Reception Ideas

what if I can't afford an open bar?

Does it look tacky/bad if we don't do an open bar? The venue that I'm 95% sure we're going to go with takes a good chunk of our budget and doesn't really allow for us to have an open bar. I want to try to negotiate something where we offer an open bar up to $1000 or something like that, but does that come across cheap? Would it be better just to not have one at all? This is a really tough subject as our budget doesn't allow for much, but I don't want to look cheap...thoughts?
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Re: what if I can't afford an open bar?

  • I've also seen just a few bottles on each table for dinner. A lot depends on your venue and what it allows. Being able to being your own alcohol is usually cheapest, but it sounds like your options are open vs consumption bar.
    I would not do only up to certain point, because that can get off putting and embarrassing when someone has to hand back the drink that was free an hour ago.
  • mlg78mlg78
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    Just do beer/wine...and maybe even a signature cocktail.


  • Definitely don't do open bar up to a certain time or dollar amount.  Host your guests within your ability; it's rude to ever make your guests open their wallets at your wedding.  Offering beer and wine only seems like the best way to go unless you are willing to do a dry wedding.  Neither of those options is rude.  Good luck!
    Blue_Bird
  • Ditto PPs - wine, beer, and soft drinks is usually a more economical bet.
    image
  • We had beer, wine and a signature drink, and were able to bring in our own. I think the entire bar tab for 73 people was under $300, and we had unopened wine bottles we brought home.

    An open bar can be expensive but isn't needed. Getting loaded at weddings is over-rated. Most people find something else to drink if you offer less, but you can't expect people to pay for their own, or cut the bar off at a certain point.

    If you love this venue ask them about other budget-friendly options, or cut your guest list if they don't offer options you like.

     

  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta
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    I will never understand why people don't consider the price of the bar when shopping for a venue.  

    Offer what you can afford.  The only rule is that you can't ask your guests to pay for it.  If you can do beer and wine all night, that's a great option.  If you don't have enough for even that, look to a punch or just putting bottles of wine on tables.  If you can't afford to offer any alcohol, just have a dry wedding. 
    [Deleted User]Blue_Bird
  • Does it look tacky/bad if we don't do an open bar? The venue that I'm 95% sure we're going to go with takes a good chunk of our budget and doesn't really allow for us to have an open bar. I want to try to negotiate something where we offer an open bar up to $1000 or something like that, but does that come across cheap? Would it be better just to not have one at all? This is a really tough subject as our budget doesn't allow for much, but I don't want to look cheap...thoughts?


    If you want to have alcohol at your wedding, you should keep shopping for a different venue that fits your budget.  Or search for a venue where you can bring your own alchohol.  Those venues may not fit your "dream vision", but if it fits your budget, you are much better off.

    Otherwise, host beer & wine only as PPs have suggested.  But, DON'T limit your bar to $1000 or offer a cash bar or partial cash bar in any way. It will look cheap, and it's also incredibly rude. Your guests should never have to open their wallets at your wedding. 

     

    [Deleted User]Blue_Bird
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    You offer what you can afford.  If that's beer and wine only, then that's what you offer.  If that's no alcohol at all, then that's what you offer.  Dry weddings do not break any rules of etiquette.  No one is entitled to expect alcohol, but they are entitled to expect free alcohol.

    What you do not ever do is ask your guests to pay for anything. 
    Blue_Bird
  • KDM323KDM323
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    See if they will allow a beer/wine only option....or a beer/wine/signature cocktail.  As the other posters have said, that will likely be much cheaper.
    *** Fairy Tales Do Come True *** Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • It doesn't have to look tacky or bad when you don't have an open bar.  I also kind of hate when people say that people shouldn't pay for any alcohol at a wedding.  People usually say, you wouldn't invite people to a party at your house then make them pay for a drink...Well usually at most parties I go to and/or host, you bring your own alcohol so essentially, you are paying for your own drinks.  I can't think of a wedding I've been to where the bar is a completely open bar, simply because people don't have the money.  With that said, I think we're going to pay for unlimited pop and then get a few kegs (maybe some wine) for the night.  Everything else people will have to pay for.  
  • Re: StageManager14- I might have finger foods/snacks or something but if we were all still hungry after that, we'd pitch in and buy a pizza we could all eat. 

    Re: Liatris2010- In case you didn't notice, I said that we'd be paying for some kegs and possibly some wine so it's not like I'm only offering water or soda. 

    Fact of the matter is, it's really up to you and your future husband what you're able to afford.  Ask them how far your money will take you and different ways you can use that.  Maybe it's 5 kegs for the night or only a signature drink or a certain amount of wine.  If people are going to make a big fuss about not having alcohol or having to pay for drinks, then you might want to re-think their status in your life.  Most, if not all, weddings I've been to in the Midwest have covered pop or beer or something like that, then the guest paid for the rest and it has NEVER been a problem. 
  • Re: StageManager14- I might have finger foods/snacks or something but if we were all still hungry after that, we'd pitch in and buy a pizza we could all eat. 

    Re: Liatris2010- In case you didn't notice, I said that we'd be paying for some kegs and possibly some wine so it's not like I'm only offering water or soda. 

    Fact of the matter is, it's really up to you and your future husband what you're able to afford.  Ask them how far your money will take you and different ways you can use that.  Maybe it's 5 kegs for the night or only a signature drink or a certain amount of wine.  If people are going to make a big fuss about not having alcohol or having to pay for drinks, then you might want to re-think their status in your life.  Most, if not all, weddings I've been to in the Midwest have covered pop or beer or something like that, then the guest paid for the rest and it has NEVER been a problem. 
    Born and raised in the Midwest, and it IS a problem for most people we know. Cash bars are rude. No guest should ever have to pay for anything at a properly hosted event. 

    And since I've been to a good mix of open and cash bars, let me tell you: people do talk about the cash bars. 
    image
    Blue_Birdmrsbizzz
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta
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    Re: StageManager14- I might have finger foods/snacks or something but if we were all still hungry after that, we'd pitch in and buy a pizza we could all eat. 

    Re: Liatris2010- In case you didn't notice, I said that we'd be paying for some kegs and possibly some wine so it's not like I'm only offering water or soda. 

    Fact of the matter is, it's really up to you and your future husband what you're able to afford.  Ask them how far your money will take you and different ways you can use that.  Maybe it's 5 kegs for the night or only a signature drink or a certain amount of wine.  If people are going to make a big fuss about not having alcohol or having to pay for drinks, then you might want to re-think their status in your life.  Most, if not all, weddings I've been to in the Midwest have covered pop or beer or something like that, then the guest paid for the rest and it has NEVER been a problem. 
    It's so wrong that you blame the guests when you want to be rude to them.  If I burped in your face and you didn't like it, would that be your fault?  

    These are your friends and family.  You should care enough about these people to want treat them with some basic manners.  

    Charging your guests is very rude, no matter what.  Blaming your region doesn't help either.  
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!)
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    Does it look tacky/bad if we don't do an open bar? The venue that I'm 95% sure we're going to go with takes a good chunk of our budget and doesn't really allow for us to have an open bar. I want to try to negotiate something where we offer an open bar up to $1000 or something like that, but does that come across cheap? Would it be better just to not have one at all? This is a really tough subject as our budget doesn't allow for much, but I don't want to look cheap...thoughts?
    Host what you can afford the entire night.  If you wanted an open bar, you really should've budgeted for it and picked a cheaper venue.   You can host beer and wine only (all night) or have a dry wedding.  Don't host something only part of the night....I'd be ticked off if I went up to the bar and it was shut down because the limit was reached.

  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!)
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    Re: StageManager14- I might have finger foods/snacks or something but if we were all still hungry after that, we'd pitch in and buy a pizza we could all eat. 

    Re: Liatris2010- In case you didn't notice, I said that we'd be paying for some kegs and possibly some wine so it's not like I'm only offering water or soda. 

    Fact of the matter is, it's really up to you and your future husband what you're able to afford.  Ask them how far your money will take you and different ways you can use that.  Maybe it's 5 kegs for the night or only a signature drink or a certain amount of wine.  If people are going to make a big fuss about not having alcohol or having to pay for drinks, then you might want to re-think their status in your life.  Most, if not all, weddings I've been to in the Midwest have covered pop or beer or something like that, then the guest paid for the rest and it has NEVER been a problem. 
    Don't host something for part of the night.  That's rude.  If it's really that important to a couple, they should budget for it.  I don't get it.   Why not just put prices on your menu for upgrades?
    Blue_Bird
  • Everyone's already answered your question so I feel okay somewhat thread-jacking.

    Where did this idea of hosting only up to a certain amount come from? I think that's worse than a cash bar. What if you wanted to wait until after dinner to drink and although some people got 3 free drinks, you now have to pay? 
    [Deleted User]
  • Where i am from it is pretty typical for guests to pay for their own alcohol, whether it be $2.00 or full price @ $6.00 - $7.00.  My venue offers a whole dollar off for a host bar,  which works out to be $5.50 a drink.  Thats too expensive considering the party animals we have coming lol.  I am putting out bottles of wine one the tables and i am going to ask for a signiture drink that we would pay for, i am also going to give drink tickets to my bridal party and randomly hand them out to friends and family.

  • KatWAGKatWAG Chicago
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    Re: StageManager14- I might have finger foods/snacks or something but if we were all still hungry after that, we'd pitch in and buy a pizza we could all eat. 

    Re: Liatris2010- In case you didn't notice, I said that we'd be paying for some kegs and possibly some wine so it's not like I'm only offering water or soda. 

    Fact of the matter is, it's really up to you and your future husband what you're able to afford.  Ask them how far your money will take you and different ways you can use that.  Maybe it's 5 kegs for the night or only a signature drink or a certain amount of wine.  If people are going to make a big fuss about not having alcohol or having to pay for drinks, then you might want to re-think their status in your life.  Most, if not all, weddings I've been to in the Midwest have covered pop or beer or something like that, then the guest paid for the rest and it has NEVER been a problem. 
    Lived in the Midwest my entire life, I have never been to a wedding with a cash bar. Please dont blame the region. It is definately not a regional thing.
    BabyFruit Ticker
    [Deleted User]
  • SBminiSBmini
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    edited June 2013
    I don't think that cash bars are tacky. It's just reality that buying alcohol for 100+ people can get very expensive. Many of my cousins hosted for the first hour or so and then switched to cash. It never bothered me at all. I definitely never heard anyone talking about it at any of the weddings I've been to.

    Talking about mainly California weddings here.
    image
  • SBminiSBmini
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    SBmini said:
    I don't think that cash bars are tacky. It's just reality that buying alcohol for 100+ people can get very expensive. Many of my cousins hosted for the first hour or so and then switched to cash. It never bothered me at all. I definitely never heard anyone talking about it at any of the weddings I've been to.

    Talking about mainly California weddings here.
    Common =/= correct
    Doesn't offend me =/= correct

    Foul language is common and doesn't offend me, but using it is still rude. Same logic applies to cash bars. No one has to host a full open bar, but the host must pay for anything offered to guests. If you can't afford full open bar, you host something else, you do not ask guests to host themselves.
    What is rude to you is acceptable to others. I personally know a lot of people who would rather pay for a mixed drink than get free beer or wine. Economy is tough, times are changing.
    image
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    SBmini said:
    SBmini said:
    I don't think that cash bars are tacky. It's just reality that buying alcohol for 100+ people can get very expensive. Many of my cousins hosted for the first hour or so and then switched to cash. It never bothered me at all. I definitely never heard anyone talking about it at any of the weddings I've been to.

    Talking about mainly California weddings here.
    Common =/= correct
    Doesn't offend me =/= correct

    Foul language is common and doesn't offend me, but using it is still rude. Same logic applies to cash bars. No one has to host a full open bar, but the host must pay for anything offered to guests. If you can't afford full open bar, you host something else, you do not ask guests to host themselves.
    What is rude to you is acceptable to others. I personally know a lot of people who would rather pay for a mixed drink than get free beer or wine. Economy is tough, times are changing.
    Sorry, but the economy being tough and times changing do not excuse this or make it acceptable per etiquette.  Your offering it for cash would not make it polite regardless of what the lot of people you claim prefer this would want.
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's
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    Would you charge your guests $3 to eat a cupcake from your dessert table? Would you charge $15 to the guests who would prefer steak over the free chicken? No you wouldn't so why treat alcohol any differently then the rest of what you are offering to your guests? You host what you can afford. That doesn't just go for alcohol but food as well. You shouldn't offer lobster if that means guests have to pay for it. You shouldn't offer a full bar if guests have to pay for mixed drinks. If your budget allows for chicken and beer/wine that is what you offer. You shouldn't offer things to have the wedding you want only to make your guests pay for it for you.

    [Deleted User][Deleted User]
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!)
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    niki&rob said:

    Where i am from it is pretty typical for guests to pay for their own alcohol, whether it be $2.00 or full price @ $6.00 - $7.00.  My venue offers a whole dollar off for a host bar,  which works out to be $5.50 a drink.  Thats too expensive considering the party animals we have coming lol.  I am putting out bottles of wine one the tables and i am going to ask for a signiture drink that we would pay for, i am also going to give drink tickets to my bridal party and randomly hand them out to friends and family.

    Oh, this is an awful idea!  What are you other guests going to think when they see people getting tickets and drinks for free and they have to pay?  Tickets belong at a carnival, not a wedding.

    If you can't afford it, don't have it.  Plain and simple.  
    PrettyGirlLost
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!)
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    SBmini said:
    I don't think that cash bars are tacky. It's just reality that buying alcohol for 100+ people can get very expensive. Many of my cousins hosted for the first hour or so and then switched to cash. It never bothered me at all. I definitely never heard anyone talking about it at any of the weddings I've been to.

    Talking about mainly California weddings here.
    It is expensive, no doubt.  But that doesn't make it acceptable to charge your guests.  Save up longer if an open bar is that important to you.  Or, cut back on your guest list.  You could also find a cheaper venue or cut your budget elsewhere.  It's not really a hard concept.

    And if I went to a wedding and got a drink (for free) and then went back up and was charged, I would be ticked off!  If there's anything worse than a cash bar, it's one that starts off as free and then changes to cash.
    [Deleted User]
  • SBminiSBmini
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    Then those people are rude guests. Good guests graciously accept the hospitality of their hosts.

    There are rules of hospitality. You can find them in an etiquette book.
    Did I say they would complain? No. I said that is what they would prefer. And I know that because I know them and I know what they like, as I assume you know your friends and family and know what they would like. But it seems like my friends and family are a lot more caring and understanding than the loved ones of other people on this board. 

    It may be because I come from a large and close-knit family, where having a small and affordable wedding is all but impossible- but cash bars were never a blemish on any of the weddings I've been to. I wanted to do a host-to-cash bar at my wedding my parents don't drink and refused to pay for anything more than a champaign toast. And with the costs of everything else, I find it very hard to pay upwards of $50 a person for alcohol, which is what many venues charge for a full service bar. In the end, we found a venue that is BYOB and my fiance's family will be providing the alcohol, probably a limited selection of higher-end liquors. 
    image
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    edited June 2013
    SBmini said:
    Then those people are rude guests. Good guests graciously accept the hospitality of their hosts.

    There are rules of hospitality. You can find them in an etiquette book.
    Did I say they would complain? No. I said that is what they would prefer. And I know that because I know them and I know what they like, as I assume you know your friends and family and know what they would like. But it seems like my friends and family are a lot more caring and understanding than the loved ones of other people on this board. 

    It may be because I come from a large and close-knit family, where having a small and affordable wedding is all but impossible- but cash bars were never a blemish on any of the weddings I've been to. I wanted to do a host-to-cash bar at my wedding my parents don't drink and refused to pay for anything more than a champaign toast. And with the costs of everything else, I find it very hard to pay upwards of $50 a person for alcohol, which is what many venues charge for a full service bar. In the end, we found a venue that is BYOB and my fiance's family will be providing the alcohol, probably a limited selection of higher-end liquors. 
    Just because it's what they prefer does not excuse or justify making them pay for it.  It's bad hosting.  We do not have to be "caring" or "understanding" about making your guests pay for something you can't afford.  It's rude of them to expect it when the hosts can't afford to pay for it.
  • Ditto all PP's. Stick with unlimited wine and beer.
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!)
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    edited June 2013
    SBmini said:
    Then those people are rude guests. Good guests graciously accept the hospitality of their hosts.

    There are rules of hospitality. You can find them in an etiquette book.
    Did I say they would complain? No. I said that is what they would prefer. And I know that because I know them and I know what they like, as I assume you know your friends and family and know what they would like. But it seems like my friends and family are a lot more caring and understanding than the loved ones of other people on this board. 

    It may be because I come from a large and close-knit family, where having a small and affordable wedding is all but impossible- but cash bars were never a blemish on any of the weddings I've been to. I wanted to do a host-to-cash bar at my wedding my parents don't drink and refused to pay for anything more than a champaign toast. And with the costs of everything else, I find it very hard to pay upwards of $50 a person for alcohol, which is what many venues charge for a full service bar. In the end, we found a venue that is BYOB and my fiance's family will be providing the alcohol, probably a limited selection of higher-end liquors. 

    Then don't!  Nobody is forcing you.  But you are hosting the event.  Don't pay for part of it and let your guests pay for the part you didn't want to or couldn't afford to.  That's rude.  If you can't afford an oper bar (or beer or wine), stick to soft drinks.  You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    An open bar was important to my DH and I, so we opted for a cheaper venue so we could have the open bar (and also the honeymoon we wanted!)  Sure, it wasn't as glamourous as other wedding venues, but it worked out perfect for us and allowed us to host our guests properly.

    Priorities, SBmini, priorities.

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
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    It's really surprising me about how defensive people are getting about their "need" to serve alcohol that they don't want to pay for.   Alcohol is *not* a "need" at weddings. If you don't want to pay for it, *don't serve it.*  But don't expect your guests to pay for it either-no matter how disappointed they may feel about not having it.  Get over whatever guilt you may feel about it-a wedding without alcohol for sale is not something to be ashamed of.
    [Deleted User][Deleted User]
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