Sure you want your guests to enjoy themselves at your wedding reception, but if you don’t want to break bank or law here’s what you will need to know, including how to calculate how much to buy.
Unquestionably, one of hottest topics that must be dealt with when planning a wedding reception is whether to have an open bar or a cash bar. Why does this particular topic tend to be so controversial?
Well, for one thing, some people will tell you that it would be rude to invite guests to your reception, then ask them to pay for their own drinks. On other hand, an open bar—at which your guests drink for free, perhaps into wee hours of morning if they last that long—could leave you with a bill that will forever remain etched in your memory.
Both points of view are well taken. It’s true that one wouldn’t ordinarily invite people to dinner or a party with expectation that they will pay for what you serve. But it is equally true that people tend to be overly indulgent, not to mention downright wasteful, with alcohol they aren’t paying for. They will take a sip or two, set their glass down and begin talking, then walk away. Later, instead of returning for their glass, they will head for bar to order yet another drink. So, what’s answer?
There really isn’t a correct answer, but there are options. You could:
*Serve free champagne punch. Since it is relatively light in terms of alcohol content, your guests aren’t as likely to become obnoxious, even if they’ve had more than their fair share.
*Have an open bar for first hour or two. This approach will prevent you from feeling, and looking, like a cheapskate but will allow you to keep your bank account in black.
*Have each table set to include allocated bottles of wine or champagne. For example, a table seating six to eight people might be decked with two bottles of wine or champagne. Since you can expect each bottle to hold between 4 and six glassfuls, everyone will have one to two glasses for dinner and toast. (Obviously, you will want to have toast as early as possible to avoid an embarrassing situation in which guests will be forced to hold up empty glasses.)
*Use open-and-shut-case approach. This requires purchasing beer kegs or cases of good-quality beer, plus several cases of good-quality wine. Since you have purchased supply in advance, you will determine just how much is being spent on drinks.
For guests who insist upon drinking until cows come home or would like something stronger, make a cash bar available.
*Have waiters and waitresses serve drinks from a tray. This approach is not only stylish, it is also quite cost effective because you remain in control of how much is consumed.
Choose a few different drinks to be served, including beer and wine. Then have staff circulate throughout reception area at pre-scheduled intervals. Perhaps waiters and waitresses might offer drinks when reception starts, then just before or during dinner, then a few times later in evening but not throughout night. With tray service, you guest will not pay for their drinks, but this will still be a lot cheaper than having an open bar.
If you are planning to have your reception in a home or backyard and you will not be using a caterer, here is what you will need to know.
In this situation, a cash bar is simply not one of available choices. It is against law to sell alcohol without a liquor license. (You wouldn’t want to spend your honeymoon in pokey.)
If home is not equipped with one, you will need a rented bar (or a sturdy table or two, dressed to floor or ground with linen). Plan to stock bar or table(s) with beer, vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, cordials (liqueur), brandy, gin, wine, sparkling juice, and possibly punch.