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Open Alcohol? Tacky?

Our venue let's us bring in our own alcohol. We have to apply for a county liquor license and that's it. There's no other rules/stipulations or whatever. I'm trying to save money, because our caterer wants to charge $600 per portable bar and thinks I need 2, plus $50/hour per bartender, plus $3 pp for the mixers. Juice, grenadine, ice, etc.

Would it be tacky to just have to long tables (tableclothed) on each side of the room and have an array of alcohol bottles and sodas and juices that they could make their own cocktails? Its kind of a low key affair anyways. Not exactly a BBQ, but not plated filet mignon and white glove service.

If I went this route, I could have more available liquor and beer for my guests. I was thinking to do a keg for the beer. The only thing I would get the caterer to do is give guests cups with ice. Definitely dont want bags of ice or bowls of ice just sitting there, that I think is tacky.

Re: Open Alcohol? Tacky?

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    make sure this is even allowed.  Many venues won't let you do this-- it could be a liability issue.
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    Our venue let's us bring in our own alcohol. We have to apply for a county liquor license and that's it. There's no other rules/stipulations or whatever. I'm trying to save money, because our caterer wants to charge $600 per portable bar and thinks I need 2, plus $50/hour per bartender, plus $3 pp for the mixers. Juice, grenadine, ice, etc.

    Would it be tacky to just have to long tables (tableclothed) on each side of the room and have an array of alcohol bottles and sodas and juices that they could make their own cocktails? Its kind of a low key affair anyways. Not exactly a BBQ, but not plated filet mignon and white glove service.

    If I went this route, I could have more available liquor and beer for my guests. I was thinking to do a keg for the beer. The only thing I would get the caterer to do is give guests cups with ice. Definitely dont want bags of ice or bowls of ice just sitting there, that I think is tacky.
    This would be a huge liability issue.  Especially if anyone under 21 will be attending.
    Don't worry guys, I have the Wedding Police AND the Whambulance on speed dial!
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    I really wouldn't do this. If you were just serving wine and beer I would say self-serve was OK. But the liability issues make me squicky. Plus as a guest, I wouldn't really like mixing my own drink.

    Spend the money and hire a couple of bartenders.
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    How many people? If it isn't much over the 100 guests/bartender guideline and you have a lot of wine drinkers you might be able to put wine on the tables and get away with one portable bar. I wouldn't put liquor out for self serve though, as others mentioned it's a liability issue.
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    I agree with everyone else - that sounds like an accident waiting to happen. Not to mention, if you've got unattended bottles, people might take them. 

    How many guests do you have? Depending on how many guests you have, multiple bars and multiple bartenders can be a very good idea. 

    I also really want to ask if you'll be decorating your bar with fish bowls, but that would be mean, so I wont.
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    Ditto the liability issue.  You will be responsible if anything serious happens (ie. drunk driving, etc.), whereas having bartenders puts the liability on them instead.  

    I was at one wedding where the bartenders disappeared for some reason.  So I figured I could help out since I've tended bar before.  You've never seen a bottle of JD disappear faster cos everyone got triple shots min from me.  Maybe more.  I wasn't actually using a shot measure.  Just eyeballing what looked good.  You may end up spending more on alcohol, or actually running out if it's a free for all

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    That sounds like an awful idea. In Texas, drinks HAVE to be served by a TABC bartender. We brought in all of our own alcohol, but we hired two certified bartenders to serve it. The thought is, if there are any legal issues regarding alcohol that evening (PI, DWI, DUI), the bartenders are the ones liable, and the state of Texas carries lots of insurance for their TABC bartenders to defend them.
    That's a lot of nonsense to tell you one thing: You want TABC responsible, not you.

    Also, I'm a classy lady and there's nothing to stop me from just taking a bottle of my favorite wine, especially toward the end of the night.
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    ElcaBElcaB member
    First Anniversary First Comment First Answer 5 Love Its
    I totally get that you're trying to save money, but that sounds like it could end up resulting in disaster. 

    If I were you, I would still BYO alcohol, but definitely set up a bar. I don't know where you live or what's available to you, but here in Northeast Ohio we have several party rental places that have portable bars for rent for less than $100. Rent one of those or DIY a bar (Pinterest it) and keep it simple with beer, wine, and one or two specialty drinks (something easy, like vodka & cranberry, rum & coke, etc.), . Hire one or two acquaintances or friends of a friend to play bartender for the night and you should be all set.
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    I'll go against the grain.

    I was a guest at a wedding with a self serve bar. They had bottled beer and wine, and everyone helped themselves. It was not a disaster. It was fine. However, it was an adult only wedding, so there was not the risk of underage drinking. There was also no hard alcohol. I'm not sure why people think it would be tacky. If a helping yourself to a plate of food from a buffet line isn't tacky, I'm not sure why pouring yourself a glass of wine from a self-serve bar would be.

    I think it could work if it was just beer and wine and no one under the age of 21 was going to be present.  But hard liquor is where it gets a little squiffy.
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    AngusaurAngusaur member
    First Anniversary 5 Love Its First Answer First Comment
    edited July 2013
    I don't necessarily think a self serve beer and wine area would be tacky. I can't get on board with the whole table of liquors with sodas and juice and mixers thing though.

    ETA - I probably wouldn't attempt to mix up something fancy with more than 2 ingredients, because there will be lines for people to make their drinks. I would feel more rushed than waiting for the bartender to make my drink. Plus, I don't know the recipes for all the drinks I like. So I would probably end up making screwdrivers or vodka cranberries that taste like I'm back in high school because I can't mix the drink up well.

    I think a great compromise would be to have self serve wine, and beer, and then if you must have hard liquor, make 2 or 3 signature cocktails that are already pre-made in a glass dispensers with available cups or glasses. Like this -

    image

    But then you would need to have no children there, or someone to attend the alcohol station. 

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    Angusaur said:
    I don't necessarily think a self serve beer and wine area would be tacky. I can't get on board with the whole table of liquors with sodas and juice and mixers thing though.

    ETA - I probably wouldn't attempt to mix up something fancy with more than 2 ingredients, because there will be lines for people to make their drinks. I would feel more rushed than waiting for the bartender to make my drink. Plus, I don't know the recipes for all the drinks I like. So I would probably end up making screwdrivers or vodka cranberries that taste like I'm back in high school because I can't mix the drink up well.

    I think a great compromise would be to have self serve wine, and beer, and then if you must have hard liquor, make 2 or 3 signature cocktails that are already pre-made in a glass dispensers with available cups or glasses. Like this -

    image

    But then you would need to have no children there, or someone to attend the alcohol station. 
    image

    Assuming your guests are all 21+, I LOVE Angusaur's idea.
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    We are having one event that allows something similar. We are opting for Beer and Wine with 2 signature cocktails that will be pre-maid. This brought our cost wayyyyy down! because the bartender doesn't have to mix anything and no mixers!
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    If you can bring in your own alcohol, why not just bring in your own mixers too.  You could save that $3/pp your caterer wants to charge you and put some of that money toward the bar rental and the bartenders.

     

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    We had a self serve bar, except not.  We had everything "out" on a table, but we hired someone to "tend" bar all night.  No mixed drinks though.  Beer, wine, two signature drinks and various sodas, lemonade, iced tea.  The signature drinks and tea, lemonade were in large containers (like the ones that Angusaur posted).  The bartender just basically lifted the spout for folks, and poured wine & pumped the keg. 
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    PS - we did those drinks listed above, for about 130 people, for less than $500.00 and had a ton of beer leftover. 
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    We were going to do a keg of beer, lots of wine and champagne, and then a signature cocktail - no bartenders serving drinks.  But seeing as how some of our guests have unadmitted alcohol problems, we're leaving out the hard liquor. 

    However, a coworker of mine purchased the alcohol for his wedding and 'hired' a local bartender who was paid in tips from the guests.  (...  I'm not sure if guests are supposed to tip the bartender at open bar weddings, so I'm really, really, REALLY sorry if this is a faux pas.)  Depending on where you're getting married, you might be able to find a local bartender who would be cheaper than $50/hour.
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    cborries said:
    We were going to do a keg of beer, lots of wine and champagne, and then a signature cocktail - no bartenders serving drinks.  But seeing as how some of our guests have unadmitted alcohol problems, we're leaving out the hard liquor. 

    However, a coworker of mine purchased the alcohol for his wedding and 'hired' a local bartender who was paid in tips from the guests.  (...  I'm not sure if guests are supposed to tip the bartender at open bar weddings, so I'm really, really, REALLY sorry if this is a faux pas.)  Depending on where you're getting married, you might be able to find a local bartender who would be cheaper than $50/hour.

    Folks that are hired should NOT have a tip jar out or accept tips. it's up to the hosts to tip employees at the end of the event.
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