Cocktail hour open bar then cash bar

posted 3 years ago in Reception
Post # 3
975 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2014 - Banff, Alberta

@Waitingbee57:  I know people can be crazy when it comes to cash bars. Every wedding I have ever been to had a portion a cash bar. We are buying bottles of wine from the venue and paying for unlimited juice, pop, coffee, tea, so the bartenders can make mimosas and spritzers at no extra cost. If guests want something other than that it is a cash bar. We also can’t bring any food or drink in. We will be paying about $1600 for drinks total, including tax and grat. 

You could:

Serve wine for supper (do they let you buy bottles of wine?)

Open bar for cocktail hour (limit options?)

Serve just beer, wine all night (cash bar for everything else)


Post # 4
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

@Waitingbee57:  I would try to find a way around doing it that way.  If you advertise that it’s free for the first hour, people will try to get as many drinks as possible.  That won’t work.  If you don’t advertise, people won’t know to bring money.  It’s a lose/lose situation.


You have nine months to save money…figure out how much you can save, find a way to add some, and then figure out how much alcohol you can afford. Serve that.  

Post # 5
10219 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2012

Hi @Waitingbee57:  As you are well aware (by your OP) these posts rarely go well… so be prepared for that

In so much as with longer Receptions in Canada, and other Commonwealth Countries a Co-Hosted Bar is far more popular than in the USA where Receptions are much much shorter and the Open Bar is King.

It truly comes down to WHERE you are, and what the Local / Family Custom is.

Where I live in Canada, this would all be quite acceptable.

Infact, my First Wedding looked a lot like this.  We had an Open Bar for the Cocktail Hour (Wedding Punch & Champagne Fountain), then served Wine with Dinner (1 Red & 1 White per table), Bubbly for Toasting… and after Dinner people were on their own for the Dance / Party part of the evening.

With having Distinct Parts of the Evening it made things much easier to manage from a logistically / Bar point of view … in that no one had to suddenly pull the plug when a certain Dollar Amount / Quota was reached.  That would be awkward IMO… and a lot harder to budget for.

Something to think about


Post # 6
5697 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

Would it be an option financially to host a bar that is only beer and wine? I would rather have that than find out that I should have brought cash for the bar.

And, if you have a 1500 limit for a single hour, that’s going to be hard to keep track of.

Post # 7
743 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2014 - Our Backyard/Steakhouse

@This Time Round:  curious where in Canada you are?

Post # 8
1769 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

If you do this, I suggest you secure some of the hosted drinks for bridal party members/VIPs who might be taking pics w you etc during cocktail hour and likely until after your tab runs out. Since those VIPs have probably put the most time and money into the wedding, it stings a bit if right after the ceremony, you shout out that you’re only paying for a certain amt so ppl better drink all they can quickly during cocktail hour (ensuring your VIPs are left as only ones who never got a hosted drink). 

Post # 9
525 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

I e would do open beer, and wine, but liquor available for purchase. It’s a nice option if credit cards are accepted. 

Post # 10
180 posts
Blushing bee

I was a guest at one wedding that was open bar for cocktail hour then cash for the reception and I wouldn’t advise going that route.  Aside from violating basic etiquette of not letting your guests pay for anything, it was awkward as there was no warning and embarrasing when you have no cash to buy another drink.  In my case, the bride promised a lot of other things that weren’t there, so that was also part of the disappointment.

If I were in your place, I’d try to save up/cut other expenses.  I think guests care more about drinks and food than flowers and decor.  Or have just wine/beer or a dry wedding.  I firmly believe only providing what you can afford.  

Post # 13
1769 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

@Waitingbee57:  sorry I wasn’t clear in my post.  I think it works just fine as long as you arrange in advance for someone to bring some drinks on your tab to (or set some aside for) anybody who’s in your bridal party/doing pics w/you during cocktail hour.  I went to a wedding w/cocktail hour paid for on a tab and the rest cash bar and imo it went perfectly fine (and ppl drank plenty and had plenty of fun) even though it wasn’t common for the area etc.  The only thing I think that could have gone better is that 1 or 2 drinks on your tab be given to your bridal party or whatever VIPs are stuck taking pics w/you during the free cocktail hour because they have also put the most work into and paid the most for your wedding.  It’s kinda rude to only provide a drink for ppl who you aren’t as close to.

Post # 15
9859 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2014

@Waitingbee57:  I don’t have a problem with it.  I’ve been to lots of weddings where there’s a tab, when the limit is reached it switches to cash.  No one ever cares.  (I would just ask your bartender to limit the number of drinks per person at a time so that no one ‘stocks up’ on rum and cokes for the night – i’ve seen people try).

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