There was a plan. The plan involved a van. It also involved Dan (the Groom-to-Be’s brother). The GtB and Dan were going to drive the van onto the ferry at Dover, out the other side at Calais, and down through sun-dappled northern France to Beaune, the capital of Burgundy.
According to the plan, they would spend a leisurely weekend visiting vineyards and sampling wines before loading up the van with bottles – some for Dan, and some for the wedding.
Then we had to move house and Wedding Booze Weekend was spent loading and unloading a much less appealing form of cargo. Now the plan involves Waitrose and 25% off for six bottles.
Drinking is central to weddings. Marriage warrants a celebration – it is a celebration – and how do we celebrate in the UK? We drink. We christen a ship; we toast the new year; we wet the baby’s head. And we raise our glasses to the bride and groom.
Weddings also tend to be lengthy things, with the drinking spread over as many as 10 or 11 hours, starting soon after the ceremony and continuing until the end of the evening.
We had two questions to ask ourselves, therefore: how much booze should we provide, and should we ask guests to pay for any of it?
We had two questions: how much booze should we provide, and should we ask guests to pay for it?
The cash bar question is one of the more contentious etiquette conundrums I’ve encountered amongst couples planning weddings, having read some of the heated online forum discussions on the subject.
Except for two, the weddings I’ve attended have not featured a paid bar, so I was surprised to find, when looking at wedding trends for a previous post, that 65% of UK couples do opt for one.
“We knew that some of our friends would want to drink A LOT,” Tash, one of the two exceptions, tells me, “While others wouldn’t be drinking at all. We provided champagne on arrival and for speeches, and wine with the meal, but then gave people the option to buy extra drinks later in the evening. This meant that they had the flexibility to decide what and how much to drink, rather than being rationed to X number of glasses of our choice of red or white.”
Others find the notion of a cash bar to be at odds with the idea of a hosted event, to which invitations have been issued. If guests have paid for transport, accommodation, a gift and possibly a new outfit, should they be asked to contribute to the hospitality itself, too? Here’s an observation on the subject from the (admittedly fictional) book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine:
“Guests were obliged to buy their own drinks all evening, which shocked me…surely, if you are a host, you are responsible for ensuring that your guests are provided with a libation? That’s a basic principle of hospitality, in all societies and cultures, and has been since recorded time.”
We agreed that, even without the money-saving benefits of a booze cruise, we wanted to try and provide the alcohol for the evening. We’ve tried to keep our guest list modest; we’ve ‘shopped around’ for the venue and caterer, so we figured we could afford to spend a bit in this respect. Cynically, I’ve also been hoping that an ample supply of alcohol may distract our guests from our slightly haphazard approach to event management.
Debrett’s Wedding Handbook recommends allowing half a bottle of champagne and one bottle of wine per person. At Waitrose-type prices, that’s about £15 – £17 per head. Large supermarkets and wine suppliers also allow you to return any unopened bottles, so it makes sense to over-cater slightly for the reassurance of knowing that we’re not going to run dry. Of course, the danger is that any leftovers will just end up being drunk by us at a later date, but there are surely worse problems to have…
A few fun options for red, white and booze:
- A prosecco van: could you be any more 2017?
- A mixologist: guests can order off-piste with a dedicated cocktail expert.
- A signature drink: frothy and sweet? Tall and potent? Short and sour? Design your own cocktail to reflect you and/or your other half.
Days remaining: 63
Spend: £7,661 (of a £10,000 budget).
(= last week’s total + £3,689 final catering quote for 95 people + an estimated alcohol spend of £1,615)