If your caterer doesn't offer them, you might have to.

By Sara Dickinson
July 09, 2019
outdoor woods cocktail hour bar set up

Taking on the task of providing alcohol for your wedding can be a huge money saver, but it can be difficult to know exactly what you'll need to fill the bar. So, how do you stock up on the right amount of alcohol and mixers to satisfy your guests and your budget? We asked industry insiders what couples should expect to provide for the bar at their wedding.

If you're providing alcohol, keep in mind that some venues will charge you a "corkage fee," or a flat rate fee for each bottle opened, and you may be responsible for cleaning up the empty bottles at the end of the night. Take advantage of wholesale prices to make the most of your budget. But what about the mixers your bartender will need to make cocktails for guests? "Many catering companies allow the client to provide the alcohol while the caterer provides all the mixers," BillieJo Kunkler, a wedding planner at Michelle Leo Events, says. "You'll want to clarify with your caterer who should provide what."

It's hard to predict exactly how much your guests will consume, but you can expect guests to have two drinks during the cocktail hour and one drink for each hour they spend at the wedding after that. If you'll be doing a Champagne toast, plan to buy a bottle for every eight guests and ask your servers to fill each glass about halfway. Mixers should be included so that guests can order cocktails and mixed drinks. "Typically, any location that will allow you to bring in alcohol for a wedding will require that you bring in the sodas, juices, water, ice, and garnishes that your bar will require," Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions reminds us.

Ask your planner or caterer to help you determine the quantity you should provide. Edelson's tip? "Many liquor stores can help you determine quantity also and will accept unopened and undamaged product for return! A great rule of thumb is to provide three bottles of mixers, such as cranberry juice, soda, and tonic water, for each bottle of liquor you buy.

When you provide your own alcohol at your wedding, you can get the most out of your bar by allowing guests to choose between beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails. Check with your caterer or venue to see if they can provide some or all of what you'll need, and don't forget ice and garnishes!


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