How to Save Money on Wedding Alcohol

Weddings don’t come along very often, but when they do they’re a cause for a celebration. And one of the ways a lot of wedding guests like to let their hair down is by having a drink or two (or three or four).

Raising a glass of bubbles is also a great way for your guests to toast you and your new spouse, and celebrate your marriage. But as well as the fizz, your guests will enjoy a variety of alcoholic drinks, from wines and beers to cocktails and spirits.

In the UK, the average amount spent by couples on their wedding is £20,775, with more than a quarter of that going towards catering alone. Part of that catering is the drinks you provide your guests, so the more thirsty guests you invite, the more you’re likely to spend.

So, how can you save money on wedding alcohol? In this post, we’re going to dive into the ways you can reduce how much you spend on booze so you can get more out of your wedding budget.

What kind of alcohol is usually served at a wedding?

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It’s common for a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to be served at weddings. If a full-service bar is provided, the possibilities are endless, but the alcoholic drinks offered generally include:

  • Beer
  • Cider
  • Red wine
  • White wine
  • Sparkling wine or Champagne
  • Spirits
  • Cocktails

Often, couples will provide their guests with a limited number of drinks, such as an arrival drink, a bottle of red and white for each table at the breakfast and a glass of bubbles for the toast. A third of couples opt to offer an open bar,  but this can be a rather expensive option – especially if you’re inviting a lot of guests.

For more information check out our ultimate guide to wedding alcohol.

Should you offer an open bar?

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Whether or not you choose to offer an open bar at your wedding is entirely your choice – there’s no right or wrong answer. Just because a third of couples choose to offer an open bar doesn’t mean you need to – that still leaves two-thirds of all couples who decide not to.

In fact, if you decide to have a paid bar at your wedding you could save more than £2,100. Plus, your guests are unlikely to think anything of it or mind paying for their drinks. 

10 ways to save money on wedding alcohol

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Offering a paid bar is just one of the ways you can save money on alcohol at your wedding. For more tips and cost-cutting ideas, read our guide to how to save money on your wedding

Below are 10 more ways you can save while still making sure your guests can enjoy a few drinks on your big day.

1. Buy your alcohol just after Christmas 

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Alcohol may be one of the most expensive items on your wedding list, but remember – it doesn’t go off! So regardless of your wedding date, we recommend buying any alcohol you need either after Christmas or New Year or around the big summer bank holidays. That’s when supermarkets slash their prices and have huge sales on alcohol. You can save up to £1,500 buying Champagne in the sales just after Christmas compared to in the run-up to your wedding. 

2. Ask about ‘sale or return’

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Believe it or not, if you do offer your guests a couple of free drinks, then there’s every chance it won’t be finished, particularly if you’ve provided bottles of wine. Not everyone drinks wine – even when it’s free – so what do you do if you end up with six bottles of unopened wine at the end of the reception?

Ask the venue or vendor about sale or return, which is a policy that allows you to return unopened and undamaged bottles of alcohol for a refund or credit off your final bill. It might not save you loads, but even a little saving is better than none when you’re spending so much.

3. Switch the expensive stuff for the not-so-expensive

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Your wedding is a fabulous celebration and it can be tempting to bring out the big guns and pop open a few bottles of Champagne, particularly for arrival drinks and raising a glass during the speeches. But, Champagne is expensive and some cheaper alternatives are actually more popular anyway.

Instead of pricey Champers, consider more affordable options like Cava and Prosecco, which plenty of people prefer, and many won’t even realise are different.

To put it into perspective, a decent bottle of Champagne will cost around £40, whereas a nice bottle of Prosecco will cost around £10. So, if you need 25 bottles, by switching from Champagne to Prosecco, you could save £750.

4. Introduce a DIY cocktail bar

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A great way to get your guests in good spirits (get it?) and save some money is with a DIY cocktail bar. All you need are half a dozen bottles of spirits, a few mixers and a recipe guide, and your guests can get to work creating their own delicious drinks. It also doubles as a unique form of wedding entertainment and gets your guests chatting and interacting with each other.

For a little extra personalisation, you could create some custom cocktail recipes that are themed around you and your spouse-to-be, and name some drinks after significant moments, places and people in your lives.

5. Bring your own alcohol

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When you think about it, a wedding is just one big party – and it’s not unheard of to ask party guests to bring their own drinks. It might not be the most comfortable option, but asking your guests to come armed with a bottle or two will potentially save you thousands.

If this is something you’re considering, make sure to check with the venue that it’s something they allow – if you’re getting married in a hotel or similar, then it might be written into your agreement that it’s prohibited. But, many venue types will allow it, particularly if you haven’t gone for an all-inclusive package.

If you go down this route, just remember to add BYOB to your wedding invitations!

6. Hire an external vendor

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Another way to lessen costs is by hiring an outside vendor, such as a mobile bar, to provide all the drinks at your wedding. This also opens up more options for personalisation if your wedding has a specific theme.

This is again something you’ll need to check with your chosen venue – they may not allow mobile bars. You’ll also want to make sure your chosen vendor has a license to sell alcohol, because if they don’t, it could land you in hot water.

7. Bypass the arrival drinks

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Before the ceremony, when your guests slowly begin to arrive, it’s common for couples to offer their guests an arrival drink to help them get into the mood. If you offer each of your guests a drink, it can quickly get expensive.

But, a drink on arrival isn’t something your guests will expect – it’s simply a nice surprise, similar to canapés and wedding favours. So, to save a little money, why not bypass the arrival drinks altogether? Or, simply switch them out for a non-alcoholic drink so you can offer the gesture while cutting back on the cost.

8. Scale back how much you offer your guests

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An open bar might not suit your budget, but you could still thank your guests for coming by providing them with a drink or two. Many couples opt to include a couple of bottles of wine for each table – one red and one white – but for a little extra selection, why not extend that to include beer, too?

If you’re keen on providing your guests with a glass of wine at the wedding breakfast or a flute of bubbles during the toasts, one money-saving tip is to simply ask the venue to be a little more reserved with their pouring than they might usually be. Whereas a bottle of Champagne will generally fill six glasses, a slightly less generous pour might stretch this to 10. If a bottle can serve more guests, you won’t need to open as many. And if you don’t need to open as many bottles, you won’t need to pay for as many. 

9. Brew your own booze

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If you plan far enough in advance, why not have a go at brewing your own alcohol? After all, brewing wine, beer and even spirits at home is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. Not only is supplying your own handmade drinks a great way to save money on wedding alcohol, but it also personalises your reception.

10. Forgo the toasts

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If you’re not one for traditions, consider forgoing the speeches completely, which then also forgoes the need to supply your guests with a glass of fizz and to provide bottles of wine on each of the tables. With the increase in the popularity of twilight weddings, it’s becoming more common for couples to bypass wedding breakfasts and go straight from the ceremony to the evening reception. 

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