Wedding Etiquette Forum

Open Bar/Drink Maximim/Dry Reception

Say a couple cannot afford to keep an open for their entire reception, but still want to provide a wide variety of alcoholic beverages at their reception, is it possible to have a maximum drink allowance, and therefore keep you open bar tab down to what the couple can afford?

Or would the proper way to be a dry reception if you are unable to cover the costs?

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Re: Open Bar/Drink Maximim/Dry Reception

  • You could always have a partial bar, say beer and wine only. That can help keep costs down.
  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its

    If you only did the beer and wine way, would the cost be cut more by only offering one brand of beer and a one red and one white wine?

    My fiancé and I don't drink anymore, but as it seems with most family and friends on here they do. I don't necessarily want to do a dry wedding, as I would like to at least toast with a beer, and I know my fiancé would like to have a least one beer.

     

  • lovegood90lovegood90 Ontario member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper

    Tons of options- only offer beer/wine/signature drink, dry wedding, close the bar during dinner hour, pay by consumption if your crowd aren't big drinkers, or pay by consumption during the last hour as there may not be many people drinking at that time. I'm sure there are more options than this too!

    The only thing you can't do is have a cash bar. 

    Formerly martha1818

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    PrettyGirlLostfwtx5815[Deleted User]
  • mikenbergermikenberger In a f'n cornfield member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer

    If you only did the beer and wine way, would the cost be cut more by only offering one brand of beer and a one red and one white wine?

    My fiancé and I don't drink anymore, but as it seems with most family and friends on here they do. I don't necessarily want to do a dry wedding, as I would like to at least toast with a beer, and I know my fiancé would like to have a least one beer.

     

    I'd do a red wine, white wine and a beer option. Along with non-alcoholic options. One or two beers is perfectly fine :) 

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    PrettyGirlLostsouthernbelle0915
  • crackktheskyycrackktheskyy Stars Hollow member
    500 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper

    Say a couple cannot afford to keep an open for their entire reception, but still want to provide a wide variety of alcoholic beverages at their reception, is it possible to have a maximum drink allowance, and therefore keep you open bar tab down to what the couple can afford?

    Or would the proper way to be a dry reception if you are unable to cover the costs?

    I think the best way to think about this is to be consistent throughout the entirety of the reception.

    If you're going to host a full open bar, do it for the whole time. Don't switch to cash/less options.

    If you're going to host beer, wine, and signature cocktails, do it for the whole night.

    If you're going to have a dry wedding, have a dry wedding! Just be sure to provide non-alcoholic beverages free of charge (like water, tea, coffee, juice, soda, etc.)
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    PrettyGirlLostShesSoCold
  • If you only did the beer and wine way, would the cost be cut more by only offering one brand of beer and a one red and one white wine?

    My fiancé and I don't drink anymore, but as it seems with most family and friends on here they do. I don't necessarily want to do a dry wedding, as I would like to at least toast with a beer, and I know my fiancé would like to have a least one beer.

     

    I'd do a red wine, white wine and a beer option. Along with non-alcoholic options. One or two beers is perfectly fine :) 
    This, though preferably two types of beer, a light and dark, since most people prefer one over the other.
  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its

    How much do you typically set aside for the open bar?

  • If you only did the beer and wine way, would the cost be cut more by only offering one brand of beer and a one red and one white wine?

    My fiancé and I don't drink anymore, but as it seems with most family and friends on here they do. I don't necessarily want to do a dry wedding, as I would like to at least toast with a beer, and I know my fiancé would like to have a least one beer.

     

    I don't know that the cost would be cut more by just having one option, unless beer 1 cost $100 a keg and beer 2 cost $150. Or if one is more popular and therefore you waste the other one. I would at least offer a regular beer + a light beer, and then 1 white and 1 red wine is fine. 

    Are you providing the drinks yourself (ie buying them from a liquor store?) or is the venue? If you have to provide them yourself, make sure you can return any unopened bottles. 

    We did a consumption bar because most people in my family don't drink, or have a maximum of two drinks at a wedding. Open bar with well liquor was $23pp. The consumption bar we had to put down a deposit of $15pp and then we were either refunded money or were billed for more. We only served beer (one regular, one light) 2 red wine options, 3 white, one blush. And then we had a signature cocktail. We ended up owing $30, so the consumption bar worked out for us. The venue provided the drinks, we didn't buy them on our own.


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  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its

    I'm going to check out one venue I think either this weekend or next weekend. I don't know really how it works, but I have a hard time swallowing both the $23 or $15 per person on alcohol.

    If I buy it myself I can get it at a discount store, we have a few of them here in town, and they generally have great prices, but I know that some venues don't allow you do that. I'm just trying to see what would be the right way to handle this one and how much to try to set aside.

  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer

    How much do you typically set aside for the open bar?

    This varies based on what area you live in and your venue.

    We did a limited bar (5 beers, 5 wines, and a signature drink) for 6 hours and it was about $40 per person.  The full open bar bar package options were between $55 and $60 a person.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers

    I'm going to check out one venue I think either this weekend or next weekend. I don't know really how it works, but I have a hard time swallowing both the $23 or $15 per person on alcohol.

    If I buy it myself I can get it at a discount store, we have a few of them here in town, and they generally have great prices, but I know that some venues don't allow you do that. I'm just trying to see what would be the right way to handle this one and how much to try to set aside.

    Think about it this way. If you go out to eat and get two glasses of wine with dinner you are spending probably $12-16 just on TWO glasses of wine.  You would pay more for two mixed drinks.  So the prices you listed are pretty normal, if not decent for a per person cost for an limited/open bar.

    huskypuppy14MairePoppy
  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
    Moderator 5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its
    The open bar costs will depend hugely on where you are. For me, a premium open bar in Montana was $17 per person for three hours. In downtown Chicago, a similar bar was $52 per person for three hours. 

    If your venue will allow you to bring your own, that could save money. 


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  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its
    We live in Henderson, which is technically Las Vegas. So it might not be as costly, but won't know for sure until I ask the venue too.
  • Cookie PusherCookie Pusher Looking over your shoulder member
    Ninth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Our venue allowed us to bring out own alcohol. Our caterer contracted with a liquor store and we were able to purchase on consignment at a steep discount. We had a pretty good open bar with 4 wine options, 4 beer options, and a lot of liquor (call and premium brands) for the entirety of our cocktail hour and 4 hour reception. Our family and friends are heavy drinkers and we came out at around $13/person - including about 10 people who didn't drink at all (kids, pregnant woman, etc.). Those of us who imbibed were VERY well lubricated.
    ~*~*~*~*~

    short+sassy
  • We are planning on doing a partial open bar. Beer/wine is covered. Mixed drinks/liquor will be cash.
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  • wrigleyvillewrigleyville Chicago member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited January 2015
    Have you joined the Vegas board? It's really chatty, and there are tons and tons of reviews and helpful links.

    We had our reception in a hotel suite (Mandalay Bay's Vista Suite), which meant we were able to buy our own alcohol. That only works for a smaller wedding, though. We had 43 guests, and while it wasn't crowded, I couldn't imagine having more than 50 people in there.

    I would ask your venue if you can do something like beer, wine, and a signature cocktail. Most have a beer/wine package.

  • Cookie PusherCookie Pusher Looking over your shoulder member
    Ninth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    We are planning on doing a partial open bar. Beer/wine is covered. Mixed drinks/liquor will be cash.
    http://forums.theknot.com/discussion/1036615/cash-bars-everything-you-need-to-know-in-one-place#latest
    ~*~*~*~*~

    southernbelle0915MobKazashley8918JCbride2015
  • I'm going to check out one venue I think either this weekend or next weekend. I don't know really how it works, but I have a hard time swallowing both the $23 or $15 per person on alcohol.

    If I buy it myself I can get it at a discount store, we have a few of them here in town, and they generally have great prices, but I know that some venues don't allow you do that. I'm just trying to see what would be the right way to handle this one and how much to try to set aside.

    Being able to supply your own is always going to be cheaper, although $15 per person really would be a good price for an open bar all night as well. We are estimating it will be $12 a person to provide a red and white wine, champagne, a light and dark beer (I think we'll buy 2/3s the light, 1/3 the dark and do all bottles/cans), vodka, gin, and a whiskey bar. A lot of it will depend on the wine we pick, but the great thing about buying it yourself is you have a lot of control. 
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  • How much do you typically set aside for the open bar?

    Depends. We did an open bar, but it wasn't per person. It was more or less consumption based. We paid for a certain amount of bottles (based on their recommendation), then if there were unopened bottles, it got deducted from our total. 

    We had about 175 guests and our bar was around $9-10K. But we were serving some really nice alcohol, had a ton of options, had a bunch of bartenders so there wouldn't really be a line, and we picked the nicer glass option. Our top three things were food, music, bar. So we spent more on these things and less elsewhere. It does not by any means have to cost that much, but it just gives a little perspective. You could probably do something similar with fewer staff, well drinks, fewer options, and basic glasses for much much less.

    We are planning on doing a partial open bar. Beer/wine is covered. Mixed drinks/liquor will be cash.
    Cash bars = bad etiquette. If you can't afford to pay for liquor, just don't offer it.
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  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its
    I've also been talking to some of the guys I work with (yes I mostly work with men). And they have said the same thing, no cash bar. But that I can limit what beer or wine we do offer. Like a lite and dark beer, plus like a white and red zin.  And then as well to ask the venue if we can bring our own in to help save the costs, but I think I've also heard something about a cork fee, so I think I need to really sit down and talk to the two venues that I'm interested in.
  • huskypuppy14huskypuppy14 Boston Suburbs member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer

    If you only did the beer and wine way, would the cost be cut more by only offering one brand of beer and a one red and one white wine?

    My fiancé and I don't drink anymore, but as it seems with most family and friends on here they do. I don't necessarily want to do a dry wedding, as I would like to at least toast with a beer, and I know my fiancé would like to have a least one beer.

     

    You're contradicting yourself.  Sounds like you don't drink a lot. That's fine, as long as your guests don't have to open their wallets at your wedding, you're good.
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  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its

    We stopped drinking because of medical problems that happened this summer, but he did state that he would like to have a least one beer at the reception.

    We haven't drank in 7 months, and don't plan on drinking to the point of not remembering the night, just for the toasts.

  • I've also been talking to some of the guys I work with (yes I mostly work with men). And they have said the same thing, no cash bar. But that I can limit what beer or wine we do offer. Like a lite and dark beer, plus like a white and red zin.  And then as well to ask the venue if we can bring our own in to help save the costs, but I think I've also heard something about a cork fee, so I think I need to really sit down and talk to the two venues that I'm interested in.
    Most venues here won't allow you to bring in alcohol without a hefty corking fee - insuite receptions not included. Our venue charges a $12 corking fee per bottle of wine, FWIW. We are paying $35 per person for 4 hours of open bar, if that helps. 

    There are some calculators online that help you estimate the amount of alcohol people are "expected" to drink in a given amount of time - but this also has the potential to go really wrong and blow your budget.

    Once you start to get numbers from venues you'll be able to figure out what you are comfortable spending on the bar.
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  • slothiegalslothiegal The Sloth Farm member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer Name Dropper
    We are planning on doing a partial open bar. Beer/wine is covered. Mixed drinks/liquor will be cash.
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    Guests should not be opening their wallets at the reception.  Ever.
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    tcnoblePrettyGirlLost[Deleted User]levioosa
  • Guests should not be opening their wallets at the reception.  Ever.
    I don't really get this rule. I was at a wedding over the weekend that was full cash bar, which did suck because I'd only slipped a $20 into my clutch and hadn't brought my ATM card so wasn't prepared. Believe me, I needed some alcohol to get out on that dance floor! After that experience, I agree that having a cash bar is the pits and should be avoided if at all possible. However, I would have understood if the couple only had the budget to cover beer and wine and would have happily paid for a fancy martini myself. I'm rather picky when it comes to alcohol so probably wouldn't have liked the beer or most of the wine on offer, but would have understood that the cost of alcohol at a function is high so I'd be OK with paying for my pickiness. Most of the guests were getting beer or wine anyway, so I imagine most people could happily get through the night without partaking in the cash bar. Then again, maybe I'm just saying that because I'm starting to save and budget for a wedding and know what a huge amount of money we'll need to allot for drinks! 

    I second the idea of having a signature cocktail or two along with beer and wine for your guests. If you can't bring your own alcohol to the venue, talk to them and see if that's an option instead.
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Evillina said:
    Guests should not be opening their wallets at the reception.  Ever.
    I don't really get this rule. I was at a wedding over the weekend that was full cash bar, which did suck because I'd only slipped a $20 into my clutch and hadn't brought my ATM card so wasn't prepared. Believe me, I needed some alcohol to get out on that dance floor! After that experience, I agree that having a cash bar is the pits and should be avoided if at all possible. However, I would have understood if the couple only had the budget to cover beer and wine and would have happily paid for a fancy martini myself. I'm rather picky when it comes to alcohol so probably wouldn't have liked the beer or most of the wine on offer, but would have understood that the cost of alcohol at a function is high so I'd be OK with paying for my pickiness. Most of the guests were getting beer or wine anyway, so I imagine most people could happily get through the night without partaking in the cash bar. Then again, maybe I'm just saying that because I'm starting to save and budget for a wedding and know what a huge amount of money we'll need to allot for drinks! 

    I second the idea of having a signature cocktail or two along with beer and wine for your guests. If you can't bring your own alcohol to the venue, talk to them and see if that's an option instead.

    Evillina said:
    Guests should not be opening their wallets at the reception.  Ever.
    I don't really get this rule. I was at a wedding over the weekend that was full cash bar, which did suck because I'd only slipped a $20 into my clutch and hadn't brought my ATM card so wasn't prepared. Believe me, I needed some alcohol to get out on that dance floor! After that experience, I agree that having a cash bar is the pits and should be avoided if at all possible. However, I would have understood if the couple only had the budget to cover beer and wine and would have happily paid for a fancy martini myself. I'm rather picky when it comes to alcohol so probably wouldn't have liked the beer or most of the wine on offer, but would have understood that the cost of alcohol at a function is high so I'd be OK with paying for my pickiness. Most of the guests were getting beer or wine anyway, so I imagine most people could happily get through the night without partaking in the cash bar. Then again, maybe I'm just saying that because I'm starting to save and budget for a wedding and know what a huge amount of money we'll need to allot for drinks! 

    I second the idea of having a signature cocktail or two along with beer and wine for your guests. If you can't bring your own alcohol to the venue, talk to them and see if that's an option instead.
    When you host a party you provide only what you can afford.  If you provide things that you can't afford only because you want to offer it then that is rude.  You are basically asking your guests to supplement part of your wedding at that point.  So host what you can afford and if that is only beer and wine then so be it.  If your guests through a fit because they can't have a cosmo then that is there problem.

    For example, you wouldn't host a party at your home and have beer and wine for free but then charge your guests if they wish to have a rum and coke, would you?

    [Deleted User]ashley8918JCbride2015PrettyGirlLost
  • When you host a party you provide only what you can afford.  If you provide things that you can't afford only because you want to offer it then that is rude.  You are basically asking your guests to supplement part of your wedding at that point.  So host what you can afford and if that is only beer and wine then so be it.  If your guests through a fit because they can't have a cosmo then that is there problem.
    For example, you wouldn't host a party at your home and have beer and wine for free but then charge your guests if they wish to have a rum and coke, would you?
    I see your point, but I guess I just don't agree. I'll look at it from the perspective of a guest. If I went to someone's house for a party I'd expect limited offerings (maybe the host only likes vodka martinis, so I wouldn't expect him/her to have the fixings for a margarita) so would be fine with taking what's on offer or I'd come prepared and bring my own tequila. 

    However, if the party were held at a restaurant that I know has a full bar and the host ordered bottles of wine for the table, I'd be OK with going to the bar on my own and ordering a cocktail if that's what I prefer. I wouldn't expect the host to pick up my tab because I don't like dry red wine but I also wouldn't want to be the only sober one at the table. This happened recently when my mom took a group out to a restaurant, and because I know she has a limited budget and fully understand that, I paid for my own cocktails since I know she planned on only offering wine. Then again, I wouldn't do this if, say, my boss were taking the employees out. I'd either drink what's available or suck it up and stare at the wall in boredom while everyone around me gets tipsy. I guess it depends on the level of comfort with the host and how much you know about his/her financial situation. In the case of a wedding, I'd understand that a lot of expense has gone into feeding and hosting everyone so would realize that their budget may not be able to include all forms of alcohol. Like I said, I'm not much of a drinker so I'm rather limited in what I can tolerate taste-wise so would prefer to have more options, even if some of them cost me, rather than fewer offerings. I've never had the misfortune of attending a dry wedding, but know I'd never get the courage to get up and dance without a drink or two during the long night.

    Anyway, it sounds like it comes down to a difference in opinion. I do see your point and ideally every couple could pay for an open bar all night for their guests, but I also see the reality and realize that not everyone has help from parents or has the kind of income that allows for that. There needs to be some wiggle room for compromise to accommodate different financial situations. When it comes time to officially plan my wedding, I know I'll have to find a bargain basement dress, wear shoes and jewelry I already own, make my own centerpieces and decor, and figure out a way to get my hair and makeup to look passably decent by myself (this would be an unprecedented event!) so that I can afford to have good food and booze at the reception. It's a matter of priorities and while I wish I could have it all, I'm willing to compromise on some things so I can have others. I just think everyone's priorities are different and that should be OK. As nice as it is to host a great thank you party for your guests, the day is also your (the couple's) day, and I'd like to think your guests understand that. That's the place I'm coming from when trying to comprehend this etiquette rule.
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Evillina said:
    When you host a party you provide only what you can afford.  If you provide things that you can't afford only because you want to offer it then that is rude.  You are basically asking your guests to supplement part of your wedding at that point.  So host what you can afford and if that is only beer and wine then so be it.  If your guests through a fit because they can't have a cosmo then that is there problem.
    For example, you wouldn't host a party at your home and have beer and wine for free but then charge your guests if they wish to have a rum and coke, would you?
    I see your point, but I guess I just don't agree. I'll look at it from the perspective of a guest. If I went to someone's house for a party I'd expect limited offerings (maybe the host only likes vodka martinis, so I wouldn't expect him/her to have the fixings for a margarita) so would be fine with taking what's on offer or I'd come prepared and bring my own tequila. 

    However, if the party were held at a restaurant that I know has a full bar and the host ordered bottles of wine for the table, I'd be OK with going to the bar on my own and ordering a cocktail if that's what I prefer. I wouldn't expect the host to pick up my tab because I don't like dry red wine but I also wouldn't want to be the only sober one at the table. This happened recently when my mom took a group out to a restaurant, and because I know she has a limited budget and fully understand that, I paid for my own cocktails since I know she planned on only offering wine. Then again, I wouldn't do this if, say, my boss were taking the employees out. I'd either drink what's available or suck it up and stare at the wall in boredom while everyone around me gets tipsy. I guess it depends on the level of comfort with the host and how much you know about his/her financial situation. In the case of a wedding, I'd understand that a lot of expense has gone into feeding and hosting everyone so would realize that their budget may not be able to include all forms of alcohol. Like I said, I'm not much of a drinker so I'm rather limited in what I can tolerate taste-wise so would prefer to have more options, even if some of them cost me, rather than fewer offerings. I've never had the misfortune of attending a dry wedding, but know I'd never get the courage to get up and dance without a drink or two during the long night.

    Anyway, it sounds like it comes down to a difference in opinion. I do see your point and ideally every couple could pay for an open bar all night for their guests, but I also see the reality and realize that not everyone has help from parents or has the kind of income that allows for that. There needs to be some wiggle room for compromise to accommodate different financial situations. When it comes time to officially plan my wedding, I know I'll have to find a bargain basement dress, wear shoes and jewelry I already own, make my own centerpieces and decor, and figure out a way to get my hair and makeup to look passably decent by myself (this would be an unprecedented event!) so that I can afford to have good food and booze at the reception. It's a matter of priorities and while I wish I could have it all, I'm willing to compromise on some things so I can have others. I just think everyone's priorities are different and that should be OK. As nice as it is to host a great thank you party for your guests, the day is also your (the couple's) day, and I'd like to think your guests understand that. That's the place I'm coming from when trying to comprehend this etiquette rule.
    But in the end your guest need to be fine with what you are offering.  So if all you can afford is beer and wine and your guests bitch and complain because they can't get themselves a cosmo then they are the asshole.  But if you offer liquor for a fee then you are the bad host.

    There is a limit to everything.  Even if you offer an open bar that does not mean that a guests chosen grey goose vodka will be available.  So that guest will just have to deal with the vodka that is being provided.

    In the end, you are hosting an event as a thank you to your guests for coming to your wedding ceremony.  And as such means that your guests should not have to pay for anything.  Even if you think you are doing it for the good of your guests, in the end your guests are helping to supplement the cost of your wedding because you couldn't afford to host what your vision wants.

    Think about your alcohol and food as the same thing.  You wouldn't have chicken for free but offer lobster for an additional $20.  Same with alcohol.

    Host what you can afford.  And some of your guests may not bring money with them so by allowing them to purchase drinks you are still segregating some of your guests.

    [Deleted User]PrettyGirlLost
  • nhultberg461nhultberg461 Henderson, NV member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its

    Say the couple has hosted the open bar, but the funds have run out, but a guest within the bridal party or family offers to continue, meaning they pay for the continuous of the open bar, but without consulting the bride and groom, is that bad?

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