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Your Questions about Wedding Alcohol Etiquette, Answered

Ask any guest what they enjoy most about going to weddings and you’re bound to get a few stock answers: celebrating with loved ones, dancing, cake…and an open bar. While no one is likely to raise complaint about busting a move or tucking into dessert, bar etiquette can get tricky. That’s why we’re breaking down some common questions.

Is it OK to have a cash bar?

Open bars don’t come cheap. Although footing the bar tab for your friends and family is the ideal scenario, it’s not always financially feasible. Before jumping to a cash bar, consider offering a limited bar menu that includes select beers and wines, or limit consumption to a cocktail hour.

If you crunch the numbers and there’s just no way to make it work, evaluate what’s important to you. A cash bar requires your guests to spend additional money when they’ve likely already incurred expenses to be at your wedding, but if you know your guests would prefer the option to drink, even if they have to pay to do it, let them know ahead of time so they can make sure to bring cash.

Do I need a signature cocktail?

One way to save money and inject some personality into your wedding day is to offer one or two signature drinks in lieu of mixed drinks, whether they’re the bride and groom’s go-tos or a more unique creation crafted just for the day — get creative and develop a concoction that incorporates one of your wedding colors or ingredients that have a special tie to your relationship. The drinks can also be served as complements to a full bar or as guests arrive.

While featuring a signature cocktail has become trendy, it’s totally optional – if you’d rather focus your attention elsewhere, guests will be more than happy with bar basics.

Do I need to offer a bar even if I don’t drink?

Cost isn’t the only reason to second guess your booze decisions on the big day. Even if you and your partner don’t drink, chances are some of your guests do and would enjoy being able to raise a glass to your nuptials. However, if you feel strongly about not serving alcohol, your guests likely know you well enough that they won’t be shocked if it’s not available.

And of course, skipping alcohol doesn’t mean your guests will go thirsty. For a summer ceremony, invite them to cool down with a selection of flavored lemonades, infused waters or even snow cones. In the chillier months, a hot chocolate bar will have everyone feeling the love, and a selection of unique bottled sodas is a hit year-round.

What if we want a bar but our families don’t?

When your family is opposed to serving alcohol but you and your partner drink or would like your guests to have the option, communication is key. If your parents are footing the bill and you’re able to assume the expense of having a bar, offer to do so—and explain that it’s important to you that you and your guests enjoy the day. If they’re vehemently against serving alcohol, let them know you respect their feelings and ask that they carefully consider yours—after all, it is your day and you should be able to enjoy it in whatever way you see fit.

If you’re unable to find middle ground, go with what you think will make you happiest, whether that’s hosting a dry reception and making Mom and Dad happy or enjoying a champagne toast with friends and hoping your family will get over it.

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