(Closed) Bringing your own alcohol for reception: pros and cons

posted 9 years ago in Parties
Post # 3
14490 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

I had a DIY bar.  Alot depends on the laws of your state on the logistics.  I had a friend bartend.  For me the worst part was figuring out exactly what to bring.  Since I had bartended, I basically knew what everyone drank so I knew there were alcohols that I didnt have to waste money on and what mixers to bring and how much.  For us, we saved thousands by DIYing the bar.  One of the things that I have noticed from other DIY bars is the lack of enough mixers (like soda or juices).  I have been to several DIY bar weddings were they ran out of coke and things like that.

Post # 4
3567 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

Hey, I’m sure where you are but I am in Boston. If you pick nontraditional venues like musems, old historic buildings, muesums, boating houses basically anything  without their own bar. You get to bring in your own alcohol.  Some of the venues we dealt with  did require that a certified bartender serve the drinks, and a few places required police details as well.

You have to get insurance and liquor license it’s not that much money I think maybe about 150 or something like that.There are acutally bartending companies who do that. At first we were getting a package for a full bar. But they had packages where you provide the alcohol and they bring all the mixers and garnishes. We are buying our hard liquor duty free when I come back from Canada or at the New Hampshire state store. Our Beer, Wine and Champagne is coming froma local store it will be delivered to our Venue. The awesome thing about this is whatever bottles are unsealed we will get our money back for. It’s a bit bothersome but we manage to save several thousand dollars doing it that way.

If you don’t want to to go into all that you can just order a full bar from a bartending company, or even get a caterer who offers those services(ours did but we saved money doing it this way). Google them there are surprisingly quite a few. Good luck!

Post # 5
3470 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - The Gables Inn, Santa Rosa, CA

We brought our own drinks and hired a bartender– we had about 100 guests, and we bought 12 cases ofbeer (just about right) 18 bottles each of red & white, we brought 4 reds home & 6 whites.  And then we did lemonade, I bought 12 gal. of that and we only brought 2 home.  Plus 7 cases  of bottled water, 1 case came home. 

It was WAY cheaper than doing a bar, and the bartender did a great job. Plus, now we have enough wine left over for the holidays! 

Post # 6
7172 posts
Busy Beekeeper

Finding a venue that allowed us to bring in our own alcohol was one of the criteria by which we used for venues – not all will do it, but they are out there (and sometimes even have their own bartenders you can hire!).

I really enjoyed the freedom to pick and choose the alcohol served.  We also found a retailer that allowed returns on unopened wine – so we weren’t stuck with tons left over (not like it would have been a bad thing!) 😉

It was a tad stressful to figure out how much to buy and worry about if we’d have enough – but it was also a fun experience and was definitely worth it in the end!

Post # 7
9791 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2013

I would have done my own alcohol if I had went with my runner-up venue.  I would also look in your area, there should be some companies that provide bartending service (if your venue has no recommendations).

As far as venues, it just takes research.  No hotel or restaurant will let you bring in your own alcohol or food generally.  So I would just start researching other venues…you’ll find plenty that will allow you to bring in your own alcohol.  Some will have their own bar service, and some will let you bring it in!

Post # 8
2692 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

We’re planning on DIY-ing the alcohol as well.  We want to get at least enough to serve our 150 (100 of whom are pretty heavy drinkers) without habing leftovers. We’re hiring a bartender through our caterer.

Post # 9
79 posts
Worker bee


We’re getting married at Lyman Estate in Waltham. We have to bring in our own alcohol, and they require that a caterer provides a bartender. They have a relationship with Gordon’s Liquors which does alchohol catering. We haven’t decided between buying it ourselves in New Husband or going with Gordons yet. I spoke to the sales manager at Gordon’s and got a very reasonable quote for the cost, and they deliver/pick up empty bottles (and don’t charge you for those), so we’re leaning towards that. Buying our own alcohol is significantly cheaper than a full bar at a traditional venue. We’re expecting about 70 people, and are looking at $1,000 +/- $100 total (for the cost of alcohol and bartender). If you PM me I can give you the exact breakout of how that was calculated.

My Fiance and I homebrew as well, and also considered providing our own beer for the wedding but decided against it. There are too many logisitic issues with serving homebrew- not shaking it, not pouring the entire bottle, what if we ruin the batch we’re making (we haven’t yet, but it’s always a possibility), etc. We didn’t look into the legality of serving homebrew as we opted against it, but MA has strict liquor laws so I’m not sure how it would work.

Post # 10
2333 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

There are a lot of pros to bringing in your own alcohol (cheaper, can use unique homebrews, etc) but I thought I’d share a con.  My venue allows us to bring in alcohol, but my Fiance an I chose not to because we live out of town.  We didn’t want to deal with buying liquor when we get into town, and moreso didn’t want to deal with returning the unopened bottles after the wedding.  I’m sure this isn’t a big deal for some, but we we’re okay with paying more for the convenience of having the caterer deal with the alcohol.

Post # 11
12 posts
  • Wedding: November 2012

My venue in Michigan allowed us to bring our own alcohol. They had the all the mixes, pop, juice, glasses, garnishes and bartenders. They had a liquor license as well and that is something to consider. 160 people were on the list and I based the alcohol list off one 140 because out of the 160 we had minors and people who just don’t drink.  I had to purchase the alcohol before we got all RSVP’s back so we ended up buying more than what was needed.  We had 130 people total (including wedding party) attending the wedding after all the RSVP’s came in and the alcohol list needed to be submitted to the store before that.

My husband and I know are friends and family well enough that we knew typically knew what drinks people would be having. Like, a lot of his family are beer drinkers. Most of his coworkers are light wine drinkers. On my side, most of my friends prefer gin/tonic, captain and coke and a little wine. With a few people who like the vodka and OJ, or cranberry.  We ended up buying too much but better safe than sorry.  We bought 3 kegs of beer, 3 bottles of Captain Morgan, 2 bottles of Parrot Bay, 4 bottles of Bacardi rum, 8 bottles vodka, 6 whiskey’s, 2 tequila’s, 4 Seagram’s gin, 3 bottles of Schnapps (which went unused, we still have all 3 bottles), 2 triple sec’s.  We also bought 24 bottles (2 cases) of Cooks champagne for the toast. As far as wine goes, we bought 60 bottles of wine (5 cases and there are 12 bottles in 1 case.)  We got lucky and was able to get some of this stuff at case cost, saving more money. We spent $1300 I think, and got $300 back for everything that was unopened.  I had a lot of fun creating my alcohol list. At first it was stressful, but after using the online calculators and just knowing what my guests preferences are, it wasn’t too bad. Also, the liqour bottles were a mix between having 750 ml bottles and 1.75 liter bottles. We got the 1.75 liters for what we knew people would have more of (like Captain Morgan’s, Jim Beam, Canadian Club and Smirnoff.)

Post # 12
4 posts
  • Wedding: June 2012

For bartending services we hired Simply Serving II, based in MA. At first I was nervous as I didn’t see much online about them, but after hearing positive things about them from our caterer (Blue Ribbon BBQ) we went forward with them and it was such a great decision. These women are hard working but so personable!

We thought of buying items ourselves to stock the bar (our vision was more simple though with beer, wine, soda, and lemonade & sweet tea). Then we realized someone would need to pack up and take care of that stuff at the end of the evening and we didn’t have that kind of time to take care of it, or know how much we’d be left with. In the end, we used West Concord Liquors for supplying the alcohol and they were super easy to work with, we could pick whatever we liked, had reasonable prices, and would buy back whatever was unopened and unused. The “buyback” policy is something that’s really handy and worked out great for us. Also, since they were local, they assured us that if anything did need replenshing during the event (if we had underestimated or guests prefered something different than expected) then they could make a 2nd delivery if needed.

There were many variables we were trying to predict, so in general, working both of these vendors helped make everything go smoothly and without us stressing during the wedding.

Also, a good question to ask when you hire a barentending service is their general rule on opening bottles–is it to open a bunch at a time, or only one at a time as needed? We heard stories where people were expecting unused bottles could be bought back but the bartender had opened a TON. So they were stuck with them.

Post # 12
1 posts

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carlyq80:  Hey Carly– where in Michigan was your venue? Looking for a similar set up myself 🙂 


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