The Pros and Cons of an Open Bar at Your Wedding

There are hundreds of details to figure out for a wedding. One issue that has an impact on your guests is whether to have a cash bar or an open bar. An open bar simply means that you (or whoever is paying for the wedding) cover the costs of the bar. A cash bar operates like any other bar, with guests paying for drinks.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of having an open bar at your wedding.

The Advantages of an Open Bar
There are obvious benefits to an open bar from the guests’ standpoint. They can enjoy drinking as much as they want without having to reach into their wallets. This makes for a more festive and relaxing atmosphere in some ways. It’s possible that an open bar policy will even attract more guests to your wedding.

An open bar can create a feeling of goodwill on the part of guests. They are likely to appreciate your generosity. Conversely, some may resent a cash bar and think the bride and groom are being cheap by making people pay for their drinks.

An open bar is also more efficient. When the bartender has to accept either cash or credit cards, it slows down the process. With an open bar, he or she can simply pour drinks without having to worry about collecting money. This means that, unlike a commercial bar, guests can simply walk up to the bar and walk away with their drinks. It’s all fast and efficient.

Disadvantages of an Open Bar
As with most choices, there can also be some downsides. The most blatant disadvantage to a cash bar, is the premium that you have to pay for it. Generally, an open bar often requires more staff, which adds to this cost. According to one estimate, the average cost of an open bar is over $2,500. Of course, if you’re planning on having a large wedding, it could be even more.

Another potential issue when people can drink for free, is that they may drink more than they normally would. This can lead to embarrassing situations and even dangerous circumstances.

The last issue to consider is that open bars make it more difficult to keep track of who is drinking, which can be a problem if there are underage people at your wedding.

How to Decide Whether an Open Bar is the Right Choice
Is an open bar the best choice or do the cons outweigh the pros? It really depends on you and your guests. There are a few factors you should consider.

  • Your Budget – As mentioned above, an open bar can be a considerable expense. If you are trying to save money on your wedding, or have a limited budget, it might make sense to refrain. On the other hand, if budget is not an issue, an open bar is a good way to ensure your guests will have a great time.
  • Number of Guests – The more guests, the more an open bar will cost. Additionally, the more people who are present, the higher chance that some will overindulge. On the other hand, a cash bar could cause slowdowns at a large and crowded event.
  • Type of Event – If you’re planning a more formal affair, an open bar might be the perfect way to treat your guests. On the other hand, if you’re having a more casual wedding, a cash bar may be a better option.

Money-Saving Options for an Open Bar
Some couples get creative and find solutions that make an open bar more affordable. One such option is a limited bar that only services beer and wine. You may also add a few signature cocktails that are premade. This type of arrangement can save you money and may also reduce overall alcohol consumption as no (or less) hard liquor will be available.

If you want to offer guests an open bar but want to limit the expense, you can look for a venue that allows for a BYOB package. In this case, you can buy alcoholic beverages in bulk, or at wholesale and have them served to guests. This is considerably cheaper than paying the usual retail rate for each drink. Not all venues allow for this as it’s more profitable for them to sell traditional bar packages. However, it’s something you could negotiate when making arrangements with the venue.

Be Transparent with Guests
It’s always best to be as transparent as possible with your guests. Make sure that you include information about your bar policy in the wedding invitations. This is especially important if it’s going to be a cash bar. Otherwise, people may show up at the wedding assuming it will be an open bar.

Find the Solution that Works for You
Whether to offer your wedding guests an open bar or a cash bar is a decision that each bride and groom have to make for themselves. However, if someone else, such as parents, are paying or helping to pay for the wedding, they should be consulted in this decision as well.


By considering these tips, you can make an informed decision about whether an open bar is the right choice for your wedding.

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