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New Hampshire

Open Bar or Cash Bar

We are tentatively planning an open bar during a cocktail hour post-ceremony at the reception venue for our son's upcoming wedding. It will change to a cash bar after cocktail hour-after the bridal party introductions.
I have been reading about this topic on otherKnot community boards. There seems to quite the debate over this topic.
Most of the recent weddings i have attended here in the Northeast seem to follow the open bar during cocktail hour only.

Just curious which are you choosing and why?

Re: Open Bar or Cash Bar

  • edited December 2011
    We are doing cash bar because I don't want to pay that much for drinks, knowing my crowd, and also I don't want people getting wasted at our wedding.
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  • edited December 2011
    We did pretty much what you are planning on doing.

    DH's parents generously paid for an open bar during our cocktail hour. DH and I purchased 35 bottles of red and white wine from the venue to have served during dinner. We figured that we were decent hosts if we provided at least 1-2 drinks during cocktail hour, a champagne toast, and at least a glass of wine with dinner. If others wanted to get blitzed, they could do it on their own dime. We at least got the ball rollin'!

    Another option could be to just do beer and wine all night. I think most people can find a beer or wine they enjoy.

    ETA: You have to know the crowd. We knew that most of our friends would drink a lot no matter who paid. I went to other weddings where it was cash bar, and the crowd of the same people were just as liquored up as they were at our wedding.
  • edited December 2011
    We were debating on open bar for cocktail hour as well but when i asked friends of mine that had a wedding with open bar or open bar for cocktail hour they said they wouldnt do it again,... first off people took advantage and got drunk enough to early because it only goes downhill from there lol, then they also said they saw a lot of wasted drinks (put it down, forget which one was theres, oh well just get another one doesnt cost me anything) kind of thing... So I decided not to, the toast is gracious enough as a host and people go expecting to pay its just nice to know when they dont but most people dont go to weddings to get trashed for free so it wouldnt make or break theyre evening!! Good luck though, but if you do go with open bar, I would do what you said and no more than the first cocktail hour and thats it. :)
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  • edited December 2011
    We did a cash bar.  I know some people consider it rude to have a cash bar or they consider them bad hosts if they don't server alcohol.  However, we felt it would be better to put the money towards a better DJ and better food than to set money aside for alcohol.  Yes, it's a party, but alcohol is not a necessity in my book.  Like the PPs have said, you need to know your crowd.  It really makes a difference.  GL!
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  • Lilac++Lilac++ member
    edited December 2011
    Wow, apparently I am in the minority here. There was no way we were going to have a cash bar at our wedding. I think it is tacky to ask guests to pay for their own drinks when they are already traveling/giving gifts, but as many of you mentioned, it is also very expensive to host a full open bar. We had an open bar throughout the whole reception that had a variety of beer, wine and a specialty spiked cider. No hard liquor to keep costs down, but still enough options for folks to find something they enjoyed. We did not want guests opening their wallets while at our wedding.
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  • edited December 2011
    I also agree that it's about knowing yourselves, your budget, and your guests.  Alcohol is of minimal importance to me, and so I was not willing to spend money on it.  I know others who feel differently, and that's perfectly ok, too.  I wanted to put money toward things like food, a good DJ, a yummy cake, etc., rather than scrimping on those things.  I have been to weddings with both scenarios, and I think that the open bar wedding DID have a lot of waste.  In our families, cash bars are acceptable, so I'm not concerned. I think in this area, either are perfectly fine, and no one expects an open bar.  Good luck with what you choose! 
  • edited December 2011
    We are doing open bar for the cocktail hour and cash bar after that. We did it for a few reasons, one for cost.  Also, for liability reasons.  We were concerned that people might over-do their drinks if we had open bar all day (we have an afternoon wedding).  So, we thought people could enjoy the cocktail hour on us, and after that they can buy what they would like from the cash bar.  There will also be a chapmpagne toast during our reception as well. Do what works for you. Hope this helps!
  • edited December 2011
    We've decided to have a certain dollar amount that can be used on soda, wine, and beer during the reception.  Once the limits been reached we'll be switching to a cash bar.  If there are drinkers in your crowd then I do agree that the hour open bar is a welcome invitation for those guest to get a little too tipsy too soon (I know I did when I went to a wedding last month with open cocktail hour).

    I don't like the idea of a complete open bar all night long in fear of guests getting completely plastered, just because liquor was free.  We won't be advertising that we have a limited hosted bar.  Hopefully it will deter guests from going overboard too quickly.
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  • ladyd522ladyd522 member
    edited December 2011

    We are doing open bar. The only time it will be shut down is during the introductions/first dance etc.

    Both FI & I agreed it was something that we wanted to have at our wedding. Our venue does give us the option to provide a dollar amount & if the tab gets higher than that we will have the choice to keep it open or shut it down.

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  • edited December 2011

    We are doing open bar based on the fact I am having a destination wedding and people are spending the night. I want everyone to be able to at least drink for free!

  • dls.1215dls.1215 member
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    edited December 2011
    We did an open bar for cocktail hour (thanks to my generous FIL)  and then it went to cash.  We made a point of doing unlimited non-alcoholic though (it was like $2 pp) so there were at least options other than water for the whole afternoon.  Everyone was appreciative of the cocktail hour and I don't think anyone thought it was rude, I've been to both kinds in this area.  It really depends on your priorities and your crowd.
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  • edited December 2011
    We are doing open bar for the cocktail hour, and then it goes to cash. We are paying for soda and juice all night, and we are doing open bar for the bridal party.  With our guests, open bar would be abused and lots of poeple would be trashed.  We don't want that so we're hoping the cash bar keeps it down. 
    I've been to weddings with open bars, and the costs are huge.  I just couldn't see spending that kind of money on alcohol when I can put it towards more food and and a great DJ, but people need to do what works best for them.
  • mariegramariegra member
    edited December 2011
    We're doing an open bar for the cocktail hour and then changing to a cash bar for the rest of the reception.  That has pretty much been the norm at most of the weddings we've attended and the cost to do an open bar all night is very costly.
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  • edited December 2011
    We're doing a limited open bar. We will have soft drinks, beer, and wine and maybe a couple of signature drinks offered at no cost to our guests.
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  • edited December 2011
    we are doing a wine pour- so glasses of wine will be free during cocktail hour and dinner. we are also paying for juice and soda etc. there will be a cash bar for those that dont want wine.
    we are getting married at a vineyard, hence the wine pour.
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  • edited December 2011
    We did open bar for full five hours premium brands, at our venue there was only a $8 dollar difference per person from a 5 hour open vs just cocktail. We had about 110 people who were drinking age so it wasn't a big difference to go all out... 
    Our venue explained it to us that usually people drink the most in the first hour so that's how they charged.
    No one got so drunk either, which was good! At least I didn't see anyone acting like an idiot!

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  • edited December 2011
    I am planning on full open bar all night. Half the people that will be there don't drink alot, the other half do drink alot. No matter if you have open bar all night or not at all there is a chance to have someone drink too much.

    Honestly, I have gotten more wasted and seen more drunk people at weddings with open bar for cocktail hour only. Who really WANTS to pay for anything?? So if I find out that it is open bar for cocktail hour only I will drink faster so I don't have to open my wallet once again.

    I don't think that it is nescessary to have an open bar at all. If you can afford it and you want it, great. If not, then so be it. But don't assume that just because you have open bar for cocktail hour only people wont take advantage and get wasted.
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  • edited December 2011
    I also think that having a cash bar is sort of tacky because people are coming to your wedding and bringing gifts. It is just rude to ask them to open their wallet at all. Most venues offer open bar pacakges and I am glad that we chose a venue that offered unlimited premium open bar for just $16 a person extra to our food package. I know I would be upset if I spent money on an outfit, gift, travel expenses etc to go to someone's wedding and then have to pay for a drink.

    I also agree that people are going to get drunk whether or not you have a cash or open bar. People will deff get drunk faster if they know they have to pay for drinks after the initial cocktail hour.
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