Hi, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding! In this day and age, where wedding budgets can reach the sky and beyond, it may be on your radar to have a stag & doe/buck & doe/jack & jill/whatever it's called in your region. Basically, a stag & doe is a ticketed, fundraising event held before your wedding to help raise funds for the big day.
Here's what you need to know:
- Having a stag & doe/buck & doe/jack & jill party is certainly not mandatory, but it can be a way to raise extra money for the wedding.
- Stag & does tend to be more popular in rural areas, but you can definitely have one in an urban setting.
- Your wedding party should do the lion’s share of the planning on this - it’s not meant to be one more thing for you to do.
- Decide on a date. Ideally, it should be several months prior to the wedding so the funds can be used towards vendor payments.
- If possible, choose a date that’ll be a popular option for people to go out anyway: Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, Halloween, New Years Eve, etc.
- Discuss a budget with your wedding party - actually raising money is tough, and you want to make sure your wedding party isn’t out of pocket for any expenses.
Choose a Venue:
- Generally, smaller halls, Legions, or Rec Centers are good options.
- To make the most money on the bar, try to find a venue that’ll let you bring in your own alcohol. (BUT . . . see next paragraph).
- You’ll want to create some kind of theme (using minimal, affordable decor), so try to envision how the decorating will work when you look at a hall.
- Whenever you serve alcohol, you’ll need food as well - ask what the requirements are for bringing in food (chances are, as long as it comes from a commercial kitchen, you’ll be fine [caterers, or even Costco or grocery store trays are good to go in most cases]).
- Make sure the venue is easily accessible, with parking (though you’ll want to encourage people to travel safely! Encourage buses, taxis, or Ubers where possible.)
Legalities - Liquor License:
- Note: check with your local Alcohol Control Board, community and hall for specific licensing and insurance requirements in your region.
- In Ontario, you’ll need to have a Special Occasion Permit, which you’ll obtain online from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (www.AGCO.ca):
- a Private Event Permit will be required (you can’t advertise to the public)
- you must apply for the permit at least ten days in advance
- a Sale Permit (if you’re selling drinks, from which you can not legally profit) is $150, as of April 1, 2020
- a Non-Sale Permit (if drinks are free) is $50, as of April 1, 2020
- you must have the SOP in hand when you purchase your alcohol, which must be done in an Ontario store licensed to sell alcohol
- the Permit Holder/ Responsible Person specified on the SOP must be present for the duration of the event, and is responsible to ensure that the rules are followed
- alcohol may not be given as a prize, though LCBO or Beer Store gift certificates may be issued
- By law, the SOP must be present behind the bar, with the alcohol purchase receipts stapled to it. If an inspector arrived and found alcohol not accounted for with receipts, you could be shut down immediately.
Legalities - Gaming:
- According to the AGCO, you must have a license to run any kind of gambling, raffle or lottery.
- In terms of your stag and doe, the AGCO states that games of skill are permitted (ring toss, mini putt, etc.), but games of chance (plinko, crown and anchor) and 50/50 draws are not.
- Be sure to ask your hall what their requirements and limitations are. Some halls actually have gaming licenses, in which case you may be permitted to run a raffle.
- By the letter of the law, you are allowed to make money by:
- selling tickets
- collecting donations
- silent auctions
- live auctions
- games of skill (selling tickets at the door, rather than collecting cash at the game is preferred)
- Technically, you can’t raffle off prizes, but you can hold a silent auction. (Approach local businesses for prize donations, or look for deeply discounted prizes on sale). Advertise one big prize as a way to draw in guests and increase ticket sales.
- You are allowed to ‘auction’ off a pie in the face - have your wedding party collect money or tickets in two pots, one for each partner, and whichever has the most money or tickets gets a face full of whipped cream.
Legalities - Insurance:
- You’ll most likely be required by your venue to have an additional, one-day insurance policy to cover any alcohol-related incidents. Ask your venue how much insurance is needed ($1-, $2-, or $5 million are common).
- Even if your venue doesn’t require insurance, and especially if you’re holding the liquor license, you’ll want to make sure you have a policy in place.
- You can obtain alcohol liability insurance in a couple of ways:
- 1: PAL Canada - stands for ‘Party Alcohol Liability’. Their website walks you through the process of obtaining insurance for one-day events.
- There are multiple types of insurance, depending on your needs and your venue’s requirements:
- Party Alcohol Liability
- Liquor Liability Only
- 2: Personal Insurance Provider - often, your home insurance provider can provide a comparable product at a lesser price. It’s worth getting a quote to compare.
- You may be asked to name the venue as ‘additional insured’, which protects them as well.
- Make sure you know the requirements of your venue, and submit the policy to them in advance of your wedding day.
- If you’re hoping to make a profit on the bar, try to offer as few options as you think is reasonable. This will allow you to return unopened cases or bottles:
- offer one white, one red wine
- offer one domestic, one import and one light beer
- keep the bar rail simple: vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, tequila (if warranted)
- buy 26 oz (750ml) bottles rather than 60 oz (1.75L) . . . you can return anything that’s unopened
- Generally, you’ll want to allow one drink per person per hour, but Stag & Does can be harder hit. The LCBO has a good online calculator for what to buy, or ask your venue for advice.
- Make sure you bring in enough plastic glasses and stir sticks (if required) for the bar. You may also need to bring in bar supplies, like bar cloths, ice buckets/tongs, jiggers/pour spouts (which don’t usually fit on a 60 oz bottle), corkscrews, knives and cutting boards, etc.
- You’ll want to offer food to soak up the alcohol, but try to keep it affordable:
- Sandwich platters from your local grocery store
- DIY sandwiches
- Potluck (ask your wedding party to bring food)
- Food that doesn’t require any prep - fruit and veggie trays, meatballs in crockpots, etc.
- Don’t forget about paper plates, napkins and utensils, if necessary.
- Ensure that you’ve clearly understood your venue’s requirements regarding bringing in outside food and drink.
How to Make Money:
- Generally, your wedding party will be tasked with selling tickets. Print them as affordably as possible (Vistaprint is a great option), and ensure that you print about 40% more than the capacity of your venue (not everyone will go, or will be there at the same time).
- As mentioned, you can’t legally run games of chance, but there are lots of games of ‘skill’ you can DIY, or rent from your local supplier:
- mini putt
- bean bag/ring toss
- ball/hockey games
- You can also run silent or live auctions for prizes (make sure you have one big prize, like a TV, tickets or trip) to draw people in.
- In addition to games and prizes, make sure you have great entertainment (DJ or DIY music).
Good luck with everything! As a very UNOFFICIAL statement, most halls pretty much let you do whatever you want, as long as you pay their rental fee. BUT the above is my disclaimer as to what's technically, LEGALLY allowed, and what's not.
As a secondary note, check with your DJ to see if he or she has any advice. Chances are, they do stag & does all the time, and have seen what works and what doesn't.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or what's worked for you.
If you'd like more information on planning your stag & doe, or wedding planning in general, check out our Wedding Academy!