Should booze be available until the band plays its last song, or is there another timeline you should follow?

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Everyone's loving your reception's open bar. The signature cocktails are flowing freely and so is the Sauvignon Blanc, people are happily sipping microbrews, and the general consensus is that your wedding is a huge success. Should you let all this alcohol adoration—and potentially your bar tab—keep on building until the very end of the party or should it end earlier?

There isn't one particular time to close the bar because it depends on your circumstances. The first thing you need to do is check your venue or catering contract. If they're supplying the booze, the bar's close time should be in your contract because most venues have a rule about when they'll stop service. Their contract will stipulate a time, something along the lines of "the bar closes one hour before the music has ended" or "The alcoholic beverage service will end no later than 9:30 PM., one-half hour before the event ends." If you're holding your reception at a venue that has no restrictions, like a private home, consider the following options.

Do what bars do.

Make the last call 15 to 30 minutes before the doors close, or in your case, when the reception ends. It's also a good way to let guests know the party's almost over.

Close the bar 60 minutes before the reception ends.

You want to be a responsible host and make sure everyone gets home safely. Shutting down the bar an hour before the reception's over will mean no one can grab another vodka tonic just before they leave and get behind the wheel. If you're concerned about guests driving, close the bar down even earlier, and serve only coffee, tea, and water the rest of the reception.

Shut the bar during the dinner hour.

At some receptions, the bar closes during dinner, and only wine and soft drinks are offered. Since most guests don't want cocktails with their chicken or beef, you won't waste money buying too much alcohol or paying bartenders for that hour.

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