Open Bar vs. Cash Bar at a Wedding

Choosing what type of alcohol to serve your guests at your wedding can seem overwhelming, and there are many questions to answer. What type of bar set up, open bar vs cash bar, will fit into your wedding budget? What type of bar set up will your wedding guests enjoy the most, and which works best for the overall theme and feel of your special day? Here is a quick rundown of your wedding bar options, and how to choose the right one for your unique event.

Open Bar

An open bar at a wedding is a complete, full service bar that allows guests to order their chosen drinks at no cost to them. An open bar typically serves several brands of beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

Open Bar Pros

Open bars are a great way to show your guests your appreciation for their presence on your special day. Adult guests will enjoy being able to order drinks of their choice without having to worry about bringing cash with them to your reception.

Open Bar Cons

The biggest caveat with an open bar is the cost, especially if you are having a large wedding. You’ll be required to foot the bill for all the alcohol your guests consume, which can easily climb into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Cash Bar

A cash bar serves the same wide selection of alcohol as an open bar, however, guests are required to pay for their drinks up front.

Cash Bar Pros

The primary benefit of having a cash bar is the money you will save on the total cost of your reception. Alcohol can be expensive, particularly when your guest list is long. Another benefit of a cash bar is that your guests will be less likely to overindulge when they have to pay for their own drinks, so you may be able to avoid too-drunk guests at your reception all together.

Cash Bar Cons

Many people believe that it is in bad taste to ask for your guests to pay for anything at your wedding. However, if your budget is too tight for an open bar, consider trimming costs elsewhere or opting for a bar alternative.

Bar Alternatives

If you feel like neither a cash bar or an open bar will work perfectly for you, there are some alternative options you may want to consider.

Combination Bars

A combination bar is exactly what it sounds like — a combination between a cash bar and an open bar. You can provide guests with a limited number of free drink tickets, and then if your guests wish to continue to enjoy alcoholic beverages at your reception, they can purchase their own.

Limited Bars

If you would like to serve your guests alcohol without them having to pay for it, but you don’t want a completely open bar, you may want to think about setting up a limited bar. A limited bar would have a few alcoholic choices, such as a couple of brands of favorite beer and wine, or an alcoholic punch. Limited bars typically steer clear of hard liquor and stick to lighter alcoholic beverages.

When it comes to choosing the right bar set up for your wedding, it’s important to discuss your options with your venue. Your venue manager can provide you more information about what is available to you at your specific venue, as well as if there are any regulations on what you can and can’t do regarding your bar.

For more information check out our podcast on Open Bar vs Cash Bar

Photo credit: Dave Dugdale / Photo / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Inked Weddings