Have you seen that Internet e-card floating around social media? The one that’s all, “We’re having an open bar! Oh… and a wedding.” This is hilarious to me because as a wedding guest, I like to know whether or not there will be free alcohol. We are there to celebrate two people coming together to declare their love and unify as one for the rest of their lives! Your friends and guests want to celebrate with you, dance with you, laugh with you, and revel in the glowing light of your love - and everyone enjoys dancing a bit more after one or two adult beverages.
Choosing whether or not to do an open bar is one of the most stressful decisions you’ll make while planning the wedding.
First off, there’s the family politics of the game: do both families drink? Will anyone be offended by the presence of alcohol? Or do they get a little too rowdy after one too many drinks – because being featured on Cops rather than Weddings Weekly isn’t exactly every bride’s dream.
Second: the budget *insert dramatic score*. Is there room for an open bar in your budget? This can often be one of the biggest expenses of a wedding.
And last but certainly not least: how do you feel about it? On some levels, having an open bar might feel like it diminishes the importance of the ceremony at hand. Are you here for my husband and I, or are you here to eat and drink for free?
These are the questions you will have to address before you ever start tasting cocktails. And if after deciding yes, you do indeed want your wedding to also be a rocking party, then read on to learn a bit more about price and definitions of the phrase, “open bar.”
This is the *average* breakdown of what a liquor shopping list looks like for 100 guests:
Beer: 5-6 cases
Whiskey: 1 liter
Bourbon: 1 liter
Gin: 2-3 liters
Scotch: 2 liters
Light Rum: 1 liter
Vodka: 5 liters
Tequila: 1 liter
Champagne: 1½ cases
Red Wine: 2 cases
White Wine: 3½ cases
Dry Vermouth: 1 bottle
Sweet Vermouth: 1 bottle
The keyword here is “average.” You know best what your family and friends will drink. If no one you know drinks scotch – scratch that from the list. If you know that you and yours are mostly beer drinkers, be sure to buy more or go with the keg option instead. Also this list does not include mixers, syrups, or garnishes, so be sure to factor that in as well.
The next important thing is understanding exactly what “open bar” means. There are a few other options instead of having an entirely open and fully stocked free bar.
Open Bar: Guests do not pay at all; they can drink anything and everything they want. Generally, the payment plan works as charging per person per hour.
Hosted Bar: This is essentially an open bar: guests do not pay and can drink anything and everything they want. However, instead of charging per hour, each drink made is rung up and at the end of the night, the final bill is charged to the host.
Limited Bar: This can be when there is a limited selection of drinks like beer and wine; or it can be when the hosts choose to set specific drinking times like toasts or for an hour after dinner.
Cash Bar: The guests pay to drink - just like any other bar.
There is some wiggle room in all of these. If you want to do a limited bar with beer and wine, but you have a few friends who drink only vodka, then get creative! Add on one signature cocktail in the color of your wedding. Blue bridesmaid dresses – Blue Hawaiian cocktails! Big Alabama fan – Crimson Tide cocktails! (click the link for the recipe!)
There are always inexpensive shortcuts you can find when planning a wedding on a budget (and honestly who isn’t these days). Those pictures of you and your besties getting down on the dance floor will be some of your absolute favorites. The one candid shot of your groom and his friends toasting out on the balcony, one of your favorites. Not saying, of course, that there needs to be alcohol present to have a beautiful and fun affair. But, hey, if it helps the chances that all of your guests will get out there and spontaneously break into the “Thriller” dance, then it is totally worth it. #yolo (too much? Probably) ;)
Tell me what you think about having an open bar! Do you think cash bars are acceptable? If you've got any fun and crazy cocktail recipes, throw them in!