Thursday, February 18, 2010

c'mon, everybody else is doin' it...

I'm glad we'll have a night to rehearse getting blind drunk for the actual wedding reception

Although this hasn't really been a problem we've had to deal with given the fact that our wedding venue is a summer cottage, for years other couples have been forced to face the open bar vs. cash bar conundrum. And because it's what I do, I've decided to weigh in on the situation.

My main motivation for doing so? I'm tired of couples feeling pressured by this and oftentimes being forced into having an open bar even when they a) don't really want it b) can't afford it. Honestly, the pervasiveness of the wedding industry surprises even me sometimes. For years, the industry has done it's best to convince couples that it would be rude not to have an open bar, that it somehow causes them to fail to fulfill their duties as hosts, and that their guests will be hurt, offended, appalled, disgusted, horrified, shocked, *insert negative emotion of choice here* if they don't give in to the idea.

Take this article from The Knot, for example:

Q: Is it improper to have a cash bar at our reception, even if we will have around 400 people and don't have the money to provide for everyone?

A: While it is often necessary to find ways to cut costs, a cash bar is never a good choice. When you have a wedding, you're inviting people to a party, and they shouldn't have to pay for anything while they're there. [...]

Seriously? 400 people and they're still expected to have an open bar? Wouldn't that cost... um, about a bijjillion dollars? Oh, and as a warning, stay far, far away from the boards on The Knot if you're even thinking about a cash bar. Because they have etiquette police that will hunt you down and beat you with an old edition of Emily Post's wedding etiquette book.

As I watched my guilty pleasure/wedding planning show "Rich Bride, Poor Bride" tonight, the couple in question was discussing the possibility of a cash bar. Of course, the wedding planner was appalled by the idea, the bride wanted to have it, and the groom didn't want to fork over the cash. How'd they convince him? With this gem: "Well, just think about it. Would you invite friends and family over to your house and ask them to pay to drink? No, of course you wouldn't." And although he fired back with an extremely valid point: "Well, no, but I also wouldn't be offering them a $72 spread of food". A solid piece of logic which that they conveniently chose to ignore.

As I've already expressed in this post, I don't tend to subscribe to the "they're your guests, so you need to entertain them properly" philosophy that the wedding industry tries to shove down our throats. I've never felt the need to embrace my "duty" as a hostess, and I don't intend to ruin our budget just to avoid pissing people off. I love our guests, yes. I want them to enjoy the day, yes. But do I think that I need to provide $5,000 worth of booze to make them happy, ah hell no.

Personally, if I were to show up to a wedding with a cash bar, I wouldn't think anything of it. If I showed up to a wedding where they offered no booze, I'd be just as content. Then again, I'm not a big drinker, but even so, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who shows up to a wedding and gets pissed because the couple isn't breaking the bank to give guests a couple drinks can be told exactly where to go. Which is something I've already done with the two individuals that have expressed dislike for our booze-free wedding. While I understand that many people come to weddings expecting booze and some might even attend solely for the purpose of free food and the opportunity to get drunk, I'm not worried. For us, it's more important that our wedding be about the celebration of our union and the fewer people walking around in a drunken stupor, the better.

In addition to my stance against the wedding industry, we have a few practical reasons for excluding alcohol from our wedding:

1) The owners of our venue, my grandparents, are very strong in their religious faith and neither of them drink. So seeing friends and family slurring words and acting crazy (which, as unlikely as it may be, is always a possibility when there's alcohol available) could easily have the ability to ruin the reception for them.

2) Our venue is 40 minutes out of our main city and any overnight accommodations (except for an Inn which has 6 rooms, 3 of which are already booked for our wedding) are about 30 minutes away. Therefore, eliminating the possibility of drinking and driving is a necessity.

3) The cost. We simply don't care about it enough to fork over that kind of dough.

Like just about every issue with wedding planning, I desperately wish the wedding industry would get off people's backs when it comes to the bar. If you want it and can afford it, then kudos to you. But for everyone else who's having a booze-free or cash bar wedding, kudos to you too. So quit feeling guilty, don't feel like you're failing as a host, and don't feel like you're disappointing your guests. (I mean it, stop it. Right now.) Because more likely than not, the majority of your guests will be so thrilled to have seen you celebrate your love that the bar will be far from their minds.

Plus, think of it this way, even if you don't have the booze-a-flowin', you'll still be married. You'll still have each other. And you'll still be in love. Well, hopefully you will be.


Ellie said...

This question definitely drove our wedding planning. We wanted to serve alcohol, because we do drink (we're not big drinkers, but Mark brews his own beer, and I like wine, etc.) but we wanted to serve good beer and wine and not have to pay for the open bar. I mean, seriously, it's like, $20 a person. We decided early on on just beer and wine; and we decided early on that we wanted to do BYOB, to save the expense and serve wine that WE like. And not Coors Light.

I think, by my last estimate, we save about $1500 by not having an open bar. And our friends will be just as happy to just drink beer and wine. The people that don't drink beer or wine can either bring a flask or suck it up and drink specialty lemonade :).

The thing that I have been simply stunned by though, is the reaction of some of our guests when we talk about our wedding/food. Especially when I mention that we are having a meatless wedding, they always say something along the lines of "you're at least having an open bar, right?" At which point I go "uh, just beer and wine." I always feel embarrassed and cheap; and the guest always goes, "oh, I just meant you aren't doing a cash bar."

My problem with the cash bar though, is as follows:
1) I often do not bring money to weddings
2) Cash bars tend to be overpriced. The cash bar at an event I went to recently charged $16 for a glass of wine! Mixed drinks were $15 and beer was $14. The venue was obviously gouging, and it made us look bad! I couldn't possibly invite people to an event where they were expected to pay $16 for a glass of wine; I would rather not give them the option than look that obnoxious. If I was serving a cash bar, I would try to do what I could to cut the costs for our guests.

Another thing that doesn't often get mentioned is doing a "consumption" bar instead of a cash bar. When you don't have a lot of people drinking, and the drink prices aren't outrageous, an open bar isn't worth it - but, as always, the wedding industry plays on our fear of regret and tells us that we don't want to get stuck paying more than we would have if we had paid for the open bar. There is also nothing wrong with running a consumption bar up until a certain price point, and then making it a cash bar.

Miss Columbia Heights said...

This is a great topic and you've made some really good points! I love that your encouraging couples to do what they can afford, not what the wedding experts are telling them to do.

I'm baffled at the cost of weddings today. They're expensive! And for couples just starting out, who usually don't have houses or children, it's a little ridiculous to ask them shell out so much money for one night... Why not encourage them to save for the years ahead they'll be spending together?

Like you, I wouldn't think anything of a cash bar. These rules of etiquette and tradition are moving out if you ask me and affordable, unique affairs that celebrate the couple (not the free booze) are moving in.

Thanks for weighing in on this!

SG said...

I've been to both a cash bar wedding and a no alcohol wedding. I will say the no alcohol wedding was not as much fun but that could be b/c we were all 22 at the time and use to drinking ALL the time! Now it wouldn't be such a big deal.

We're going to serve just beer and wine in order to save money. Also, we plan to provide it ourselves that way we can return any unopened bottles. My fiance's family really likes to drink (not to excess but just to be social) so not having alcohol isn't really an option for us.

Vee said...

I am a "provide the alcohol" kind of girl; our venue is a winery so we are purchasing a certain amount of wine and bringing in a keg of beer. Not an "open bar" per se, but we are providing. (We are drinkers - not heavy, but we enjoy it - so it was important to us; I see how it would be less important to others, and that's fine!) That said, that Knot response is indicative of the reason I'm getting so jaded with wedding planning. Talk about Judgy McJudgersons!

Meg said...

SO with you!

We can't serve alcohol at our venue (a park). It wasn't a dealbreaker for us; we're not big drinkers and we're having a low-key, lots-of-kids invited afternoon wedding.

I know some people will be bummed, and I was at first worried we would seem uptight/boring for choosing a venue that nixes alcohol... or maybe felt that that I should "warn" people, to set their expectations? I've read so many wedding posts on how dull dry weddings are. But I'm sorry, this day is about more than getting wasted and if free booze is the only thing that gets some people to show up, well, I'm wondering just how great of friends they are. The wedding will be over early-ish, so if people are up for an afterparty, i'm all for the idea.

I am so tired of trying to avoid any whiff of unintentional rudeness. You really can't win. I was reading some post on (man, do not go to those boards unless you want a whole lotta crazy and bickering!) about how tacky honeymoon registries are. Well, I thought, maybe we should skip the registry all together... but my mom thought that seemed rude ("people want an easy gift option!"). UGH. Haha, so true about people beating you over the head w/Emily Post!

I've decided it's pretty certain that we are going to piss someone off, somehow, somewhere along the way. And I'm trying to be at peace with that, LOL.

very married said...

i LOVE those ecards! there's one that's like, "i'm glad you brought your flavor of the month to the most important day of our life" Hilarious!

Miss C said...

Our Australian reception will be at a winery. We're paying on consumption but only offering beer wines and soft drinks. I think people get too messy on spirits and it really isn't necessary to provide them.

For the Irish reception (and boy do they love to drink), our package includes half a bottle of wine per person over dinner. After and outside of that, it will be a cash bar. But that is totally the norm over there, you're only expected to buy the first round.

I don't think I could have a dry wedding, simply because I couldn't eat a nice meal out without a glass of wine to go with it ;)

Cupcake Wedding said...

So everyone I know is a total lush. I think it's almost more important to get them drunk than to feed them. But your reasons are very valid, and, at the end of the day, you should do what makes you happy. THERE ARE NO RULES. I can't state this enough. I hate all these fucking advice articles that are all about RULES RULES RULES. It's your effing party. Do what you want. Anyhow, I am happy you wrote this for the people who don't want to have an open bar. Everyone needs encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Well, I do agree with etiquette that cash bars are bad. Hosting a party implies you are footing the bill and many people don't carry cash.

But etiquette never demands that you serve alcohol in the first place. You can go non-alcohol or limit it to beer and wine.

Any guest feeling entitled to an open bar simply don't know much about etiquette.

Julie A. Whitlock said...

i've only been to one open bar wedding and it was a horrid drunken mess. really really bad. peeing in the parking lot bad. you're good!!

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