5 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to an Open Bar

Guest blogger: Dana LaRue, creator of thebrokeassbride.com.
Dana LaRue is the creator of The Broke-Ass Bride, helping brides use creativity as currency to rock bad-ass weddings without breaking the bank. Her sassy, savvy approach to weddings and money delivers entertaining and informative outside-the-box planning inspiration. Because it’s not about how much you spend, its how you spend it!

One of my biggest tips for budget-savvy brides is: BUY YOUR OWN WEDDING BOOZE. Wait, let’s back up a bit—one of my biggest tips for budget-savvy brides is to make sure you choose a caterer that lets you buy your own wedding booze. This will save you a ton, believe me. But before you tally up the cost of countless bottles of every type of hard liquor known to man, let me stop you right there. Open bars, while totally lavish and titillating for wedding guests, are no longer de rigueur. Here are a few fun ideas that will keep both your wedding guests (and your wallet) happy.

1. A Regional Wine & Microbrew Bar

Do you and your spouse-to-be have a strong affinity for local breweries or wineries? Share that with your guests, by all means! There are always discounts involved when you buy alcohol in bulk (and if you’re not getting any, you’re shopping at the wrong place). Feel free to talk to the winery or brewery directly, rather than going through a distributor—believe it or not, local businesses are always perfectly happy to hook up local couples with special bulk deals. Breweries may be able to supply you with special kegs, and wineries will give you a case discount.

open bar alternatives
Photo Credit: Michelle Zahn Photography

2. A Bloody Mary & Mimosa Brunch Bar

Here’s another huge, cost-saving wedding concept: Brunch weddings. You can save big on venue and food costs by having your shindig outside of primetime hours. No one will bat an eye at an omelet or breakfast burrito bar at a Saturday or Sunday brunch wedding reception. And, because most of us aren’t quite ready to hit the bottle at 11 a.m., everyone will be happy with Bloody Marys and mimosas! Have a selection of crunchy fresh and pickled veggies on hand for optimum Bloody Mary options, and mix up mimosas in different flavors like grapefruit, blood orange, and watermelon.

mimosa bar 
Photo Credit: Catch My Party

3. An Old-Fashioned Martini Bar

This is an especially great option for a retro-inspired fête! Stock up on vodka, gin, olives, and fancy liqueurs. Then, make a martini menu with a half-dozen different concoctions—remember to include a straight martini for traditionalists, and something for those with an advanced sweet tooth—and perhaps a “mocktail” martini option for non-drinkers as well.

cotton candy martini
Photo Credit: Shawn Menary Photography

4. “Champagne” & Signature Cocktails

“Signature cocktails” is a term that’s been tossed around a LOT in the wedding industry in recent years—but it’s absolutely worth mentioning again, here. If you’d like to keep it as classy (and uncostly) as possible, serve something like Prosecco (a budget-friendly and tasty alternative to authentic champagne) for your toast, and then switch to signature cocktails for the remainder of the evening. Pick a drink that represents you and your groom, but won’t be too alienating to most people’s tastes. 

Photo Credit: Rawpixel on Unsplash 

5. A His & Hers Heritage Booze Bar

Whether you’re half Polish, Japanese, or Mexican, there are myriad opportunities to share your cultural drinking heritage with your guests! Why not crack a barrel of warm sake? Or treat your guests to homemade Krupnik? You can celebrate your special day by serving both your Grandpa’s favorite brew and your Auntie’s secret margarita recipe side-by-side.

Photo Credit: Adam Barnes 

Do you have a brilliant boozy idea for your wedding? If so, I’d love to hear it!

—Dana LaRue