OCT 01

Saying No to Open Bar

By Vinnie

It’s not easy to have a non-open bar wedding when there’s so much  pressure on brides and grooms to have an open bar. It’s quite the norm in Western culture, where as it’s much less common in Chinese wedding banquets, where usually only a selection of pop, beer and wine is served.

The relationship between drinking and having a good time is so intricately linked in our culture. It seems like we can’t celebrate unless there’s an abundance of alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, some of my fondest memories include laughing and talking over a pitcher of sangria with friends, but I never was a fan of binge drinking. I’ve never partied so hard that I had to vomit in a toilet at a club. Ever. Even on my 19th birthday (the legal drinking age in BC).

Here are some reasons why Stephen and I don’t want an open bar:

  1. We want to reduce costs. Open bars cost a lot of money, money that can be better spent on food, our honeymoon, and maybe even towards a new car or mortgage.
  2. We aren’t big drinkers, and we drink maybe only once a month during social events. We don’t believe you need to drink to have a good time (I know, we’re such squares). Having an open bar just wouldn’t really reflect who we are.
  3. We want our friends and family to act like adults. Now I’m not saying that most of our guests would be knocking over centrepieces and picking fights just because we have an open bar, but the chances of someone acting like a drunken idiot skyrockets by 300 percent when you promise an unlimited supply of free booze.

When I broke the news to my friends that I wasn’t having an open bar, I got some pretty strong reactions. One vowed to bring his own flask of whiskey to my wedding to make sure he could get his drink on.

It was right then and there that he confirmed our decision not to have an open bar.

I’ll most likely be serving a white wine, a red wine, a couple of beer selections, and probably a yummy cocktail punch at my afternoon wedding next Fall.

What about you? Are you going to have an open bar? A limited bar? A dry wedding? Let me know in the comments below!

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Categories: Bride-to-be Blogger11 Comments


I agree with you, we are also not doing an open bar and once I told my friends, they were pretty divided. Some completely understood and were supportive while others scrunched their noses and, like your friend, vowed to bring their own “fun” – either way, the money is not only saved, I also have peace of mind that it won’t get out of hand completely!

Janneke on October 01, 2012

We decided against open bar to limit costs but still wanted to offer something to our guests. Our venue had a ticket system so you had to purchase tickets first to exchange for drinks at the bar. Our guests paid $3 per ticket (roughly half price) and we picked up the tab for the balance at the end of the night. The problem I saw was that people would buy say 10 tickets and only exchange 5 of them for drinks at the bar. The venue had no way of keeping track of how many tickets were exchanged and we were still on the hook for the other half of the drink cost even though the drinks were never redeemed.

Alysa on October 01, 2012

Your option of serving alcohol is still welcomed to friends and family who fear “CASH BARS”. So while you say no to OPEN BARS, you are still providing an assortment of alcoholic beverages for those in attendance.

Elise on October 01, 2012

We’ve decided to have a toonie bar…we’re picking up the tab for the rest…and our main reason is so that there is no waste. I’ve seen so many open bar situations where someone will order a drink, set it down somewhere, forget it, and just go grab another.. I know this will probably still happen, but when its not free, hopefully it will be held on to! We’re getting married at a brewery (can’t really escape the aclohol there!) so we’re playing with the idea of putting 2 tickets in our invites and have those be the “drinks on us” :)

Alysha on October 01, 2012

From one square to another, I think your idea to provide a cash free option for your guests is so thoughtful! I think you are meeting societies expectations half way by compromising what you as a couple feel reflect you both. Personally, I would have gone dry although I totally love your idea, because I don’t like the concept of a cash bar (too tacky) and I would never want an open bar. It’s just too unfortunate that you are getting a negative reaction from friends – I will let you know what my response is when that day comes!

Notables on October 01, 2012

Completely agree with your decision! I have a client, wedding next summer, and they are going with 4 drink tickets and the rest is up to the guest. This is a great way to limit your drink budget and know what your cost is going to be at the end of the night.

Alysha your idea to have at least of toonie bar is very wise – the biggest waste of drinks that I cleanup after is from completely open bars.

Lisa @ We Connect Wedding Planning on October 01, 2012

We will be having open bar. It’s just a matter of preference. We feel like we’re putting on a big party for all our family and friends and to have them pay for their own drinks at the celebration is just not something we want to happen. We live in a small town though, and we get together with friends most weekends to have a few drinks and chat/play cards/go camping, etc. so alcohol is not at all taboo with us. Your friend’s extreme reaction is not necessary. He can still drink at your wedding, he’ll just have to pay for his drink.

Caleigh on October 01, 2012

We are serving a cocktail, beer and wine during the cocktail hour, wine with dinner, and a champagne toast. After that, it’s a cash bar. If people are that greedy that they cannot be satisfied with our decision, then they probably aren’t really our friends anyway.

Sarah on October 02, 2012

We are absolutely having an open bar. in fact, we picked our venue mainly on the basis that they are letting us stock our own bar.(which helps as keep costs low) We both are very social drinkers (not binge drinkers) and all of our friends are the same. After expecting guests to pay hotel and travel costs and purchasing gifts and all the other expenses associated with attending a wedding we felt it was something our guests would really enjoy. the idea of a cash bar to us has always seemed a bit tacky.

lia on October 04, 2012

The only time I have felt hard done by was at a family wedding where the beer was free but all other drinks had to be paid for. I think perhaps an amount behind the bar and then once that is gone then drinks have to be paid for is a fairer way of doing it.

Chris on October 06, 2012

[…] my dilemma about open bar? After long discussions with family members, we settled on using drink tickets/tokens. But I […]

Wedding Obsession - Canadian Wedding Inspiration Blog on March 18, 2013

Thank the Lord! Seriously, my fiancé’s family are mostly alcoholics. Offering an open bar would suit them quite well but would also make sure we had to put up with their fighting, screaming, temper tantrums, etc. We are rare drinkers. I personally have not had alcoholic drink in over a year because I’m technically not allowed due to previous pancreatitis and because I do not enjoy a second of it. But yes, this topic worries me. Affordability, yes maybe. Actual want, no. Reading this has helped us make the decision that can cause a large problem and and a down wedding (drunk or not). We’ve decided to deal with sober party poopers, rather than police at our reception.

Angel on May 02, 2015

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