DIY Eventing—Buy-it-yourself Liquor Packages
The DIY movement has impacted virtually every service industry, but perhaps the greatest revolution has occurred within the sphere of wedding venues and services. Wedding services used to be something of a sacred preserve known only to a few specialized people (mainly wedding planners and venues). That’s all changed now. There are a multitude of websites offering all manner of wedding services, major blogs and online magazine offering reviews and recommendations, sharing experiences, and unleashing the latest iteration of “wedding porn”—concept boards, of course, upon a bevvy of breathless brides.
This movement has certainly not gone unnoticed in the event service industry. As a direct result we’ve seen more venues offering fixed price packages, more wedding service directories, the advent of the “wedding cocktail party”. A few sites, such as Eventfullydeals.com, are now offering a pre-configured and transparently-priced wedding packages at different venues.
So, what’s the next new thing? Well, if one looks, with a critical eye, at how caterers make their money, one thing, that should jump out at you are those services, in which pricing frequently bears little relation with actual cost.Today I’ll address one service where the consumer definitely has the leverage to reduce costs significantly— Liquor Packages.
This subject is slightly more complex than it may seem. It’s easy to look at the pricing for liquor and simply point out that it’s not at all in line with the actual cost of all the liquor consumed. However, in order to arrive at a more realistic assessment of cost it’s necessary to break down all the components to event liquor sales. Here’s a quick and dirty summary of typical costs for caterers providing a 3–hour premium liquor package (we all want premium liquor at our wedding, right?) for a 100 person wedding.
Cost of Liquor
For a wedding figure 5 drinks + Champagne toast) @ $1.00 per drink (this varies; it can be much higher for expensive wines, champagne, etc.) = 1.25 x 5 x 100= $625. Figure beer at about $1.10/serving, wine at $1.40/serving, liquor at $1.20-$1.40/serving, depending on just how premium the liquor is. While Stolichnaya costs $30 for 1.75 liters, Gray Goose costs $50 for the same amount. That means that the per serving cost per shot varies between $.80 and $1.33.
Permits and Insurance= About $300 (most of this is subsumed by insurance costs)
2 glasses (of varying types) per person @ $.70/glass= .70 x 2 x 100= $140 + $45 for plastic champagne flutes ($70 for glassware)
Bar Rental= $300 (includes sodas, straws, napkins, towels,)
Bar ingredients=$80 (includes lemons, limes, olives, cherries, syrup, fresh fruit, fruit juice)
2 Bartenders + 1 Barback= 3 (people) x 5hr x $20/hr= $300 + 20% service charge ($60)= $360
Captain (divides time between bar and catering so…say 1/3 of time dedicated to bar)= 5 x $40 x 1/3= $66.67 + 20% service charge ($13.33)= $80
Cost for Service= $440
Total Cost for Caterer= $1965 (does not include cocktail tables and barstools)
Average Cost for Premium Liquor Package= $30
This price is arrived at by multiplying the cost of liquor by 2 1/2 times. That’s basically what any restaurant does. However, you have leverage here. Though New York State law no longer permits private individuals to bring their own liquor to rented venues (unless it’s just wine and beer and it’s a non-profit org organizing the event), you can certainly tell the caterer that you wish to have him/her purchase liquor for you at a set premium (to pay for management time). The other costs are pretty much fixed but, by insisting on handling your liquor package this way you can save at least $5-$6 per person. When your total costs are topping out at $120 or more for a wedding every $5 counts.The drawback of this is that you need to make absolutely certain that you buy enough liquor to cover your needs. That may require buying some extra bottles of popular items just to be sure, in case your crowd are heavier drinkers that you think. Also, you need to be able to approximate how much of each type of liquor guests can be expected to drink. Caterers can usually help you with this, and the demographics of your guests may offer additional clues. Online research also addresses this matter.
Here’s one guide I found online for weddings. While ratios vary in different parts of the country (in NYC the vodka to everything else may be even higher than reflected here), this is a pretty good guide, I think.
(Per 100 guests)
|Dry Vermouth||3 bottles|
|Red wine||1 case|
|Sweet Vermouth||1 bottles|
|Rye, Whiskey||1 liters|
|White wine||1 case|
Note that one should also figure about 2 liters of most different types of soda and tonic water. This is frequently included in the bar rental. It works out to about $25. You can always buy your own and supply to the bar, or work out pricing with the caterer, making sure you’re not getting charged $5 for each 2 liter Coke.
Note that this works out to some 7 servings of liquor per person rather than 4. The reason for this discrepancy is that caterers can’t afford to run out of liquor and never know drink preferences with any accuracy.
In order to save additional money you can ask your guests to take a survey, using a site like surveymonkey.com It’s actually free to set up a 10 question survey for up to 100 people. This should cover all bases. You can ask both food and drink questions, actually; this can also help you tailor your food choices to your guests preferences (but more on that in another post!).