What Kind of Bar Should You Have at Your Wedding?

This is the second in our wedding planning series. Follow along in upcoming issues of XX for more advice on the entire process.

“I had cases and cases of drinks in my wedding, but you know the other day my sister and I were talking and she said she didn’t think my wedding had that much alcohol….”

The above is someone’s actual words based on their experience.

The bitter truth is that what you consider as “plenty” may be someone else’s “not that much” and vice versa! This is why it is so important to plan every aspect of your wedding according to you and your fiance’s budget, tastes and lifestyle and not by anyone else’s standards.

The bar can be a big expense item in your wedding budget. Firstly, you need to decide on what type of bar you wish to have at your reception. You can choose to have an open bar, a limited bar, a cash bar, or a dry house.

The Open Bar

An Open Bar is the most common and also the most expensive, but there are certain tactics you can employ to reduce costs such as Staged service.

Instead of having the full bar open from the beginning of your reception, you can instruct them to serve less expensive drinks such as beer, wine, juice and soft drinks until after the dinner when you can let the bar serve all available drinks. This helps to reduce your cost in two ways: one – by restricting when the expensive drinks are served, you ensure that Uncle Randy can’t attack the Johnny too early; and two – since generally persons are less likely to want to mix their drinks, your guests most likely will continue to consume the less expensive drinks that they were having before dinner, so cousin Jamie will sip the white wine throughout the night, rather than her usual vodka and cranberry juice.

XX Tip: If you are getting a bar from an alcohol distribution company, as opposed to purchasing the drinks yourself, you can let them know that you would like to purchase the drinks on consumption. This way you’ll only pay for the bottles that are opened. However, if you decide on a consumption bar, be sure to delegate (with advanced warning) the less-than-fun task of counting up the opened and unopened bottles at the end of the night to a trusted friend or relative.

You can also choose to purchase and stock your bar yourself; however, some venues such as hotels and lounges that stock their own liquor may not allow this or may charge you a steep corkage fee, which defeats the purpose- to save money. Confirm with your venue whether or not you would be allowed to bring your own liquor without penalty.

The Limited Bar

The Limited Bar option is a good one for couples who wish to adhere to a lean budget. You can limit what is served for the entire event, for example only serving beer, wine and a signature cocktail. Conversely, you can literally “close” the bar during certain periods of your reception thus limiting the consumption of drinks.

XX Tip: If you close your bar at intervals, do ensure that you have servers/waiters on standby to refill your guest’s glasses with water or nonalcoholic beverages.

The Cash Bar

Then there is the infamous Cash Bar. Honestly, this is not an option I would recommend, as it is not generally considered very gracious to invite persons to your wedding reception and require them to pay for their drinks. If you do decide to have a cash bar, be prepared for controversy – your wedding reception may be very much talked about, but for all the wrong reasons.

XX Tip: If you are stocking your bar yourself, please hire a professional bartender. This will save you money as although Uncle Peter may have the best of intentions, someone with experience will know portion control, and can therefore save you money.

The Dry Bar

Finally, you can opt to have a Dry Bar. If you and your fiancé and your families are not “big drinkers”, it is perfectly acceptable to avoid alcohol altogether and stock your bar with soft drink, juices and non-alcoholic mixed drinks. Some persons choose to have a dry bar due to religious or personal reasons.

Do not allow yourself to feel pressured to have a fully stocked bar if you know that it will not be missed by yourself, your partner or your family. Remember that this is you and your betrothed’s special day – not an All-Inclusive fete!


(Written by Hadassah Farrell)

The WE Team

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