(Closed) Open vs Cash Bar Debate-bit long

posted 11 years ago in Reception
  • poll: Is the open bar obsolete?

    Yep, it's ridiculously expensive

    Yes, it doesn't happen in my area/ culture

    No, it's a must

    Other - comment below

  • Post # 47
    946 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: July 2010

    I don’t understand how an open bar would be “cultural”.  I think it might be more common in certain areas or social circles.  I think it probably has more to do with your priorities for your own wedding than anything else.  If it’s a high priority to have an open bar, then maybe you skimp back on flowers or invitiations or something.  Most weddings I have been to have been open bar, or at minimum open beer/wine.

    I think cash bars are kind of rude, just because I feel like your reception is really a party for your guests, and you wouldn’t invite people over for dinner in your home and then charge them for a glass of wine.  Either have just beer and wine, or only wine with dinner, or don’t have booze at all if you don’t want to pay for it for your guests.  But that is JUST my opinion, and I know in other areas of the country cash bars are super common and probably people are more used to seeing them.

    For those ladies who are planning to have a cash bar/cash only portion of your bar, just be sure to inform your guests ahead of time (like, before the day of the wedding).  They will appreciate it if they can come prepared.  I went to a wedding once where it was open bar for cocktail hour and then cash bar afterwards, but there was no ATM and they would only run credit cards after the reception was over, at midnight.  No one told us ahead of time or else we would have brought cash.  So, yeah, it’s just nice to know ahead of time.

    Post # 48
    4437 posts
    Honey bee

    I was totally in the just beer/wine camp since neither Fiance or I drink very much and we thought it was pointless to pay for everyone to get wasted. BUT, my parents are paying and my mother was an absolute terror about insisting on an open bar.

    Post # 49
    833 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: April 2011

    neither me or my Fiance drink at all. We didn’t see why we should pay money to provide alcohol at our wedding when neither of us would drink it. The wedding is our day, and neither of us enjoy alcohol. Therefore, we are serving wine and THAT’S IT! if the guests are ticked, then so be it. They can bring a flask. 😉

    Post # 50
    623 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: April 2010

    I think there’s also a bit of confusion on what exactly an “open bar” is.  Some people view it as any alcohol that’s free and other’s view it as ALL types of alcohol for free.  I would personally never charge my guests for booze since I consider having alcohol part of the “cost to entertain” even though I personally do not drink.  However, we’re serving only beer & wine.  Since I consider an open bar to mean the opposite of cash bar, and I consider a cash bar something you must use your own cash for – I consider us still having an open bar:  whatever’s there you can have (it’s a farm wedding, whatever we bring will be the only option for liquids…besides the lake)

    Post # 51
    1529 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: July 2011

    @amariem25 – providing all beverages except ‘hard liquor’ does not equate cash bar for me, and I don’t see anything rude about that. This is completely different from having pay for even a soda at a wedding.

    Post # 52
    15 posts

    Just make sure people know ahead of time what is paid for vs. what they will have to pay for.  It is REALLY embarrassing to order something (genuinely not realizing it wouldn’t be paid for) and being asked for cash.  I did this once where it was not labeled or told ANYWHERE that mixed drinks weren’t free and I was absolutely mortified that I didn’t have cash and had to ask my parents for $5!

    Post # 53
    1354 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: July 2010

    I live in California, but my father’s family and FI’s mom’s side are from the midwest, and Fiance and I both went to high school and college in Ohio and met there. So, with that intro, an open bar is a must at our wedding. Since we are in Cal now, we aren’t having the full, order anything under the sun bar, but are instead doing better wine and beer than would be typical, with a few drinks to choose.

    This is the typical wedding in my father’s family (German Catholics in Wisconsin):

    – long mass around 2, tons of photos.

    – drive to a giant reception hall, often attached to a bowling alley.

    – food isn’t fancy, basically long line of chafing dishes with an assortment of selections in some kind of cream sauce. There is a good chance that the parish’s women’s group is the catering staff.

    – there are about 400 people.

    – booze flows freely, mostly from the 8 kegs we brought in and the Legion Hall bartenders who are friends of somebody and doing it for tips.

    – lots of polka music, and at least a 50-50 chance my mom (who doesn’t drink) will have collected three pairs of pants off the dance floor by the end of the night.

    On the other hand, one of my mom’s brothers lives in Alabama and belongs to a nice, small protestant church. Both of my cousin’s weddings there were like this:

    – 3 pm ceremony open to the whole congregation.

    – punch and pie afterwards.

    – family and close friends have potluck at the parents’ houses after the wedding, Coors served, maybe margaritas.

    And that’s it. In Wisconsin, in my family’s community, things aren’t fancy, but there will be booze. In Alabama, the weddings are simple, but I’ve always enjoyed them. Lots of different traditions.

    We are doing full booze because we don’t want a large chunck of our family to be dissapointed. By bargain hunting and providing the supplies for our bar, we will come in around $1200 for 125 or so people.

    Post # 54
    276 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: August 2010

    Wow, $1,200 for 125 people for full cash bar? Now, we have to go through our reception site, but for us for 120 people it would be $4,817!!! Which is why cash bars tend to be seen a lot more often in New England, I think. A beer costs about $4.50, a cocktail costs about $7.50 and a martini costs about $10-12!

    I’m wondering if it’s not so much cultural as it is a cost of living thing? I mean, we live in a middle-class suburban area in New Husband. If we lived in a middle class area of Boston, maybe we’d feel more pressure to do the cash bar? Either way, our DOC at our venue reassured us that they rarely see cash bars there.

    Post # 55
    1751 posts
    Buzzing bee
    • Wedding: December 2009

    I’m used to a full open bar (shots excluded, but that’s just so people don’t go nuts). The furthest I’ve been from that has been beer/wine/signature cocktail. that’s just fine, too!

    Our venue let us pay per drink, and at first we thought that would be CRAZY. We tried to pay for beers by the case and other things to get a predetermined amount for our budget. They wouldn’t allow it- by the drink only. We were shocked that the bill was as low as it was – much less than we were willing to fork out. Maybe by the drink would be a good idea for others?

    Post # 56
    1354 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: July 2010

    @ hope1275: Just to clarify, it isn’t a cash bar, it is beer, wine, and an assortment of liquor drinks.

    Because we knew this was a must, we just found a place that would let us bring our own alcohol. By making this one choice, we’re saving a lot, as in thousands of dollars. It is more work, but it is certainly worth the savings.

    Post # 57
    71 posts
    Worker bee
    • Wedding: September 2010

    We are doing a cash bar. We are considering having a bottle of white and a bottle of red at the table thought. I might be more open to an open bar though if our reception was at a hotel and people didn’t have to drive but that isn’t the case.

    Post # 58
    643 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: May 2010

    I worry about “by-the-drink” because people set down drinks and forget them all the time, and overzealous servers clear the tables too quickly.  I’m glad to hear it worked out for you!  We did that for our rehearsal dinner and I thought the bill was high, but it was in the realm of what I expected to spend.

    Post # 59
    117 posts
    Blushing bee

    I have never been to a wedding that didn’t have completely full and open bar, including shots, liquor, beer and wine. That may have something to do with the expectations of the family and friends in my circle, because I have heard of cash bars at weddings here, but have never been to one.

    I have been to other non-wedding events that were cash bar, and typically the cost of drinks is less than you would pay at a bar as a courtesy to the guests.

    I think in the end it comes down to regional expectations combined with available resources. Since many people in my area expect open bars, the reception venues have to price competitively to attract couples to their locations.

    Post # 60
    102 posts
    Blushing bee
    • Wedding: April 2012

    My family always does open bar (we are Irish)  and my Fiance family has usually done cash bar he says.  Well, one of the few things I said I really wanted was an open bar (he’s wants red velvet cake).  This turned out to not even be an issue because every reception place I have looked at the open bar in included in the package.  Our budget is $100 and we are inviting about 100 people.  In most of the packages a custom cake, unlimited wine, champagne toast, bride and groom’s dinner, and a few other things are included but most importantly (to me) is the open bar which includes usually 2-3 different kinds of draft beer, and 10-15 different types of hard liquor.  The packages we have looked at haven’t been that outrageous in price either (the ones we can afford start at $55 a plate).  I guess open bar is a Midwestern thing.  Funny thing is Fiance family is from Wisconsin, while my family is from Chicago.  I say it’s your wedding and it’s up to you to decide what you want and can afford.  If an open bar is important to you then get it, if not then don’t.  It’s your day.

    Post # 61
    2767 posts
    Sugar bee
    • Wedding: June 2012

    @Moose1209 – I feel like it goes so overboard, though. WHY is a plated dinner expected when a couple might have a lot of fun with a tapas bar for everyone and a huge spread of heavy appetizers? Who says that non-traditional, budget items can’t be great for guests? Or that drinks are a must to celebrate a marriage? They’re nice, and I certainly prefer some kind of open bar, as do most guests I know. But why scrutinize everything the couple does so closely unless as a guest your needs have truly not been met? When did it become all about “needing” to be pampered as a guest when you can still be hosted well on a budget? I think that with the exception of a serious faux pas or really selfish situation (like those horror stories where only the bridal party is served dinner) there is way too much judgment regarding what is expected. Most brides are very proud of what they’ve provided for their guests, and when it gets to the level of “she should have spent that $1000 from her dress on an open bar” the guest, in my opinion, is just being petty. 

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