For many couples planning a wedding, finding a wedding venue where they're permitted to bring in their own liquor is at the top of their list of priorities. Let’s face it. A full open bar can add a lot to your wedding budget, and being able to save money by providing your own liquor can often mean being able to splurge in other areas. Before making any decisions, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Your Venue

Before signing on the dotted line, you need to check on a few things with your wedding venue. Just because you can bring in your own liquor doesn't mean there's no restrictions. Some venues have stipulations that may only allow beer and wine service, while others may allow hard liquor with security present. In contrast, others may require alcohol only if it's served by a certified bartending service.

Talk to Your Pros

Step two for many couples is to chat with their caterer. You might find that the caterer can provide bartending services and also handle rentals of glassware, garnishes, and mixers. They can often provide you with a list of local liquor providers, places who deliver ice, and how much liquor to provide for your reception based on your specifics (length of reception and number of wedding guests).

Know Your Options

There are several options for what to serve at your wedding. While many people are opting for a full open bar, other options might be more cost-effective. Depending on the crowd and your budget, serving only beer and wine might be your best option. Again, be sure to check on the limitations of your venue.


The next best option may be to offer one hour of an open bar during your cocktail hour to limit consumption, and then provide beer and wine for the rest of the reception. Or, you might choose to offer two signature cocktails along with beer and wine. Nowadays, some people are opting for a cash bar. This should be an absolute LAST resort, as most people consider it to be in extremely poor taste to ask wedding guests to pay for drinks.

Stocking Your Bar

Knowing your wedding guests is key to stocking your wedding bar. Running out of family and friends favorite drink can ruin the perfect wedding day. A very general guideline is that approximately 50% of your guests will drink wine, 30% liquor, and 20% beer. However, a craft beer crowd or whiskey sippers will skew those numbers. Your caterer or liquor provider can give you a good approximation of how much of each to purchase.

Keep in Mind

You probably want something bubbly for a toast. The average bottle will provide you with about 12 "toasting portions" where you need just a taste and not a full glass. A 750ml bottle of wine will give you about 4.5 glasses of wine per bottle. You'll also want to make sure you divide the total number of bottles of wine needed in half to offer both red and white wine. Liquor will yield about 16 pours per 750ml bottle. While buying larger bottles is more cost-effective, it can be harder for bartenders to handle and sometimes leads to overpouring.

Point of No Return

When picking a liquor provider, be sure to talk to them about returns. Many will allow you to return beer and white wine that has not been chilled, as well as any unopened bottles of red wine or liquor. Another great reason not to purchase 1.5L (or larger bottles), opening a bottle to serve one guest will keep you from being able to return it!

Liability

We saved the most important detail for last. Whenever you're providing your own liquor, you absolutely want to secure Liquor Liability Insurance. Your venue will probably require it, as will your caterer, especially if they're not serving your liquor. While bartending services will carry this insurance, you probably want to protect yourself as well.


Providing your own liquor is a great way to save some money in your wedding budget. But, you need to be mindful of the questions to ask, as well as how to protect yourself and your wedding guests.


Hero photo courtesy of Dewitt for Love, Jenna Nicole Photography, & Rad Red Creative