Author Topic: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?  (Read 3046 times)

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Take2

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Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« on: March 21, 2012, 11:49:15 AM »
My wedding party is only fiance, me, and our 4 kids. But we want to invite all our out-of-town guests to dinner that night, which will be more than half the wedding guests and probably 30-40 people. It will be casual, we are looking at having a semi-private buffet at a casual dining place. The place says we can do open bar, issue 2 tickets per diner for drinks and then they can start a tab, or just not cover alcohol. Soda and tea are covered.

I don't like the idea of not covering ANY alcoholic drinks at the dinner. But a completely open tab could quickly get cost-prohibitive. Is it rude to do the ticket thing and buy 2 drinks per person?

NyaChan

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2012, 11:50:26 AM »
Have you asked if you can limit the offerings to red & white wine and beer?  That way you would be offering alcohol but controlling the costs.

WillyNilly

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 12:06:06 PM »
I think a limited bar is fine.  Whether its limited by choice (wine and beer only, signature cocktail only, etc) or via tickets.  Yes tickets is less formal but generally so are rehearsal dinners.  Personally if I were doing tickets I would still as hostess cover any additional drinks, I would simply bill the tickets to guests casually as "oh its just an easier way for the restaurant to keep track..." but I think subconsciously people would get the hint and would self limit. 

In my experience however, bars are more commonly limited by choice then by quantity, so while I think the tickets are ok, I think limiting to wine & beer (and soft drinks & coffee/tea) only is a better way to go.  Excellent wine can be bought wholesale for as little as $3 a bottle, so even if the restaurant did a 50% mark-up for profit, it can be very affordable to simply serve wine. 

gellchom

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 03:06:16 PM »
I wouldn't have any kind of cash bar, ticketed or otherwise, because I don't like to charge guests for anything.  Control costs by limiting the offerings and/or the time that the bar will be open, or don't have alcohol at all.

It varies a lot -- a LOT -- by community custom, but read the many strings on eHell on cash bars and consider whether, even if you live in a community that condones them, you want ANY of your guests to get the kind of impression that many posters do when confronted with a cash bar.

I do enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine at a party, but as a guest I'd much rather have no alcohol than see a ticketed (even partially) or cash bar.

Take2

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 03:28:01 PM »
To be clear, the tickets weren't to be purchased. The tickets were given to the guests to claim their 2 drinks.

I am going to ask about limiting the party to beer and wine. People will still be able to purchase mixed drinks, as the bar is open to the entire restaurant. Will that seem rude?

I almost feel like it is more rude to offer 2 drinks to each guest than none. If we offer NO drinks, then just soda and tea and water will be served and anyone who wants alcohol can order from the bar. I would like to be more generous than that, but am afraid it will feel more stingy to give out 2 tickets than to just skip covering alcohol entirely.

NyaChan

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2012, 03:46:53 PM »
To be clear, the tickets weren't to be purchased. The tickets were given to the guests to claim their 2 drinks.

I am going to ask about limiting the party to beer and wine. People will still be able to purchase mixed drinks, as the bar is open to the entire restaurant. Will that seem rude?

I almost feel like it is more rude to offer 2 drinks to each guest than none. If we offer NO drinks, then just soda and tea and water will be served and anyone who wants alcohol can order from the bar. I would like to be more generous than that, but am afraid it will feel more stingy to give out 2 tickets than to just skip covering alcohol entirely.

I don't think it is rude for you to have your rehearsal dinner with limited options even if the restaurant is still serving other alcohol.  I mean I'm assuming you are choosing the menu to some extent right? It wouldn't be rude to not offer the restaurant's full menu just because the restaurant is selling other dishes to the regular patrons.  A lot of it depends on set up though - will your guests be going to the regular bar to get drinks, be in a completely separate room w. bar from the rest of the restaurant, or will they be served drinks at the table?  If you aren't clear about the limited options it could be awkward for a guest to go to the bar and order only to discover they ordered something you won't cover.

I would have a little menu printed off for your guests' table settings that indicate what will be served (meaning what you are paying for) if you want to make things clear.  Like App, Entree, Dessert, Drinks.  I would not mention the liquor restriction to them though or specifically print out that it isn't covered, it would be uncomfortable to explicitly say we aren't paying for X, rather than saying that you are serving Y & Z.

If I saw that as a guest I would stick to the options that the host indicated to me.  I wouldn't order liquor because I feel like I would be rude in implying that their hospitality wasn't enough.

QueenofAllThings

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2012, 03:56:05 PM »
I disagree with NyaChan, in that if you AREN'T providing mixed drinks, you need to say so - no one wants an unpleasant surprise.

A printed menu that says, at the bottom, Beer, wine, and soft drinks tells people what they need to know.

NyaChan

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2012, 03:57:18 PM »
I disagree with NyaChan, in that if you AREN'T providing mixed drinks, you need to say so - no one wants an unpleasant surprise.

A printed menu that says, at the bottom, Beer, wine, and soft drinks tells people what they need to know.

That's exactly what I indicated should be done.  I was trying to say don't write:  "Beer, wine, and soft drinks.  Liquor can be purchased at bar."

Take2

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2012, 08:23:18 PM »
The food is a buffet, so there won't be a menu. Waiters will come to take drink offers. We have been offered 2 options, and are asking about a third.

1. We can have them offer soft drinks and tea and if anyone wants alcohol the waiter will start them a tab.

2. Or we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and accept the coupons for alcoholic drinks and start a tab for anyone who wants more alcohol than the 2 tickets.

3. We are going to ask if we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and beer and wine, and if anyone wants hard liquor, the waiter will start them a tab.

I mean, we can also offer an entirely open bar, but I am concerned that might be entirely outside our budget.

MrsCrazyPete

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2012, 09:54:36 PM »
We did the ticket option for our rehearsal dinner. It was at a VERY casual bar/restaurant that's known for their beer selection. We gave each guest two tickets each & they could be used for beer or wine, or they could use them both for a mixed drink.

It worked out pretty well for everyone. People like our grandparents used one ticket & then gave the other to the groomsmen. It was an easy way to limit the amount of alcohol purchased without having to cut it out completely.
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gellchom

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 11:13:14 AM »
The food is a buffet, so there won't be a menu. Waiters will come to take drink offers. We have been offered 2 options, and are asking about a third.

1. We can have them offer soft drinks and tea and if anyone wants alcohol the waiter will start them a tab.

2. Or we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and accept the coupons for alcoholic drinks and start a tab for anyone who wants more alcohol than the 2 tickets.

3. We are going to ask if we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and beer and wine, and if anyone wants hard liquor, the waiter will start them a tab.

I mean, we can also offer an entirely open bar, but I am concerned that might be entirely outside our budget.

I think that your intention is to please your guests, but that you are making it unnecessarily complicated.  I mean, you aren't considering setting up a ticket system for more expensive food items that aren't on your buffet, are you?

Think of it this way: when hosts give a party in a restaurant or other venue, that venue is an extension of their home.  You don't charge guests in your home or give out tickets or offer to run a tab for choices beyond what you have offered, and polite guests don't ask you to do so.  But you don't have to throw open the liquor cabinet and pantry, either -- you offer what you want to offer, and as much of it as you want to offer, and the guests politely accept it and don't ask for something else (except I suppose water).  It's exactly the same in another venue: you offer whatever you want -- whether it's the full menu or a limited selection or just one choice -- and that's what the guests must be satisfied with. 

I would just skip the tickets entirely and have the waiters say, "Would you like beer, red or white wine, or a soft drink [or just soft drinks if that is your choice]?"  If your guests want to ask the waiter if they can order a hard drink on their own money, let them do it themselves -- don't have the waiter or anyone else make any suggestion of it if a guest asks if they can have a cocktail.  I've seen that happen, and it looked bad -- like the guest was suddenly transformed from a guest of a private party to a potential customer of the venue.  Much better for the server just to say, "I'm sorry, we're not offering hard liquor tonight, just [repeat choices]" to anyone who didn't already get that very obvious message from the first thing the server said.  If the guest brings up the possibility of paying for it themselves, which they shouldn't, at least it isn't you or your "agent" doing it.  If you really want to offer hard liquor but don't want to let it get out of hand, perhaps tell the venue to make it available only for the first 45 minutes or something.

In my opinion, for a guest to ask if they could buy a cocktail instead of accept the beverage choices offered by their hosts would be very rude, just as if the waiter asked them for their choice of three entrees, salmon, chicken, or pasta, and they asked if they could order steak instead if they paid for it themselves.  It's just not polite to try to upgrade what the hosts are offering, even if you are willing to pay for it.  I remember thinking how nice a glass of red wine would have been when my DIL's father hosted a supper, with soft drinks only, at an Italian restaurant a few days before the wedding -- but I wouldn't have dreamed of ordering one, because it would have been insulting his hospitality.

If the guests just can't be happy without a cocktail, and there is a public bar elsewhere on the premises, they can slip out for a quick snort, the same as if they bought themselves a candy bar or a bag of chips from a vending machine or convenience store in the lobby if they didn't like the food offered -- provided that they aren't away from the party more than just a few minutes, which would itself be rude (just as it is when people sneak out of a reception to watch The Big Game on a TV in the bar or lobby and stay longer than a quick peek for a minute or two "on your way back from the rest room," ahem.  Not that I have ever done this myself when the Red Sox were in the playoffs.  Well, maybe.)  Perhaps a good standard unit would be the time it takes a smoker to go outside for a cigarette?  This should be another string ....

Bottom line: offer what you are comfortable offering, and then let it go at that, without resorting to ticket systems or offers of running a tab.  If the guests want more than that, it's their problem either to do without or find a polite way of getting it.

pixel dust

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 11:47:24 AM »
We did the ticket thing for our rehearsal dinner. Everyone was given two tickets at the start of the night for alcoholic drinks (we included basic "bottom shelf" well liquors also). Some people didn't use any of their tickets, so happily handed them off to other drinkers who had spent their tickets already. We ended up purchasing some extra tickets about half-way through (my family really likes to drink) which was apart of the "contract". All unused tickets were turned in at the end of the night and we were only charged for the used tickets.

WillyNilly

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2012, 11:49:53 AM »
The food is a buffet, so there won't be a menu. Waiters will come to take drink offers. We have been offered 2 options, and are asking about a third.

1. We can have them offer soft drinks and tea and if anyone wants alcohol the waiter will start them a tab.

2. Or we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and accept the coupons for alcoholic drinks and start a tab for anyone who wants more alcohol than the 2 tickets.

3. We are going to ask if we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and beer and wine, and if anyone wants hard liquor, the waiter will start them a tab.

I mean, we can also offer an entirely open bar, but I am concerned that might be entirely outside our budget.

There are other options though.  In my opinion - and I understand the idea of cash bars is regional - your guests should not be offered the opportunity to start a tab at all.  If this were my rehearsal (and soon enough, it will be  :D ) I would not find any of these suggestions acceptable.  To me the only things I would consider would be:

1. We can have them offer soft drinks and tea and if anyone wants alcohol the waiter will start them a tab.

2. Or we can have them offer soft drinks and tea and accept the coupons for alcoholic drinks and start a tab we pay a la carte for anyone who wants more alcohol than the 2 tickets.

3. We have them offer soft drinks and tea and beer and wine, and if anyone wants hard liquor, the waiter will start them a tab.

Take2

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012, 01:43:04 PM »
Talked to the venue today, and they said offering unlimited beer and wine is not a problem, we will just get a tab at the end of the night along with the food bill. That feels nicer than the ticket option they suggested yesterday, so we are going with that.

I don't understand what people mean by saying the guests shouldn't be able to start a tab. They will be in a restaurant that is open and has a full bar, with waiters serving the drinks I am providing. Those waiters are capable of opening a bar tab for any adult in the restaurant who asks, my guests included.

I don't see how I can or why I would stop these guests from ordering liquor (or a cheeseburger, really) with their own money. I am not going to pressure them to order liquor, I just don't care if they do and it will be clear to any adult there that it is possible to do so.

WillyNilly

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Re: Open bar for rehearsal dinner?
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2012, 03:06:40 PM »
Talked to the venue today, and they said offering unlimited beer and wine is not a problem, we will just get a tab at the end of the night along with the food bill. That feels nicer than the ticket option they suggested yesterday, so we are going with that.

I don't understand what people mean by saying the guests shouldn't be able to start a tab. They will be in a restaurant that is open and has a full bar, with waiters serving the drinks I am providing. Those waiters are capable of opening a bar tab for any adult in the restaurant who asks, my guests included.

I don't see how I can or why I would stop these guests from ordering liquor (or a cheeseburger, really) with their own money. I am not going to pressure them to order liquor, I just don't care if they do and it will be clear to any adult there that it is possible to do so.

I don't understand how the two bolded sentences could be said together.  They can't (or perhaps better stated, IMO shouldn't) start their own tab because you are providing the hospitality for the evening.  You.  So its your tab.  For them to start their own tab beyond yours, IMO would be them rejecting your hospitality.  And for you to offer for them to open a tab would be IMO you stating in so many words "I know they offer better choices but I don't feel like providing them, provide for your own dang self!"

As host its perfectly reasonable to pick a selection of the total offerings and only provide that.  As a guest, its gracious to accept what offered and be happy with it.  So long as what you are offering is reasonable (which it is) there should be no need for people upgrade their meal.