Providing your own alcohol for your wedding can certainly save you money… However, you must know how much to provide so that you don’t run out. You certainly do not want to be in a pinch during the fun of the reception!
I’ve put together a few tips from myself and some helpful websites. As a word of caution, please make sure to check your state’s laws on abc permits. (NC ABC Permit Here). It is always best to hire a full-service caterer or bartender to serve even if you are providing the alcohol. This way you can be covered by their liability and they know all of the laws regarding serving. Additional liability insurance for weddings can be purchased on Markel Insurance and similar companies. I always recommend this as it is best to be covered for all circumstances.
How much? I recommend to my clients to go down their guest list and mark a (best guess) W, B, or L next to the guest name so they have an idea of what percentage of guests drink what. Those that typically drink beer switch to liquor but typically those that drink wine stick to wine. I also recommend 3-5 drinks per person minimum in a four hour time period. A Practical Wedding wrote a great article on this topic and has a great sample breakdown on quantities. View another sample shopping list on The Knot. Of course you know your guests more than anyone and how much they do or do not drink so feel free to increase or decrease these quantities.
What kind? Your guests, and their hangovers, will be ever grateful if you pay a little more for the nicer brands. Make sure it is something you would enjoy drinking too. For a fully stocked bar, I would recommend… Vodka, Rum, Whiskey, Gin, White Wine (Chardonnay and/or Pinot Grigio), Red Wine (Merlot, Cabernet, and/or Pinot Noir), Sparkling (Champagne or Prosecco), and Beer (Dark, Light, and Specialty).
Mixers? If you are providing the alcohol you are most-likely also providing the mixers. At minimum, I would recommend… Sodas (Coke, Sprite, Ginger Ale, Tonic, Club Soda), Juices (Cranberry, OJ, Pineapple, Lemon/Lime or Triple Sec), Garnish (Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Cherries, Mint, Etc).
What about Signature Drinks? I love personalizing each wedding unique to the couple. This is one of those small details that guests will notice if you do have it but won’t necessarily notice if you do not. Just make sure it is something that your bartender is able to whip together quickly with ingredients that are on-hand! Here are a few ideas for signature drinks.
ICE, Ice Baby! Yes, I went there. But really, make sure you have enough ice to not only keep your drinks cold but also clean ice to put in your drinks. You would be surprised how much ice a wedding goes through during the warm Carolina weather. Be prepared or ask for an ice package from you caterer! At one wedding I ran out and purchased 100 pounds of ice for a 75 person basic bar!
Cups? Don’t forget your glassware, plasticware, etc. Add this on to your caterer or rental company if possible. Keep in mind that most guests do not return to the bar with their original glass or cup so you will need 3x the amount of glasses.. unless a staff member is on-site cleaning used glassware. I have known many clients to start with glassware and switch to plasticware later in the evening. This is personal preference and also has to do with house rules. Beach homes that have a pool will not allow any glassware what-so-ever. Oh – and don’t forget the cute straws too! Etsy has some pretty adorable straws and labels for drinks.
Last, but not least, have fun but be safe! If you are having an open bar, have safe options for your guests to get back to their home for the night. There are plenty of shuttle companies and cabs out there to assist!
I hope you found my article on providing your own booze helpful! There are tons of sites out there to help with additional drink recipes, quantities, and laws. Be sure to include your caterer and bartender in on the planning of your bar and you will be good to go! Enjoy!
Happy Planning! xoxo Megan