Wedding Reception Forum

Open bar alternatives

I'm getting married in another country, where it is pretty much unheard of to have an open bar. Venues do not offer open bar packages, and while we could potentially cover our guests on a consumption basis, the reception is also very long (I'm talking almost 12 hours from cocktail hour until the DJ stops! So different!) and venues offer standard bar-like drink prices so that honestly would not be affordable for us for 12 hours at like $7/drink. My fiance's guests, who are mainly from the area and who make up the vast majority of our expected guests, will not be expecting anything other than a cash bar. However, my guests, all of whom will be traveling overseas at great expense, also will be surprised by having to lay out further money to drink at the wedding. I'm looking for creative ideas to help balance my concern at not requiring my guests to spend much more than they already are to attend the wedding while also not breaking the bank when most of our guests wouldn't expect an open bar anyway. Things that have crossed my mind:
1 - hosting an expanded rehearsal dinner where we cover all drinks that would include all guests traveling from abroad along with both of our close family members and bridal party. This would also include some of his family who live here in the US, but would probably exclude a number of his family members who are local and most of his friends. This seems like an option that wouldn't insult anyway since his local guests would probably not choose to come to the hotel the night before the wedding so wouldn't be present while the rehearsal was going on.
2 - drink tickets or something like that for all guests. It wouldn't be an open bar, but it would be something. The standard reception package includes a drink per person during cocktail hour and a half bottle of wine per person during dinner. This would provide a few more drinks for everyone, an added bonus for those who won't be expecting it and something to offer those who are used to an open bar
3- I dont really think this can work, but is there some way to cover the American guests' costs (including my fiance's who come from here!) and not everyones??

Would also love suggestions as to the best way to communicate to guests that it will be at the very least a partial cash bar.  Any and all ideas are appreciated!

Re: Open bar alternatives

  • It isn't rude in the country where I'm getting married. It's entirely the norm. My concern is about the American guests who don't share that norm. 
  • There are plenty of things you can do that do not include having a cash bar at your wedding. Have you discussed limiting the bar to be beer/wine only? Nowhere does it say you have to comp a top shelf open bar for your guests. You could also have a dry wedding, but it doesn't sound like you want that. Have you asked your venue if you can bring in your own booze? Lots of venues allow this with a corkage fee, which is often still cheaper than the inhouse bar.

    Whatever you decide, please don't tier your guests with tickets or 'you get free drinks, but you don't', and don't ask your guests to subsidise your wedding. You say your guests won't expect an open bar, and you may be right, but don't you want to treat your guests surprisingly well? 
                 
    OurWildKingdom[Deleted User]lc07
  • bcmfall said:
    It isn't rude in the country where I'm getting married. It's entirely the norm. My concern is about the American guests who don't share that norm. 
    What country is it?
                 
    MairePoppy
  • OurWildKingdomOurWildKingdom in the 216 member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    bcmfall said:
    It isn't rude in the country where I'm getting married. It's entirely the norm. My concern is about the American guests who don't share that norm. 
    Hospitality is universal. Even if it's not the norm, I doubt any guest would complain about an open bar.
    glasgowtolondon[Deleted User]InLoveInQueensmadamerwin
  • I think you have a few options:

    1) Have a dry wedding.

    2) Offer and fully host beer and wine only.

    3) Rejig the budget to accommodate the additional expense of a fully hosted bar.

    4) If you haven't sent STDs, start cutting the guest list so you can properly host everyone who comes.

    5) Work with the venue to bring in alcohol so that the cost is lower for you to fully host.

    6) Consider shortening the time of the reception.

    7) Without knowing your timeline, could you offer non-alcoholic options until a time when cocktails would normally be served (i.e. 5pm) and then open up the options to include alcohol? *****I'm NOT a huge fan of this option (but it certainly better than fully hosting for a few hours ... with drink tickets for example and then shutting it down/having guests pay for their continued consumption or not hosting properly at all).

    OurWildKingdom[Deleted User]InLoveInQueensmadamerwin
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited March 2016
    bcmfall said:
    It isn't rude in the country where I'm getting married. It's entirely the norm. My concern is about the American guests who don't share that norm. 
    Hospitality is universal. Even if it's not the norm, I doubt any guest would complain about an open bar.

    ViczaesarglasgowtolondonInLoveInQueenspinupbride6189
  • MobKaz said:
    bcmfall said:
    It isn't rude in the country where I'm getting married. It's entirely the norm. My concern is about the American guests who don't share that norm. 
    Hospitality is universal. Even if it's not the norm, I doubt any guest would complain about an open bar.

    While I agree that cash bars are rude regardless of local practices, IMO the 'norms' of the country you're marrying in become moot when you invite American guests, as it is certainly unequivocally rude to have a cash bar in the States. (Despite what some may claim about it being normal/typical for their area)

    Thus, please don't have a cash bar. You realize some of your guests would be offended; don't offend them. You have been offered alternatives.
    image
    OurWildKingdomSP29kimmiinthemitten
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    bcmfall said:
    I'm getting married in another country, where it is pretty much unheard of to have an open bar. Venues do not offer open bar packages, and while we could potentially cover our guests on a consumption basis, the reception is also very long (I'm talking almost 12 hours from cocktail hour until the DJ stops! So different!) and venues offer standard bar-like drink prices so that honestly would not be affordable for us for 12 hours at like $7/drink. My fiance's guests, who are mainly from the area and who make up the vast majority of our expected guests, will not be expecting anything other than a cash bar. However, my guests, all of whom will be traveling overseas at great expense, also will be surprised by having to lay out further money to drink at the wedding. I'm looking for creative ideas to help balance my concern at not requiring my guests to spend much more than they already are to attend the wedding while also not breaking the bank when most of our guests wouldn't expect an open bar anyway. Things that have crossed my mind:
    1 - hosting an expanded rehearsal dinner where we cover all drinks that would include all guests traveling from abroad along with both of our close family members and bridal party. This would also include some of his family who live here in the US, but would probably exclude a number of his family members who are local and most of his friends. This seems like an option that wouldn't insult anyway since his local guests would probably not choose to come to the hotel the night before the wedding so wouldn't be present while the rehearsal was going on.
    2 - drink tickets or something like that for all guests. It wouldn't be an open bar, but it would be something. The standard reception package includes a drink per person during cocktail hour and a half bottle of wine per person during dinner. This would provide a few more drinks for everyone, an added bonus for those who won't be expecting it and something to offer those who are used to an open bar
    3- I dont really think this can work, but is there some way to cover the American guests' costs (including my fiance's who come from here!) and not everyones??

    Would also love suggestions as to the best way to communicate to guests that it will be at the very least a partial cash bar.  Any and all ideas are appreciated!
    Sorry, but none of these options are polite.

    The only polite way to not pay for drinks for guests is to not offer alcohol at all.

    The one thing you can expect is that charging any guest for drinks, regardless of what is the "norm" in the country you are marrying in, is that someone is going to be offended by having to pay for drinks.

    So either offer a limited bar that you can afford or no alcohol at all - but do not plan on making guests, even foreign ones, pay for drinks.
    OurWildKingdomInLoveInQueens
  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Eighth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Your options are:

    1) find a venue where you can negotiate a package, even just beer and wine

    2) find a venue where you can BYO, again even just beer and wine.

    3.) shorten your reception to a length you can afford and spread the word about a no host after party at a pub. 

    I would be livid of friends asked me to fly internationally for a cash bar. And I'm not American or Canadian.

    I'm also curious what country this is. 
    OurWildKingdom
  • ernursej said:
    7) Without knowing your timeline, could you offer non-alcoholic options until a time when cocktails would normally be served (i.e. 5pm) and then open up the options to include alcohol? *****I'm NOT a huge fan of this option (but it certainly better than fully hosting for a few hours ... with drink tickets for example and then shutting it down/having guests pay for their continued consumption or not hosting properly at all).
    I get what you're saying with this and also wonder if this might work.  For example, if OP's event is noon-midnight, or essentially lunch to dinner, I might price out what the cost would be to do a hosted bar from 4-midnight.  I wonder if the trick to making this work would be making sure food options also move more gradually from light apps/snacks to the full dinner.

    I know its not a great option, and I also like Lisa's suggestion of a shorter reception and a "hey we'll be at X bar after" after-party, but I can see this maybe working for the OP.
    image
    Anniversary


    OurWildKingdomernursej
  • AddieCakeAddieCake Beyond the Wall member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    I think I would opt for a dry wedding. And I would definitely shorten the reception. Granted, the majority of your guests will be expecting a longer one, and they may be a little surprised at a shortening, but 12 hours? Are you even going to have the energy to last or enjoy that? I would end up being so cranky with people by the end of that. 
    What did you think would happen if you walked up to a group of internet strangers and told them to get shoehorned by their lady doc?~StageManager14
    image
    [Deleted User]OurWildKingdom
  • @LondonLisa I actually wonder if it's the UK? I'm from the US and moved to the UK and, since wedding planning began, have been told that it's considered acceptable to have a couple of bottles of wine on each table and a cash bar for anything else, and have an incredibly long reception (I went to one where the ceremony was at 2pm, drinking started at 2:45pm and dinner didn't end/dancing didn't begin until 11pm... and it went on for quite a few hours after that).

    I'm not ok with a cash bar so decided instead to do a limited bar - our guests can have whatever they want from what we're offering, but we're not offering a full bar. My venue gave me a deal where it's an unlimited wine/beer/soda package for a certain price per person per hour, then the cocktails are based on consumption; we're offering two signature cocktails. 
  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Eighth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited April 2016
    @LondonLisa I actually wonder if it's the UK? I'm from the US and moved to the UK and, since wedding planning began, have been told that it's considered acceptable to have a couple of bottles of wine on each table and a cash bar for anything else, and have an incredibly long reception (I went to one where the ceremony was at 2pm, drinking started at 2:45pm and dinner didn't end/dancing didn't begin until 11pm... and it went on for quite a few hours after that).

    I'm not ok with a cash bar so decided instead to do a limited bar - our guests can have whatever they want from what we're offering, but we're not offering a full bar. My venue gave me a deal where it's an unlimited wine/beer/soda package for a certain price per person per hour, then the cocktails are based on consumption; we're offering two signature cocktails. 
    I doubt it. Not sure where you heard cash bars are OK here....I've only been to a handful of cash bar weddings and there was serious shade being thrown. The vast majority are open bar. Yes, wedding/wedding breakfast/dancing can be long but I've never heard of a 2:30 wedding having dancing starting at 11! Usually it would be around 6 after the breakfast. Plus one wouldn't have a hard time finding venues with bar packages in the UK...

    Please dont think one chav wedding is representative of the whole UK! 
  • @LondonLisa I actually wonder if it's the UK? I'm from the US and moved to the UK and, since wedding planning began, have been told that it's considered acceptable to have a couple of bottles of wine on each table and a cash bar for anything else, and have an incredibly long reception (I went to one where the ceremony was at 2pm, drinking started at 2:45pm and dinner didn't end/dancing didn't begin until 11pm... and it went on for quite a few hours after that).

    I'm not ok with a cash bar so decided instead to do a limited bar - our guests can have whatever they want from what we're offering, but we're not offering a full bar. My venue gave me a deal where it's an unlimited wine/beer/soda package for a certain price per person per hour, then the cocktails are based on consumption; we're offering two signature cocktails. 
    I doubt it. Not sure where you heard cash bars are OK here....I've only been to a handful of cash bar weddings and there was serious shade being thrown. The vast majority are open bar. Yes, wedding/wedding breakfast/dancing can be long but I've never heard of a 2:30 wedding having dancing starting at 11! Usually it would be around 6 after the breakfast. Plus one wouldn't have a hard time finding venues with bar packages in the UK...

    Please dont think one chav wedding is representative of the whole UK! 
    Entirely possible it's indicative of where my fiance is from (he's a Northerner, though we're living in London) - I was pretty shocked when he told me the reason he assumed we'd have a cash bar was because he's never been to a wedding that was open bar. Then again, a few of his friends that I've asked (some of which are from London/SE) said the same. 

    Either way, I'm glad to hear it's not as common as I'd thought!
  • MairePoppyMairePoppy Connecticut mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    edited April 2016
    Please, please tell us what country is this? @bcmfall      

    How much will that expanded rehearsal dinner cost you? You could skip the rehearsal and RD and put that money toward hosting the bar. You and fi could meet with your officiant and get all the details worked out. If you have  a wedding party, you can give instructions to them prior to the wedding.

    Limit your bar to beer, wine, soft drinks. Print up beverage menus and place them on every table or place setting. 

    Shorten that reception. After 4 or 5 hours, thank your guests for coming to your wedding. You may, if you want, let them know you'll be hanging out at X bar that evening and everyone is welcome to join you. 

    Treat all guests equally.There's no nice way to cover drinks for American guests, only.
                       
    kimmiinthemittenOurWildKingdom
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