Skip to comments.After wedding, is bar package or by-the-drink better?
Posted on 01/17/2012 10:56:01 AM PST by Former MSM Viewer
Anyone have experience with open bar package of drinks vs by-the-drink for a reception?
I think the by-the-drink makes sense. Anyone have any experience with this?
We did open bar. Some folks drank, some folks didn’t.
The inclusive price assures no surprises.
Legally, you might be better off giving out drink tickets.
A good bar can and will charge for consumption. Put an upper limit on it for no surprises.
I had open bar. Not everyone used it but it was there for the asking.
My only direct experience: When my younger brother got married, I knew it was tradition for my Father to pay the bar bill at the reception. I also knew that my Father didn't have much money, and I was worried that he might have trouble handling the bill.
BTW, I have never been a drinker, and I had absolutely no idea how much the bill might be. I had visions of a $1000 tab.
So, I snuck over to the bartender, and told her to give me the bill and that I would pay it. At the end of the evening, my Father found out about it and assured me that he could handle it.
It turned out to be about $80.
Just my personal opinion. Do not spend too much on your wedding reception unless it is easily affordable. I know too many people that spend 30K on a wedding but cannot put a down payment on a first home. Guests aren’t coming for the free beer....well,maybe not.
My daughter just got married in September and we were on a very, very, very tight budget. Told the venue place to allow wine and beer to a certain dollar amount and once that was met then everything after that the person getting alcohol would be responsible for their own. Opened the bar once the wedding party arrived into the reception room. Worked out very well with no complaints.
I’m not sure when all the bars open around here, but my Uncle Mel seems to be drunk by 9am.
We purchased all our own alcohol and mixers and had a volunteer friend play bartender. When it was gone it was gone... we actually ended up with quite a bit of leftovers.
Know your guests, if you know what I mean.
I went open bar to keep guests focused on a good time, not distracted by costs. (Yes, the bottom line was a large figure.) They all behaved.
From Wedding Etiquette:
It is my professional opinion, having counseled a great many couples who are grappling with this issue, that if you have come to the conclusion that you absolutely can not have an open bar, the best, most gentle and non-offensive way to handle the matter is to take a combination approach. What has worked for many couples quite successfully is to provide perhaps 2 drink tickets for each adult guest. These can be included in each invitation along with the other enclosures. After your guests have used their 2 tickets, they will be required to pay for any additional drinks. A lot of couples are quite comfortable with this approach, believing that 2 drinks in an evening is a reasonable and responsible level of drinking for any guest to partake in and that anything above that may become excessive./
Where we made our real margin was on the cakes and space rental.
$40 worth of materials and a day of labor, and you could sell some cakes for $1500.
I love weddings. ;)
My personal opinion is that if something is free, people will take advantage and drink more than they would normally. However, maybe I'm wrong.
Now, I'm thinking of the 2-part episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where his brother Robert got married and it was a pay for your own drink kind of set-up. It seemed in that ep that the bride's family were looked on as cheap because they weren't providing free booze.
So, maybe any way you go, someone won't like it. But, I still think human nature will have some people drinking more than they might normally. I am a pessimist by nature, though, so you can take that into account.
At my kids’ weddings, we provided a bottle of champaign for each 6 person table. There was no other alcohol served at the reception, although the hotel had lots of other places for folks to drink. This avoided the usual fistfights and gunplay so common at weddings.
Mine had no bar at all because the majority of my guests did not drink and the one person who did... let's just say we would rather not have put temptation in his way!
If most don't drink or only drink lightly then by-the-drink is good. On the other hand if your guests drink like frat boys (~grin) then go with open bar.
I don’t know anything, except that on TV shows, whenever they talk about a per-drink reception, it’s always about calling the bride and groom cheapskates. Have no idea if that is also the way it is in real life.
I have no idea if we had an open or per-drink bar at our reception. I wasn’t involved.
My wife has some Baptists in her family so she said if they were to be invited, the party needed to be dry. She didn’t even want to have a champagne toast because she though the Baptists would be offended, which of course in the end they weren’t.
I got around that and we (the boys) purchased a few cases and some wine and the champs and did it ourselves. My dad (who was deathly ill but kept it from us until a few months later) was the unofficial barkeep, acting like he was at a speakeasy.
To date we see the groomsmen a few times a year and we have never seen or heard from her relatives that were so important that we had to plan our wedding reception around.
Have the wedding you want to have. Open bar or pay per drink, your guests will understand.
In my early life I had to inspect bars. I decided to inspect a tough one first thing in the morning. Bad mistake as night shift workers filled the place. Some wanted the guy next to them removed as a health hazard - that included me. Bad idea that I quickly scrapped.
Open bars are okay, but DON’T INVITE GUYS FROM DENMARK.
Kidding. My daughter married a guy from Denmark and wanted open bar. This was previous to her telling me the size of the Danish wedding party. I thought, hey, how much can they really drink?
Go 2 drink tickets a person, then cash bar. Trust me.
Perhaps we are related if this also seems common for you.
“The usual fistfights and gunplay so common at weddings.” We have a lot of knife fights at the weddings in our family. The fistfights and gunfights usually happen at the baptisms or Bar Mitzvahs, depending on which side of the family is having the ceremony.
At my daughters wedding we had two bottles of wine at each table for dinner and a cash bar.
Just don’t over do. (I know easier said than done)
Ours was open bar. I didn’t want to look cheap and I could afford it. There’s always someone who misbehaves. It makes the evening more memorable.
If you are going to pay the tab either way, open bar gives you a known set price. If you are going to pick up the tab anyway, and have them charge you by the drink you have no idea what your bar tab may be. You may wind up under the open bar price, or you may wind up way over it.
Lets face it, at the end of the day how do you prove they didn’t give out 500 drinks? Lot of room for some padding and fraud if you are paying the tab by the drink.
Are you the owner of the hall, or the party renting it?
My parents died fairly young and left us with 20 years’ worth of unopened Christmas liquor presents. So my bride and I decided to get rid of it with an open bar. My friend offered to bartend for free. Everything went great until he got so drunk he puked. Then he disappeared. But he eventually came back and closed out the program, for a final score of 6.8. The wedding was held in my backyard. We skipped the tent. It didn’t rain. We had fun, and saved a lot of dough. I’m glad my wife went along with it. I tell my girls, when the time comes, I’m providing a tent AND a keg.
Bar package. For my wedding I also demanded that there be no tip jar on the bar. My parents were automatically billed 18% gratuity as part of the overall cost, so I didn’t think it right that our guests be guilted into a tip. The guy argued but I won. If you decide to go by-the-drink, ask the bartenders to keep all empty bottles. This helps assure that they are not charging you for drinks never purchased.
You mean you didn’t agree to the price of the open bar beforehand? Oops.
At my wedding (which was full of fratboys), we made up every dime and them some of what was paid for that open bar.
I have seen it done with open bar for a limited amount of time, such as, until the guests sit down to eat, and cash thereafter. This way each person has a chance to get a drink or 2, but presumably cuts back for later into the event. If you do this, just before there is sufficient bar staff that the lines are not too long. Another option is the host paying for beer and wine (not limited) but not for mixed drinks.
before = be sure
Peyote was the budget killer at my wedding.
I went to one of those open bar things once, but darned if I can remember how it went......../S
I am struggling with this question myself. Our Marine son is getting married in May. A lot of her family are Baptists and then there are his friends.....Marines..... and the guys that are not Marines can certainly keep up with the Marines in the are of adult consumption....I think it may be cheaper to go with a flat rate....we shall see.....
I was a bartender for 20 yrs and worked at a country club for ten of them. Worked many weddings, etc, open bar and not.
Open bar was always charged by the drink. You can put a top on what amount of dollars you want to spend and then close it if you want. Or you can have the guests pay for their own drinks.
You can also take your own wine and the bar will charge you corkage for each bottle opened and you get whatever is not drank back.
Now my experiences on open bars at weddings. Don’t do it. Every single one I have worked with open bars peeved me off in some way. It is hard to keep the drinks out of under 21’s hands. Believe it or not people actually order drinks for them, the waitresses go by and pick them up from them and then turn around and there is another drink in their hands. Then the younger ones get drunk and cause all kinds of problems. We actually billed one sponsor for thousands of dollars because the teenagers went out and stole a few golf carts and tore up the greens with them.
If you want to provide drink I would suggest the wine and let them pay for the hard liquor, etc if they want to drink it.
I did this last year for daughter #1 and expect to be doing it for #2 & #3 in the not too distant future.
We looked at all the options and decided on the open bar. If you opt for a by-the-drink bar you’re going to pay a premium per drink. And there’s always the problem of who’s keeping the tab, its accuracy and then squaring up at the end of the evening. With the open bar you know what the cost and tip will be up front and are assured (per the contract) that all beer, wine and liquor will be available throughout the evening.
A major consideration for us was the age and number of attendees. We had 175 guests of which the majority (about 125) were young (20s & 30s). I feel comfortable that we made the right decision and will probably do it this way for the next two as well.
Just a word about the tip....since we were required to add an 18% gratuity to each component of the contract (i.e. food and beverage) we knew the bartenders were well compensated. Given that, we stipulated that there were no “tip jars” allowed at the bars.
One last thought: better to get all this administrivia out of the way in advance so you and the mother of the bride can enjoy the day with the knowledge that all your guests will be well taken care of.
We went open bar and stuck with beer and wine. We found out, however, that a large percentage of my beer-drinking friends choose wine when someone else is paying. Just a heads-up for inventory selection.
We didn’t do an open bar. It’s a wedding, not a frat party. The bar was open at the time and we had discounted drinks. We did place a bottle of champagne on each table for the toast but that was it.
I went with wine, beer, and sodas by-the-drink charge. My total for what was served was less than $700. (I do not remember the exact amount.)
I would highly recommend you check out your state's legal liability for serving liquor. You want to protect yourself in the event some unknown liberal guests show up and decide to get plastered on ‘free’ liquor.
We had three options.
First was “package open bar” which was a charge based on a per person assumption of consumption. So, say we had fifty people, assume four drinks per person @ 5.00 per drink (amount per drink depends largely on where you live) throw in a required 20% for the bartender, and tax.
Second was to be paid by us also, and the bartender SUPPOSEDLY kept track of the drinks in a “running tab”, the bill was SUPPOSED to be an actual reflection of the actual drinks consumed. Plus tax and the 20%.
Third was the guests could buy their own drinks, for part of, or for the whole event. So, we could provide drinks up until dinner, then the event changed to “cash bar”, which is the term for “guests pay for their own per drink”.
Or they could just buy their own from the get-go, which would cost us nothing but a 20% gratuity.
We chose the first option with no restriction on call brand (quality). We had a very small reception with only about (half) 25 people that drank. We figured that even if they were heavy drinkers, it shouldn’t be too bad. BIG MISTAKE.
You see, when I went in for the final consult and to sign the contract, I happened to make a joke about hoping the bar bill wouldn’t be over $1500.00 because that was all we had set aside for it. The coordinator assured me that it should not come anywhere near that amount. Then she stood up, took the paperwork, and went through a door that I hadn’t noticed. I could hear her and the manager/owner discussing various details of my contract. And I smacked myself in the forehead - I could hear them plainly. He likewise could hear everything that I had said plainly.
Our bar bill for that occasion came to exactly $1500.00
Frankly, we got hosed.
We actually chose the second option - we wanted a true bill for the actual drinks consumed. They refused to show us the register reconciliation when we questions the costs.
That is not necessarily a sign you got hosed. I worked many open bars with a cap. Every drink was rang up on the register and I would do a total every once in awhile and then cut it off when the cap was reached.
The main thing about free drinks for people.....they drink more and they ALWAYS order premium stuff. Someone that usually will order a gin and tonic will always order a Tanq tonic. A vodka tonic ALWAys becomes a Stoli tonic. You can reach your cap pretty fast like that.
You know, I used to make this joke on occasion, too.
Until I made the wisecrack to a guy whose Sister-in-Law ... the Bride ... got hauled away in handcuffs. She beat the living hell out of the groom (this guy's brother) because she caught him diddling one of the bridesmaids at the reception.
Now, I only make that joke in front of close friends and family.
Is it an Irish wedding or an Amish wedding?
We did not request or suggest a cap. The bar was open the entire time - and many just had bottled beer or wine.
No, we got hosed.
Twenty-five people drank, I only had three drinks, hubby had about four, so twenty-three people didn’t drink $1400.00 + in liquor and bottled beer and wine. LOL - they were all upright and coherent, no drunkies.
I hosted a bereavement gathering (wake) at a different place-no prior notice, and had them run a per-drink tab.
The same deal, no restrictions on brand, wine and beer too. That place had drink prices about the same as the reception venue.
Twice as many people drinking, for roughly 2 1/2 hours came to right around $550. And there were a few drunkies there.
Give each person one or two tickets to get a “well drink”.
Any drinks after that are for the professionals and you keep your costs to a predictable number.
If they're middle class or higher income professionals, and fairly mature adults (but not a bunch of drunks), and they're driving home after the event they'll probably stop at 2 or 3 drinks just out of a sense of self-protection (DUI).
If there are going to be a bunch of college students or low income people who might feel that “urge” to take advantage of a freebie, you need to limit both your financial and legal risk. And earlier post suggested you pass out drink tickets...might be a good idea for a group like that.
If you have a bunch of heavy drinkers and have an open bar, you'd better brace yourself for a difficult night. I've run open bars at wedding receptions and watched a couple hours into the event as the bride's father stood next to the bar agonizing as we poured each drink. I wouldn't leave wedding guests with that much control over the cost of my daughter's wedding.
When my daughter gets married I'll probably buy a couple kegs and put them out as “self-serve,” and give every guest a couple drink tickets so I can enjoy the night without much worry.
FWIW, we had a dry wedding reception. No booze. Everyone had a lovely time and got home okay :-)