Wedding planning: It’s more fun than you've ever had and pull-your-hair-out stressful all at the same time.

What I didn’t expect when planning my own wedding was just how hard decisions would be. Yes, I had an idea of what I wanted. That’s not the hard part. What people don’t talk about is everything else you need to consider: What would my guests want? What does my family expect? Do I actually have time to DIY everything beforehand? Oh, yeah. Then there’s that other huge really thing… the budget.

It’s like a constant black cloud, lurking in background as you scroll through Pinterest and see everyone’s fabulous weddings that look like some kind of hipster fairy princess play land.

That said, you can put a little more cash towards the fancy details on big ticket items--like the venue, the dress, live music, etc.--if you do some savvy planning on others, like booze. Beverages for the reception seem like a detail that would fall under the umbrella of food, but when it comes to spending, drinks definitely merit their own category and consideration. If you want to serve alcohol, you’re entering a budget danger zone--because you don’t want cheap booze, and you certainly don’t want to run out of it. My first piece of advice if you're looking to cut cost where possible: Even if you have your food catered through a company who can take care of the boozy beverages too, you probably want to look at handling that aspect yourself.

Next piece of advice: Consider a signature cocktail.

Sounds fancy, right? Opting for a single signature cocktail (and a limited supply of beer and wine, if you so desire) is the smart way to have impressive drinks at your wedding, without having to provide a full bar. You don’t pay for multiple types of liquor and various mixers, and you don’t need as many bartenders to serve drinks. You can have large batches of your cocktail base mixed up beforehand, so serving will be simple.

Beyond saving money, a simple, yet perfectly mixed cocktail that's fitting for your wedding and the season adds a special personal touch to the occasion. The easiest way to construct a custom signature cocktail is to take a classic recipe you already love and add your own personal flavor twist. Heck,while you're at it, rename it after yourself--because this is your day. Here are some easily achievable ideas (with a few base recipes to start building inspiration with) for every season.

For a winter wedding:


Maple Old-Fashioned: Bourbon, maple syrup, citrus juice, Angostura or orange bitters. Garnish with fresh citrus rind or slices.

Holiday Gin and Tonic: Gin, tonic water, orange juice, lime, fresh cranberries, rosemary. Garnished with rosemary sprig and orange rind.

Wassail Punch: Bourbon or whiskey, lemon, a pinch of allspice, apple cider, orange juice, cinnamon sticks, whole star anise.

For a spring wedding:


Herbed Lemon Drop: Vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, fragrant herb such as culinary lavender or rosemary.

Strawberry Pimm’s Cup: Ginger beer, Pimm’s NO. 1, lemon, lime, cucumber, strawberries, club soda. Garnished with fresh mint, sliced cucumber, sliced lemon, sliced lime, and quartered strawberries.

Spring Buzz: Whiskey, elderflower liqueur, chamomile tea (freshly steeped and cooled), honey, lemon juice.

For a summer wedding:


Mango Mojito: White rum, sparkling water, simple syrup, mint leaves, lime juice, chopped fresh mango.

Summer Sangria: Rosé, elderflower liqueur, club soda, fresh mint, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon. Garnish glasses with sugar rims.

Spicy Pineapple Margarita: Silver tequila, triple sec, pineapple juice, lime juice jalapeño. Garnish glasses with salted rim, add cayenne if desired.

For a fall wedding:

Maple Bourbon Sour

Maple Bourbon Sour

Chai Whiskey Sour: Whiskey (or bourbon), lemon juice, chai syrup, club soda. Garnish with an lemon wheel, cinnamon stick, and whole star anise.

Honey Rum Fizz: Golden rum, honey, fresh thyme, orange juice, egg white, tonic water. Garnished with an orange wedge and fresh thyme sprigs.

Apple Cider Mimosas: Champagne, apple cider, orange juice. Garnish glass with a cinnamon-sugar rim and an apple slice.

Finally, once you have settled on the signature sip, you'll need to gauge roughly how many servings you will need, so that you can estimate what quantity of ingredients to buy. Common protocol says to be prepared to supply for 2 to 3 drinks per person during cocktail hour and 1 drink per person per hour after that. So take that for what it's worth, and then consider the age (and rowdiness level) of your guests and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind that people will likely drink more within the first hour of the reception than they will throughout the rest of the party. You know your guests and how long you've planned your reception to last, so take time to tally... making a solid estimate on the booze really isn't as difficult as it sounds. Just a little prep work, and you're set to save and have a fabulous sipping situation that your guests are sure to remember.

By Hannah Haas Burkhalter and Hannah Haas Burkhalter