the open bar debate

Drink Champagne On The Table Print by Home & Glory

Deciding whether you’re going to offer an open bar at your wedding depends largely on cost and if your budget will accommodate. You can spend hours trying to estimate how much each guest will drink but it hardly ever pans out as expected. You’ll either run out before the end of the day or be left with bottles of unopened alcohol that cannot be returned.

Many feel that it’s important to stick with wedding etiquette and not allow guests to pay for anything throughout the day, but can you really afford to pick up what would undoubtedly be a hefty tab on top of what you’ve already spent on your dream wedding? Is an open bar really the most sensible and gracious approach? Let the debate begin…

Blackboard Bucket by The Wedding of my Dreams

open bar

Images from our Pinterest board!


Your guests won’t have to worry about having enough money to last throughout the day.

You’re also giving something back to your guests besides favours. After all, they’re likely to have paid for their travel to the venue, a gift and possibly accommodation too in order to celebrate your day with you. They may have even taken the time off work to be with you.


This is undeniably the most expensive option – you’ll be left with the hefty tab to pay.

An open bar can be a distraction from other events at the wedding reception, such as the first dance or cutting of the cake.

Some venues may have a last orders time which may cause a rush at the end of the evening.

limited bar

Drinks Carrier by Berry Red


You have complete control over how long the open bar will be offered. You can always extend it on the day if you feel like it, too.

Offering house brands can help decrease the cost.

It’s a happy medium between an open and cash bar.

A top trend is to create a signature cocktail that complements the theme of your wedding that will be served throughout the day.


You may need to hire waiters to help circulate and re-fill drinks so guests don’t continuously approach the bar.


cash bar

Milk Bottles by Peach Blossom


Most obviously, this option will save you money. It gives you the freedom to splash out on other parts of the wedding or have your dream day on a tighter budget.

It works in the same way as any other bar. Guests can order what they like and not be limited to something they’d not normally drink.


Some guests may feel that all drinks should be covered by the wedding couple – after all, this was traditional once (and a lot more commonplace than it is now). However, most guests will appreciate the high cost of wedding planning and should understand completely.

Drink Accessories by Miss Cake

So, what do our real brides, past and present, have to say on this matter?

“We have bought a package per day guest and evening guest which includes champagne and winter Pimms. Then it’s a paid bar after that.” – Rebecca (Head of Customer Service)

“I think it’s great if you can afford an open bar but if not, a good idea is to have an open bar up until a certain point – and maybe only on selected booze. Then ask guests to contribute for their drinks once after that point.” – Liana (Account Manager)

“We decided to put some of our budget behind the bar for wine and beer and Ant’s auntie also made an enormous vat of Jamaican rum punch, which went down really well! We saw it as an extra thank you to our friends and family for making the day so special.” – Louise (Weddings Business Manager)

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