Sneaking In The Flasks

by admin on July 16, 2012

FH and I are paying for our own wedding and we are keeping it small. We’re having about 60 people in attendance in total and we’re having a nice sit down dinner that’s catered by a well known place in our city. It will be really good! We’ve hired a really great DJ and we’ve put a ton of effort into making sure that everything is really nice for our guests but we cannot afford an open bar. We’ve budgeted for half a bottle of wine per guest and some of our guests are non drinkers which means more wine for those who are. Dinner will include tea/coffee and non alcoholic drinks and there will be a cash bar but I’ve had a few guests ask whether we are having an open bar. When I explained to one of them that we weren’t, she said that she would just tell her BF to bring a flask. It’s right in our agreement with our facility that outside drinks are not permitted and if anyone is caught bringing drinks in, then we will be asked to leave and the facility would be in danger of losing their liquor license. What do we do? Are we being too cheap? We really cannot afford to have an open bar for everyone and I am starting to worry that this will upset a lot of guests.

Any advice would be very appreciated! 0619-12

Wedding reception hospitality is merely the larger extension of your personal hospitality.  If you had these same friends and family over for dinner to your home, this would be a lovely and generous meal.   Would your friends insist that you provide an open bar for them at a dinner party in your house or would you actually charge your guests for drinks?  Very unlikely and if you did, I’d expect one of your dinner guests to report it here.   They would enjoy the meal you provided for them without sneaking into your bathroom or garage to imbibe from their flasks.  So there is a reasonable expectation that guests at a wedding reception will be equally appreciative and undemanding of what their hosts provide for a dinner repast.

Your one mistake was to have a cash bar.  I know people will insist that a cash bar is a necessity in this day because their alcohol consuming friends and family will insist on it as a required element of a wedding reception when the hosts or happy couple cannot possibly afford it.   But you serve what you can afford and do not require your guests to delve into their wallets to supplement their drinking.   It’s a sad statement of people’s need for alcohol that the only way to accommodate that is to provide a cash bar those same people seem intent on avoiding using.

The other mistake, which a lot of brides or their immediate often do, is to tell everyone exactly every detail of the wedding, reception and menu ahead of time.   The only way guests would know there was no open bar was because someone closely associated with the wedding planning told them.  Now having that information in hand, the more alcohol desperate guests are making plans to bring their own to avoid paying more money.  For future brides, the clear answer to some prying guest’s demand to know what you will be serving for dinner at the wedding reception, “A lovely dinner meal I am sure you will enjoy.”

The question I pose to brides, grooms, parents and even guests is, “Who is being served by doing this?”   For you, the answer is that you are being a very gracious hostess who does not need to feel guilty in any way for the hospitality you are sharing with your guests.   You are serving your guests quite well by providing dinner and wine and do not need the cash bar.   Unfortunately, those allegedly close friends of yours who want to bring their own alcohol are serving their own needs to the point where they can cause you significant damage,chaos and heartache.

It would not be inappropriate to inform those who declare an intent to bring their alcohol that doing so would create significant risks to the continuation of the reception.  At this point, you will discover who your real friends are.   One hopes you do not have the disappointment of discovering that one or a few of your friends would be willing to sacrifice your happiness for the sake of a drink that day.   But if someone still intends to bring their own alcohol now knowing that doing so could harm the reception, this is one of those rare occasions where the withdrawal of the invitation would not be rude, imo.   “In that case, I am afraid I must withdraw our invitation to the wedding since the risk of you being caught would void the venue contract and ruin the reception for me, my husband, our families and friends.”   There are some etiquette mavens who might consider rescinding an invitation to be rude but if a guest is declaring an intent to violate laws, or rules in a manner that could materially harm you or your other guests, drastic measures are needed.

Yes, you will probably lose that friend forever but I would question whether he/she was a real friend from the beginning.

{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

Hal July 16, 2012 at 9:09 am

Anyone who cannot go three or four hours without a drink is an alcoholic who never sleeps unless drunk. Notify everyone of the policy of the reception hall. Cancel the bar service. You will not regret it. Remember the old adage, “I was never sorry for not drinking.”


Mary July 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Completely agree! If you can’t go that long without a drink or have a good time at a wedding without alcohol, you have a problem.


Sarah Jane July 16, 2012 at 9:13 am

Ditto admin on the cash bar. Don’t do it.


--Lia July 16, 2012 at 9:21 am

Right on, Admin! Asking about the alcohol provisions was presumptuous. Answering was unnecessary. Rescinding the invitation of someone who flat out tells you that they intend to misbehave at your wedding is common sense.

A cash bar is impolite. Sneaking drinks into a bar is impoliter. It would be wrong to go to a regular bar where you enjoy the band and the ambiance and bring in your own drinks there. It’s wronger to do that in a situation where your friend is the bar owner after a fashion.

How about if your friends had said that they expect to get stupid drunk at your wedding, cause a scene, turn over chairs, yell obscenities at your family, and throw up in the punch bowl? You’d tell them they weren’t welcome, right? In this case, all they’re telling you they expect to do make the caterer close down the reception and send everyone home. I don’t see a big difference.


AnyMouse July 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

I too hate the cash bar. When did that become acceptable? Making guests pay for something at your wedding? Why can’t you have fun without a bar for one night?

I helped a friend design his wedding invitations, and we decided to put “Cash Bar” on the the details part of the invitation (the card with directions and hotel info). I cringed at the thought of the cash bar, his parents were even trying to help pay for an open bar, but he and his bride insisted on paying for everything themselves, which to them meant cash bar. I couldn’t convince them that the wine on the table was enough.
However, it was actually my idea to add the words “Cash Bar” to the invitation, because it was really a cash only bar-no credit cards accepted. I’d hate for something to be available at the reception -tacky or not- and half the guests couldn’t access it because they didn’t bring any cash.
So I think it’s ok to spread the word in advance that there will be a cash bar, much like you spread the word in advance what kind of food will be available at the wedding. But that still doesn’t make having a cash bar a good idea.
And I also don’t think it’s acceptable to bring a flask to a wedding, for all the reasons Admin states.


No Wedding July 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

I am questioning who cannot be without a drink for an evening? And they are even being supplied a half-bottle of wine, but that still isn’t enough?


Ceallach July 17, 2012 at 12:36 am

I hear this asked a lot, presumably by teetotallers. To many people, a wedding reception is the ultimate party, it’s a big night out. And to many of those people, a big night out is greatly enhanced by the addition of alcohol. Just because they want to drink at the wedding doesn’t mean that they can’t get through an evening without alcohol. In some cases it’s the exact opposite – I know people who hardly ever drink, but a wedding might be a rare night that they get a babysitter, dress-up, and let their hair down, and would like to imbibe as part of that. I understand that attitude. I don’t understand any sense of entitlement that their hosts should be the ones to fund their “night out”, but I certainly understand the desire to have a drink.

It doesn’t make it ok that they want to flout the rules or that they are insulting their host’s hospitality. But to imply that people are alcoholics just because they would like to drink at a party is a fallacy IMHO.


No Wedding July 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

OK, I get that, but who can’t go without their particular drink of choice for one night? I, for example, don’t drink soda. I only drink coffee and tea. I have gone to dinner parties where the only beverage options were soda or water and special occasion events where the only beverages served was wine/champagne. I either drank water or sipped whatever beverage was served to me.

Yes, a wedding may be a special event night out for the guests, but it’s not THEIR night, they didn’t pony up the expense to throw the reception, it’s the bride/groom and they can serve whatever they want. If a half-bottle of wine is all the special occasion drinks you get, then well, that’s what you get.


Cami July 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

There is a difference, however, between liking to drink at a party and NEEDING to drink at a party. Someone who insists upon bringing a flask is someone who is intending to drink solely to get drunk because they cannot otherwise have a good time.


clairedelune July 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

I understand what you’re saying, and you explain it very articulately and fairly, but part of being an adult is learning to adjust your expectations when confronted with something you didn’t expect, and finding a way to have fun anyway.


forevermine July 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Is aw a recception once where there wasn’t any alcohol, but out in the parking lot, several men had their trunks open with case after case of beer and everyone was standing out there. I thought it was awful, took away from the reception and the fun of friends and fellowship.


Cat July 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

I am with the advice to rescend the invitation if, once you have explained that the boyfriend cannot imbide from his own flask, he insists that he will do it anyway.
You do not need even the friend of a friend who insists that alcohol is more important than you are on your wedding day at your reception.


Hemi July 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

I do not understand why some people insist on having alcohol at almost every event they attend. With all the horror stories and cringe-worthy moments we, the readers of E-Hell, have submitted, read about and commented on, along with the TV shows made about weddings & receptions gone bad, why do people think they must get “liquored up” to celebrate a friend or family member’s wedding? I’m sure there is as much a chance for people to cause chaos at a “dry” event, but add alcohol to the mix and the chances greatly increase.

I, personally, would be highly insulted if I my friends or family brought liquor into or insisted that I provide a bar, open or cash, for them at my reception. You can not come celebrate my wedding without some alcohol?? If you want to get sloshed, do it on your own time at your own reception. This is just my humble opinion.

I also LOVE Admin’s advice- everyone does not need to know every detail about everything before-hand. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the festivities. 🙂


Chris July 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

I have to agree with the admin that talking to the guests threatening to sneak in flasks is the first thing you need to do. And, unfortunately, admin is correct that if they cannot be made to see reason, dis-inviting them is the wisest course of action. It may not be solid ground, but if a guest of yours did bring in a flask, and the venue were to lose its liqour license, the venue could attempt to sue you and the errant guest claiming you have joint liability for their loss.

I disagree with the admin about not providing a cash bar and find the comparison between your reception and a small intimate dinner with friends to be slightly flawed. On the few occasions that my family had dinner parties our guests always offered to make a side dish, or bring dessert, or drinks. An intimate dinner is much more casual, much closer than a reception and operates differently. Nor would those friends expect to be provided with any alcohol. At the reception that expectation is equally absurd, as the admin has mentioned. But since this is a grandiose (in spirit) celebration, the desire for the alcohol is not unheard of. By having a cash bar you are providing the option to indulge. It also reduces the probability of someone over-indulging. And you are also already providing the opportunity for some ethanol enhanced enjoyment in the form of the wine.


admin July 16, 2012 at 11:04 am

Chris, when you have guests to your home, must they open their wallets to get some premium upgrade to their meal? No. And one should NEVER place an obligation on their wedding guests to open their wallets as well.


Chris July 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

Perhaps that is where we fundamentally disagree here- there isn’t an obligation to open their wallets. This isn’t a money “wishing well” or a dollar dance. The alcohol is an option. An indulgence. And suggesting they pay for their choice to indulge does not strike me as an etiquette faux pas.

And as I said, I see the reception and the intimate dinner as two fundamentally different, and thus incomparable situations.


Sarah Jane July 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Chris, I have an idea. The next time I get married (argument’s sake), I’ll have the reception at a restaurant. I’ll serve water and tea. If anyone wants to eat, they can order off the menu and pay for it themselves. There’ll be wedding cake they can purchase, too. But no one will be forced to “open their wallets”…only if they want to “indulge.” Food will be an option. I’ll save a ton of money this way. All sounds very tasteful and memorable, yes?


Jarrett July 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

If that’s all you can afford then that’s fine, it’s about celebrating your special day, at least you would be giving them the option to eat there if they’d like to and no one would get the notion to pack burgers in their purses. As long as it’s noted on the invitations there will be no surprises.

The Elf July 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

See, that’s not quite the same thing. You should feed your guests and supply drinks (non-alcoholic) appropriate to the time of the reception. People shouldn’t be hungry or thirsty. A cash bar is above and beyond that.

I admit to being of mixed mind about the cash bar. If it is a faux pas, it’s a minor one (so long as other drinks are available). To me it seems a reasonable compromise between providing something lots of people want but isn’t really necessary and keeping costs down. Food is one of the necessary things, though depending on the reception time you could certainly have just cake or do a cocktail reception.

The key point for me is that a cash bar is something the couple doesn’t profit from, unlike wishing well or dollar dance.

Chris July 17, 2012 at 7:48 am

Go for it Sarah! 🙂

Society thinks weddings must be these grand all-inclusive affairs. They don’t have to be. You work within your means to provide a wedding and reception that will make YOU happy. The guests are there to help you celebrate your day. The wedding couple does not profit from the cash bar, so they aren’t being gimme pigs. Even if they can afford to provide a reception dinner, alcohol, even wine, is not an expectation during a meal. It IS an indulgence. There is nothing wrong in saying “we cannot support your indulgence personally but we, nevertheless, have provided you the opportunity to indulge at your own expense.” It’s NOT rude. And, as long as it’s clear in advance that it won’t be an open bar, it’s not tacky in my opinion.

jess July 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I agree Chris, the alcohol is an option available to the guests who want to use it. A meal and a glass of wine is a nice basic thing. Dinner is not an indulgence, alcohol is an indulgence THAT is why it is optional. it is not expected that guests open their wallets but if they decide they want alcohol then the OPTION is there. In Australia it is common to do what we did at my wedding, we put $2000 down for alcohol but ONLY beer and wine, it the guests wanted special super expensive cocktails or spirits then that was their option and they paid.


The Elf July 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

No, but I would expect a guest who wants to eat or drink something outside of what I am serving to bring that dish/booze (enough for everyone, in the case of guests in the home). IMHO, there is no obligation on the wedding guests to buy from the cash bar so long as plenty of non-alcoholic drinks are available. There is a bit of have/have-nots from those who can’t afford to buy a drink, though.


Meegs July 16, 2012 at 10:11 am

Where I’m from it is considered tacky to have anything but an open bar. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. I wonder if the OP lives in a similar area of the country and that’s why her guests seem to be expecting it.


Tanz July 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I wondered the same thing. In my country hosting a celebration – *any* celebration – and failing to either provide alcohol or provide an opportunity for your guests to provide or procure their own alcohol is considered inadequate hosting. I don’t agree with the practice, but I do think offering a cash bar is much less rude that requiring one’s attendants to pay for their wedding gear, for example. With a cash bar guests can use it or ignore it as they see fit and it won’t detract from their overall experience if they do not use it. But attendants (who are chosen by the happy couple) are then ordered to fork out cash for someone else’s celebration and ‘vision’ or they cannot participate? I can’t see how that can be considered polite at all. I think the idea of a cash bar is such a small issue it doesn’t warrant getting upset over.

However, the OP’s situation is very different and I don’t think that bringing one’s own supplies of food or drink to an event is good manners, as it hints that the host/s are not taking care of their guests sufficiently (although of course there are exceptions to this). If I were the OP I’d be honest with the friend and tell them exactly why they cannot bring a flask. And I agree with the admin; this is a warning against telling guests all the details of an upcoming event.


LiLo July 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

Consider me someone who thinks a cash bar is tacky and that people who can’t drink for a few hours have a problem.

Though if you are set on providing continuous adult beverage for your guests, there can be a happy medium. Have you priced out a beer/wine only open bar? I’ve seen places that will charge $50 per guest for a 4 hr open bar charge as little as $20 pp for a beer/wine bar for the same period of time. But of course that is still a pretty hefty expense for 60 people, particularly if you have a number who don’t drink.

Thirty bottles of wine for 60 guests (if my math is right) should be fine unless you have some very serious drinkers. And if it runs out a little early well…then its time to sober up before the drive home


Kate July 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

That’s what my fiance and I decided on – an open bar serving white, red and sparkling wines, full strength and light beer, soft drinks, coffee and tea. This was about $25 per person for 4.5 hours.
If guests want to buy something a bit stronger, like spirits or mixed drinks, they have the option of buying these themselves.


Not Thumper July 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

With my wedding there was a champagne toast provided with dessert. There was also a cash bar and not one person had issue with it. I think it may depend on where one comes from but around here it is normal and usually expected that there would be a cash bar. No one is required to drink at a person’s wedding but the option is there if they want to. What’s wrong with that?


postalslave July 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Agreed, all of the weddings I’ve been too have had a set up like the OP’s, wine provided, plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and the option of the cash bar for those who want something else. This is the norm for my area and no one is offended.

Maybe it’s because most people here don’t make a lot of money and the thought of an open bar is an appalling waste of money. Or maybe it’s because when people go to a wedding they care more about celebrating with the happy couple then shelling out a couple bucks for a vodka tonic. Either way it works and everyone is happy.


The Elf July 16, 2012 at 11:22 am

I’m of split mind regarding the cash bar. The important thing is to leave your guests thirsty. So a dry wedding, or just enough for toasting, or minimal alcohol for dinner is fine so long as there are plenty of non-alcholic drinks to enjoy. A cash bar allows guests to choose to drink or not. It’s (usually) unobtrusive, not “profit” for the wedding couple, and completely optional. On the scales of wedding faux pas, I consider this one to be very minor and would happily overlook it.

Bringing a flask into the wedding is impolite. They can buy from the bar or go without. Please impress upon your guest the need not to bring in outside liquor, and use the “we could get thrown out” as the reasoning if they balk. It might not stop them, but they might be more discrete about it.


Library Diva July 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

It doesn’t make people alcoholics, but I think to some, wedding = alcohol, the same way one might be rather surprised at the absence of turkey on Thanksgiving, or the absence of chip and dip at a football game party. That doesn’t make them right to sneak in a flask, though. I agree with admin that it’s a rotten, selfish thing to do.

I’m also grateful, as a bride-to-be, about the advice regarding not making every detail known in advance. At my wedding, I plan to go with a fairly basic bar package. It’s what we can afford, and I just don’t think we need to go nuts making sure every type of cocktail imaginable is available to our guests, when the majority of them will probably stick with beer and wine anyway. I’d been fretting a bit about people’s reaction. Now I know: I’ll just let it be a surprise, and if it’s an unwelcome one, oh well.


June July 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I often find myself agreeing with you, Library Diva.
We’re having two types of wine and a good domestic beer available at our reception. If someone really wants a mixed drink, then they can buy it.

And who brings a flask to a wedding?! What are you, in college?! (Just because someone gave it to you as a groomsmen’s gift doesn’t mean you can use it at other people’s weddings!) If you can’t afford the amount you’re drinking, you should probably cut back.


Jarrett July 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

I have been to quite a few weddings and maybe 1% have had an open bar. The majority have been a ‘toonie bar’ where you can purchase drink tickets for $2 instead of the $5 that they would normally cost. This has been in both Ontario and Alberta.
No one in my group of friends has ever had a problem with this or has seen it as a faux pas. Wine is still provided at no cost and sometimes they will announce an open bar for an hour during supper. If people choose not to drink/pay for drinks they are not obligated to, but the option is there for them. If you hold your wedding at a location that offers valet parking along with a free self-serve parking are you obligated to cover all of your guests valet costs?


Dowagerdutchess July 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

In my neck of the woods- absolutely! Your guests do not pay the valet, or tip the coat check, or spend any money whatsoever at your wedding. I have been known not to bring a wallet on occasion.


Katy July 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

OP, it’s just a suggestion, but what about a ‘modified’ open bar? Meaning cut back the wine a little, add a couple beer selections (like a regular and a lite, nothing too fancy), and a ‘signature drink’? I’ve been to a few weddings that have done this, and it has been lovely, and from what I heard cut way down on the bar tab as opposed to having an open bar where guests love to indulge in the top-shelf.


just4kicks July 16, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I went to friends wedding and reception once and due to the FOB, who was a recovering alcoholic, they had a champagne toast and sparkling cider for those who chose not to drink. The FOB had no problem springing for an open bar, but out respect for him they chose to not to serve alcohol save for the toast. No one had a problem with this. Many guests thought it touching for the bride and groom to honor her dad in this way. Except for a few of the groomsmen and bridesmaids and their dates who kept “disappearing” during the reception to tailgate out of their cars!!! Of course we all caught on (duh) and the bride and groom were furious and disappointed…and the FOB was embarrased to the point of tears feeling guilty as though it was his fault. They maintained “we are not hurting anyone!” Yes, well guess again you tacky, classless fools.


Doris July 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I love it! Why should anyone need to know the details of the reception? And why is it always about the food and drink? No one ever seems to ask about the music choices or the favors or table decorations.

I do have a question, though: How do you make sure dietary restrictions are met? Is it bad etiquette to include a request for special dietary needs with the RSVP?

I always try to please everyone at our events – this one is a diabetic, she needs a kosher meal, he’s a vegetarian, that one now eats meat as long as there are no bones, and so on (and on and on. lol) It seems everyone has special requirements now and I hate having someone go hungry.

With just sons, we probably do not have a wedding reception in our future, but we will have rehearsal dinners! I’d love to know how to provide for special dietary needs without appearing to grant our guests free reign over the menu. TIA


Elizabeth July 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Usually people with dietary restrictions will provide that information on the reception card without having to be asked for it. For my wedding we served the same thing to everyone, and for my sister’s wedding the guests chose beef, chicken or fish on the response cards. The vegetarians and those who couldn’t eat gluten simply wrote that on the card, we told the venue, and they took care of it. It was not a big deal at all. People that have these limitations know they have to speak up or risk not having any dinner. And since it’s the hall or caterer that takes care of it and does not incur any additional costs, it’s really not a problem to do it.


Kimstu July 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

It ABSOLUTELY is poor etiquette to specify your personal dietary restrictions on your RSVP. As a guest, you’re supposed to partake of the hosts’ hospitality to whatever extent you can, and not make an annoying nuisance of yourself demanding to have your special requirements catered to or complaining that your special needs weren’t adequately met. Too many guests imagine that their food limitations entitle them to dictate the specifics of their hosts’ hospitality, which is simply rude rude rude RUDE.

As a host, though, it’s lovely and gracious to try to provide as wide a variety of food options as possible in order to allow those on restricted diets to enjoy a greater amount than they might otherwise be able to. But don’t fuss over them individually like a hospital dietitian and give yourself headaches trying to make sure that everyone gets exactly the special meal that their special diet requires. Just design and serve the most flexible restriction-friendly menu that you can, and trust your guests to appreciate your efforts and enjoy your hospitality without whining if they didn’t happen to have as many options as they might have liked.

If you have friends or relatives who WILL whine about not having their individual diets specially catered for, the solution is simply not to invite them. Excluding the greedy self-centered ungrateful food fusses will ensure a better time for everyone else.


jess July 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

wow thats pretty harsh, what about people with severe allergies or those on a medically restricted diet? they have to starve through no fault of their own??


admin July 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Jess, People with severe allergies or significant dietary limitations must take responsibility for their own meals. A hostess cannot possibly cover ever dietary restriction her guests may have. It just stretches the resources to offer dairy-free, gluten-free, artificial sweetener-free, vegan, nutless, mushroom-free, shellfish free, hormoneless, organic, etc. menu options.


The Elf July 17, 2012 at 7:45 am

Exactly. I think it is good for the host of the reception to take known guest dietery restrictions into account (i.e. if you know there are a lot of vegetarians coming, offer a vegeterian entree) but guests are on their own to navigate their own restrictions. If your dietary limitations are severe, you’re probably already used to navigating culinary minefields and might just want to eat beforehand so you can just eat whatever tiny part of the meal that you can.

Elizabeth July 24, 2012 at 9:13 am

It’s one thing if you’re going to a dinner party at someone’s house, but when it’s a caterer or restaurant who’s preparing the food, it really is no problem to notify them of dietary restrictions – they know how to handle them, and it doesn’t cost any more than usual. I fail to see what the big deal is. I don’t want a dear friend or family member showing up to my wedding and not be able to enjoy the food. Of course I want them to tell me!

The Elf July 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Elizabeth, I think that it wouldn’t cost extra is assuming a lot. For our reception, we paid for four dishes to be served family style at each table. If none of the four dishes met with a guest’s restrictions, I would have had to pay for an extra dish to be served. Thankfully, I think everyone found something they liked and could eat, so no one went hungry.

Mer October 24, 2012 at 11:10 am

Of course I do not know how different cultures handle this, but around here it’s definitely an assumption that in more formal, invitation based situation there must be something for everybody to eat. Though there might be bit different wedding culture here, it’s not uncommon at all for wedding to last for example 12 hours. (First there is the ceremony around noon or early afternoon, then you go for reception site where quite commonly there is dinner, some entertainment, wedding cake, speeches, dancing, music performances, mingling, evening snack etc.) I think it’s extremely rude to assume guests go whole day without eating, and usually you cannot bring your own food to restaurants, it simply is not allowed.

And yes, I think in my sisters wedding we had most of those food restrictions among guest and it was not problem at all. Of course when food was buffet style, it was easier than with fixed plates. Everybody might not have been able to eat everything but there was something for all. Few more severe allergies were catered with fixed plates, as careless usage of equipment in the buffet might have caused fatalities. And no, other guests do not mind, at least in my family, everybody understand that it is not nice to be fatally allergic.

Of course my point of view might be biased as we have quite a lot food restrictions in my extended family. And I could not call myself a hostess if my parents, uncles, sister etc would go without food. As special arrangements would be required anyway, it’s not that hard to ask if there are others too. And usually around here it is requested in invitations or by other contact later on if anyone has food limitations. Usually people are intelligent enough only list allergies and limitations by religion/other such thing and not mention “I really don’t like onions”.

bloo July 17, 2012 at 7:57 am

Also, jess, you use the term “starve”. Is a guest really going to “starve” missing most or all of one meal for a few hours*? Diabetics can bring crackers if it gets that bad.

No more than someone should be able to forgo alcohol for a few hours.


Kathryn July 17, 2012 at 3:58 am

Wow, I strongly disagree. I do not believe there are any caterers these days who do not provide some kind of vegan/vegetarian/gluten free option of some kind. For my own wedding, I included the number of people who required a special meal and it was taken care of. I love my friends and family and want to see them all honoured. Which means meeting their diary needs.

When inviting such friends over for dinner, then I make meals appropriate to their needs. It would be rude to invite them over and place gluten laced, rare beef steaks in front of them. If weddings are an extension of your own hospitality, why should the rules suddenly change?


bloo July 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

I don’t think you ‘change’ the rules as much as ‘modify’ them. I have dinner parties for 4-20 people fairly regularly. The less people I have the more effort I go to for dietary restrictions. The more people I invite, generally people offer to bring a dish, and the less effort I need to make to consider restrictions as usually those with restrictions will bring something they can actually eat.

Hosting a wedding for 40-350 means that you can only accommodate so many different types of diets and there is SOME responsibility on the guests to accommodate their own dietary needs. It’s nice to try to cover all restrictions with catering, but not a requirement.

If I make the decision that “I have X amount of money for catering, and can accommodate A and B restrictions but not C-Z” then that is my decision and C-Z sufferers should not take offense but make a decision for themselves. It really doesn’t mean I don’t love C-Z sufferers and it’s simply not always possible to cover all the bases.


whatever July 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I asked for dietary preferences on my response cards because I needed to know that for the seating charts. My reception was at a Chinese restaurant where the service is family-style, and I needed to seat the vegetarians together at the same table. I also needed to know who was gluten-free so I could order the appropriate number of gluten-free cupcakes.
I’ll admit that I did leave every one else to figure things out on their own- the good thing about a Chinese banquet is that there are around 8 courses, each with a different mix of ingredients, so if a guest cannot eat one dish, they’re not going to be hungry. Also, I didn’t feel bad about asking the restaurant to make a few extra soy-sauce-less entrees especially for the few gluten-few folks, because the cooks were still making individual dishes for regular customers in the part of the restaurant we didn’t book.


Kate July 17, 2012 at 6:51 am

I’m having a cocktail reception, so it’s a bit less tricky than a sit-down dinner – people can seek out the options they are OK to eat rather than needing a plate served specifically to them. I know a few of my guests are vegetarian and most of my mum’s family are coeliac (gluten intolerant), so I have provided those options. I would just speak to those people you know to be vegetarian/observant of kosher traditions and ensure that something is provided for them. The people who ‘can’t eat meat with bones’, however, can just deal with it.


Doris July 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I didn’t realize this would be such a hot topic!

When we attended my nephew’s wedding last summer, none of us thought about our dietary restrictions. (I’m a diabetic and allergic to some food additives, our daughter-in-law does not eat pork, and future DIL needs kosher-vegetarian.) Since we all know what we can eat, we simply chose our foods carefully. Fortunately, the food was served family-style and it was only our immediate family at the table, making it easy to get enough to eat even though we three weren’t eating from every dish.

Thanks for all the input, everyone. I’ve decided how to handle the reception dinner when that time comes.


Sara July 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

“For future brides, the clear answer to some prying guest’s demand to know what you will be serving for dinner at the wedding reception, “A lovely dinner meal I am sure you will enjoy.””

Surely this is not referring to food, correct? With dietary restrictions/allergies, many guests do need to know what food will be served. If someone has a food restriction, the venue needs to know about it in advance; and if that restriction cannot be accommodated- the guests need to know this so they can prepare accordingly (eating ahead of time, etc.).


Library Diva July 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Perhaps just counter with: “We’re still hashing out the details. Why do you ask?” That way, if there’s a legitimate reason, one can suss it out and accommodate it. If it’s just something silly like “Because I think you should have lobster and steak,” then you can just deflect with something like “Well, it’s certainly something we’ll consider. Hey, you really should try Aunt Becky’s bean dip, it’s fantastic!”


Kimstu July 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Sara: “With dietary restrictions/allergies, many guests do need to know what food will be served.”

No, I have to disagree on that. It’s not obligatory for hosts of a wedding to provide detailed advance information about what food will be served (unless they are serving plated entrees where the guests are supposed to choose a menu selection in advance when they RSVP).

It’s certainly gracious and appropriate for the hosts to try to arrange for a variety of foods to accommodate guests’ various dietary requirements. And if the hosts or the venue have imposed their own particular restrictions (such as serving a meal that is kosher or vegetarian or barbecue-only or whatever) it’s appropriate for them to give that general information to guests who ask (or who they know will not be able to partake).

But guests should not treat the wedding meal like a restaurant menu or consider themselves entitled to have their individual needs catered for. If your dietary restrictions prevent you from eating what’s generally considered an ordinary range of foods, you just have to be prepared for the possibility of not having a full meal when you’re invited out.

For guests to inquire about specific details of the menu comes across as food-fussy and self-absorbed. It’s the hosts’ job to be eagerly and scrupulously thoughtful about the guests’ comfort, but it’s the guests’ job to be robustly confident that all the hosts’ arrangements will be simply wonderful, and not start fussing about their own comfort. If that means that sometimes your dinner at a wedding might end up being a couple of carrot sticks and a glass of seltzer, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, so to speak! Ultimately, you’re not there for the cuisine, you’re there to help the bridal couple rejoice and celebrate their union.

(A wonderful experience at the wedding I attended this weekend illustrates this. The “wedding cake” was individual cupcakes, mostly chocolate with a minority of vanilla. The bride and groom know that I’m mildly allergic to chocolate (because they’ve had meals at my house when I’ve served but not eaten chocolate desserts and the allergy has been mentioned). Well, there were THREE separate members of the bridal party who went out of their way to bring me a vanilla cupcake (I only ate one of them, natch) because the bride and groom had made such a point of making sure I would have one that I could eat! That spontaneous thoughtfulness and attention on the part of the bridal couple and their attendants meant SO much more to me than if I had anxiously fussed beforehand “What is your wedding cake going to be? It isn’t going to be all chocolate, is it? You know I can’t eat chocolate!” Of course, if they HAD wanted an all-chocolate cake I would have been perfectly happy just to nibble a smidge of icing or to avoid the cake altogether, but I was so touched by their going out of their way to make sure I was provided for that even if the non-chocolate alternative had been bacon-peppermint-and-tarantula flavor, I would have happily and gratefully wolfed it down!)


Andrea B. July 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm

As someone who has worked in the wedding industry, I strongly urge people to let the bride and groom know of your dietary restrictions. If you are allergic to something, we *need* to know so we can tell you what foods contain those ingredients.


mechtilde July 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Absolutely- there are often events (parties, wedding receptions, conferences etc) at the place where I work and the caterers can provide suitable food for everyone- although they would have to buy in things for those who needed very strict controls such as food from a nut free environment, or strict kosher, for example.

These days it is normal for caterers to make such acomodations.


jess July 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm

ok… but some people can actually die from eating something with peanuts in for example…. as a bride I would be horrified if I refused to tell a guest what was in their meal and it ended up injuring or killing them! As a guessed I would be happy not to eat a meal if I was informed it had peanuts in….or just have a side salad ect.


The Elf July 17, 2012 at 7:51 am

I do have a nut allergy – to almonds. They show up all the time, especially with green beans or on desserts! Thankfully, this allergy won’t kill me. It is very easy for me to simply avoid that dish. If there is service, I can ask the server for ingredients. It is my responsibility to avoid almonds, not everyone else’s to avoid serving me almonds.

I don’t think it is bad for a guest to ask the bride and groom about the menu, especially preferencing it with a dietary restriction. Not on the RSVP, but with a simple phone call. It should be done as an inquiry, not a demand. The hosts of the wedding are under no obligation to serve something that fits the dietary needs of everyone.


Kendra July 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm

But as the bride, I assume that you are having a catering company of some sort actually cooking the food. How are you going to know what exactly is in each dish? How will you know if the chef used peanut oil in that dish?
Yes, I agree, if your guests have truly life threatening allergies, it would be best to inform the HC so they can inform their caterer. For other allergies or dietary restrictions, tell the bride if she asks, otherwise, you’re better off asking the servers which dishes contain what. They are in a better position to know how the dishes were prepared than the HC would be.

I also agree with many of the PPs, your allergies or dietary restrictions are your to manage. It is the the world’s responsibiltiy to dance around your particular eating habits.


Kendra July 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Sorry, I didn’t type that last line correctly. “your allergies or dietary restrictions are YOURS to manage. It IS NOT the world’s responsibility to dance around your particular eating habits.”

I’ll have to check my posts more closely before hitting “submit”. 😉

Chris July 17, 2012 at 8:01 am


I find your response to be horrifyingly lacking in empathy. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that it is not the responsibility of the bride & groom to accommodate requests and dietary needs of all their guests. I agree that the guests must accept that what the bride and groom have selected. But given that many weddings and receptions often take hours upon hours, and the few I’ve been a part of have been back to back, it is NOT unreasonable for guests who DO have actual restrictions (such as gluten intolerance or a shellfish allergy) to be told in advance that the selected meal is incompatible with their needs, thus allowing them to eat beforehand or make other arrangements on their own.

It’s not about being presumptuous or fussy, it’s about ensuring they are maintaining their own healthy and well-being, and a bride or groom who is so adamant about keeping the details to themselves is rather terrible as a person. Library Diva made a suggestion that is, in my opinion, one of the best I’ve ever heard.


Katie July 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

I agree with this comment. Food isn’t an optional extra (to me, at least!). If you’re going for a whole day, then most people will need to eat *something*.

I don’t think it’s rude to politely enquire about food arrangements if you fall into the ‘special dietary requirements’ category. Where I live (UK) it’s pretty normal to receive a menu in advance so you can let the couple know if there are any problems. While I agree that you can’t accommodate everyone’s preferences, the bride/groom can at least let people know so that they can make alternative arrangements (e.g. I’m vegetarian, and I would be more than happy to bring a packed lunch with me if there’s a meat-only meal). I’ve found, though, that most people are very keen to accommodate this kind of thing if you let them know in advance.


Sara July 17, 2012 at 10:18 am

Kimstu, I find your response baffling. I have several friends who have celiac disease. Based on your comment, “But guests should not treat the wedding meal like a restaurant menu or consider themselves entitled to have their individual needs catered for. If your dietary restrictions prevent you from eating what’s generally considered an ordinary range of foods, you just have to be prepared for the possibility of not having a full meal when you’re invited out.”; they should not ask and just not eat anything if there’s nothing with gluten? That’s ridiculous! People need to know what’s available so they can plan accordingly. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t feel “entitled to have [my] individual needs catered for”, as you put it, but if there’s not a vegetarian option, I certainly want to know in advance so I can eat something ahead of time and not starve during the long period that is the wedding/reception.


The Elf July 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Your friends with celiac disease ought to know what they can and cannot eat, or be capable of speaking up and asking serving staff if they need clarification on a specific dish. Certainly it would be gracious and kind for the host to provide a gluten-free meal. I don’t think it is problematic for the guests to ask ahead of time so that they can just plan to eat before the wedding reception, especially if it is done in a way that isn’t demanding. But the onus is on the guest, not the host, to figure out how to manage their own dietary restrictions. The onus is on the host to provide food, generally.


Lisa July 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

And yet we’ve had people complain on here because they had guests leave plates untouched – ie: the hosts ordered meals that the guests didn’t eat. As a host would*YOU* be happy to have forked out $100 for a guest and had them not touch the food (ie waste $100) because the guest can’t eat anything?

I have food allergies, and so did some guests- sometimes it’s a simple as leaving off a sauce or having a double serve of veggies and no meat. There was no extra charge for doing this, and it made our day so much better knowing that I and my guests could eat without spending the reception throwing up, and that no money was wasted on uneaten food!


Angel July 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I think the wine is more than enough. I wouldn’t even bother with the cash bar. And who in the hell sneaks a flask into a wedding. Ugh. Disgusting. Too bad you can’t pat down the guests or search bags on the way in LOL.


DogLover July 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Having a wedding reception is exactly like having a dinner party. The fact that people don’t think they are alike is because we have gotten so far away from the intent that people lose sight of what it is. You had a special event and you are asking your guests (guest being the operative word) to enjoy a meal with you to celebrate. They are held in halls and restaurants because most homes will not fit the number of people we now invite to weddings. But you’re still asking those near and dear to you to dinner to celebrate. YOU provide them with food and drink and the goal is to provide everything they need for the evening.

Having a cash bar says “Oh, this is something I thought you might enjoy but as your host, I didn’t want to pay for it”. That is like bringing out a fancy dessert at a dinner party and offering to sell slices. After all, they don’t have to “indulge” but they can if they want. If I am hosting a dinner, either I provide a dessert I can afford or none is provided. I don’t pass the costs on to what I can’t afford but would like to have to my guests.


Roo July 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Okay, I will admit it – I will never understand why the cash bar is tacky. We provided ample regular drinks and wine, but we could not afford to give our guests endless booze (and frankly, being grad students, it would have turned into a frathouse kegger if some of our guests had had access to endless free drinks. Many college students act like animals when they drink on someone else’s dime!). We couldn’t have an open bar, so we didn’t. It makes no difference to people who don’t want to buy drinks, because we weren’t going to provide them whether there was a cash bar or no bar. People who don’t mind paying for a drink are happy, because otherwise they wouldn’t have had one at all. How is that hurting anyone? I don’t get how it’s tacky to let guests decide whether they want to buy a drink, but if we take their choice away and say “NO DRINKS FOR ANYONE,” it’s classy.


Bowser July 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Sneaking in a flask is incredibly tacky and rude. But doesn’t it defeat the purpose of sneaking it in if you tell the person in charge (the bride, in this case) that you’re going to sneak one?

Tacky and not very bright.


Library Diva July 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

It reminds me of the man I encountered, back in my reporter days, who stood up at a town meeting and announced his intent to file a frivolous lawsuit against the town, with a pro bono lawyer. He was upset that other peoples’ dogs occasionally got on his property. He also pronounced it “fribbilous,” as if he intended to stop by Friendly’s and have them serve a nice frosty milkshake along with the papers.


TylerBelle July 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm

What the OP has mentioned providing, minus the cash bar, which I agree to scrapping, seems more than adequate for guests. I would get in contact with the guest whose boyfriend can’t be separated from his flask for the reception time, and tell her no can do, and mention the problems it would cause with the venue.

I think if guests have special dietary needs that must be addressed, they should be the ones to initiate the issue with the hosts and I’d imagine it would be handled in the best way possible for all. Otherwise, wedding hosts shouldn’t feel the need to broadcast every plan made, for it’s a good bet nitpickers will come out of the woodwork.


LovleAnjel July 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm


A vegan meal will cover vegan, vegetarian, and kosher diets. People with allergies will let you know ahead of time, and tend to be prepared for meals that contain their allergens (ie eat beforehand or bring meal bars with them). Having two or three options is not “granting…free reign” and is what most people expect.


Shoegal July 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm

In some places – I have heard that the cash bar is absolutely acceptable and expected. I went to my cousin’s wedding and he provided wine and beer but if you wanted a mixed drink the bar at the hotel was your only option. I went and bought myself a cosmo – not because I couldn’t go without a drink for his reception but because I enjoy it from time to time. I didn’t have a problem with that.
Where I am from, it is customary to have an open bar – and I didn’t consider anything but at my own wedding but I don’t think it is wrong to give people the opportunity for something more if they want it. If I were a guest at your wedding I’d be perfectly happy with the wine you provided but would appreciate having the opportunity for more if I so desired.

I do have a problem with bringing in flasks – I agree that nobody should know what the details are regarding the bar situation. Sneeking in alcohol is rude and dangerous – I don’t think these guests are alchoholics – I just think they are cheap!!!


Kimstu July 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm

It seems to me that guests’ expecting a cash bar and guests’ asking to know the details of the menu are both based on the same changing perceptions of wedding festivities.

As Admin and others have noted, a wedding reception is traditionally considered an offering of personal hospitality from the hosts to the guests. The hosts choose the menu and beverages, just as they would if they were having a large dinner party at their own home. At such a party it is tacky and rude for guests to try to negotiate what’s served or to obtain something that’s not being served, even if (or especially if!) they offer to pay for it out of pocket.

But many people nowadays seem to consider the reception more like a promotional event at a restaurant or nightclub. The refreshments are mostly free or cheap, but the attendees expect to be treated like paying customers in terms of choosing what they want to eat or drink, and are willing to pay out of pocket for off-menu items.

Neither of these approaches is intrinsically wrong or bad in and of itself, but they do NOT go well together. Either you’re a guest at a private party receiving the honor of personal hospitality in exchange for the pleasure of your company, or you’re an attendee at a celebratory function who’s entitled to as much festive cheer as you’re willing to pay for. If the hosts and guests don’t all see eye to eye on what approach to use, that’s when the etiquette violations start piling up.

(These incongruous attitudes, IMO, are also responsible for conflicting views on “plus-one” invitations. Individually chosen guests at private parties naturally aren’t entitled to bring their own guests along with them. But people going to promotional events at nightclubs or restaurants naturally prefer to choose their own company, and naturally feel entitled to bring as many people as they want to pay for or wangle invitation cards for.)

Unless and until wedding conventions settle exclusively on one of these two formats, people will just have to be aware that different formats exist and make sure that they’re not sending mixed messages about the kind of wedding they’re having.


Kendra July 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Wow! If we had thumbs up signs here, I would give you 10 for that very insightful post. I think you just nutshelled the entire debate of wedding hospitality.


Katie July 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I’m puzzled by this. Where I’m from (UK), guests are usually provided with drinks during the meal (normally wine, but I wouldn’t expect this) and then purchase their own drinks in the reception part during the evening. This is absolutely normal and standard in every wedding I’ve ever been to, apart from one, where a free bar (including alcohol) was provided. Smuggling a flask into a wedding probably happens, but it is not something that would be talked about or openly ‘shown’.

So I don’t see anything whatsoever wrong with giving guests the option of buying a drink at your wedding. But, like I say, this is just based upon my own experience in the UK. I’ve never been to a wedding elsewhere.


C.W. July 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I’ve been to weddings with a cash bar and I’ve been to weddings with an open bar… I can’t say I had more or less fun at either because of the bar situation. *shrug*

My wedding is in 3 weeks and for our reception (of ~100 people) we are required by the location (a winery) to purchase 2 cases of wine – 24 bottles – for use at the event. In addition to that, we purchased 2 kegs of beer. If and when all of that runs out, we have the option to switch to a cash bar. The manager/owner of the winery told us we could decide that evening which we’d prefer to do. Maybe it’s “tacky” to have a cash bar but I think if someone wants to drink in excess of what’s being offered, then maybe it should come out of their own pocket.


Katie July 17, 2012 at 6:57 am

Yes- I totally agree with this! Where I come from, if free alcohol were to be provided, the bill would run into *thousands*! I think that providing drinks for the meal is absolutely enough. Here, it’s customary for people to purchase their own soft drinks, too.


Elizabeth July 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I’m pretty sure that sneaking in a flask is a time-honored tradition. Isn’t that why they’re given to groomsmen as favors?? Perhaps I’m lucky – I don’t have any raging alcoholics in my circle of family and friends, and anyone who does or would bring a flask would do so only to bring in a really nice scotch and share it with many people (and not drink it all himself) – so I don’t see the harm. But perhaps it’s different elsewhere?


Meegs July 17, 2012 at 10:00 am

I was thinking this too. What is so bad about bringing a flask if one is discreet about it? Isn’t the whole point of a flask to bring your own alcohol with you? Seriously, who cares if someone brings in a flask? What is the big deal?


admin July 17, 2012 at 11:51 am

Meegs, The big deal about bringing in flasks which contain alcohol is that it is a violation of the venue’s policies stated in the contract as well as potentially a violation of local liquor licensing laws. Further, it could be an insurance liability issue where guests who over imbibe on their alcohol cannot be distinguished from guests who consumed venue alcohol thus making the venue operators legally liable for all drunk guests.


Mary July 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

When it comes to the cash bar, I think it depends on the situation. My husband comes from a small rural town. Invitations are mailed out, but at 8:00 when the dinner is done and the dance starts, everyone in town shows up! This might be common in other small towns also. I’m not quite sure if they advertise it in the paper, or if it is just common knowledge. Personally I was horrified when I found out about this and very grateful we didn’t have our wedding there. One time I was visiting and some of hubby’s friends wanted to head to the wedding party that night. I asked how they knew the couple and they said they didn’t know them! But that didn’t matter to them at all. Thank God, DH put his foot down and we didn’t have to go.

However, there might be an open bar through dinner, but after that point in time, It becomes a cash bar. The couple would go bankrupt if they had to provide alcohol for all of these people who showed up. Plus if word got out that there was an open bar, 10 times as many people would show up for the dance!


Libby July 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm

No you’re not being too cheap. You are being responsible by providing the best possible accommodations you can afford for your guests. Kudos to you and your groom. I’d cancel the cash bar and tell the friend under no circumstances can her boyfriend bring a flask. If your guests aren’t satisfied with a half bottle of wine with their dinner, it’s their problem, not yours.


Kovitlac July 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I have to say that I really don’t ever mind if there’s a cash bar or not. I’d agree with the admin, IF people were somehow being forced to drink, and thereby forced to hand over their cash. They aren’t – you’re merely providing them with the opportunity to if they wish. I take it that they’re also perfectly welcome to drink a bit at home before the reception (provided they are not drunk driving!), or if they truly must, can leave mid-way through the return later. Frankly, I think that in and of itself is highly rude, since if you really can’t get through a few hours without a drink, you might have a problem. Another nice reason for a cash bar is that while it does provide guests with the opportunity to drink, it’ll likely keep the number of drunks down far more then compared to an open bar. Frankly…I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding that had an open bar. They were either cash or none. And that was fine by me.

My opinion probably won’t make much difference in the long-run, since pretty much everyone is disagreeing with me. But that’s my 2 cents.


Katie July 17, 2012 at 6:58 am

I agree with you 100%!


Mary July 17, 2012 at 8:26 am

In our area, 95% of weddings have a cash bar. A few might have open bar until dinner is served but then it is cash bar. Beer and soda are almost always free. We’re in the upper Midwest. I know there are many who would abuse the open bar if it was there! My dad refused to pay for an open bar (we had free beer, wine and soda) since he was worried about the liability of those driving drunk.


Lou July 17, 2012 at 6:42 am

I agree with Katie, in the UK it is the norm to have a cash bar. Though I think the very fact that we would not actually call it that, just ‘a bar’ shows how normal it is in the UK.
I think if you were choosing to have wine with the dinner and then soft drinks available after then the venue may increase its hire charges to cover the loss off profits compared to a regular wedding.
It just would not be feasible for most to offer an open bar, they are very rare over here, and as the facilities exist at the vene, it seems a waste to shut them down.

Also, as for the comments saying that those who cannot go three or four hours without a drink must have a problem: as far a s a British wedding is concerned, most start at midday, and go on until after midnight, and as it is a celebration I think there is no harm in guests wishing to enjoy a drink whilst dancing during the evening portion of a reception as part of a long day of entertainment.

I htough hip flasks were smuggled in to offer the groom and best man a little nip to stave off nerves during the ceremony and before the speetches?


Jenny July 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

I’m also going to offer that I think bringing a flask is rude and tacky. I can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, but if you’re drinking out of a flask, you’re just looking to get drunk fast. It’s gross.


Louise July 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

Another UK-er chipping in – I stand in agreement with Lou and Katie, cash bars are the norm at pretty much every wedding I’ve been to in my life. I’ve seen slight modifications – for instance, my cousin got married last Saturday and when we entered the reception, all the guests received a little card reading ‘have the first drink on us!’ which could be exchanged at the bar for any drink you liked. This one worked well, although I have seen similar situations backfire (at another cousin’s wedding a few years ago, my uncle – her father- announced a free bar for an hour after we finished dinner, and I caught my own brother ordering a TREBLE Southern Comfort. When I told him off for taking advantage, his attitude was basically ‘What? Free bar!!’ and I had to explain that no, Uncle Alan was picking up the bar bill, the drinks weren’t just falling merrily from the sky!)

I’m getting married next February and when FH and I had our first meeting with the coordinator at our venue, we discussed various bar options. FH, feeling extravagant, asked what they would charge for an entirely open bar for the evening. The coordinator blanched and quietly explained that whenever they had operated free bars in the past, it invariably resulted in at least a few people taking advantage and getting completely pie-eyed, thus spoiling the event for other guests. She *strongly* recommended that we limit the free drinks available to an arrival drink, wine on the tables with dinner and glasses of sparkly for the toasts – which is more or less the same format as most weddings I’ve attended and really seems sufficient to me. Maybe (some) Brits are just more enthusiastic/less decorous in their approach to drinking than our US cousins?!x


Kate July 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm

This sounds similar to how things are run in Australia. Every wedding I’ve attended has had an open bar for red and white wines, full strength and light beer, and a sparkling wine/champagne for toasts. One wedding (a couple of Croatian descent) had bottles of spirits on the table, as per tradition, but spirits have usually been available behind the bar for guests to pay for if they would like some.

I had a similar discussion when planning my wedding for next July. There are some very heavy drinkers in my fiance’s family and we wanted to ensure there was some alcohol provided, without going overboard and giving them an excuse to get absolutely sloshed. The package we selected was a few wines and beers for, I think, $29 a head.


Bint July 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Yeah, my sister had an open bar. Everyone was smashed by 7pm. Everyone. That’s just Britain, right across the social spectrum. People got on quadruple G&Ts, dah dah dah, dancing about quite the thing. Great wedding though.

All British weddings have far too much drinking with just a bar!


Kendra July 17, 2012 at 11:49 am

I’ve been to two weddings as an adult. My group isn’t big on marriage. In both weddings, there was no “bar” of any kind available. The first wedding was a very good friend of mine. It was a fancy wedding held at the Mason Lodge and everything was beautiful. The only alcohol available was wine: red & white and champaigne for the toast. There was plenty of non-alcoholic drinks as well, so guests weren’t going thirsty. To my knowledge, nobody complained about the lack of alcohol or sneaked out to imbibe their “forbidden” alcohol. From what I saw, everybody had a great time and didn’t seem to miss the all-you-can-drink bar.
The second wedding was for my younger sister. It was much more casual than my friend’s wedding. The reception was held at my grandmother’s house, nicely decorated. Again, no open bar. We bought Wine, beer, and champaigne from Costco as well as water, tea, soda, juice. Again, I heard no complaints about the lack of alcohol. In fact, we only bought 2 cases of beer, 6 bottles of wine and 6 bottles of champaign for around 73 people. After the wedding, we still had so much alcohol left over, it took us forever to drink it all. In fact, her wedding was 3 years ago, and I’m looking at two bottles of wine and one bottle of champaigne we still have from her wedding.
I get that weddings are celebrations and that alcohol is a celebratory beverage, so alcohol is usually expected at a wedding and people miss it if it isn’t there, however it doesn’t mean you have to have “free-flowing alcohol from the wazoo” either. A wedding is not a frat party, a night-club or any other venue where people get “wasted”. It is a celebration of a major life milestone in two peoples lives and should be treated with respect and joy.
As far as the dinner party analogy, I completely agree with the admin, the only difference between a dinner party and a wedding reception is degree. To expect your guests to pony up cash to upgrade your hospitality, to me, is rude. For your guests to expect you to provide every alcohol known to man so they can get stupid drunk on your dime is also, to me, rude.
OP, I do think offering a cash bar is rude. To me, it is if you are asking your guests to pay for better hospitality from you. Personally, I don’t think not having a bar is not rude. The wine and champaigne you are planning to provide your guests is plenty as long as there are plenty of non-alcoholic drink options, you are being a good hostess. I would suggest that you talk to your guest and let her know that bringing in her own alcohol is unacceptable. If she insists, then I would agree with admin, that this is one of those rare cases where it is ok to “uninvite” a guest. Or you can look at it this way, she is turning down your hospitality by planning to provide her own “refreshment”.



Kendra July 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I also wanted to point out that we bought cases and cases and cases of soda and water. By the end of the reception, we had a couple of bottles of water and a couple of cans of Sprite. We were afraid that we were going to run out, and my mother and I were planning a soda run, when things started winding down.


SMHL July 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Hi Everyone,

Thnk you very much for the advice! I really hate that we are having to be cautious on our bar costs but we were able to work champagne for toasts in and we are seeing whether our budget can accommodate more than a half bottle of wine per guest. (All of the drinking guests like wine so it’ll go over well.) We do have to stick with a cash bar in the case that someone wants something specific and this is norml here so aside from the gentlemen with flasks we should be fine. And as a side note, it looks like the potential offender won’t be there after all. Thank you again for the advice!


Bint July 18, 2012 at 7:10 am

Pretend to be British. A cash bar in the UK is entirely expected, with wine provided throughout dinner, possibly because our drinking culture, sadly, can be terrifyingly bad. I went to a wedding at the weekend where a middle-aged lady passed out on the dance floor before 8.30pm – the ceremony started at 6.30pm! Make it an open bar and she’d have been home before 7pm.


clairedelune July 18, 2012 at 9:34 am

I agree with the admin on everything, but also would like to add that, as a practical matter, your venue’s stern warnings are likely merely meant to present a worst-case-scenario to drive their point home. I suspect that if a single guest were caught with a flask, the most dramatic result would be that guest being asked to leave, not that the whole wedding would be shut down. And while in theory the venue perhaps *could* lose its liquor license for something like this, that presupposes that your local enforcement agency is policing all private events, looking for stray flask-drinkers and imposing the sternest possible punishment under the law. This is probably also not the case. So while I agree that your guest is being unspeakably rude, I don’t think that you really need fear for your event. I’m sure it’ll be great!


saiyangerl July 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I had on SS friend ask if there was going to be an open bar. When I informed her there would be no bar period got a sigh of “Awwww…” from her. First of all it was a small wedding of the closest friends and family only. So about 50 people. And it was during the day. I only invited this friend to keep the peace. After the wedding I distanced myself and we no longer talk now. Anyways, I think she was still giving me a hard time about the no alcohol so I told her if she really needed alcohol that badly, besides the champagne we were providing for the toasts, that she could go next door to the venue’s bar/grill restaurant and BUY it herself.


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