The bar tab
The mere mention of an open bar can turn teetotaling family and friends into extras from Animal House once the cake is cut and the sound cranks up.
TheKnot.com's Winikka notes that the bar is a huge wedding expense that can double the event's total food cost, depending what's involved. Couples can cut into that cost by capping bar spending at a certain price, serving beer and wine only, limiting harder booze to a signature cocktail or closing the bar during dinner.
"Every party is different, and that's what the caterer will tell you, but what's important is to get some estimates and to really be open," Winikka says. "What's really important is to go broad, seeing what the cost really is per person, understanding that everything is an estimate or capping the bar at a particular price."
That assumes the bar shuts down after the reception. Naylor notes that it has become quite common for the bride and groom to join their parents, bridal party members and hotel-staying guests back at the hotel bar after the reception closes for an impromptu after-party.
"But what usually happens is that everyone imbibes and orders bar snacks, and the parents or the wedding couple get handed a huge bar tab at the end of the gathering," Naylor says. "Most guests will start pulling $20 bills out to help, but some will not ... and it has happened that the bride, groom, their bridal party and friends head out to the official bar-crawl after-party, leaving the parents with a big bill to pay."
With the bride's parents already paying for 45% of the average wedding and the groom's parents kicking in another 12%, that added expense isn't anyone's idea of a good time. Naylor suggest parents instead join their guests in their hotel rooms for private get-togethers, where they can control what's ordered, or brides and grooms talk about how they'll handle the tab for their circle of friends.