The more I’ve been planning this wedding of mine, the more I’ve noticed that people have very ingrained biases about traditions, customs and local habits. And while some are universally acknowledged (ie: don’t inform guests that gifts are mandatory for entrance) some are simply personal preference. And held all the more forcefully.
Where I grew up, weddings are open bar. I’ve never been to a wedding where there was a limit on the number of drinks guests could imbibe. Once, I was invited to a dry wedding. I did not attend. Granted, I was invited solo and I only knew the bride. But still! How would I have made new friends? (Dear everyone in AA: please stop reading now.)
My pro-open bar bias is so deeply felt that I was utterly perplexed when my Irish friend told me the bar policy at her wedding. She married an American, in Dublin. And over there, weddings have a straight-up cash bar. Apparently, Irish guests have a little trouble pacing themselves when presented with free booze.
But for this friend, there was an extra wrinkle. Half of the guests were flying over from America, where it is often expected that the host pays for drinks, especially when cross-Atlantic travel is involved. But the caterer refused to do an open bar, for fear that many of would be belly up before dinner finished. Apparently those stereotypes about Irish drinkers started in the homeland.
To deal with this, they came up with a compromise. Tables were split by nationality. American guests were served whatever they desired to drink. The Irish tables had to pay per drink. I’m pretty sure that in America this would be grounds for a law suit.
But in Dublin, things went over more smoothly. Eventually, the natives realized they could get free drinks if they switched tables, so new friends were quickly made. (See? Alcohol is the great equalizer…or something.)
Usually, when I tell this story, Americans are appalled. But I happened to mention it in front of a Brit last week, and he gave me a speech on the benefits of a cash bar.
According to him, people pace themselves much better and are far more respectful of the occasion when they are forced to cough up cash for their own drinks.
In New York, I’ve never been to a cash bar wedding. I would likely be hanged if I tried that in October. Or simply danced into the ground by a gang of angry Greek men.
In fact, when I told The Gloss editors about the topic of this post, Jennifer looked at me with a look of confused derision, until I assured her that I was having an open bar. But in other parts of the country, cash bar and no bar are more common. And to be fair, Ashley thought I should just offer drink tickets and let people pay for drinks after they reach a certain limit.
But involving guests in any sort of monetary transaction at my wedding was not an option I considered. Obviously, alcohol can get expensive. But there are ways to lower the cost (I’ve been to more than a few weddings that offered beer and wine purchased by the couple, which worked out great).
If there are drinkers in your crowd (especially if you are not a drinker), I think you owe it to them to provide some alcohol. Unless there’s a religious reason for the tee-totaling. Which is a whole different topic.
Obviously, cutting out the booze is a quick and easy way to cut the budget. But it’s also a fast way to cull your friends.
And If you have the kind of friends who would get so drunk that they’ll pass out at your wedding reception, maybe you should rethink your friendships instead of the bar policy?