Wedding Reception - Open Bar or Cash Bar

beerWe have all been to weddings where there has been an open bar and no doubt at some point we have groaned at finding out that there is a cash bar at the next wedding.  This is a difficult question that all brides and grooms-to-be have to ask themselves.  Do they have an open or cash bar?

In times gone past, it was traditional for guests to be invited to a wedding and no money would be spent by them, apart from the wedding gift of course.  However, nowadays there is nothing unusual about attending a wedding and having to buy your own drinks. 

Having a cash bar is generally frowned upon and not considered to be wedding etiquette, particularly by the older generation who have come to expect an open bar at these functions, but as with every aspect of your wedding day, you have to consider your feelings as well as your budget when discussing this question.

Modern Day Bars

Over the years even the types of bars available at wedding receptions have changed.  Here are some examples to consider:

  • Cash bar: probably the least favoured from the guests point of view but will undoubtedly save you money and possibly reduce the number of drunken guests.
  • Combination bar: a choice where the newlyweds can provide a certain amount of 'tab' which will enable the guests to get free drinks for a while before they then have to begin paying for themselves.  You could even send out drink tickets inside your invitations providing each guest with a limited number of free drinks.
  • DIY bar: this option will mean a bit of hard work as you will have to supply the alcohol and soft drinks as well as ensuring you can obtain bar staff along with permission from the venue to serve your own alcohol.  You can save yourself a lot of money by buying wholesale and the guests will definitely appreciate the free booze.
  • Limited bar: a chance for your guests to receive some punch and wine paid for by the newly married couple.
  • Open bar: favourite of the guests as this option will offer everyone a wide variety of alcohol and soft drinks without them having to reach in their pocket for a penny.  This can sometimes however lead to over-indulgence.

Helping to Decide

There are obviously many factors to consider when choosing the right option for your wedding day.

  • Ask if your venue will provide discounted drinks, i.e. buy one get one free options?
  • Can you trust the bar staff to keep an accurate record of what is being tallied up for the 'tab' you have provided?
  • Consider buying some bottles of wine to have on the tables with maybe an extra few that can come out half way through dinner.
  • Consider the time you are getting married.  If you opt for the open bar option and you are being married before midday the total could end up running to a very large amount by the end of the evening.
  • Decide on how much to leave behind the bar and stick to it.
  • Do you need any type of insurance to cover you should anything happen either at the venue or as a result of you supplying alcohol?
  • Do not give in to peer pressure and cause yourself financial problems or worries.
  • Having an open bar can sometimes cause people to drink to excess.  The last thing you want is someone causing a fight or throwing up.
  • If money is a large consideration, perhaps you could forgo something in order to put more money behind the bar.  No favours for instance or choose a smaller decoration for the tables.
  • If not all the alcohol is used, find out if you can take unopened cases or bottles back to the store.
  • Is there a fee to pay if you bring in your own alcohol?
  • There is always the 'dry' wedding option with no alcohol at all.
  • Try not to become too stressed or overwhelmed by the question.
  • Try not to listen to the moaners on the day.
  • Why not combine the limited bar and the combination bar by providing free wine, beer and soft drinks but not hard liquor.

If you feel the need, ask for opinions from people close to you but be aware that when they can, most people will want to save money.  You will have a lot of different views on this subject but at the end of the day, it comes down to if you can afford it or not.

Remember that your true friends will understand whatever choice you make.