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Inspiration » Wedding Planning » Your Wedding Bar: Alcohol Service Options to Get the Party Started

Your Wedding Bar: Alcohol Service Options to Get the Party Started

by Allison Hata
wedding bar

Your wedding, above all, is a celebration. And it can be whatever kind of celebration you want it to be! For some people alcohol and awesome parties go hand in hand, for others not so much. As with any party, knowing the crowd is key to making sure everyone enjoys themselves. If you want to provide alcohol for your guests, you’ve got plenty of options. Your caterer may offer bar service as part of a wedding package. And while some venues require that all of the alcohol be coordinated through them or through a caterer, providing your own alcohol may be an option for your wedding. You may be able to DIY all of your alcohol needs—just make sure you buy enough! To help you figure out which wedding bar option will work for you, here are our wedding alcohol service tips.

Hosted bar

If your alcohol service is being provided by your venue or a caterer, the cost can vary a lot. One big factor that can affect the cost is how you pay. Here are some common ways that you may be charged for wedding bar service:

  • Pay per drink—You pay for every drink served. As you can imagine, this can get really expensive.
  • Pay by the bottle—With this option, you pay only for the bottles opened in the course of serving your guests. You’ll want to request that bartenders only open bottles as needed. You may also be able to take home any bottles that were opened but not emptied.
  • Flat amount per person—You pay a set amount per person per hour. This can be ideal if you know your guests will drink a lot.

Cash bar

Your venue may also have the option of a cash bar. With a cash bar, guests pay the bar directly for their drinks. It could also be possible to provide your guests with prepaid drink tickets. You can provide your guests’ first drink or two, and they can decide if they want to pay for any more after that.

Wedding bar options

Aside from who’s paying and how, you’ll also need to decide what kind of alcohol your bar will be stocked with. Your budget and your guests should be your guide—if you know you’ll have a lot of wine drinkers but few guests who will go for cocktails, plan accordingly.

  • One beverage: To cut costs, you can serve only one beverage. For example, you can limit your alcohol service to champagne punch. This could also be a signature cocktail that either you or your bartender invent. If you think your guests will be happy to have something to sip on during the reception, this is a great option.
  • Wine and beer only: This is a common choice, and cheaper than a full bar. If you know most of your guests aren’t into drinking liquor, there’s not reason to pay extra to have it available.
  • Full bar: If you want your guests to be able to order beer, wine, and pretty much any cocktail they want, then a full bar staffed by professional bartenders is the way to go.

There are ways to blend these options, especially if you are providing your own alcohol(see below). You could offer wine and beer plus one type of cocktail, for example.

Buying alcohol for your wedding bar

The two main reasons for buying your own alcohol for your wedding reception are that it’s usually cheaper and that it gives you more control over what is served. If you have a caterer, they might allow you to provide the booze even if one of their bartenders will be serving it. Be aware that they may charge a corkage fee, though! You can DIY it and allow guests to self-serve, just be aware that guests who have a heavy pour may mean you’ll need to buy extra.

Figure out what you need to buy

If you’re buying alcohol yourself, you get to make all of the tough decisions about what to provide. Again, knowing your guests and what they like to drink is key. It’s perfectly ok to limit the options to just a few types of drinks, provided you know they’ll be popular. If you’re buying liquor, you’ll also want to buy mixers. You’ll likely need to get ice and rent glassware as well, so be sure to plan ahead.

Figure out how much

The day of the week and time of day will affect how much guests drink, but in general it’s a good idea to calculate how much alcohol your wedding bar will need on a servings per person per hour basis. To do this, it’s helpful to know how many servings are in a bottle. Here are some rough numbers:

  • One bottle of beer is one serving.
  • There are about 5 servings of wine per bottle.
  • A 750ml bottle of liquor has about 18 servings.
  • If you’re just providing champagne for toasts, one bottle of champagne per 8 guests will suffice, since glasses don’t need to be completely filled.

Check out our wedding bar calculator for more tips!

Whatever combination of alcohol you decide to buy, you’ll want to make sure you have at least one drink per person per hour. It’s better to err on the side of buying too much than too little. If you have leftovers, you can take them home and save them for the next special occasion!


Having a BYOB wedding is also a money-saving option, provided your venue will allow it. It’s important to make it very clear to your guests that they should bring their own adult beverages. You can do this by including the necessary information in your invitations, as well as your Joy wedding site. You should provide the ice and the glasses. And be sure to show your appreciation to your guests, either through your thank-you notes or through a special gift to remember the occasion by.

Legal stuff

As a host, you’ll of course want to encourage guests to drink responsibly and make sure you’re following any local laws related to serving alcohol. You’ll also want to be sure that you are properly insured. If your caterer is serving the alcohol, they will likely have the proper insurance, just be sure to ask. If you’re DIYing it, you may need to invest in the proper liability coverage.

No matter what alcohol decisions you make, you can have a kick-ass wedding reception. Just know the crowd you’ll be serving and let them know exactly what to expect ahead of time, and they’ll show up ready to party!

Get Started – View All of Your Photos in a Slideshow

Even before the party gets started, you and your guests can share photos through your Joy wedding site. Joy’s Moments feature allows you to view all of your photos and add comments and “Loves” You can also use your Moments as a slideshow to play during your reception!

To view all of your photos:

  • From you main page, click ‘View My Website.”

wedding main page

  • From you wedding site, click  “Menu” in the top left corner
  • In the dropdown menu, select “Moments.”

dropdown menu

  • From here you can see all of the photos you and your guests have uploaded. Click “Our Photos” and “Event Photos” to toggle between seeing just the photos you have uploaded and seeing all of the photos for your wedding.

moments page

  • Click on a photo to see the photo description, as well as any comments and “Loves” guests have left.

moment image

  • From this screen, you can also start a slideshow by clicking “Play Slideshow” beneath the photo.
  • The slideshow will cycle through all of your photos. To stop it, you can click “Pause Slideshow” beneath the image at any time.

slideshow view

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