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So you have a shiny new diamond on your left hand; congrats! Now that the bubbly has been popped and the news spread, it’s time to get to the fun part of planning. Over the next few months you’ll be tasked with everything from picking out the perfect linens to finding a DJ who will bring it on the dance floor. With so many big decisions ahead of you, we’re here (just like a trusty bridesmaid!) to help with Real Brides Ask, a new series that tackles your toughest bridal questions.

“Is there any middle ground between charging my wedding guests by the drink and hosting a full-on open bar? We want everyone to have a blast, but we’re trying to stay on budget!” — Colleen B., age 31, Chicago

Flutes filled with bubbly are pretty much synonymous with your big day. But just because the tradition calls for lifting a glass or two doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to keep guests on the dance floor all night. Whether you’re thinking of sticking strictly to signature drinks or want to keep that tab open late night, navigating drink options for your wedding day can be tricky. We consulted wedding planning pro Sarah Trotter of Minneapolis-based Lasting Impressions Weddings for creative choices that will thrill you, your guests, AND your pocketbook. Take a look below to get all of her toast-friendly tips.

Real Wedding Open Bar

1. Timing is everything. A few tweaks to the day’s agenda can save you a bundle, even if you’re leaning toward an open bar. “If you have a later ceremony and you close the bar at midnight instead of 1 am, that can really save money by limiting the hours it’s open,” Trotter says. Consider condensing your schedule to keep those late-night trips to the bar at a minimum. (Your guests will thank you the next day when they actually make it to brunch!) But if cutting things short doesn’t appeal (we get it — everyone wants to celebrate!), Trotter suggests reevaluating when the wine/beer/liquor is served. “I recommend closing the bar during dinner and doing a wine pour [when staff circulates to refill guest glasses] instead. While it may not save you a lot of money, it is a nice touch, and makes your guests feel like they are being taken care of,” she says. Bonus: You’ll avoid the unwanted distractions of people looking for refills during the tear-jerking toasts your maid of honor worked so hard on.

Real Wedding Open Bar 2

2. Limit your choices. We’re *all* for options. But when it comes to alcohol, less can be more. “Too many choices not only drives up the cost, it can also slow down service,” Trotter says. Her equation to avoid over-spending and under-servicing? Offer no more than five or six core spirits, one white and one red wine option, and three to five different beer selections. Any more is overkill, she says. Structuring the day for a more limited offering can also be a good alternative as well. “I always suggest to couples that they host cocktail hour for their guests and then after dinner, when the bar opens up again, host only beer and wine,” she says.

3. Skip the champagne. PSA: That champagne toast to the happy couple is totally not required. In fact, if you’re looking to keep costs under control, Trotter advises against sparkling wine. “I think a lot of couples assume that they are supposed to have a champagne pour. But the cost[s] can really add [up] — and not everyone loves champagne,” she says. Unless it’s your drink of choice, consider investing your $$$ in areas of the wedding (like that incredible doughnut wall or high-energy band) that make more sense for you and your partner. Your guests will raise a glass with their drink of choice just as happily as anything else — and maybe more so. Cheers to that!

Do you have any burning bridal questions? Share it with us @BritandCo using hashtag #WeddingWoes for a chance to have it answered in our next feature.

(Photos via Getty; Illustrations via Marisa Kumtong / Brit + Co)