Wedding Etiquette Forum

Cash Bar? Dollar Dance? Cocktail Hour?

Hi all....I have several etiquette questions/opinions that I would like an opinion on. 1.) Our ceremony is going to be at about 2pm and last about a half hour. The doors the the reception would open at 3pm and we would serve drinks only until about 430 when they would then set out the appetizers; dinner would be between 6-630 (we are still deciding this) Is there to much time in between drinks-appetizers and appetizers-dinner? 2.) Speaking of drinks....is it acceptable to only have beer, wine and soda as "open" and mixed drinks as cash bar....and if no, why not? If I'm already feeding the guests and giving them soda, (water and coffee with dinner), beer and wine. 3.) Dollar dance- I have read several boards that say this is tacky....however, if both families are used to it/expecting it, is it then acceptable?
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Re: Cash Bar? Dollar Dance? Cocktail Hour?

  • 1. So the food won't be set out until an hour and a half after the reception starts? I'd try to see if you could spread this out and bit and have at least some food available during your cocktail hour (or what this seems like). I'm a believer that if there's booze, there should be food. 2. Yes, it's totally acceptable to just have beer, wine, and soda hosted. However, it is tacky to offer mixed drinks at a cash bar. The idea is that guests should never have to pull out money during a hosted event. 3. Yup. Still tacky. Just because others act in a tacky manner doesn't mean you should. And see the idea in #2.
    "There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." -Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Reading and Writing"
    PrettyGirlLostBlue_Bird
  • pegasuskatpegasuskat member
    Knottie Warrior 1000 Comments 250 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited September 2014
    I have never been to a wedding with drinks only that long with no apps.  I would have them together immediatly after the wedding, and then have dinner by 5:30 or 6(thats the very latest and I'd still probably leave), you are going to lose a lot of people.  That is a huge cocktail "hour"!  You will also have a lot of drunk people it they are sitting around drinking with no food....
    PrettyGirlLostplainjane0415Blue_Bird
  • esstee33esstee33 Pittsburgh member
    Ninth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    1) Only drinks being served for an hour and a half means I'm going to be hella tipsy before the appetizers even come out. Waiting an additional hour and a half to maybe two hours after that for dinner would make me exceptionally bored and probably very irritated. 

    2) Just host beer, wine, and soft drinks. 

    3) No matter if your crowd is OK with it or not, dollar dances are incredibly tacky. 
    PrettyGirlLost
  • kavo0406 said:
    Hi all....I have several etiquette questions/opinions that I would like an opinion on. 1.) Our ceremony is going to be at about 2pm and last about a half hour. The doors the the reception would open at 3pm and we would serve drinks only until about 430 when they would then set out the appetizers; dinner would be between 6-630 (we are still deciding this) Is there to much time in between drinks-appetizers and appetizers-dinner? 2.) Speaking of drinks....is it acceptable to only have beer, wine and soda as "open" and mixed drinks as cash bar....and if no, why not? If I'm already feeding the guests and giving them soda, (water and coffee with dinner), beer and wine. 3.) Dollar dance- I have read several boards that say this is tacky....however, if both families are used to it/expecting it, is it then acceptable?
    1) If your ceremony lasts 30 minutes, it would be over at 2:30. Why are you waiting to host people until 3pm? Is there a 30 minute drive between ceremony and reception venue?

    What you are having from 3-4:30 is a cocktail hour. You should serve appetizers in addition to whatever drinks you plan to serve. 90 minutes is really the very max for a cocktail hour.

    2) Host what you can afford. If that means not having alcohol at all, it's perfectly fine. You are perfectly within etiquette to just host beer, wine, soda, water, coffee. What's not ok etiquette wise is to offer something and charge for it - cash bars are not ok.  The reason cash bars are not ok is because the reception is a 'thank you' to guests for attending your wedding ceremony. You're supposed to host them. You shouldn't offer things you're not paying for. This would be like walking up to a buffet and asking to try the beef. They give you beef and say "that'll be $5". KWIM?

    3) The dollar dance is bad from an etiquette perspective because you are asking your guests for money. You should never ask your guests for money.

    Overall, I think your timeline is awkward. You have an early ceremony and you're trying to host the gap (which is good), but it's really just a lot of waiting around for guests. If I were you, I'd make the following changes:
    - Move your ceremony to 4pm, have your cocktail hour from 4:30-6pm (or 5-6:30 if there's a drive)
    - Serve dinner at 6 or 6:30 (depending on the drive)
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    PrettyGirlLost
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Agree with PPs.  I just wanted to add that we only had beer & wine at our wedding.  It's totally acceptable.

    Also, is your ceremony & reception at the same location?  If so, you'll want to move things up.  If there is a commute, take that into consideration. 
    PrettyGirlLost
  • kavo0406kavo0406 member
    25 Love Its 10 Comments Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited September 2014
    One of my best friend's wedding was cash bar - only those in the wedding got free drinks - and no one complained.  Is it kind of a regional etiquette thing? 
    My reception is going to be in a special events room at a restaurant, so if guests want mixed drinks, they're going to pay for them regardless b/c they'd just go up to the bar in the main restaurant so would it not be better to have it right at the reception then?  
    Also what about drink tickets?  I was at my brother in laws wedding and I talked with most all the guests there (who will also be at our wedding) and they all thought it was a great idea and weren't offended when they had to then pay for their own drinks.
    We will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony - before we go and take pictures.  that will eat up about a half hour there, and then the drive back to the reception area is about 10-15 minutes.  

  • speakeasy14speakeasy14 member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited September 2014

    1. I think the timeline you are presenting is to avoid a gap. If I were you I would move up the start time between cocktail hour and reception start. Appetizers should be served with drinks, or you will risk having a lot of very drunk people before the party even starts. From the cocktail hour guests should make their way to the reception and take their seats. Then it is time for bridal party introductions, first dance (and any other dances/traditions you plan to do right away). After the bride and groom take their seats at their table, dinner should be served. This means if the cocktail hour is from 3-4, dinner should start being served 4:30-5.

    2. It is perfectly fine to host beer, wine, and soda only. My sister did this for her wedding and no one complained that there wasn't any liquor. A partial cash bar would initiate complaints.

    3. As you've stated, dollar dances are highly frowned upon, but from your description it sounds like even if you opt out some family member will make sure it happens. I was watching My fair wedding with David Tutera and this happened in one of the episodes (which may be why I'm coming to the conclusion that this is unavoidable in some circles). If you know it is going to be unavoidable with your families then take @syoun1nj advice and have people throw advice instead of money. If you do not think it'll be a problem if you say you don't want to do it, then don't have it at your wedding.

    *edit* I swear I had paragraphs :/
    image
  • kavo0406 said:
    One of my best friend's wedding was cash bar - only those in the wedding got free drinks - and no one complained.  Is it kind of a regional etiquette thing? No it's not a "regional thing" - it's a "rude thing". What your friend did is in really poor form.
    My reception is going to be in a special events room at a restaurant, so if guests want mixed drinks, they're going to pay for them regardless b/c they'd just go up to the bar in the main restaurant so would it not be better to have it right at the reception then?  If your guests are rude enough to snub what you're providing, then let them do this. At least they'll be the rude ones, not you.
    Also what about drink tickets? NO.   I was at my brother in laws wedding and I talked with most all the guests there (who will also be at our wedding) and they all thought it was a great idea and weren't offended when they had to then pay for their own drinks. It's against etiquette - whether your brother's in laws think so or not.
    We will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony - before we go and take pictures.  that will eat up about a half hour there, and then the drive back to the reception area is about 10-15 minutes.  
    Having a beer/wine wedding is solid. Nothing wrong with it from an etiquette perspective.

    Cash bars and drink tickets are etiquette no-no's. 
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    image
    PrettyGirlLost
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    kavo0406 said:
    One of my best friend's wedding was cash bar - only those in the wedding got free drinks - and no one complained.  Is it kind of a regional etiquette thing? 
    My reception is going to be in a special events room at a restaurant, so if guests want mixed drinks, they're going to pay for them regardless b/c they'd just go up to the bar in the main restaurant so would it not be better to have it right at the reception then?  
    Also what about drink tickets?  I was at my brother in laws wedding and I talked with most all the guests there (who will also be at our wedding) and they all thought it was a great idea and weren't offended when they had to then pay for their own drinks.
    We will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony - before we go and take pictures.  that will eat up about a half hour there, and then the drive back to the reception area is about 10-15 minutes.  

    I seriously doubt no one complained.  They complained, they were just kind enough to complain silently in their heads or in whispers rather then to the couples face.  And to server only the wedding party for free while everyone else had to pay, super rude!

    You need to work with your venue to have a small bar set-up inside your room where hosted drinks will be provided (meaning you are covering the bar tab).

    And drink tickets are for company parties, not weddings.  You need to host your guests fully which means you pay for everything and you don't limit how many items people get which is what drink tickets do.

    Also, you need to remember that the first guests to go through the receiving line will arrive at the venue in 15 minutes so the doors, drinks and apps should be set and ready to go when they arrive.

    PrettyGirlLost
  • frenchiekinfrenchiekin member
    Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 100 Comments First Answer
    edited September 2014
    Regarding the first question, I went to a cousin's wedding last year with pretty much exactly the same timing as you are describing above. Ceremony started at 2pm and lasted no longer than 20 minutes; straight into cocktail "hour" with no appetizers for the first 45 minutes or so, with a small table of very light apps (cheese/crackers/vegetable crudite) brought out for the remainder; dinner did not start until around 6:30. People got very drunk very quickly. Several family members did not even make it to dinner due to drinking without any food available/very little for most of the cocktail "hour".

    Now, we have some decent drinkers in my family, so this may play out differently for you, but from my experience I would strongly reconsider having such a long cocktail hour... it really only needs to be an hour! And definitely make sure there is adequate food available for the entire cocktail portion. You really don't want to run the risk of having your guests hammered before the dinner even starts, or complaining to each other that they are starving and that the party was poorly timed and organized. This is one of the only things the family still talks about regarding this cousin's wedding, to the point that everyone has warned me multiple times to PLEASE not do that to my guests at my upcoming wedding.

    ETA paragraphs


    luckysnorkelPrettyGirlLost[Deleted User]beharrington
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    kavo0406 said:
    One of my best friend's wedding was cash bar - only those in the wedding got free drinks - and no one complained.  Is it kind of a regional etiquette thing? 
    My reception is going to be in a special events room at a restaurant, so if guests want mixed drinks, they're going to pay for them regardless b/c they'd just go up to the bar in the main restaurant so would it not be better to have it right at the reception then?  
    Also what about drink tickets?  I was at my brother in laws wedding and I talked with most all the guests there (who will also be at our wedding) and they all thought it was a great idea and weren't offended when they had to then pay for their own drinks.
    We will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony - before we go and take pictures.  that will eat up about a half hour there, and then the drive back to the reception area is about 10-15 minutes.  

    Okay, I'm a bit confused.  When you say "that will eat up about a half hour there", I assume you're referring to the pictures?  And when you say that the drive to the reception area is about 10-15 minutes, I assume that means that all of the wedding guests will have to drive 10-15 minutes to the reception, right?

    Honestly, if I went to a wedding where only the bridal party got drinks, I wouldn't say anything to the bride / groom or anyone close to them, but my friends would get an earful.  That's really tacky (I'm sure they are lovely people, though).

    DH and I went to a wedding recently where the reception was in a private room at a restaurant.  They had wine & beer available to us.  I guess if someone wanted to make their way to the bar in the general area of the restaurant for a mixed drink, they could have. 

    The best rule of thumb is this - your guests should not have to open their purse / wallet at your wedding. 
    PrettyGirlLost
  • Regarding cocktail hr - if i was able to push the ceremony back to 300 (and get most of the pictures done before the ceremony) then the guests drive back - would 4 until about 545 be ok for cocktail hour/mingling? 
    Also, regarding a PP about "shitting on my ideas" - these are merely opinions in my eyes; We will do what we decide is best for us when the day comes.  
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    If your ceremony is at 3pm and is over with by 3:30 then the reception place needs to be ready to greet the first guests who arrive at about 3:45.  A cocktail "hour" should be no more then an hour and a half long (and that is pushing it) so if you had your cocktail hour run from 3:45-5:15 then that would be fine.  But anything longer and your guests are going to start getting a bit punchy.

    holyguacamole79PrettyGirlLost
  • kavo0406 said:
    Regarding cocktail hr - if i was able to push the ceremony back to 300 (and get most of the pictures done before the ceremony) then the guests drive back - would 4 until about 545 be ok for cocktail hour/mingling? 
    Also, regarding a PP about "shitting on my ideas" - these are merely opinions in my eyes; We will do what we decide is best for us when the day comes.  
    This timeline would work a lot better, just make sure food and drinks are served together to avoid crazy drunkness. 
    image
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Agree with Maggie.

    Here's what I suggest:

    3:00 - 3:30  -- Wedding
    3:30 - 3:45  -- receiving line (depending on how many guests you have). 
    4:00 -- guests arrive at reception, cocktail hour / mingling
    3:45 - 4:15  -- Photos
    4:30 -- B&G arrive at reception
    5:15 -- Dinner
    PrettyGirlLost
  • kavo0406 said:
    Regarding cocktail hr - if i was able to push the ceremony back to 300 (and get most of the pictures done before the ceremony) then the guests drive back - would 4 until about 545 be ok for cocktail hour/mingling? 
    Also, regarding a PP about "shitting on my ideas" - these are merely opinions in my eyes; We will do what we decide is best for us when the day comes.  
    1 hr and 45 minutes is too long for a cocktail hour. Even 1.5 hours is really pushing it. 

    It sounds like you don't want to do a first look (where you get most of your pictures with your groom prior to the ceremony). That's fine. I didn't do a first look either and still kept cocktail hour to one hour. 

    Get ALL these pictures prior to the ceremony:
    - you and your BMs
    - him and his GMs
    - you with your family 
    - him with his family
    - any others you feel the need to get without needing to see your groom

    That will only leave the following photos for after your ceremony and you can DEFINITELY do them in an hour or less:
    - family formals w/ both of you
    - entire WP 
    - just the two of you

    If you give your photographer a list of photos you want ahead of time, you could probably do all of those in about 30 minutes. It's really how organized and good your photographer is but they certainly shouldn't take any longer than an hour.
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    slothiegalPrettyGirlLostOliveOilsMomcowgirl8238
  • frenchiekinfrenchiekin member
    Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 100 Comments First Answer
    edited September 2014
    I am wondering why you are trying to keep your cocktail hour so long...

    Can you not start dinner until 6 due to the schedule at your venue, and you need to fill the time? If so, I would see if you can move the ceremony back closer to 4pm.

    Do you want to extend it so that you have time to take photos after the ceremony AND attend your cocktail hour afterwards? If so, one suggestion is to do a first look so you really have most of your photos done before the ceremony (if that is something you are open to). If not and you need a significant amount of time after the ceremony for photos, unfortunately that means you will be missing most or all of your cocktail hour. That is just what happens when you plan photos for that time - your guests shouldn't be made to wait several hours for dinner just because you are having your photos taken and also want to attend the cocktail hour.

    Just my opinion!

    Edit - damn paragraphs!!!


  • We where going to do some of the pics before the wedding - Me with the bridesmaids and flower girls, my fiance with the grooms men and ring bearer and then after the ceremony do our pics along with the wedding party pics and family pics (since our families don't get together often this is seriously one of the only times we can get this done) So i know pics will last about an hour Also, where I'm from the bride and groom do kind of a "ride around town" with the bridal party and stop at a few bars (maybe 2 - 3) on the way back to the reception from the ceremony (I know you all will say that's tacky BUT it's how things are done where I live) However, if we did pics from 330-430 then had our limo/party bus take us to a few stops until 5, we could be back to the reception around 5:15, thus making it all work out (we would do the introductions and then start the buffet at 530)
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    My friends in Cleveland do the party bus thing with several stops around town.  It's awkward as hell for the rest of us to find ways to keep ourselves occupied in the meantime.
    PrettyGirlLost[Deleted User]
  • kavo0406kavo0406 member
    25 Love Its 10 Comments Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited September 2014
    I'm not asking you to validate anything I'm doing - I'm simply asking for opinions. And that was not something I was looking for your opinion on. Right now I'm wondering about the time frame - not being concerned what I'm doing during that time. If I wanted to go swimming quick during that time, that's up to me. The drinks from those bars are also free, it's a small town. I understand this is an etiquette board - which is why I was asking etiquette about the time frame - the whole time frame thing is new to me since I am breaking from my families Catholic tradition and having my ceremony outside, thus changing my time frame from a traditional 4-5p m wedding ceremony, followed by pictures, then our traditional ride around, then our dinner and dance.
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Maggie0829, copying my suggested timeline is gonna cost you a margarita for the royalties   ;)
    ashley8918perdonami
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    @sarahbear31 - whipping you up one right now

    image

    holyguacamole79ashley8918
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