Open Bar if Parents Object? (Or if Parents Disagree?)

A reader writes:

“Dear The Plunge,

My issue may be simple or it may be complex. It really depends on how you look at it. I’ve only been engaged for 2 weeks, but planning has already started and a major snag has already come up: Open Bar, no bar, or somewhere in between.

My fiancée’s family is kind of expecting an open bar at the reception. They can’t, however, afford it without help from my parents. My parents are willing to contribute to the wedding and the reception, however, my Mother is almost dead set against any alcohol at the reception. She is kind of old school and believes that, as she did not have alcohol at her wedding, why should there be alcohol at mine. How do I get her to be ok with having some sort of alcohol at the Reception? Any ideas?

Thank you, in advance, for any and all help you can provide.”

Dear Thirsty,

The issue of Open Bar is often complex and thorny and causes a huge pain in the ass. Here’s the good news. In your case? It’s simple.

Let’s think about what would happen in each of the two scenarios.

Scenario A: You side with your mother and have a dry wedding

1) You will disappoint and possibly irritate your bride’s parents, who are expecting alcohol.

2) You will disappoint and most certainly irritate your friends, bridal party, and other guests–many of whom are ponying up serious $$$ to fly from out of town–who are expecting at least a couple of lousy drinks.

3) You will disappoint and possibly anger your fiancée, who will see you, weakened, cowering before your mother.

4) Your reception will flat-out not be as much fun.

5) You will subtly emasculate your fiancée’s father, who wants alcohol for his guests and could be embarrassed that he can’t provide it. (To be fair, this could be true of both your fiancée’s father and mother–you’re just making it more public and obvious to everyone that they can’t afford the wedding they want.

6) Your guests won’t remember your wedding as fondly, because, hell, it was completely dry and probably will end quicker and with less satisfaction.

7) None of your groomsmen will get laid. Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.

All right, now, for the other side of the coin…

Scenario B: You side with your fiancée’s parents (and the majority of Western Civilization) and serve some alcohol at your wedding

Here are the downsides of this course of action:

1) You have to have an uncomfortable conversation with your mother.

Aaaaaaand, that’s it.  That’s the only downside.

Simple, right?

And as for convincing ‘ol Mom, first off, reiterate that you are very grateful and appreciate their contributions to the wedding, and that you want to respect their wishes and create an event that everyone will love.

See also: The Wedding Booze Bible – Everything You Need To Know

But the only minor issue is that, these days, most of your guests would really appreciate a bit of alcohol, so to have the wedding that would make the most people happy, you want to serve some alcohol.

The operative words are “some alcohol.” When we say “Open Bar,” we don’t mean that you’re required to have some eight-hour, fully-stocked, Maker’s Mark and Kettle bar that will make a national health care plan look cheap.  If push comes to shove, you just need some basics, even if it’s only beer and wine and a champagne toast.

Also…one more question. We’re all for tradition and family values and old school. But where did your mom grow up, exactly? Alcohol at weddings isn’t some crazy, modern, loose-morals new invention. Booze has long been a part of wedding receptions. Probably not helpful to bring this up with your mom, but still, that should make you feel more at ease.

See also: Your Role Planning The Reception: 10 Signs of Danger 

Again, thank your mom for everything she’s doing but appeal to her sense of being a good host…even if it’s not her thing, all of your guests (not to mention your fiancée) will appreciate the gesture.

Good luck, and write back to let us know how it plays out. (We’re not just saying that–seriously, give us an update, and that goes for all the guys who have written us in for advice…we want to hear the exciting conclusions to these dramas.)

-The Plunge

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