Friday, January 29, 2016

Wedding Bar Options (And choosing which is right for you)

If you decide to have your wedding at a non-ballroom location (like a park, garden, rental home, etc.), you can control your expenses. You're more in charge of what you spend because there's generally no minimum to meet, no caterer you're required to use.

When you choose what I call a ballroom location (basically, a traditional venue or reception hall), you are mostly at the mercy of the venue. You can choose a cheaper protein for dinner to cut your expenses, but that's pretty minimal.

Your best bet to cut costs is to close the bar. But, that's not your only choice. You have other wedding bar options.

Trying to cut down on your wedding costs? You can do so at the bar. There are a few options: cash bar, open bar, limited bar, signature cocktails, etc. You can learn a little bit about each of these wedding bar options from and choose which is right for you.

At the majority of venues we looked at, the average cost of an open bar was $10 a head an hour. It's crazy, especially for someone like me who doesn't drink at all. You don't pick and choose who gets a bar tab; you have to pay that cost per head (unless you invite children; you don't pay for alcohol for them, obviously).

The best way to combat that cost is to close the bar for an hour. During a five-hour reception, you can chose to have the bar open for only four hours. If you have 100 people at your reception, you're saving an average of $1,200 to close the bar for an hour.

I've been to a wedding where the bar was closed for an hour following the cocktail hour. The cocktail hour was on the bottom floor of the reception hall, and the buzz was going around that when we went upstairs for the rest of the reception, there wouldn't be drinks for an hour. So everyone grabbed a cocktail in each hand and nursed them for the next hour.

Personally, I would close the bar during dinner. The chance of people getting up for drinks during that time is slim. And dinner is generally an hour of people sitting in their seats anyway. I did mention this during our planning, though, and my dad said no. It was the only word he uttered during any wedding planning, so of course I honored it.

But, if you don't have any nay-sayers, make a cute little sign that says, "The bar will be closed during dinner. Please grab your dinner drinks prior to the meal" or something similar. Hang the sign on both sides of every bar during the cocktail hour (similar to where you would put a cocktail list if you were doing signature cocktails instead of a full bar) so your guests will be aware of the closure. Then, during the actual meal, you can ask the signs to be moved to the middle of the bar. Personally, I don't think this will be such an inconvenience for anyone. And it could save you over a thousand dollars.

It's definitely something to think about to cut down your costs, especially for a ballroom wedding where there's less wiggle room. But, if you want to keep the bar open during the entire reception, you do have other options.

Wedding Bar Options (And choosing which is right for you)

You can have a cash bar and your guests would pay per drink. For the venue we chose, it's about $9 per mixed drink (if you just go to hang out), which can get pretty pricey. I would hate for people to show up to your wedding without cash, find out it's a cash bar, and be thirsty all night because they didn't know alcohol wasn't included. Plus, there's a very good chance your guests will give you cash as a gift, which will cover a good portion of their per plate cost. It just seems a little tacky if you expect them to bring a gift and pay for their own beverages.

You can also do a running tab. The bartender keeps a tab and you pay it at the end of the night. For a guest list that doesn't drink a lot, this is perfect. For a guest list that does drink a lot, this can get really out of hand and end up costing you more than a flat fee would. So you can set a limit. You can say your tab is $1,000 and the bar either closes or turns into a cash bar when you hit that limit.

If you are worried that the costs of drinks will add up, you can have an open bar but limit the drinks that are offered. Most venues will have a set per head per hour price for beer/wine, beer/wine/well liquor, and beer/wine/top shelf liquor. The price varies with the quality of items you offer. If you know your guests won't drink top shelf liquor, or won't drink liquor at all, you can plan accordingly.

What a lot of couples are opting to do is have an open bar for beer and wine, and then have a signature cocktail available. If you and your groom have a favorite drink, consider choosing that as your signature cocktail.

What We Did

We had a full open bar with beer, wine, and house liquor for five hours. I really wanted to maximize it, though. In my mind, it was sort of a game. I told a few of my best friends that if they drank one drink an hour, we would "win." And if they didn't, the venue would win. We definitely won, but that's why we went with an open bar.

But, just to stack the odds in our favor, I had a champagne flute of white wine passed out to every guest when they entered our venue. When Pete and I were on vacation in Mexico, we arrived at the resort and were immediately handed a flute filled with champagne and topped with a strawberry. It was such a great way to start our vacation. I wanted to give that feeling to our guests, but, like I said, champagne is one of the things you can skip and no one will notice or care. Since wine was included in our open bar package, I had a flute of wine handed out. It maximized what we already paid for (and we didn't have to pay extra), plus added something special to our big day.

BRIDAL BABBLE: Which of the wedding bar options is best for your wedding?

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I purchased tickets (like the ones you pass out at raffles).Each guest that was of age received two tickets. They used those at the bar for their drinks, so we only paid for two drinks per person. Those that didn't drink gave their tickets to other guests. This really cut down on the alcohol expense and we weren't paying for people to get totally drunk!