Unfortunately, there is no set answer to the question but we can definitely offer you some guidance.
Alcohol can be a budget buster, so you need to take a serious look at what you are willing to budget for the bar and how to get the most for your money. Let us start out by saying, we understand you want your friends and family to have fun, but you should not feel obligated to go into debt so the party can go on forever. Be realistic when calculating what you can afford to budget. Once you have a budget set, work with your bartender to make your bar offerings fit into the budget. Trust us on this; we have seen “open bar” tabs that would make your jaw drop and your checkbook jump from the nearest cliff.
How to figure out how much you should serve: See the first of our tips below! A professional bar service will be able to work with you to fine tune your beverage needs. We realize a bartender may be an extra cost, but they are worth every dime for a number of reasons. The standard for ordering liquor is 3 to 4 drinks per guest for the reception. But there are a lot of variable that can affect this.
- If you are serving light hors d'oeuvres instead of dinner, people tend to drink more.
- If your guests are staying on-site, plan on them drinking more. If they just have to walk upstairs, no reason not to have some fun.
- If you have a live band and dancing, it’s going to be a party atmosphere, which may lead to more drinks being served.
- You know your friends. If they are ‘drinkers’, defiantly take that into account!
Bar Service / Budget Tips
- Hire a Bartender: We strongly recommend hiring a professional bar service. First off, they are know the ins and outs of liquor costs and will be able to help you fine tune your bar to fit your budget. Secondly, they will keep your guests safe by watching for over-indulgence and addressing it properly. They can also open and close the bar at the times you specify. Be aware that for liability reasons, many venues require a professional bar service.
- Top shelf vs. Well Liquor: If you are set on a full open bar but are worried about the budget, consider 2nd tier liquors. You can save significantly per bottle while still serving a full bar.
- Signature Cocktail: This allows you to still offer a cocktail option, but to fine tune and manage your budget costs by controlling exactly what liquor you will be serving. You can tie to cocktail to the wedding theme, your favorite color, his favorite sports team, or just about anything else. Your professional bar service can work with you to create the perfect cocktail for your big day. There are some fabulous Montana distilleries offering wonderful liquors. We believe in keeping it local whenever possible.
- Beer and Wine: This is a great way to keep you budget under control. Offer a red and a white wine and one or two beer selections. Keg beer is less expensive than cans or bottles. Montana is rich with great local breweries. Treat your guests with one of Montana’s tasty locally brewed beers.
- Set a start and end time for bar servicereception and stick to it: As we said before, you want your friends to have fun but you are not obligated to have an open bar into the wee hours of the morning. Set a defined start and end time for your bar service and your professional bartender will stand by it. They are used to closing bars and will do it courteously and professionally. Another great reason to have a professional bartender.
Photography by Marcus Fulton
Drinks mixed by Headframe Spirits
Drinks mixed by Headframe Spirits