can be handled many ways, but typically these are the alternatives:
from the bar, all night long, for free. This is not for the feint at heart or tight of budget because alcohol is expensive and the night can surpass many of the other wedding expenses.
•Open Bar (limited time): Usually this is a cocktail hour or two hours prior to the reception where you pay for the drinks.
•Open Bar (limited product): Usually this will be unlimited free beverages but from a limited selection. In the Midwest where we live the battle cry is “Free Beer!”. Typically tap beer and soda are covered by you and
guests pay for other drinks. A more sheik form of this is to have several cocktails designed just for your wedding that are served free of charge.
•Cash Bar: As the name implies, guests pay for their own drinks. Often soda is provided free of charge.
•Cash Bar: with free wine at dinner-Often having waiters pour wine for guests with dinner will add a touch of class to the meal.
•Closed Bar: It is your party, so if you wish it to be alcohol free, more power to you....be prepared for some rumbling though.
Whether you are doing an unlimited open bar or providing very limited fee drinks you should have a budget in place and ask one of your more responsible friends to watch it for you. When planning you need to think about how many drinks come from a keg of beer or bottle of wine or bottle of liquor so you can figure out how much your money will get you.
Here are some examples:
• ½ barrel of beer will hold approximately 200 12oz cups
• Bottle of wine, normal sized, with 6oz glasses will give you 4
glasses per bottle
Your venue can tell you the cost of a ½ barrel, bottle of wine or bottle of rail mix liquor.
So, how do you figure out your budget...we are going to use some simple numbers (probably relatively accurate)
to give you an example. Let's say you are planning on 250 guests:
•Wine w/dinner (guesstimating 180 of 250 will drink 1 glass)
(180 guests / 4 glasses per bottle) x $7.50 per bottle = $337.50
•Free beer (guesstimating 100 of 250 will drink 4 glasses)
((100 guests x 4 glasses) / 200 cups per barrel) x $90.00 per barrel = $180.00
•Mixed drinks (guesstimating 75 of 250 will have 3 drinks)
((75 guests x 3 drinks) / 25 drinks per bottle) x $30 per bottle = $270.00
$337.50 + $180.00 + $270.00 = $787.50 ~ for alcohol
What I recommend you do is take your grand total and double it...$1,575.00 to be safe. This will cover mixes, heavy drinkers, etc. In other words, for your 250 guests you can figure roughly $6.00 per guest for drinks. Before the evening begins, let your responsible friend, and the bar manager get together. When your tab is approaching about 75% of your budget (i.e. around $1,200.00 in our example) the bar manager should let your friend know and he can advise the bar manager how much longer to keep the open bar going.
While this may sound a little over the top....keep in mind the feeling of shock you will have when they come to
collect at the end of the night and the cost was far more than you expected.