Post # 1
Precursor: No snarkiness needed thanks, the topic of an actual cash bar is not up for discussion.
So my question lies within how to let my guests know about the bar situation.
I am hoping to have the reception open for guests at 5.30 (platters of cheese/crackers etc out), with the bridal party arriving at 6 (approx.) and the food (heavy fingerfood) beginning to circulate at 6.15.
We have a bar and bartender for 5 hours, and we will have a limited tab open for soda, tap beer, light beer, one red, one white and one bubbly (or bringing a certain amount of our own if possible as there is only one type I will drink)
After the tab is chewed up – hopefully pretty late into the night – we will revert to a cash bar for the remaining time of those 5 hours.
I am looking for a little info on:
- when to open the bar and have it close
- how to inform guests of the limits on the tab (no top-shelf or spirits)
- the possibility of a cash bar later in the evening. We will possibly have them put a sign up when the tab gets to a certain amount (say, “cash bar from herein”) and just use up the tab on those last orders.
I am having a limited tab because we honestly cannot afford the $3,000+ for the cheaper alcohol package ($8,000 budget!) and I want the tab to hopefully last a bit longer without the spirits. Cash bars are definitely not unheard of around here, it’s pretty common to either have a cash bar or a tab.
Post # 3
It is probably going to be less confusing if you cut over to a cash bar at a pre-set time, for example after dinner. It is much easier to explain to guests that it is cash bar after 8pm or whatever, than “after the tab runs out, it’s cash bar.” You may have a few folks who double up at 7:55pm but most people would rather pay for a cold beer than drink a free warm beer. This gives your guests some advance warning if you put a sign out from the start of the reception, and makes it very easy to understand without calling to their attention the fact that you’re not considering hosting their tabs for the entire event.
Post # 4
@FutureMrsHallam: Does that even count as a cash bar? It sounds pretty generous to me!
I would stick a sign up that says:
Your options tonight are:
List of alcohols
Other drinks at your cost
Then I would have the bartender keep an eye on the tab, and pick a natural time to stop serving free booze–like after dinner, or after an hour of dancing. Then when people come up to the bar, he can politely inform them that the bar has closed, unless they would like to pay for their own drinks!
Post # 5
@Horseradish: My big problem with that is I have nooo idea how much people will decide to drink. We have a very limited budget we just can’t go over, so if we double up on our estimate, we are seriously screwed 🙁
Ive been to weddings where the tab (about $1k) lasted till 10, and another where it ran out at 8 (same amount) with similar crowds.
Post # 6
@BrandNewBride: I like the wording there, clear on what is tabbed 🙂 That sounds like a good way to handle it, but how should I forewarn guests to bring cash, say on the invite or on one of the insert cards?
Post # 7
@FutureMrsHallam: Then plan to cut it early, and if you still have room left, circulate an additional champagne toast or have the bartender make a round of shots/shooters (if your social circle won’t find those out of place) and have the waiters pass them out.
Post # 8
@Horseradish: I actually never thought of doing something like that, controlling the bar after a certain point… Ill take that into consideration 🙂
Post # 9
@FutureMrsHallam: We’re in a similar situation; we would love a fully open bar but would need to budget around £10k for alcohol if we did this, so, we are providing welcome drinks and drinks with the meal, ad then putting £2.5k behind the bar for the evening reception, which can be spent on 3 different brands of each type of spirit, one type of red, white and rose wine by the glass, soft drinks, and beer/lager. We will be making laminated menu cards showing what is ‘included’; the wording will probably read along the lines of ‘We have a limited bar tab, which can be spent on the following drinks’.
Post # 10
In our ceremony programs in the section about the cocktail hour, I put a blurb in about the bride and groom hosting house wine, house beer, and soda. For display on the bar I had a sign printed up that noted the specifics on what wines and beers were on offer hosted by the bride and groom, and it also specified that mixed drinks, premium liquors, etc, were available to purchase.
We did not switch to cash bar, so not sure how to address that. I agree that having a run-out point may be a little confusing to guests, but I know it is done. A coworker of mine’s brother did that. I think the bar just announced that it was switching to cash when the specified money ran out. At that time, the groom’s father stepped in and offered to pay so they went back to open bar for the rest of the night.
I would recommend stopping bar service about 30-45 minutes before the official end of the wedding, just so people aren’t grabbing a last drink or three and then trying to drive home or whatever.
Post # 11
@FutureMrsHallam: I would circulate it by mouth that the bar won’t be open the whole night. Then people can decide if they want to bring cash for extra drinks!
Post # 12
Somewhere on the invites, possibly with a card called “details” including how to get there, when the reception opens for early birds, and some other bits:
“The bride and groom will be hosting a limited bar with house beer, wine and soda. Other drinks will be available for purchase.”
Then at the reception a sign at the bar saying:
“The options tonight are:
All other drinks at cost.”
And just have the bartender place a sign up at a certain time (say, 9pm):
“Cash bar to begin at 9.30pm”
But if the tab isn’t used up I will maybe just get them to use the remaining on the bridal party and/or parents by telling them a number to use when getting drinks. Easy enough to tell parents and bridal party to check the tab and tell me when its completely out.
Oh, and stop the bar at 10.30-11ish for the reception to end at 11-11.30.
Post # 13
It’s pretty standard at Australian weddings that only selected beer, wine and softdrinks are provided by the hosts and everyone just assumes that spirits are on you as the guest if you want to have them (unless it’s an Italian wedding or something? I know they do provide spirits at them). So I would just put on an insert that Beer, wine and soft drink will be provided until eg. 9pm/until the tab is exhausted with drinks available for purchase after this time. And then the venue will surely have a menu for the guests with the drinks they can have off the tab?
I’ve never been to a wedding where there was a cash bar (this is not a judgement on you) so I’ve never actually seen the above in action but I’ve been to plenty of 21sts/engagement parties etc. where they had tabs and it worked without a hassle.
Post # 14
@FutureMrsHallam: I had a friend in a simular situation to yours, and she had the same concerns that she didn’t know how long her tab would last and was concerned she didn’t know how much people would drink and how much a tab would last …. here is what we came up for her and it worked PERFECTLY!
She left the bar as a cash bar all night, but instead used her budget to provide the following:
During cocktail hour the waiters walked around with champagne with various garnish (strawberries, raspberry, blackberry, peach etc) and passed them out, so people could buy a cocktail or drink champagnge
During dinner, she put bottles of wine on each table, one red, one white, this was more than enough for most tables but she had some extras so if a table ran out or preferred one over the other the waitstaff replaced or brought a refill for dinner only
After the dinner was served she opened a special station for two signature cocktails, it was basically a little margarita bar and there were three different kinds to choose from, this was open until the alloted tequila ran out (you could subsititute any cocktail here)
I gotta tell you – I didn’t buy a drink from the bar all night, and a lot of others didnt either – she stretched her budget, and everyone loved it! If people want to indulge they’ll be happy with whatever you offer …. i felt like this was the best way to stretch her budget, because sometimes when people find out the cash bar is going to end at a specific time they double and triple fist which eats your budget so quick! this really avoided that!
Post # 15
@FutureMrsHallam: p.s. we’re getting married the same day! yay!
Post # 16
@FutureMrsHallam: one last thing – i wouldn’t make a note on your invitation about the bar, but you could put that information on the website or have family and bridal party spread the word
honestly, i feel like cash bars are becoming fairly common, in my area they are and you said in yours as well, so i think most people come prepared to pay just in case