Post # 1
I know that this is a HOTLY debated issue on the hive (and everywhere!) but I’d love to know what creative options are avaliable somewhere in between the extremes of a full open bar and a cash bar, as well as your thoughts on the options as a guest.
Here is my situation. Our venue doesn’t allow outside alcohol, and it does NOT have an open bar option ($X per person for X hours) – its all strictly consumption based. Unfortunately, beer and wine are actually MORE expensive than house-brand mixed drinks ($7 per glass of wine or $30 per bottle, $6 for local beer and $5.50 for mixed drinks + tax and tip). Further, the cost of pop/juice ($3) and punch ($120 PER GALLON WTF???) also is a consideration. The biggest factor is the MASSIVE unknown about how much the bar will end up costing if there aren’t some kind of constraints. Are we going to be left with a bill for $1500 at the end of the night? $5000?? Who knows. I also hate the idea of people trying to drink as much as possible because its “free” and maybe even b/c they assume we’ve paid a flat rate for drinks.
Now we know that we want to provide our guests with something, as well as do a sparkling wine toast. Some ideas that we’ve tossed around so far:
Champagne Toast + Two drink tickets (obviously done up nicely to match our stationary) for anything at the bar. The option to buy additional drinks.
Champagne Toast + Wine served to the tables at dinner. With or without the option to buy more?
Open bar until the tab hits a certain limit followed by a cash bar, or the bar closing.
Limiting the amount of time that the bar is open.
Any ideas? WHat are the pros/cons?
Post # 3
I would probably do it where the bar is open until a certain amount is spent & then go cash bar from there.
Another suggestion, I went to a wedding where they had 3 kegs that were open for consumption & the rest of the bar was cash bar.
My only complaint about cash bars is that I attend weddings assuming that it’s an open bar. That’s just what has been common at weddings I’ve attended. I bring a credit card for the after party and some cash for tips. When we went to that wedding (we bought drinks before we realized there was an open keg), we ended up having to bum a $20 off my dad because we didn’t have cash to buy the booze ourselves. So, unless a cash bar is common in your area or within your circle, spread word to expect it so people can be prepared.
Post # 4
We are serving wine and beer and having 4 specialty drinks. We chose a martini, cosmo, long island, and mojito. I think this is a great way to give guests options but still not have to cover the costs of an open bar. I would try to avoid having a cash bar.
You caterer should be able to give you a per person # for the cost of serving wine and beer. Like $21 per person for 4 hours of open bar.
Post # 5
Our venue is the same as yours— where the bar is based on consumption, as opposed to price per person for open bar. We are throwing some money towards the bar (we haven’t set an exact amount…) and when it runs out, it becomes a cash bar. I hate the unknown of having a $1500 or a $8000 bill at the end of the night… and knowing my luck (and my friends’ and familys’ drinking habits), I’d end up with the $8000 bill. Not worth it.
Post # 6
We’re doing an open bar during our cocktail hour (which is in a separate location at our venue than the rest of the reception). When guests move to the dining room for the rest of the reception we’re switching to complementary beer, wine & soda but there’s still a full bar available in case guests prefer to purchase liquor or mixed drinks. I’m not sure I would have the bar close after it reached a certain point consumption wise. This may happen WAY sooner than you’re expecting, so at least leave it a cash bar after that if you decide to go that route.
Post # 7
we are doing beer wine and a signature drink (prolly a margarita) and then the rest will be cash… i have also seen people use drink tickets or vouchers…. you could have so many per person and then cash bar after that. there are lots of options besides a straight out cash bar all night 🙂
Post # 8
I think drink tickets will work great. I’m not a big drinker though, so I think providing 2 drinks + champagne per person is plenty. If people want to get trashed they can do that on their own dime.
Post # 9
Whaaaaat? I have never heard of “consumption only”, that’s really annoying! Like you said, too much unpredictability with not know what your bill will be.
One option I didn’t see mentioned above was only opening the bar at certain times. Many people close the bar during dinner and after a certain point in the evening. This can also keep guests from overdoing it!
Post # 10
kimmylyn – sounds like we are in a similar situation! My caterer doesn’t have ANY sort of “X amount for X hours” option. Its pretty going to be like a restaurant (in fact they operate a restaurant also) in that we pay for what is used.
I wish the beer/wine/sig drink option would help, but I don’t think it well. As I mentioned, beer and wine is actually more than hard liquor. And since we’re not paying for bottles opened, having one signature drink is no less expensive than just letting guests dream up whatever drinks they would like.
I personally like the idea of the tickets, since we can do the math ahead of time on the maximum end bill, and guests can get the drinks when they want. If someone is a Dirty Delete, they can give their tix to their family, and if someone wants more beyond their tickets, they can buy it. It seems like a logical idea. However, I just can’t quite shake the idea that tickets seem a tad unclassy, even if they look adorable and are nicely integrated into each guests menu. I think that wine service at the table with dinner would be classier, but it also gives guests less choices as to when they drink and what they drink. It also might be harder to predict the bottom line tab.
Post # 11
Circus – it actually seems somewhat common at the venues around me (don’t get me wrong, there are venues that have other options, but lots of them don’t). The venue is really flexible to work with us otherwise (They’ll do tickets, or table service, or limit the open times for the bar). Its one resort, and they operate several restaurants in addition to the banquet room we’ve reserved, so maybe they just want to operate it like a restaurant?
Post # 12
Are you Canadian? Those sound suspiciously like our ridiculous drink prices, and we wren’t able to get a flat rate at our venue either.
We had our servers come around twice offering wine (up to 30 bottles), and provided one drink ticket for an alternate beverage or more wine. I think it worked out pretty well that the wine drinkers/non drinkers passed off their tickets and most people didn’t have to resort to paying for drinks unless they wanted to get drunk.
Post # 13
I love the idea of drink tickets. Our venue lets us be as specific as we want, so in your case, I might make drink tickets for a mixed drink. That way you know you’re paying $11.00/person (at $5.50 each), and if people want to upgrade their liquor or get beer or wine they can pay for that separately.
I personally think it’s confusing when the bar suddenly switches to cash from complimentary. If I go up once to get a drink, and its free, I tend to expect it to be free next time I go up, too — unless, of course it’s a difference of coctail hour vs. dancing time.
You could also host 2 signature drinks, and have guests pay for the rest. It seems like hosting liquor will be cheaper for you than beer and wine. I’d say host whatever is reasonable for you, and the important thing is that you’re offering something to your guests for free.
Post # 14
our venue is only offering us a cash bar option but i spoke to them and they did allow me to purchase all the adults the champagne for the toast so i am happy with that
Post # 15
I went to a wedding once where they shut the bar down during dinner. Just had wine on the tables. Might be a way to keep the cost down. I am a big drinker and didn’t mind this at all. Just a thought
Post # 16
SapphireSun – Guess what, I’m from Vancouver also. Glad its not just my venue… unless I have the same venue as you hehe. I like the idea of your option a lot.
Thanks for the suggestions everyone 🙂