Setting the Bar High or Low - What to do About Alcohol at Your Reception

by Jenny Bryde 28. August 2010 11:37

We aren’t huge drinkers, but this afternoon, we decided to pick up a “sipping” beer which is what we call it when we just want a beer to leisurely hang around for the afternoon without risk of a hangover in sight.  Today we picked a nice German pilsner called Warsteiner (pronounced “Varstiner”) which was introduced to us by my beer loving brother and his German wife. 

Having had a couple of these delicious beverages, I feel the need to expound upon how alcohol factors into your wedding.  This has been a debated topic for us since day one.  We’ve considered so many options for the bar including everything between “cash” and “open.  If you’re not savvy with those terms, a “cash” bar would be where the bride and groom do not sponsor any drinks and guest are responsible for paying for what they would like.  An “open” bar is the opposite where the bride and groom are footing the tab for all their guests’ drinks. 

Arguments have been made for both sides with fans of the open bar accusing the cash bars of being cheap and fans of the cash bars accusing the open bars of being lushes.  So let’s get this straight up front, I can see reasoning for either side which is why we still haven’t made a decision about our own reception’s bar.  We don’t want people to be partying so hard that someone gets sick or gets into a fight or something, but we do want our guests to feel relaxed and taken care of while at our wedding. 

photo by Jennifer Schumacher Photography

Here are some pieces of advice that were suggested to us by our vendors, friends, and family:

-          Give a certain number of drink tickets out to your guests that will be sponsored by you.  One those have been “spent”, the tab is on the guests.  This route was chosen by one of my very best friends for her reception as she and her now-husband are non-drinkers so a fully hosted bar was not a priority for them. 

-          Sponsor beer only since it is the most popular and most inexpensive drink.  Suggested by my brother who loves beer, and my father who loves his dollars.  J

-          An open bar will encourage “experimentation” and half-drunk drinks lying around at the end of the night.  Noted by my wedding planner. 

-          You can figure on one drink per person per hour (including drinks) as a good estimate of how many drinks will be consumed.  Figure in your taxes and gratuity and bar fees, and figure out if your estimated bar tab falls within your budget.  Suggested by our event coordinators at our reception location.

In the end, we decided that we would sponsor a light beer, a heavy beer, a red wine, and a white wine while leaving mixed drinks and what not to be paid for by our guests.  While there will be a small percentage of guests who only drink a mixed drink, most guests will be pleased as punch to have a good beer or a nice glass of wine.  We are expecting about 125 adults and 25 kids, and our reception will last approximately 4 hours.  If we were to follow the afore mentioned equation, we would need to budget for 600 drinks.  With the prices quote to us, plus the tax and gratuity, it falls right within our budget range, so we think this is a solution for us…

What did you do to figure out the bar situation? 

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Hi!  Welcome to the blog!  My name is Jenny, and I am a Quad Cities bride to be.  Our goal for this blog is to share information on all things wedding including local vendors, new trends, and amazing inspiration.  Let us know if there is something you'd like to see on here!  

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