Wedding Wednesday: Choosing The Booze

It’s no secret that James and I take our beer and wine very seriously. As the daughter of a homebrewer, I grew up hopping from brew pub to brew pub on family vacations and helping my dad bottle his beer in our basement. It’s no surprise I inherited my dad’s love of hops. James shares that passion, too.

So when it came time to choose the booze for our wedding, we knew exactly what we wanted: good beer and good wine. We served Bell’s Two Hearted and Oberon and Oliver Winery Shiraz and Creekbend Vignoles. All of our choices were hits with our guests, but especially the beer. At one point during the reception we almost ran out! But, our amazing bartenders (if you’re in Central Illinois, I highly recommend Redbird Catering) ran out to refill our supply. They brought back some Not Your Father’s Root Beer, which ended up being the most popular beverage of the night. Who knew?!

Liquor will be one of your biggest wedding expenses, so I highly recommend deciding on drinks as early as possible in the wedding planning process. Here are a few tips to help guide you through the process of selecting the right option for your budget and making sure your guests are well-hydrated when they hit the dance floor!

Brosher-Harrington Wedding
(Photo by Stephen Haas Photography)

1. Set a budget. 
Because liquor will be one of your largest wedding planning expenses, you need to decide early on how much you’re willing to spend. This will help you determine whether you can afford a cash bar, open bar or limited open bar. And don’t worry about what other people will think if they have to pay for their own drinks. This is your wedding and it’s all about what you want and feel comfortable spending.

2. Prioritize.
Decide what’s most important to you — quality or variety? You may be able to afford a full open bar, but one that only includes well liquor. Or, you may decide you’d rather spend your money on higher quality beer and wine. Do you really want champagne for the toast, or are you OK with guests drinking whatever they already have in their glasses?

3. Consider connivence.
We knew a good portion of our guests would spend a lot of their time on the dance floor, so we decided against having real wine glasses for the reception. We used clear plastic cups, which worked so much better. We also decided to have the bartenders serve bottled beer. Although it was slightly more expensive than a keg, it was much faster and less messy. Plus, someone started a spontaneous spin-the-bottle dance off — so much fun!

4. Calculate.
In my opinion, this is the hardest part. My calculations were a little off for our wedding since we ended up running out of our initial beer supply. I read several different guides online that said to count on guests having one drink per hour at the reception. I knew some of our guests would barely finish a glass of wine and others would down several bottles. I went through our guest list and labeled the non-drinkers, light drinkers and heavy drinkers. I figured three drinks for light drinkers and five drinks for heavy drinkers. That worked out perfectly when it came to calculating the overall amount of alcohol we would need. Where I messed up was in the beer to wine ratio — we ordered 60 percent wine and 40 percent beer. I should have adjusted that ratio based on the preferences of our guests. You can use an online wedding alcohol calculator to help you ballpark the costs.

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