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Open Bar vs. Cash Bar

So I keep hearing everyone talking about Open Bars at weddings and I'm curious if this is still what people do?  FI and I don't have anywhere near the budget for an open bar as the coordinator told us it would be up too $3000 for the night.  We really don't want to pay for anyone's drinks as it's a mix of heavy drinkers and non drinkers.  I understand that I sound rude when I say that, but we don't want to pay a fee for someone to drink one glass of soda all night as if they were drinking alcohol all night.  We have made it clear to our guests that we're paying 100% out of our pockets for this so that they don't think anything is "too cheap". 

Personally I've been to plenty of weddings where we've had to pay for our drinks and while yes they're expensive it's fine because it's a huge expense for the bride and groom!

So since I've had some complaints from guests and co-workers, should I worry and try to re-arrange some funding?  I mean right now we had to cut flowers (AGAIN) to afford a nice honeymoon.

Thanks!

Re: Open Bar vs. Cash Bar

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    auntykarebearauntykarebear member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    I am having a full open bar, but I don't think it's a necessity. If you're worried about it, another option you could do is have an open bar for a certain period of time (an hour or two), or give our drink coupons for one or two paid drinks. Or, you could just have an open bar for wine and beer, which ends up being a bit cheaper. Another option is to have wine at the tables. 

    But again, in my opinion, it isn't a necessity--just a nice thing to offer your guests. Personally, I hate having to worry about bringing cash to a wedding, especially when I just forked over a $200 gift or something. But that's just me. I fully realize other people are different. 

    Good luck!
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    EDK2010EDK2010 member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011

    As of right now we are doing an open bar during our cocktail hour and a champagne toast during dinner. We may switch to a full open bar after our meeting with the venue this weekend, it just depends.

    I personally think that you should have some kind of free beverage for your guests. That doesn't necessarily mean a full open bar. You could have wine poured with dinner, you could do a beer/wine/soda only bar, you could have signature cocktails passed out, have drink tickets etc. There are affordable options. I think if a guest is coming to your wedding, bringing a gift and so on you should be offering them something. I've only been to one wedding where it was a full cash bar, the rest that I have attended have had some sort of variation of the options I listed above.

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    edited December 2011
    I think if you are mostly concerned about price the best options would be either open bar during cocktail hour only and then turn it to cash bar, or the beer and wine only.  We are doing beer and wine only with all local beers and wines and it is costing $600 total for 200 people. Good luck!
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    edited December 2011
    In New England it's perfectly acceptable to have a cash bar. 
    We had open bar based on consumption and think we were around $4600 for 150 guests.  The drinks at our venue are pretty inexpensive too $3-$5 (we allowed for mixed drinks but no shots).

    Our guests probably consumed 2/3s of the total in the first hour.
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    edited December 2011
    I've been to 2 weddings recently where they had a cash bar and it kinda sucked :/ I'm by no means an alcoholic but I'd atleast like to get soda for free?! We haven't decide on what options were doing yet because we're so far out but I'm definitely not doing a cash bar.
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    FireDancer04FireDancer04 member
    First Anniversary First Comment
    edited December 2011
    We'll be doing an open bar during cocktail hour, if we can swing it. If not I know our friends and family will understand. We'll do free soda and coffee. They know we are paying for the wedding ourselves. If someone does get bent out of shape over it, I won't let it bother me. 
    I did go to a wedding where each person got 2 drink tickets for any alcoholic drink.
    If you've already put together a budget, I'd stick to that.
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    dls.1215dls.1215 member
    First Anniversary First Comment
    edited December 2011
    I think were going to do at least soda and coffee and try to do beer and wine as well but it adds up so quickly!
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    edited December 2011
    We are doing a champagne toast and we'll have bottles of wine at dinner (we are purchasing 40-50 bottles from our venue to be passed for approx. 150 of-age guests). It works out to about 3 drinks per guest.  FMIL has tossed around the idea of hosting an open bar during the cocktail hour, but that's her decision :)

    My sister had a full cash bar with a champagne toast when she got married, and FBIL had the same thing.  An open bar is not expected in our families/ circle of friends.  

     I think if you can swing any type of free drink(s) for your guests it's always appreciated. 

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    edited December 2011
    Thanks ladies!  We are doing a champange toast, I'm not sure about the soda so I will add that to my list of things to find out about.  I like the idea of wine on the table, but I'd rather save any little bit of money we can, when we buy a house I'll buy plenty of beer for the housewarming lol.  Most of FI's friends are used to it, all of the weddings we go to for him are cash bar and I've explained to my friends that we just can't swing it so save now if you plan on drinking a lot.  I think in the end it will keep people from going overboard too, there's nothing worse than a bunch of drunks who can't remember that they went to your wedding and our friends are that way!
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    edited December 2011
    We set aside a certain amount of money for the bridal party, and another tab for the guests.  The agreement was that when that money ran out, it would become a cash bar.  DH was worried his friends would be angry if we didn't provide a significant amount of drinks for them - they're HEAVY drinkers.  The money ended up lasting most of the night, when we though it would only last 2 hours or so.  The next weekend, the same group of friends was at a cash bar wedding, and paid to drink many many more drinks than they had for free at ours - without hesitation.

    Auntykarebear, I wish we had invited you to our wedding...Wink  NO ONE gave us a $200 gift...  no one.
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    edited December 2011
    We are having a cash bar only.  There will be a champagne toast and coffee with dessert, but everything else will have to be paid for by the guest.  Honestly, it was never a question.  There was no way we could afford it.  My side of the family are moderate drinkers and they don't find a cash bar to be tacky.  FI's side of the family may think it's tacky, but they're not paying for the wedding, so they don't get a say anyway.  Most of the budget is going towards the food and I think that's more important than alcohol.  HTH!  Smile
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    edited December 2011
    We are doing a cash bar.  We will probably do free non alcoholic drinks.  I am hoping this will keep people from going overboard.  Unfortunatly, we have a bunch who just might. 
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    edited December 2011
    This is always a hot topic and typicaly depends on where you live and who your friends are. In my circle it is customary to offer some form of "free" beverage to your guests. Be that an open bar, drink tickets, a certain amount of $ put on a tab, wine on the tables, or a limited open bar. I have to agree with PP - most guests (atleast in my area) will expect some kind of a "free" beverage.

    I have only been toone wedding where there was a cash bar but it was a bit off putting. I completely aree that people take advantage of an open bar but I think offerings a "beverage gift" is the right thing to do.

    JMO
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    edited December 2011
    I wish I could afford an open bar, I really do, but it's simply not going to happen.  Our venue provides a champagne toast with dinner, though.

    I'm going to at least make it so soda/water/coffee is free for the night.  I want to check on the prices of having a limited bar with wine/beer, but I won't guarantee anyone that it would happen.

    The fact that my wedding is a cash bar is common and expected.  Everyone who is attending my wedding that I've spoke with about it is more than accepting and none of them have EVER been to an open bar wedding.
    Laura
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    auntykarebearauntykarebear member
    First Comment
    edited December 2011
    Just being honest, I've never been to a wedding where there at least weren't drink coupons and/or an open bar for cocktail hour. At least 75% of weddings I've been to has been open bar the whole night. As a wedding singer, I've been to quite a few weddings, too. 

    Laura, you seem a tad defensive. No one's trying to argue about it or anything like that. Just offering what our experiences have been. To me, it's important that my guests be taken care of in the drink department since they will be giving me nice gifts (or so I hope!). Some will be spending quite a bit of money to travel to where I live, too--including hotel, rental car, flight, etc. The least I can do for them is pay for their drinks. That's just my priority, though.  To others, invitations may be a top priority; to others still, the dress or flowers may be more important than anything. 

    I'm only spending $500 on my dress so that my guests will not be...ummm..."thirsty." But again, it's all about priorities and everyone has different priorities. :-)
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    edited December 2011
    My FI and I will be doing a champagne toast, and also an open bar. We went back and forth because we know some will not drink at all, but the people that do will hopefully make up for it! I feel like a cash bar is tacky.
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    edited December 2011
    Ummm... I wasn't being defensive at all. Sorry you read it in that way, but you completely misunderstood whatever tone I had at the time.

    I was just saying what my experience has been thus far with informing others for the cash bar status.  Just as you were inputting your experience, I was also.
    Laura
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    edited December 2011
    I've been a guest at weddings with both - I think either is fine - ultimately you're there to celebrate with the couple right? The only thing that irked my fiance recently was when we went to a wedding where they had spent a wicked amount of money on stuff like monogrammed napkins, an ice sculpture, big boxes of cookies for favors, personalized photo frames for the table numbers and then had a cash bar. He was kind of like "why didn't they skip all this crap and just pay for drinks". Just my 2c :)
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    edited December 2011
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.weddings.com/Sites/Weddings/Pages/Main.aspx/local-wedding-boards_new-hampshire_open-bar-vs-cash-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Local Wedding BoardsForum:101Discussion:f7d08558-caee-460e-b51b-1900a0d0d992Post:129c63c7-e3d4-49e8-9994-66cf295905b2">Re: Open Bar vs. Cash Bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]I've been a guest at weddings with both - I think either is fine - ultimately you're there to celebrate with the couple right? The only thing that irked my fiance recently was when we went to a wedding where they had spent a wicked amount of money on stuff like monogrammed napkins, an ice sculpture, big boxes of cookies for favors, personalized photo frames for the table numbers and then had a cash bar. He was kind of like "why didn't they skip all this crap and just pay for drinks". Just my 2c :)
    Posted by FutureMrsJRoberts[/QUOTE]

    I have to agree here.  I honestly am honored to be a guest at a wedding and appreciate whatever is given to me, but if there are big floral centerpieces and I can't get a soda for free at least, I look at that as selfish.  I would cut out favors and the champagne toast too, I think people will appreciate a cocktail hour much more.  I'll agree that cocktail hour only is common in New England, but I've never been to a wedding with cash bar all night and I am fairly middle middle class. 

    We really struggled with this as my venue only offers a consumption bar by the drink (not by the bottle).  So basically we are opening a tab all night for 200+ of our closest friends.  We decided on open bar all night with beer, wine and 4-5 signature cocktails.  These are some of the factors we considered:
    1. The atmosphere of the wedding.  We just feel that having to take out cash really takes away from the celebratory feeling.  We also find hospitality really important and we didn't want people to have to pay for anything at our first party as a married couple.
    2. Not all our guests are from New England and wouldn't necessarily think to bring cash to a wedding.
    3.  We had some unnecessary extras, like the champagne toast, that could go toward open bar.  Yes, champagne toast is traditional, but it's not usually great champagne and it's a small amount.  I also cut the number of different types of flowers in the centerpieces for a savings of abou $500.  No one will remember your centerpieces or the champagne toast or colored linens, but they will remember what a good host you were.

    That said, if you cut everything possible and you still can't swing it, no one should be offended. 
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    edited December 2011

    The only reason we are having a champange toast is because it comes with our package.  We are not doing floral centerpieces at all to cut down that budget a lot.  We are not doing favors, just the minimal donation to the breast cancer society because we have both had great losses there and would feel guilty not making a small donation.  Otherwise we are paying 100% out of our own pockets and my mom is really forcing her way into us buying more than we need like $300 worth of invitations!  From what our coordinator said our venue charges by the person per hour and we just don't have that kind of money if we can't even do floral centerpieces.

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