A question that I get asked frequently is whether or not a client can bring in their own alcohol for their wedding or event.
A lot of clients start their search for hotel venues and quickly find that they will not be able to bring in their own alcohol and must choose from a package provided to them.
Some clients are looking for a money saving option, while others are simply looking for a better selection or a more customized package.
Some venues including our private estates, do allow a lot of flexibility in creating your own bar packages and even the option to provide your own alcohol to save some money.
So lets get down to the question at hand…
Can I bring my own alcohol for my wedding?
Yes and no. This depends a lot on where you are getting married (not just the state you are getting married in, but the venue as well).
Let me elaborate.
First, why do you want to bring in your own alcohol?
Do you want to bring your own alcohol to save money?
Do you want to bring your own alcohol because you don’t like the selection provided?
OR maybe it is a combination of the two.
If you’re looking to save money
On a daily basis, I am asked if you can bring in your own catering and beverage service. We just went over the ins and outs about using your venue’s in-house catering earlier this week, but let’s discuss alcohol service.
Most clients don’t even have another beverage provider in mind. They ask because all the hotels they’ve contacted do not allow you to bring in your own alcohol, and the prices they’ve seen are too high for their budget.
I can’t speak for other venues, but I can speak for the estates we manage. We require that you use our beverage service provider because they have an ABC liquor license and are insured, along with a multitude of other reasons. Our bartenders have worked at our properties for years, and know the ins and outs with each venue.
While we do have several open bar beverage packages for you to choose from, we also have an option to bring in your own alcohol to save more money. At Estate Weddings and Events, we offer a “service only” package where we provide everything you’d need for the bar, and you would provide your own alcohol.
This package is only available when you use our catering service, as we are able to provide a discount to you for booking both services through us. One of those special perks when committing to a full service package!
Our “service only” package usually includes two bars (one for the cocktail hour, one for the reception), bartenders, ice, mixers (sodas, waters, juices), glassware, and more. You can then stock up during the 5 cent wine sale at BevMo, or buy beer and booze from a warehouse store like Costco.
I hear this comment a lot: “The guests at my wedding aren’t big drinkers,” yet when their event rolls around, their guests drink just as much as every other group I’ve witnessed. Ask your bar service for a recommendation on what to stock your bar with and how much of it you may need. It is always better to have more than enough, than not enough.
Some risks you face with providing your own alcohol at your event could be that you don’t buy enough alcohol for the duration of the bar service. You can’t predict how much of each item guests will drink, so you may run out of something. The last thing you would want to do is force a guest to leave the party to go buy more. A traditional bar service at a wedding last for 5 hours, so be prepared.
If you’re really concerned about the price, but do want an open bar through your venue’s bartender, ask them if you can reduce the amount of hours of service. Most bar services will have a minimum amount of hours that you will have to satisfy, but it can free up some extra cash. You can also ask if you can limit the number of alcohols served, which can also help with cost.
If your plan is to rent a house that isn’t managed by a company like Estate Weddings and Events (maybe your family has allowed you to throw your wedding in their backyard), you’ll need to be extra careful. Hire a professional bar-tending or catering service which has their Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) License.
When serving alcohol without a license at a catered event you jeopardize the success of your entire wedding. A professional bar service will take care of the purchase, set up, service, and insurance/liability at your event. They are trained to follow the law, and not serve minors or over serve guests, and much much more. You can provide your own alcohol for them to serve, but hiring a professional service, will not only keep your mind at ease, it will protect you from any legal issues that may occur from the bar service.
If you don’t like the bar package selections
Hotels will lock you into a package with high end choices and prices, but don’t allow you much room for customization. Non-traditional venues, like our private estates or banquet halls, usually allow you to customize your bar service if you don’t like the packages that they have.
For example, these are our typical packages:
– Beer, wine and soda – basic package with red and white wine, domestic beer choices
– Moderate Bar – includes moderately priced spirits, wine and beer
– Premium Bar – includes higher quality spirits, wine, and beer
– Top Shelf Bar – High end spirits, wine, and beer
If you are planning a dry wedding, we also offer a non-alcoholic bar package which includes sodas, waters, and juices.
If you’re anything like me, you may have a few favorite beers, wines or liquors that you would want served at your event or wedding. Run of the mill domestic beer and wine packages will not do.
Maybe you’re a connoisseur of local craft beer, and you shun at the thought of serving your guests Bud Light.
Maybe you have a special wine that you love from Napa Valley that has a special meaning to you.
Maybe you love specialty cocktails, or think a scotch or whiskey bar would be amazing.
Some other ideas include a pre-ceremony glass of champagne when your guests arrive and adding tray passed wine served at dinner.
All of these can be done when you have flexibility with your bar services. You can make substitutions, or hand pick which items you want your bar to supply.
Of course none of these items come for free, and you will have to pay for extra glassware, alcohol and labor, but it will be well worth your happiness!
You’re wedding is an important day in your life, and there is a lot of pressure you will be facing.
There will always be a way of cutting costs, but this also means you may be cutting corners.
Don’t compromise on quality, and don’t compromise on your guests’ happiness or safety.
Always hire a professionally licensed and insured bar service, and find out what flexibility you have with your menu selection.
If your venue recommends or requires a particular bar service, don’t dismiss it just because you didn’t select it yourself. Talk to them about the options that you do have, and go from there.
If you can provide your own alcohol you can save hundreds (or even thousands) of bucks. You can also choose the quantity and quality of the alcohol that you serve.
If you choose this option, do your research! Make sure you buy enough of what you will need for the amount of hours you will be serving. One of the last things you will want to worry about on your wedding day is if you bought enough beer.
My recommendation is to choose an affordable option, and ask to see if you can modify their packages. Add on a signature cocktail or substitute Bud Light for a craft beer. This way the supply and consumption of the alcohol isn’t something you have to worry about at all, and you can enjoy your wedding to the fullest!
Tell us what your bar service was like, or what you are planning for your upcoming wedding or event…
About the Author
Claire is the Director of Client Relations for Estate Weddings and Events and will often be the first person to greet you and answer any questions you may have about planning your estate event. In her free time, she loves to make succulent arrangements, homebrew craft beers and put her love of crafts to work! You can follow her here Linkedin or Google+.