It only makes sense that the longer drinks are available, the larger the bar bill will be. Consequently, there are various ways to offer “the good stuff” while also staying within a budget.
One is to limit the amount of time drinks are available.
The following time restrictions will all allow your guests to drink yet save you money.
(1) Serve drinks the first hour or two only.
(2) Close the bar during the meal.
(3) Serve a full range of drinks during a designated cocktail time but beer and wine only for the remainder of the event.
(4) Shorten cocktail “hour.”
You can also limit the amount of alcohol used by the way you serve it. Rather than have a bartender make each drink individually, you can…
(5) Control the alcohol content by mixing the drinks in bulk ahead of time and having guests serve themselves from a dispenser at a drink station.
This saves both the cost of a bartender and alcohol-heavy drinks.
(6) Have servers circulate with trays of designated, premixed.
This makes the cocktails not quite as available as self-serve. Be sure to find out if there would be an extra charge for the servers, and take this into account before you decide.
(7) Let your guests bring additional alcohol if they want.
A final way to open your wedding up to every conceivable drink combination is to instruct your guests to supply their own if they prefer something other (or longer) than what you will be serving. As with any brought-in food or drink, check with your venue to make sure your contract does not prohibit this.
Also, you will probably want to include details in the invitations about what and when you will be offering drinks. This will help avoid confusion about this twist on “BYOB.”