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Canada-Toronto

open bar vs. cash bar

Hi there,

So we have been having discussions on the type of venue that we are going to use. The open bar vs. cash bar came up. On my family's side they would prefer that it is an open bar as they are not accustom to going to weddings where they have to pay for their own drinks.Their reason is basically that it is a celebration and if ppl are going to give us $400 the least we can do is offer them free drinks as part of their meal bottom line is my side think that it is tacky to have a cash bar. Now, on my FI side, they apparently do not do open bar. They think its more costly which is probably true and I don't think they care about drinking anyway. My FI mother said that we should put 2 bottles of wine per table which would have at least 10 ppl which does not seem a lot, maybe if they drink half a glass. I am not paying for the venue it matters not to me as I could care less about the drinking.  My mom said maybe if she offered to pay for the drinks for half of their guest maybe they would agree. So do any of you have done cash bars? I don't think its going to be a huge issue but I was just wondering what ppl normally do for their reception

Re: open bar vs. cash bar

  • ring_popring_pop member
    2500 Comments
    edited December 2011
    It kind of differs by region and social circle, but I have never been to a wedding in Toronto with a cash bar. Always open bar.

    If you do not belong to a circle that generally accepts cash bar (as in your situation), I'd strongly recommend open bar.

    Depending on the venue/caterer, the cost of providing open bar could range from $20 - $50 per person. Some venues will allow you to get a consumption bar in which they just tally up all the drinks they serve and bill you after. You could also ask about limiting your open bar to beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks only (i.e. no liquor).

    But ultimately, it comes down to the person who's paying. If they refuse to pay for open bar, you might need to consider footing the bil yourselves.
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  • LittlinLittlin member
    1000 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I just went to a friend's wedding who had an open bar before dinner, 2 bottles of red and white on the tables for dinner, and it became a cash bar after dinner - that's an option I guess!

    I like the open bar option, just so people don't have to bring cash (or if they do, PLEASE let them know ahead of time!), but I understand its a budget issue! 
  • edited December 2011
    i think an open bar is a must
  • edited December 2011
    Hello,

    Thanks guys. I'm from Toronto and his family is from Oakville and they are European so I'm not sure if that matters. His family side is religious but my FI is not so maybe that is why they do not want an open bar or maybe it is just the cost. They also had to pay for 2 weddings for my future SI which is probably why they do not want to spend so much which I understand. However this would be a first wedding for my family so I think my mom wants to spend a little bit more and she has been waiting for this moment. If we were going to go with a cash bar, I was thinking of doing 3 bottles of wine and then a bottle of champagne for a table of 10. We are also approximating to have 23 kids at our wedding so that would also save money if we were to do an open bar. Most of the venues I have looked at in Toronto does not even have an option to have a cash bar. His parents and my family are going to meet at some point next week to sort out how to divide the cost. I am putting money towards my ensemble, cake, flowers, invitations, gifts for my bridal party and my FI is paying for other things as well. 

    Do you ladies know any venues that offer cash bar in Toronto? Most weddings that I have heard of in the city are open bar so maybe this is the trend that is why there are not a lot of places that do this. I have family friends that are helping us  to look for venues as soon as the finances are sorted out so I'm hoping to book the venue and ceremony before the end of September. 
  • edited December 2011
    europeans usually have the open bar though.. all i know is i am also european, and when someone has a wedding thast not open bar that usually doesnt sit well with most people. you hear it all the time.
  • edited December 2011
    Lol I know what you mean. A close family friend's is already telling me that people on our side will be offended by that. She said that we have to realize that people will give us less money in the envelope if they have to pay for their drinks as well. We want everyone to be happy however we are also not paying for the venue so I think his family and my family need to compromise on this one if its a big deal. I don't know if I mentioned it before but based on the places I have been looking at in Toronto there are not a lot of places that offer cash bar so which mean I have to visit more venues than I would like in order to find a place that offers this.
  • ring_popring_pop member
    2500 Comments
    edited December 2011
    What venues have you looked at? I didn't realize that venues didn't even offer the option of cash bar; but then again, I never asked. I think it's kind of silly TBH because for a comparable corporate event, they would of course offer cash bar. They probably just make less money which is why they're not giving you the option.

    Try working with a caterer instead (rather than a venue with an in-house caterer). If the caterer is handling the bar, they might give you more options.
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  • edited December 2011
    thanks so  much. Once we figure out how the parents are splitting the bill then we can discuss what kind of reception we have. I have looked at websites around Toronto and they usually have set menus (banquet halls) and open bar with different prices depending on how fancy you want the drinks. Of course we would ask if a cash bar is an option but I do wonder if banquets turn ppl away if they want a cash bar.

    We can also just look at reception sites that would allow us to cater if this is cheaper. We want an economical wedding as we are taking into consideration that we will not be paying for the reception.
  • unplainjaneunplainjane member
    500 Comments
    edited December 2011
    i've been to a wedding in kitchener and they did cash bar. the reception was at a restaurant. i thought it was a bit weird at first and i was disappointed and i don't even drink a lot. they did leave a bottle of wine out on the table. but it was one bottle for 8 people so not a lot. but then i thought maybe the couple was trying to save money so i understood. i didn't even think about how that would affect my gift amount. to me the gift is about what you want to give the couple, not about how much they paid for your food and drinks.

    either leave as much wine on the table as you can afford and do cash bar when it's all gone, or get a venue where you can bring in your own alcohol with no corkage fee. i don't know which toronto venues do cash bar.
  • edited December 2011

    Open bar is a MUST... in my opinion...

  • mcrotondomcrotondo member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    When you are spending so much already for a wedding, a few extra thousand is a small dent compared to everything else.  You will get the money back from the Europeans trust me.

    If it were me, I would give up something else to do an open bar.

    We are doing a host bar which means we pay the bill based on consumption.  We are likely looking at $3000-$5000. This is typical and average.  If you are getting an all included deal, the reality is the food likely costs $60 and the booze $40 totalling $100/per person.  Its all the same, 6 of 1 1/2 dozen of another.

    good luck
  • edited December 2011
    Thanks guys. A family friend of mine was suggesting that if we are not having an open bar then just have an x amount of wine on the table and not have a bar at all. I think he was sort of against the cash bar thing. I don't like the cash bar either. 

    As I said before, its my FI side who would prefer a cash bar. I think we are going to figure out how much his side wants to pay per person and see if we can work it in their budget to have an open bar. IMO I think it is embarrassing to have the guests pay for their drinks. It is not like you are going to a club plus these are ppl we know. If I were paying then yes I would have an open bar.

    My side would definitely give us enough money to cover the cost per plate. However on his side there will be approx. 23 kids and I doubt the parents would give enough to cover their plate plus their kids.  We are also not having registry and I know that his side would rather just give us a gift from the registry than pay for their plate
  • Beads921Beads921 member
    1000 Comments Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    A compromise option is giving each guest 2-3 free drink tickets (as well as wine on the table), and beyond that they have to pay.
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  • edited December 2011
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/local-wedding-boards_canada-toronto_open-bar-vs-cash-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Local%20Wedding%20BoardsForum:613Discussion:566f4310-861b-41fc-b192-c311282d5577Post:64992dd3-360d-4dc9-b9a2-ad0e47c52ab4">Re: open bar vs. cash bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]A compromise option is giving each guest 2-3 free drink tickets (as well as wine on the table), and beyond that they have to pay.
    Posted by Beads921[/QUOTE]

    If you are strapped for cash, people will understand not having an open bar... They will not like it, and all of the cash bar weddings I have attended, most people have left very early - so if you want to party with your guests late into the evening, I would go with an open bar. 

    That being said, drink tickets are SUPER TACKY at a wedding.  Please do not go with that option.

    Also, make sure you put it on the invitation if it is a cash bar.  People will be upset if they gave  a specific monetary gift thinking that there was an open bar, when they would have gave less if there wasn't.  And you do not want people leaving your wedding feeling like they were ripped off.

    And also remember - if you have a cash bar, that is the one thing people will take from your wedding and talk about to their friends... "Oh, and it was a cash bar, can you believe it?"  Trust me, I have heard it so many times from so many people. 

    On a different note, some people find it very tacky to be forced to give money at a wedding - a wedding is not supposed to be a cash grab, but a celebration of your love.  Are you sure there isn't anything you need to register for?  Even new towels, silverware, anything?  Some people just really prefer to give gifts!  You can always return them for cash later if you really need it...

    Just my thoughts.
  • edited December 2011
    hey michelle,

    yeah I totally you know what you mean. Honestly I have never been to any weddings as an adult because no one I know in my family has gotten married and non of my friends are married so I have no idea how I would feel as a guest if it were an open bar or cash bar. However I would be a bit more relaxed if it was a backyard wedding where everyone brought their drinks etc.

    we are asking for money as a gift from my side of the family however from my FI side, I don't think they are accustom to giving money as gifts. My FI and I have been living together for 3 1/2 yrs and most of the stuff that I/we want we  already have and anything that we put on the registry is  just 'junk'. I will also be having my shower and I was thinking to have just have the registry for the shower. We would like to buy a house and use the money we get from our wedding as part of the down payment. So I don't have room to put kitchen stuff and towels everything is full already.

    I have been told by a family friend that the only thing ppl remember at a wedding is the food and the booze. It is very likely that his family would leave right after the cake cutting and would not even stay for the dancing part and plus we are expecting to have at least 23 kids so as you can see it would be an early night. I had a whole discussion with a friend tonight and she was suggesting to just have an adult reception and then put the money that we are paying for all these kids to an open bar. anyway that would be for another thread.
  • ring_popring_pop member
    2500 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I hope "asking for money" doesn't mean putting anything about cash gifts in the invitation!

    How do you know people will pay for their plate? How will THEY know how much a plate costs? The whole "paying for your plate" concept kind of equates to paying admission to attend your wedding. If you're not able to cover the cost without the guest paying for their plate, perhaps you need to cut costs. Their gifts - monetary or otherwise - should really just be considered a bonus.
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  • Stephk08Stephk08 member
    10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I absolutely agree with your friend about having an adults only reception and putting the kids meals money towards an open bar. Don't get me wrong, I adore my friends kids, but I will be doing an adults only reception myself (with open bar), and have absolutely NO regrets about this choice. The feedback I've gotten from my friends is that it's nice to have an excuse for a night out without the kids!

    Would your chosen venue be able to accomodate either a consumption bar, or you providing your own alcohol?  These are some options that will bring costs down while still allowing your guests to drink.
  • edited December 2011
    I can't imagine having a cash bar. Like someone already said, if you do decide to go that route, you'll have to let people know beforehand so that they can plan ahead. I would be so embarrased to tell people they had to bring cash to my wedding. After all is said and done, the liqour portion of our wedding is costing us about $3000. It's a small price to pay for happy guests. (Depending on the size and scale of your wedding of course) 

    I have been to a DRY wedding. It was strange. For religious reasons there was no alcohol whatsover and most of the guests, being devout Christians were fine with it but it was sort of awkward for use heathens who had no idea beforehand. Don't go that route! LOL

    Defintely talk to both sides about at least having a limited open bar. Have only wine before and during dinner, open the bar during dancing and maybe close it early.
  • edited December 2011
    Depending on the venue it may not be possible to have a cash bar.  For example our wedding was in our backyard and in Ontario we'd need to get a liquor license to sell liquor.  Once you get a license you have to restrict anyone underage from being within the 'zone' of the sale/drinking of alcohol.  However, you can give away as much as you want without any restrictions.
  • edited December 2011
    Hello Ring Pop,

    No we won't be putting on the invitation that cash would be preferred as a gift rather than registry. With my family it is perfectly acceptable to ask for money as this is what we do for any occasions (x-mas, b-days etc.) and the wedding would be no exception. My FI's side is a bit different but as a couple we told my FI parents that this is what we would like as a 'gift' instead of stuff from the registry that we do not need since we live in an apartment and we have everything that we need. We will also be moving to a house at some point and at this moment we do not have a storage for gifts that are going to be given to us. My FI's parents understood this and was not offended by it at all. 

    We are not in a head space that ppl have to pay for their plate however it is common courtesy within my family and friends to give what you can when you do attend a wedding. We will not be miffed if ppl do not give an envelope. Even if it costs $200 per person, obviously this would only be known to ppl that helps us book the reception. I do have some friends that are coming and I know for a fact that they will  not even give $100 or nothing at all which is fine. They are invited because I want them to be a part of our special day.

    BTW...Our parents have agreed to share the cost of the reception and it will be an open bar. It really isn't an option for us to not have children at our wedding though I do not necessarily agree that my FI's side should have 23 kids altogether. I have none from my side. They do not have a concept of babysitters when it comes to weddings. His family is very children focus and it would be very disrespectful to even suggests an adult reception. Either way his parents are partially paying for the reception and it appears that they want something more elaborate than what we are hoping for. 

  • edited December 2011
    I think that whether a cash bar is "acceptable" or not depends a lot on your group of friends. At one of my friend's weddings (in Peterborough, if that makes a difference to anyone) they had a cash bar, and she was telling me that they had never even been to a wedding with an open bar. It's what everyone in their social/family circle does, so not a big deal.

    But with my husband's group of friends (about a dozen couples who have mostly been friends since high school or earlier) only one couple had a cash bar. To me it doesn't stand out so much because it was a cash bar, but because of how much the drinks cost. It was at the Old Mill, which is a lovely venue, but a glass of house wine cost I believe over $8, so then you're talking $10 with tip. This wedding was about 5 years ago and I still remember my $10 glasses of wine! I knew that it was a cash bar going in, but I kind of expected that it would be more of 'cover your costs' prices, not 'make a profit off the bar.'

    One of my friends who got married earlier on (and therefore was more broke) did an open bar for beer and wine, but liquor was cash bar. I think that's a great intermediate option if you're really pressed.
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  • edited December 2011
    I've only been to one wedding that was an Open bar.  To me and my family it's a very formal and ritzy wedding if there is an Open bar.  All of our family has had cash bars and enjoyed partying to the end of the night!  Nobody was talking about how absolutely awful it was to have to pay for drinks.  They just wanted to have a great time and celebrate with the couple on their special day.  We're a family of emigrants so I dunno if changes things or if we are in a small town in Canada.  But it's what works for us.
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