I’m going to have an open bar for the guests, but I also wanted to know if it is appropriate to charge a small amount for each drink and then donate the money.
Having an open bar at the wedding reception while also asking guests for a donation is certainly possible and here are a few suggestions on how it can be done:
An open bar technically means it is free for your wedding guests to drink as they please. Rather than have the bartender charge them a small amount for each drink, your bridal party could create large signs for the bar area which would say something like, “Please donate $1 for EACH drink. All proceeds will go to ______”. The signs could be funny or formal. It would be more of an honour system for your wedding guests to donate and if you make the signs prominent enough, they will likely participate since it can be quite awkward to go up there numerous times without donating anything!
If you do decide to ask for donations for every drink, make sure you have signage displayed prominently for wedding guests to see. This will avoid possible mayhem at the bar. For instance, you can have a little card at each reception table stating, “Please donate every time you drink. Donations will be made to ____.”
Another consideration would be to have a specific drink or drinks designated for donations. It could be a special wedding drink concocted by the bartender that would only be available at your wedding. Give it a snazzy fun that matches the wedding mood.
Also, if you are asking your wedding guests to donate, consider who will watch the money and how it will be kept safe at the wedding reception. Sadly, theft happens everywhere and weddings are no exception.