Many wedding venues allow couples to supply their own beverages for the ceremony and reception – not to mention backyard weddings where the rules are much more relaxed. If you’re going to pick up your own kegs, bottles, or cans, where should you go?
When purchasing beer for your wedding, the retailer you choose will depend on your preferences and budget. If your priority is getting the biggest bang for your buck, warehouse stores can provide the deepest discounts. For those who want to serve craft or specialty beers, a locally-owned bottle shop will provide more variety and tailored service.
Continue reading for more on how to decide where to buy beer for a wedding, considerations to keep in mind for your specific situation, and the pros and cons of each option.
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How to decide where to buy beer for a wedding
There are a few things to consider when buying beer for a wedding:
- Venue – Will your venue allow you to bring in any beer you want, or do they have restrictions on glass bottles or kegs?
- Guests – What kind of drinkers are your guests? Is it a rowdy or subdued crowd? Do they prefer wine or liquor to beer? How many guests will drink beer?
- Location – Would it be possible to send a groomsman on a quick beer run if provisions run low, or is the venue in a remote spot? Will you need the beer to be delivered by a third party, or are you able to transport it yourself?
- Personal preferences – Do you want to feature a few locally-brewed beers or do you want to keep it simple with one or two widely-recognized brands?
- Seasonality – Consider what drinks will be most popular for the season. Heavy dark beers likely won’t be too popular during a hot summer wedding.
- Returnability – If you end up buying more beer than you needed, will the supplier take back unopened bottles or cans?
- Price – Are there shops near the wedding venue that offer bulk discounts? Are you passionate about supporting small, locally-owned businesses regardless of the cost?
- Time – How long do you have before the wedding? Rush orders may cost more or mean limited options, and stocking up early may mean looking for storage space.
Carefully considering all of the factors involved in choosing the type and amount of beer you need to serve all your guests will help you decide the best place to purchase your beverages. Knowing your specific needs will help you make your choice once you’ve done all your research.
It’s possible your local Mom and Pop bottle shop can give you a better deal on bulk orders or be able to work with a wider variety of brands than big chains like Costco or BJs.
Should you get cans, bottles, or kegs?
If you’re able to supply your own beer for your wedding, it can be a great relief to not be reliant on the venue’s cross-promotions and availability, but it does open up a new set of decisions that need to be made including whether you should purchase cans, bottles, or kegs.
The best format of beer for you to buy depends on a number of the same factors listed above – the rules of your venue, your budget, your guests, and your personal preferences.
Some venues (such as botanical gardens, pools, and beaches) may not allow glass bottles and may not have the space or equipment for kegs. Ask your venue about any restrictions as well as what they’ve seen work best for other weddings. While you shouldn’t base your decision solely on what other couples have done, it may provide a more clear picture of what works best in the space.
If you’re hosting a backyard wedding, consider accessibility for your guests. Will they grab bottles or cans out of a cooler, or will a bartender pour beer for them? If you’re going the DIY route, identify who can tap a keg, how to keep the keg chilled, and where to buy or rent the necessary equipment before committing to buying kegs.
In that DIY-vein, empty cans are less heavy and more compact to dispose of than empty bottles. That may be something to keep in mind when considering clean-up. Kegs are also far heavier than cans or bottles.
It is also worth noting that you will have more options when choosing cans or bottles rather than kegs.
Cheapest places to buy beer in bulk
If you’re on a budget or are planning on serving a large crowd, the best choice is to buy the beer in bulk.
Due to their buying power, warehouse stores like Costco will likely be the least expensive places to buy beer in bulk in your area. Conversely, locally-owned, independent bottle shops or liquor stores may be able to give you a steeper discount since they make their own rules.
Each state (and sometimes even each county within a state) has its own alcohol laws to navigate. In addition, beer markets vary throughout the country. In some areas, the big box stores hold a monopoly, while others are swimming in craft breweries.
It’s best to price shop ahead of time in order to find the cheapest places to buy beer in bulk in your area. Ask about their policies, discounts available, and delivery if applicable.
The best places to buy beer for your wedding
So where should you buy beer for your wedding? Depending on where you live, you may have numerous opportunities to buy beer for a reception.
Check out these places to buy wedding beer:
- Costco, BJs, or another warehouse store
- Chain grocery store (like Walmart, Target, etc)
- Locally-owned bottle shop, grocery store, or liquor store
- Directly from a brewery
These are large stores that are able to offer deep discounts by selling large quantities of products. Examples include Costco, BJs, and Sam’s Club.
- Warehouse stores provide large quantities at steep discounts.
- They may not need much lead-time to supply your beer order.
- Warehouse stores have contracts with specific brands and may not be able to order or sell specific kinds of beer.
- Staff members may not be able to answer brand-specific questions.
Chain grocery stores
Chain grocery stores include Walmart, Target, and regional chains like Meijer, Publix, and Harris Teeter.
- Like warehouse stores, grocery stores have significant buying power and can quickly obtain large quantities of beer.
- They may be able to operate with more flexibility in terms of brands than warehouse stores.
- They may not be able to provide steep discounts or you may have to wait for items to go on sale if shopping on a budget.
- Employees may not be well-educated on various brands and styles.
Locally-owned bottle shop, grocery store, or liquor store
Smaller bottle shops, liquor stores, and marts are usually independently owned. Unlike warehouse stores and some grocery stores, you are likely to be able to find locally produced beers or those from smaller breweries.
- Their main focus is alcohol, so staff members are often better versed in various brands and styles than your average grocery store employee.
- They also may be able to provide attractive discounts since they don’t have to answer to a corporate office.
- They may be able to special order beer they don’t already stock.
- They may need more time to order large quantities of beer.
- They don’t have the margins of big box stores so it’s possible they can’t make equitable discounts; it varies from store to store.
Directly from a brewery
Craft breweries often have one or two locations and make significantly less beer than powerhouses like Coors, Anheuser-Busch, and InBev.
- Buying directly from the brewery means supporting a locally-owned small business.
- It is sometimes cheaper to buy from the brewery itself by cutting out the middleman of a grocery store or bottle shop.
- With some lead time, they may even work with you to brew a special beer.
- Unless the brewery makes a number of styles of beer or you’re willing to buy from multiple sources, you may have a limited variety of beers at the wedding.
- Discounts may not be available or may not be competitive with big stores.
What kind of beer is best to buy for a wedding
It’s a matter of personal preference and understanding your guests’ drinking habits when determining which beer to purchase for a wedding.
Check out this article for an in-depth examination of what kind of beer is best to buy for a wedding.
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