Some of the higher costs in a wedding aside from the venue is the catering budget. Food and bar is often one of our clients biggest concerns as they want to ensure the guests are thoroughly fed and properly boozed, while still staying within their budget. Between catering rentals, food, drinks, and service, the catering bill can add up quickly and exceed budget restrictions. To help you pick the right bar for your budget, here are our top tips:

Use an alcohol buy-back program. If you know what kind of alcohol you want to purchase, it is often best to use a company that will buy your unused alcohol back, such as Mills Wine Group. Not only will they deliver and pick up the booze for you, but using the buy back system allows you to purchase more alcohol than you may need, to ensure that you won't run dry in the middle of the wedding. Then at the end of the night, instead of being stuck with cases of wine and bottles of Patron that would take you years to consume, this company will take these unused cases back and refund you what you didn't use. Saving you the hassle of transporting cases of alcohol and saving money!

Check if your caterer includes bar service or if you have to hire an outside bartender. Usually your caterer will have an option to use their bar services or not. Not all caterers will supply alcohol, but many have bartender staff that you can hire. These costs included with the caterer tend to be less expensive than hiring an entire bartending service separately.  

For lower budgets, opt for a beer and wine bar. If you can't afford the full bar but still want to offer free drinks, serving beer and wine could be a good option for you. Or perhaps you want to offer cocktails, but can't have a full bar, so you can choose a limited bar with 2-5 signature drinks that the guests can pick from in addition to beer and wine. A third option is to have a full bar during cocktail hour, then limit it further for the rest of the evening. 

Don't forget the mixers! Check with your caterer to see if they can bring mixers for drinks (i.e. mint, lime, tonic, etc.) to ensure that you will have enough for your guests. Allowing a professional to handle the mixers creates less stress so that you don't have to figure out what is in various cocktails. This is one area that you may want the staff to do the leg work for you!

Now that you know how to buy booze and who will serve it, how much do you really need? Here are some average counts based on 100 wedding guests:

Liquor. The clear liquor tends to be more popular - gin, vodka, and tequila - so make sure to get 2-3 bottles of each. If you think your guests would also like rum, bourbon, or scotch, one bottle per 100 guests is ideal. If you are doing signature drinks, you may want to buy one more bottle of that type of liquor since signature drinks are usually the most popular cocktails. 

Beer. There are endless options of beer, so it is best to pick at least one light beer and one dark beer for your guests. Glass bottles are preferred to cans - since they look more formal - or you can have a keg poured into glasses if there are special microbrews that you prefer. If you have specific beers you like in a can, go for it! Purchase 4-5 cases of beer (1 case is 24 bottles).

Wine. Many guests drink wine at weddings, so pick a red and a white wine that will complement your food. For bubbly, you can choose prosecco or champagne, whichever you prefer. Purchase 2-3 cases of each of these (red, white, and bubbly). If you are doing a champagne toast (instead of toasting with whatever drink is in hand) purchase 2 additional cases of champagne to be used just for the toast. 

*Beverage counts provided by our dear friends from Paradise Catering.

Got more questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below!