Keeping Up with the Jones
Dedicated September 2015

Open Bar or Kegs?

Keeping Up with the Jones, on May 14, 2015 at 10:12 AM Posted in Etiquette and Advice

So my fiancee and I are going round about the stupid alcohol situation. We have to use our venue for alcohol. He just wants to buy kegs from them and set them up in the reception area. I want to use the bar and set a certain dollar amount where people can come up and get beer and wine until the money runs out. I feel like it's classier and if we set the same limit as we would spend on the kegs: who cares? Obviously cash bar for hard liquor.

His deal is he doesn't want people ordering microbrews and wasting all the money and he doesn't want to pay ANOTHER gratuity to the bartender since the venue has added tips in everywhere.

I think pumping your own beer outside of a frat party is tacky and we are only spending a certain amount on alcohol regardless of which way we go. After it runs out guests are welcome to use the bar at their own expense. Plus I'm sure that gratuity is in there whether the bartender pours the drink or just sets the keg up.

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23 Comments

  • Keeping Up with the Jones
    Dedicated September 2015
    Keeping Up with the Jones ·

    Plus the kegs are $175 a piece! That's more than double what the liquor stores charge. Two of those and our alcohol budget is mostly eaten up. Not to mention every guest is coming from a long way away. Nobody wants to come 12+ hours for Coors and Bud Light when there are so so many microbrewerys in the Rocky Mountain area. We wanted to give our guests a feel for the ruggedness of Wyoming and we already had to cut serving Buffalo off the menu because of costs.

    Thoughts?

  • sjd85
    Super October 2015
    sjd85 ·

    Is it even an option to have the kegs not behind the bar? That sounds like a liability issue for the venue.

  • SaraLep
    Master September 2015
    SaraLep ·

    I would say open bar - kegs remind me of being in college and your wedding should not be a college party

  • Maltese
    Master June 2015
    Maltese ·

    I'm pretty sure your venue would probably require a bartender to serve the beer even if you went the keg route. More and more states are requiring servers and bartenders to have certification, which means that if a venue that doesn't have their own staff and requires the host to provide will have to certified.

  • VWCat
    Master October 2015
    VWCat ·

    Are the $175 kegs microbrews or Coors/Bud? Because in my area, some of our kegs at the liquor store cost around that but it's because they're really good microbrews (with high alcohol content).

    If you went the keg route, would you have an option for wine? What's your guest drinking composition (more beer or more wine)?

    If more beer, you'd probably get more $$ out of the kegs than buying individual bottles of beer/glasses of wine. But if you're guests drink more wine and you don't have a wine option at your venue, I would suggest having the limited open bar.

  • Keeping Up with the Jones
    Dedicated September 2015
    Keeping Up with the Jones ·

    That is for domestics such as Coors. Natty might be a little cheaper. Microbrews ran around obviously higher than that. Mostly I think people would drink beer but if we got kegs we would have to order bottles of wine too.

    They gave us the options of having kegs (purchased from them), Cash bar, or bar with a certain dollar amount. I also think that if we buy kegs and the beer doesn't get drank, we lose money but they should refund us any money from the bar that isn't used?

    I think they mentioned we could have kegs in the reception area since they are a restaurant too and the fewer wedding guests mingling with other customers the better.

  • Lori
    Master June 2015
    Lori ·

    I have a hard time believing that a venue would let guests serve themselves beer--that's a HUGE liability issue. You should probably clarify about what they meant. My vote is for open bar. Could you see if your venue can limit the bar to certain beer and wine choices?

    How many guests are you having? The general rule of thumb is 2 drinks per guest for the first hour, then 1 drink per guest for each additional hour. Try pricing it out and see what's cheaper.

  • Ostrich
    Master April 2016
    Ostrich ·

    Kegs often have issues of foam and crap, and take a while to serve. Open bar

  • Angie
    VIP August 2015
    Angie ·

    We are doing kegs and wine. Our venue, as many others in my area don't care. Every wedding I have been to has been a serve yourself bar. You can buy pretty keg covers you know?

    ETA: With the exception of the wedding I'm going to tomorrow, for my mom's reception. They don't allow outside alcohol and it will be a cash bar.

  • Maltese
    Master June 2015
    Maltese ·

    I have to believe that if you're having the reception in a restaurant that they will not allow guests to self serve from a keg in their establishment.

    They will probably have a satellite bar set up near your party and allocate a staff member or too to serve drinks.

    If you went based on a consumption bar, you and your FH CAN limit what is available to guests (ie domestic draft beers only, Smirnoff instead of Grey Goose, Cuervo instead of Patron, ect).

  • Genny
    Master May 2015
    Genny ·

    Ugh no do not do the kegs. I went to a wedding a few months ago where they had kegs in metal trash cans and it looked like a college party. They did have a bartenders and it took them more time to pour the beer than it would to just pop off the cap.

  • .
    Master October 2013
    .... ·

    How about just a beer and wine open bar, skip the liquor cash bar. Any cash bar is rude. If you can't afford it, just don't offer it. Limit the beer selection.

    Kegs are gross, you'll have lines, and lots of people don't want beer. They're also messy and could be tough to keep cold.

  • Princess Consuela
    Master November 2015
    Princess Consuela ·

    I'm for the open bar. No kegs. If it's not in your budget to do totally open, do a limited open bar (beer and wine only). The idea of having a certain amount of money for the bar and when it's done, it's a cash bar, is pretty strange to me. So Joe Schmoe in front of me gets the last $3 worth of alcohol, then I have to pay for my drink? I'd be confused and annoyed as a guest. What if I don't have cash? It'd be pretty sad about that. Can you make cuts anywhere else in your budget so that you don't have to do any cash bar at all?

  • EatKnitRun
    Master May 2016
    EatKnitRun ·

    Are you sure the kegs are serve yourself? When choosing our alcohol package we can pick consumption, open per hour with various limitations like beer/wine only or not premium brands, or we can buy beer by the keg or mixed drinks by the gallon. But bartenders will serve it no matter how we buy it for our guests. It's probably something like that.

  • MrsTex
    Super October 2015
    MrsTex ·

    We are buying cases of wine and kegs as well, but keeping it all behind the bar to be served by the bartender. If by chance it all gets drank before the end of the night, then it becomes bartenders choice of what to serve, and the guests have to pay for their own. We are buying what we hope to be enough so that doesnt happen, but having already purchases the liquor instead of letting guests choose, it prevents people from asking for the more expensive beer or wine and using our funds faster. This happened at my best friends wedding, she had a table of family that kept ordering shots of $40 whiskey, her $1500 bar tab was spent before dinner was even finished!

  • Keeping Up with the Jones
    Dedicated September 2015
    Keeping Up with the Jones ·

    I just spoke to the venue and yes, they really do set up a keg station in the reception area and let you handle that yourself to keep congestion at the bar down.

    Just to be clear, we aren't serving any hard alcohol. That is solely on the guests.

  • Celia Milton
    May 2019
    Celia Milton ·

    Open bar. A keg ties you into a lot of glasses of the same stuff. I rarely see a keg at a wedding, even the most casual ones.

  • Mrs. T
    Devoted July 2015
    Mrs. T ·

    No kegs unless it's veeerrry casual. I think you ought to pony up for a beer and wine bar without a cut off. Cut other areas if you need to. No one should be expected to pull out their wallets at a wedding.

  • Jenn B
    Master September 2015
    Jenn B ·

    You may want to clarify with your venue on alcohol refunds. In NC, (or so my venue says) they are not allowed to refund for "alcohol not used" if there is a set price. Sounds weird to me, too.

  • Keeping Up with the Jones
    Dedicated September 2015
    Keeping Up with the Jones ·

    What's the etiquette on only having the bar open for certain times? Is that more or less acceptable than having a set limit?

    My venue has done several weddings and I guess they go by the standard of we are obligated for 1 drink per person and anything more is being extra generous. I'm not sure about that. I rarely drink.

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