(Closed) Cash Bar, Open Bar?

posted 5 years ago in Reception
  • poll: Cash bar or open bar on a very tight budget?
    Cash Bar : (7 votes)
    10 %
    Open Bar for Cocktail Hour : (31 votes)
    46 %
    Open bar for full reception : (30 votes)
    44 %
  • Post # 3
    501 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: December 2023

    I’m from the UK – where cash bars are the norm, so I don’t know if I’m the best person to offer advice on this. However, I think as long as you’re providing some kind of beverage for free  – why have a bar at all?

    Just buy in a load of soft drinks/sodas instead – don’t go into debt or starve yourself to provide alcohol for people. They’re not going to wither away and die, just because they’ve gone without alcohol for an evening. 

    ETA: If you go with cash bar, let people know in advance so they know to bring money.

    Post # 4
    374 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: June 2013

    What if you had an open bar for the cocktail hour, with just wine, beer, and maybe a signature cocktail?  That way, you’d eliminate all of the pricey booze and you wouldn’t have to worry about your guests lining up and doing shots or getting totally smashed.

    We are doing something similar – alcohol will be on a consumption basis, with just wine and beer available.  We don’t have a large crowd of drinkers, but the few guests we’ve invited who do drink a lot will be way less tempted to partake.

    Post # 5
    613 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: June 2014

    unfortunately, all of the weddings I have been to that had a cash bar resulted in angry guests and a boring wedding.  Maybe just have a beer and wine bar to cut the cost a bit.

    Post # 6
    5405 posts
    Bee Keeper

    I would do an open bar for cocktail hour. Or maybe you could do beer and wine all night and liquor would be cash. I’m not sure what your options are but I’m sure there are options besides what you’ve listed. Your venue should be able to tell you any other options you have and how they compare price-wise. 

    Post # 7
    4512 posts
    Honey bee
    • Wedding: September 2010

    I didn’t vote, because I have a different option.

    Keep the champagne punch for the cocktail hour. 

    For dinner/the reception, can you guys provide beer & wine? Or just wine? I’d vote for that over a cash bar. 

    Post # 8
    786 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: September 2014

    I really love the beer and wine only option if that’s in your budget.  Or maybe you can do booze for cocktail hour and than give each person like 2 drink tickets for the reception.  You would pay for 2 drinks for every guest and than anything after that they could pay for.  Just spread the word that it’s a cash bar to prevent annoyed guests if you go that route.

    Post # 9
    10453 posts
    Sugar Beekeeper
    • Wedding: February 2014

    Here in Canada where I live, toonie bars are common. The guests pay $2/drink, we cover the rest. You could do something similar where you offer each guest 3 drink tickets or something and it’s cash bar after that? 

    Post # 10
    3772 posts
    Honey bee
    • Wedding: October 2012

    I like the idea of open bar for the cocktail hour and then cash after that… 

    For my wedding, we just did a cash bar and paid for the champagne toast. I guess it’s b/c my family is cool like that, but we had no complaints. We figured they would rather have the option to have some alcohol than keep it completly dry. Oh and when I say cash bar, our guests were able to open up tabs and pay with credit card/debit card/cash if they wanted.

    Post # 11
    104 posts
    Blushing bee
    • Wedding: March 2013

    We are doing beer and wine partly due to budget but also we have guests that we do not trust with an open bar.

    Yes they are adults but don’t have to support their heavy drinking habits! Beer and wine is a good way to encourage people got pace themselves! 

    My cousin had an open cocktail hour and then beware and wine at the diner/reception. 

    I think the two drink ticket option is a good idea too… If I was your guest I wouldnot need more than two for the night so I wouldn’t end up paying for a drink in the end anyway!!

    Post # 12
    986 posts
    Busy bee

    Instead of an open bar, we’re doing beer and wine for guests and then getting just a few bottles of alcohol for our wedding party that will be exclusively for them.

    Post # 13
    185 posts
    Blushing bee
    • Wedding: September 2012

    We did beer and wine bar also! It went fine. We almost did open bar but Darling Husband was concerned that it would turn into a drunk fest. So we changed it last minute. I think if that’s available its your best option. The best of both worlds, free drinks but not crazy amounts of liquor.

    Post # 14
    4687 posts
    Honey bee
    • Wedding: June 2013 - Upstate NY

    In the words of my father who really has zero opinion about anything, “open bar can make the difference between a good weddding and a great wedding. No one gives a shit about your flowers, centerpieces or decorations. Keep the guests happy.”

    The man has a point. Cash bars are rude. People are probably coming in from very far to celebrate your day so offer them a drink, even if it’s beer and wine. Maybe scale down the fancy centerpieces no one cares about (it’s true, I’m sorry!)

    Post # 15
    2295 posts
    Buzzing bee
    • Wedding: April 2013

    We are doing 2 kinds of beer (by the keg), 4 kinds of wine (by the bottle), and a signature mixed drink (rum punch), and it is saving me nearly half on our bar tab. Not having my guests pay for drinks was important to me. Giving them every single choice of liquor was not.

    Post # 16
    75 posts
    Worker bee
    • Wedding: May 2014

    This is my honest opinion,


    I think cash bar is cheap/tacky and I never enjoyed a wedding with one..I can go to a bar for that not a wedding. Usually venues offer win at tables (usually 2 glasses per person) during dinner, and your cocktail will be a champaigne punch which is also perfect. You have to consider this – People are already spending money on their hair, make-up, dresses/suits, gifts and especially those who come out of town to celebrate your special day! So if they have to come to a wedding to additionally pay for a few drinks plus tip? i’m sure they’ll say some sour things. HOWEVER, maybe you can figure out if you can cover the cost of the drinks as a cash bar and see if that turns out to be cheaper than a open bar? but then you also have to think how many of your friends/family drink and how many people will just leave a cup full to go get another one. Have you thought about maybe cutting back on decorations or additional costs of things you really don’t need?? There’s definitely lots to think about here.

    I’m having an issue where all venues that are offered here in ottawa don’t all offer open bar options, some of them are strictly cash but you can pay for the guests.

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