God and Money: A Valid Reason to Skip the Open Bar?

A reader is taking us to task. In the article Your Role Planning the Reception: 10 Signs of Danger we wrote:

“It’s simple. If your fiancée thinks that you need to slash the open bar and cheap out by only serving wine, simply cut 5% from the guest list. Done and done. You don’t think it’s possible? We’ll show you.

“This can’t be a compromise. Never sacrifice the open bar. To clarify: “open bar” doesn’t mean that your guests are able to order a 1937 Glenfiddich. You should, however, have the basics: house rum, whiskey, vodka, etc. As an aside and cautionary warning, The Plunge’s fearless founder thought it’d be fun to have a “Scotch Tasting” at his wedding…and it set him back twelve grand. So know your limits before you give the bar a green light.

“Do you think you have a good reason to skip the open bar? You don’t. Here’s our challenge: if you think that you have an actual good reason why you should scrap the open bar in favor of something else, tell us why by e-mailing [email protected] We’ll run any convincing arguments below…”

We asked for it. They gave it to us.

A reader wrote us over the weekend:

We’re skipping the open bar because the reception is at our church and we weren’t even allowed to mention hard liquor, let alone serve it. Wine is okay, apparently–but we’re serving beer as soon as the priest leaves.

Also, seriously, we are both students and I love my future husband but I am not going into debt over some liquor that my friends can just come over to our house for after the afternoon reception (cake, ice cream, caramel apples, lol). You did convince me on the diy music, though, so thanks!

So you bring up two distinct reasons:

1) The church won’t allow it.
2) You can’t afford it.

Let’s tackle each in turn.

1) The church won’t allow it

Church is church. If your priest/rabbi/minister/whoever decrees that you can’t bring alcohol, and you respect this religion and want to abide by those rules… fair enough, I’ve yet to win an argument against God.

But it sounds like you have the right idea by smuggling in some beer and wine as soon as the coast is clear. Remember, this is not just about you. Whether you like it or not–and whether your priest likes it or not–your guests are coming for a party, they’re not coming for spiritual enlightenment. If you have no alcohol at all, you will disappoint your guests. That has nothing to do with God or Religion or Morals, and that has everything to do with being a good host.

Verdict: Permissible, as long as you’re also giving them some alcoholic outlet (which you are.)

2) You can’t afford it

Now this is a reason we can respect. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. There’s no reason to go into debt for hard liquor; that comes much later in life.

It’s not that you must always have an open bar. It’s just that you should always prioritize it above the other trappings: ice sculptures, videographers, groom cakes.  Don’t scrimp on the bar and splurge on the apps.

We’re assuming, however, that you’ve scrubbed your guest list down to the nub. If anyone’s on the bubble? Axe ’em. It’s better to be more generous to fewer guests than less generous to more guests.

Again, by “open bar,” we don’t necessarily mean that you must offer your guests a bottomless well of Maker’s Mark. The key is that you don’t force them to open their wallets.  That’s when things get awkward.  As long as you serve a steady river of beer and wine, you keep the party flowing with liquid goodwill.

Verdict: Permissible, as long as: 1) You’ve cut all fat from the guest list, and 2) You’re not spending dumb money elsewhere, and 3) You’re giving enough beer and wine to save them the embarrassment of spending their own cash.

Thanks for taking us up on this. Good luck.

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