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Excuse Me, Is This Bar Open?

I will never forget this day.  We are in Ireland for a wedding, my wife walks up to the bar and asks the barman if the bar is “open”.  Of course thinking, it’s a wedding, it must be free drinks.  And hey, we’re in bloody Ireland right?  Well, this little Irish fella turns to my wife, a mildly puzzled look on his face and says “Of course the bar is open my dear.”  So we order a couple pints and turn to leave…where upon he exclaims…”That’ll be 10 pounds  50 please.”  The bar was technically “open” but it meant something different in Ireland.

Everyone loves an open bar, but there are plenty of other options for the bride and groom.

Everyone loves an open bar, but there are plenty of other options for the bride and groom.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

There are many choices of what type of bar you can have at your wedding, the open or free bar, the loony or toony bar, or the regular full price bar.  All of these could be paired with complimentary wine and champagne or just an open cocktail hour.  It’s really up to your wedding planning plans, your bride, the budget and what is important to you.  If you really want an open bar, maybe you have to reallocate some of the wedding budget from elsewhere.

Yes, This Bar Is Open

If you choose to go with the open bar, you want to know what you as the host will be paying for each drink.  Because someone has to pay.  Check if you can bring in your own supply of liquor and then check what the corkage fee will be per person.  Make sure the barkeep only opens bottles on a need to basis, that way you could return any unused bottles after the wedding.  But in truth you know you’ll just be taking it home.  To cut down on costs, have the staff serve wine at dinner instead of just putting bottles on the table.  I would also suggest closing the bars during dinner and speeches so people stay in their seats.  If a guest wants a drink from the bar this time…beer or spirits not usually served during dinner then have one of the wait staff fetch it for them.

Spare Change Anyone?

Loony and Toony bars are quite popular.  This will offset the cost to you on the liquor bill.  I have clients who are having a loony bar at their wedding, but have decided to donate all cash made via the bar to their favorite charity.  This is a great idea also.  It’s always nice to give back whenever possible.  It’s not too much to ask your guests to pony up a buck or two for a drink.  If you decide to do this you can always offer a free signature drink for the cocktail hour, complimentary wine with dinner and champagne for the speeches.  Also, I have found if you charge for the drinks, it cuts done on the one sip and left on the table problems.  And people seem not to go overboard if they have to pay for a drink.  But really?  A dollar or two ain’t that much to ask.

Just A Regular Bar With Regular Prices

You may decide to go with a regular bar and regular prices.  There may be numerous reasons for this.  Your guests may not be big drinkers and alcohol isn’t that important.  I attended a wedding for a couple in recovery, so most people were on the pop and coffee.  The few people drinking of course knew this so it wasn’t a big deal.  It really comes down to what is important to you and your budget.  If you have drinkers in the crowd but can’t do an open or discounted bar, offer other choices.  A complimentary signature drink or glass of champagne upon arrival is great.  Free wine at dinner is good, but have the wait staff serve it so your guests don’t pound through the bottles.  Offer complimentary juice, pop, sparkling water, coffees and tea.  You could also offer a free “special” coffee menu for after dinner or a port with dessert.  This will cut down the overall bar cost but the guests will also feel well taken care of.

Simon’s Gutsy Groom Advice

There are many ways to regulate drink consumption at a wedding so don’t be afraid to get creative.  I would always suggest shutting down the bars during dinner and if not that…for sure during speeches.  It’s hard enough to speak in front of a large crowd without people constantly getting up and distracting you.

Don’t be afraid of what other people think, you don’t want to go into debt just so you can have an open bar at your wedding.  If it’s really important to you that the booze be flowin’ have a look at your budget and see where you can get the money from.  A planner comes in really handy to help re-allocate funds.

Signature drinks are great, you know what’s in them, you know how much alcohol you need to make them and when they’re gone, they’re gone.  You can have lots of fun experimenting with recipes to come up with the perfect one for you and your bride.  I was re-watching Casino Royale last week. During the poker game, Bond orders a martini, which he later christens “The Vesper” and it’s a damn fine drink.  Thought I’d leave you the recipe to start you off.

Bond's signature drink is the Vesper Martini

Bond’s signature drink is the Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini Recipe

Ingredients (brands listed are my personal fav’s)

* 6 Parts Gordon’s Gin
* 2 Parts Smirnoff Vodka
* 1 Part Lillet blanc
* Lemon Twist

Mixing Instructions
Shake gin, vodka and Lillet with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist.


Simon Daykin is an award winning event designer, planner and groom stylist with Fire Fly Occasions. Simon strives to get grooms involved in the wedding planning process and have their opinions heard. He understands that grooms can get left out or pushed out of the planning process so he’s here to help. You can connect with him further on Google+.

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