The question of whether or not to serve alcohol at your wedding is one that can cause dissension in the ranks of family. We’ll address that in a moment. Plan to have on hand coffee. You can borrow a large coffee dispenser from the local church, or your reception hall will probably have one on hand for you to use. Buy a large can of coffee on sale and brew it yourself.
Iced tea is always good to have as well. You can get family size tea bags at most grocery stores and brew the tea in your coffee pot. Rinse it out good first! Put the brewed tea in a large cooler dispenser, add some water and ice. If you want to add sugar, do, but many guests prefer to add their own, so we suggest leaving it unsweetened and providing sugar at the tables.
Soda can be expensive, but is a great hit with the kids! Buy 2 liter bottles and plastic cups instead of cans. Have a large cooler filled with ice as well. We recommend the smaller cups since the guests are more likely to drink it all instead of leaving some in the bottom. It’s a small way to conserve on the amount used. Unless you’re rabid about the taste of name-brand sodas, the store brand can often be just as good and much less expensive.
Punch is always good to have at a wedding reception. We’re willing to bet you know someone who owns a punch bowl, so borrow it. Don’t go overboard on the punch, though. Many people will only have a cup or two and you don’t want to have leftover. It’s not that great the second day!
A good basic punch recipe is to mix together a 2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda, a can/bottle of fruit punch, and flavored sherbet. You can also use plain vanilla ice cream. Stir together until the sherbet or ice cream is melted. Add ice.
Now let’s address the alcohol question. For some people, it’s a no-brainer. No alcohol, no drunken relatives to spoil the day. In many families, this option is a must. I’m reminded of the reception where the bride’s grandma got drunk and picked a fight with the groom’s grandma. They ended up tangling on the floor and an ambulance had to be called. No bride wants that as a memory of their special day.
Where I come from, it’s just not a proper wedding reception without drinks. For the frugal bride on a budget, however, alcohol can be a huge cost. There are ways you can save if you will be having cocktails at your wedding.
First, you need to check with your reception hall to see if you must purchase liquor directly from them or if you can bring it in yourself. If you have to get it from them, negotiate a price. They’re usually willing to give a little knowing that you’re investing your money in them for the reception.
Most people can’t afford to have an open bar for the duration of the reception. Just to clarify, an open bar is one where guests can drink whatever and how much they want and the bride and groom pay the bill.
We suggest having open bar for only an hour or two. You can calculate just how much you’re able to pay for a bar bill and instruct the bartender to cut off the open bar when you’ve reached that point.
Some experts think it’s an insult to ask guests to pay for their own drinks. We beg to differ on this point. Drinking is optional. With the couple providing a meal, music, and socialization, asking them to pay for everyone’s drunk is just not feasible for the everyday Joe.
If you do want to have an open bar, it’s a good idea to limit that to beer and wine only and opting out of pricey mixed drinks that can add up quickly. Insist that bartenders use shot glasses. This keeps drinks uniform, and if you’re charged per bottle, prevents bartenders from “pouring heavy” to go through more bottles.
If you are allowed to provide your own liquor, this, of course, would be the best way to save on alcohol at your wedding. For large groups, buy beer by the keg, not the bottle. Contact a nearby winery and ask about bulk discounts. Buy liquor at warehouse stores like Sam’s or Costco as well.
Don’t think you have to have absolutely every type of liquor on hand. If guests want an exotic drink, they’re out of luck. Buy only the basics: vodka, whiskey, rum, and possibly gin. We suggest having on hand some juices as well: orange, cranberry, and pineapple. You should also have cola and lemon-lime sodas.
We strongly suggest having a bartender on hand instead of asking your guests to make their own drinks. You might find yourself running out of liquor quite quickly that way! Perhaps enlist the services of a friend to pour drinks. Better yet, ask several friends to take a turn for an hour at a time. Your reception hall might have someone willing to do it as well.
A rather unconventional, but sometimes feasible idea for liquor is to have guests bring their own alcohol. That way, they have what they prefer, and you don’t have the expense!
Also, consider making your own wine spritzers. One couple I know rented a champagne fountain from a party rental place and put the spritzer in it instead of champagne. Mix equal parts of lemon-lime soda and wine and you have a tasty alternative to straight wine or beer.
For my first wedding, we were very limited on our budget for alcohol. We had purchased 3 kegs of beer wholesale from a family friend who owned a liquor store, but my future in-laws (at the time) wanted to have liquor available too. What did we do? Raided the liquor cabinets at home! We were able to purchase a few bottles, but when we brought together what we found in both my parents house and their house, we had a lot of alcohol available and took home what wasn’t used.
Above all, make sure that any of your guests who have had too much to drink won’t be driving home. You may want to have on hand the number of a taxi service or provide one yourself with teenage family members. Have someone in charge of keeping an eye on those who are inebriated and someone else to enforce the requirement that they not drink and drive. They may be angry that night, but they’ll thank you in the morning – through the haze of their hangover!