Want to become a featured bride or vendor on Vancity Bride? You can submit an application on our contribute page, or contact us for more info!


Have An Open Bar… For Less!

November 21st, 2011 by Jeannine

Have an Open Bar... For Less!

When you think of open bars, a high pricetag is usually attached, but did you know there are ways to have your open bar and drink it too? I contacted wedding planner, and Vancity Vendor, Briar Johnston of Epic Events to see what advice she would give to clients who want to have one at their wedding, but for less than what it usually costs.

Here’s what she said:

Avoid Brand Names/Premium Spirits

“To keep your costs down, you should only serve house wines or non-brand named liquor at your wedding reception. If you don’t have expensive wines and liquors on your wedding bar menu there are no chances of your wedding bar bill rising too much. People may not realize that they are ordering $20 drinks when they order their preference!”

Select An Off Day or Mid-Day Wedding Reception

“By keeping your wedding reception on weekday (Thursday/Sunday) you can reduce your wedding bar bill as people will have to rise and shine the next day! They will tend to be a bit more conservative with their consumption.  You can also schedule a morning or mid-day reception with fruity drinks like mimosas. When you are adding alcohol to fruit and fruit juices (think sangria…yum!) you are reducing your costs!”

Skip The Full Bar

“Do not arrange for a full bar and offer only a few select drinks which can be prepared in advance and stored in a pitcher at the bar. You can select a few popular mixed drinks or mocktails for this. Your wedding bar bill cannot exceed your budget as it has already been pre-determined during planning your wedding.”

Purchase Your Own Alcohol

“If you are at a venue where you are able to bring in your own catering/bartending staff, use this to your advantage! Make a trip (or trips!) to your local liquor store to stock the bar yourselves. This will reduce your markup on the alcohol and allow you to control how much is spent- i.e – when you’re out of alcohol, you’re out! Just make sure to coordinate this with your catering company to make sure you have the proper staff (not an uncertified buddy), proper mixes, garnishes, glasses, and the proper permits needed. Also, make sure you are not paying corkage fees on top of that – a conversation with your catering company should make this process crystal clear.”

Have the Catering Staff Briefed

“Make sure your banquet captain explains to the staff that there are rules with your bar! There should be no pre-opening of bottles, scooping up of drinks before glasses are empty, or automatically pouring wine in anyone’s glass.”

In addition to Briar’s awesome tips, try to consider limiting the time your bar is open for. The less time it’s open, the less time people can order drinks. Maybe have it open only during cocktail hour and when the dance party starts. If you’re serving wine with dinner anyway, it may be a viable option because your guests will still have alcohol for that part of the evening. Another thing to consider is just serving a set amount of wine all night. Order enough so it feels like the wine is free-flowing but little do your guests know that when it runs out, it’s out.

If you’re thinking of crossing the border to save on booze, Briar warns that doing so will violate your Special Occasion License. According to the License agreement, “you must purchase your liquor from a BC Liquor Store or another source approved by the Liquor Distribution Branch.” For more information on the Special Occasion License, visit their website here. If you’re caught, your event could be shut down, so we advise you to not take that chance just to save a few bucks :)

On a final note, anytime you have alcohol at an event you’re hosting, please remind your guests to drink responsibly and to not drink and drive. Be ready to arrange for transportation for any guest who might need it. I’d like to say thank you to Briar for enlightening us with all this useful information. Be sure to visit her website should you need a wedding planner or Day of Coordinator. Or read her feature here, if you haven’t yet!

Feature photo courtesy Shutterstock
Photo of Briar, courtesy Pure Souls

You may also like...

Support Local Vendors


  • April 6th, 2015 at 4:44 pm
    Elena says:

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if you had a list of Vancouver/ Lower Mainland wedding venues which allow you to bring in your own drinks?

    Kind regards,



Leave a comment