When planning your wedding, the first thing you need to determine is your budget. It may be the least fun part of the whole process but it certainly going to play a huge part in your wedding. You can read more on how to set your wedding budget here. So once you have determined your overall budget, you need to select your wedding venue and your wedding vendors. Doing so will dictate what your needs are. For instance your venue may have exclusive catering and beverage services meaning you cannot bring in a bartender to serve alcohol that you have purchased elsewhere.
If you do determine that the venue does not have exclusive vendors then first talk with your caterer to see what they offer when it comes to alcoholic beverages and serving. Some caterers will supply an extra server at an additional cost to you to strictly man your bar, while others do not have insurance coverage or licensing to do so and you will need to hire your own bartender. So after doing your research and you still determine that you will purchase your own alcohol you will want to look into exactly what type of alcohol (beer, wine, cocktails) that you want to serve and how much you should purchase.
Your guest list should be pretty squared away when it comes time to make this purchase so that you are not buying more than you need. You should also look over your list and think about your guests, are the majority going to want to drink beer vs wine or should you stock up more on hard alcohol for martinis or mixed drinks etc. Also make sure to consult with your caterer to get their opinion on wine pairing with the food menu you have created (white wine vs red wine with chicken vs steak etc)
Here are a few websites that offer calculators designed to help you determine how many bottles of alcohol to purchase for your event. You plugin the number of guests and it spits out the estimated break down of how much wine, champagne, beer and or hard alcohol to buy.
Naturally after you realize how much you will need to buy, your immediate thought is "how do I get the best deal on alcohol?" Hera are some key ways to keep your alcohol budget in check:
1. For wine, take advantage of sales at retailers such as Bevmo & World Market who will often offer a buy one get one sale. 2. Costco offers their Kirkland Signature wines that are not only affordable but also well rated by wine critics. 3. If your venue supplies the alcohol, opt for a limited or no host bar. You can then set a block of time that you will pay for the guests drinks for example during the cocktail hour. 4. Opt for a beer and wine only menu 5. Create a signature cocktail menu, this option limits the amount of alcohol you need to buy so that you are only buying the ingredients to make the signature drinks rather than trying to supply a full bar.
Lastly, please make sure to put some thought into how to ensure that your guests drink responsibly and what steps can be taken to get guests home safely should they "over-indulge." Consider having a shuttle available at the end of the night or have a few business cards for taxi's handy.