Friday, November 5, 2010

To Drink or Not to Drink, That is the Question

Today's post goes out to all you couples currently trying to decide on beverage options for your wedding.  People love weddings for many reasons: watching two people form an eternal bond, spending time with friends and families, having an excuse to dress up, the food, and of course... the open bar. Traditionally, weddings have always involved an open bar, but we've noticed a lot of couples debating this issue due to money, logistics, etc. Maybe you or someone you know is currently facing this dilemma and trying to work out what is the best option for them. If you don't drink, and your friends or family don't drink, is an open bar necessary? Here are some options to mull over:

1. Open Bar, Baby! The most popular choice at weddings is to have an open bar. Whether your venue has a bar on site, or you stock your own drinks, most couples opt for this choice because it is the most convenient  and certainly the most appealing to your guests as it lets you friends and family really relax and let loose. So, obviously we can tell you the pros, but the cons? First, when drinks are free flowing it is hard to control how much people take in and can lead to some very drunk guests.  And second, this option is expensive and depending on how you choose to do it, be it included in the cost per person or as a running tab for the night, it can really up the total cost of a wedding pretty quickly.

2. Cash Bar, Ca-Ching! This option works best if you're holding your wedding at a venue that has a bar built in, like a restaurant or hotel and does not let you supply your own liquor. Your guests can drink as little or as much as they want, and there's no pressure on you because you aren't paying for a drop. This option is preferable for a couple who is not into drinking, has friends and family who choose not to drink, or just want to cut down on costs in general. Keep in mind that even though you'll cut costs your guests might consider this to be "cheap" and charging your guests for drinks when they aren't expecting it is a bit rude and tacky. Cash bars are not the norm and if your guests are like us, they won't even think about bringing cash to the wedding... unless it's sealed in an envelope for the bride and groom.

3. Middle Ground: The best of both worlds?  Maybe. A friend of ours went to a wedding where drinks were free during cocktail hour, but afterwards it was a cash bar only. Apparently that didn't go over very well with all the guests, as many of them left after cocktail hour! While those were some very rude guests, switching from open bar to cash only in the middle of your wedding may be a little confusing.  If you do plan on doing something like this, it may be a good idea to let people know ahead of time so they can prepare (wedding websites are great for these types of announcements!!).   Or, a better middle ground may be to provide free champagne to your guests for the toast, or place a bottle of wine or champagne on each table, and then also have a cash bar for anything additional.

4. No Booze! If you and your groom don't drink, and your family doesn't drink, then why even serve alcohol? A lot of couples choose not to serve any alcohol at their wedding due to their religious, cultural, or lifestyle choices. If the wedding is at a hotel or restaurant, where a bar is otherwise available, this is really no different than having a cash bar. But if you're having your wedding at an alternative venue (i.e. museum, garden, park) then this will leave your guests high and dry. While you shouldn't have to change your preferences for your guests you should remember that they are probably shelling out a nice chunk of change to be there with you and it may be helpful and considerate to give them a heads up so they can plan accordingly (pre-game). As long as there is due notice, we don't see having a dry wedding as being a huge problem. After all, in the end, the guests are there for the bride and groom, not the gin and tonic.

Conclusion: We understand how expensive a wedding is, and particularly an open bar.  But, will your guests really have an understanding of costs?  We doubt it... unless they were recently married themselves.  We're a couple of classy ladies over here at PDR and so we think that offering your guests free beverages is the kind thing to do even if you yourself are not a drinker.  But, that doesn't mean that you need to go crazy and offer them Grey Goose martinis. Offering free drinks but limiting the options is the easiest way to ensure that your budget doesn't get thrown to the wind and your guests don't think your cheaping out on them. So, if you simply can't afford to splurge with a full bar, we suggest serving wine, champagne, and beer, and leaving the rest out completely. Or, if you really want to personalize things, you can add a mixed drink as a signature cocktail!  In the end anything you provide will be appreciated and you'll most certainly be seen as a gracious host.


Jen & Saira


  1. Hey guys,

    Great post! I have one comment though: if there is an option of an open bar with a pay-as-you-go option, doesn't that eliminate a lot of problems? First, you have an open bar, so the drinkers aren't pissed. Then, if other people don't drink, you don't have to pay for them. But you don't come off looking cheap. Speaking of which, I personally don't think it's offensive to have a cash bar at a wedding. I went to one where the focus was on food, and nobody seemed to mind that they had to pay for drinks. Alas, at the end of the night, someone's going to come away unhappy, so it's damned if you do, damned if you don't!

  2. Hi, Henry! Thanks for commenting. That's actually a great point and we apologize for not addressing it. The "pay-as-you-go" or "running tab" option is exactly the same as an open bar, but with a slightly different payment option. Some venues you will find to be flexible and let you decide how you would like to handle the bar tab. Others will charge a strict per person cost regardless of how many guests will be drinking. If you find that you have the choice, getting the best bang for your buck will be determined by how well you know your crowd. You can certainly weigh your pros and cons here and determine costs and savings. If, for example, you have a bunch of heavy drinkers then a running tab could actually work to your disadvantage. But, if you know that you will have a number of under-aged guests or persons that will be abstaining then you're absolutely right; a running tab would work in your favor!