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5 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to an Open Bar

03/28/2013 11:44 am ET | Updated May 28, 2013

One of my biggest tips for budget-savvy brides is: BUY YOUR OWN WEDDING BOOZE. Wait, let's back up a bit — one of my biggest tips for budget-savvy brides is to make sure you choose a caterer that lets you buy your own wedding booze. This will save you hundreds if not thousands, believe me. But before you tally up the cost of countless bottles of every type of hard liquor known to man, let me stop you right there. Open bars, while totally lavish and titillating for wedding guests, are no longer de rigueur. Here are a few fun ideas that will keep both your wedding guests (and your wallet) happy.

1. A Regional Wine & Microbrew Bar


Do you and your spouse-to-be have a strong affinity for local breweries or wineries? Share that with your guests, by all means! There are always discounts involved when you buy alcohol in bulk (and if you're not getting any, you're shopping at the wrong place). Feel free to talk to the winery or brewery directly, rather than going through a distributor—believe it or not, local businesses are always perfectly happy to hook up local couples with special bulk deals. (Learn how to navigate the wine list with these pro tips.) Breweries may be able to supply you with special kegs, and wineries will give you a case discount.

2013-03-26-winemichellezahnphotography.jpg Photo by: Michelle Zahn Photography on Michelle Zahn Photography via Lover.ly

2. A Bloody Mary & Mimosa Brunch Bar


Here's another huge, cost-saving wedding concept: Brunch weddings. You can save big on venue and food costs by having your shindig outside of primetime hours. No one will bat an eye at an omelet or breakfast burrito bar at a Saturday or Sunday brunch wedding reception. And, because most of us aren't quite ready to hit the bottle at 11 a.m., everyone will be happy with Bloody Marys and mimosas! Have a selection of crunchy fresh and pickled veggies on hand for optimum Bloody Mary options, and mix up mimosas in different flavors like grapefruit, blood orange, and watermelon.

2013-03-26-openbaralternativesbloodorangemimosas.jpg Photo Credit: What's Gabby Cooking

3. An Old-Fashioned Martini Bar


This is an especially great option for a retro-inspired fête! Stock up on vodka, gin, olives, and fancy liqueurs. Then, make a martini menu with a half-dozen different concoctions — remember to include a straight martini for traditionalists, and something for those with an advanced sweet tooth — and perhaps a "mocktail" martini option for non-drinkers as well.

2013-03-26-openbaralternativesgrapefruitmartini.jpg Photo Credit: Sherry Heck Photography

4. "Champagne" & Signature Cocktails


"Signature cocktails" is a term that's been tossed around a LOT in the wedding industry in recent years — but it's absolutely worth mentioning again, here. If you'd like to keep it as classy (and uncostly) as possible, serve something like Prosecco (a budget-friendly and tasty alternative to authentic champagne) for your toast, and then switch to signature cocktails for the remainder of the evening. Pick a drink that represents you and your groom, but won't be too alienating to most people's tastes.

2013-03-26-cocktailserickelley.jpg Photo by: Eric Kelley on Southern Weddings via Lover.ly

5. A His & Hers Heritage Booze Bar


Whether you're half Polish, Japanese, or Mexican, there are myriad opportunities to share your cultural drinking heritage with your guests! Why not crack a barrel of warm sake? Or treat your guests to homemade Krupnik? You can celebrate your special day by serving both your Grandpa's favorite brew and your Auntie's secret margarita recipe side-by-side.

2013-03-26-cocktailadambarnes.jpg Photo by: Adam Barnes on Grey Likes Weddings via Lover.ly

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By: Dana LaRue, Bridal Guide contributor and the creator of The Broke-Ass Bride, helping brides use creativity as currency to rock bad-ass weddings without breaking the bank.