A reader writes:
“We’re planning on providing free margaritas and free sangria the whole night while offering a cash bar as well.
The state we live in has really stringent DUI laws and the cops are jerks. Most of our guests will be from out of town and we want to minimize the drunk driving and trashed guests.
Do you still suggest offering an open bar on top of the free mixed drinks? Should we compromise and offer only signature drinks (the margaritas, the sangrias, a booze, a beer and a mixed drink)? Or should we suck it up and shell out the cash for the open bar?”
Look. We’re the first ones to laugh at do-gooders, to mock tradition, to snicker at the conventional wisdom. That said, if you’ll excuse us, we need to hop on our soapbox.
The reason you should be concerned about drunk-driving is not because your friends might get pulled over… but because someone might die. Sorry. We hate to be all corny and go all “This is your brain on drugs,” but it doesn’t matter if the cops are jerks. They should be jerks. It’s their job to curb drunk-driving.
See also: Open Bar If Parents Object?
We’re being a little tough on you; it does sound like your heart is in the right place and you’re trying to do the right thing. But this is reality: your friends are going to drink whether you pay for it or they pay for it.
So instead of worrying about the open bar, worry about transportation. This is your primary responsibility.
Get cab numbers. Arrange car-pools. Seek out pregnant women, teenagers, or recovering alcoholics and arrange for designated drivers. (We’re not even kidding–recovering alcoholics are a handy addition to any drunken party.) Focus your energy on providing responsible transportation–not reducing the alcohol. The former is possible, the latter is not.
See also: 911 – Hungover On The Wedding Day
That said, I wouldn’t sweat the open bar too much. When we say in all our articles “Get the open bar!” this is shorthand for, “Make sure you provide enough free alcohol that your guests will have a good time.” You’re doing this with the bottomless glasses of sangria and margaritas. Yes, if you can afford it, we’d still urge you to spring for the open bar… but it’s not an absolute necessity.
And no matter what, make sure they have a safe way to get home.