Should you have an open bar or cash bar or no alcohol at your wedding?

During your wedding planning one of the hardest decisions is whether to serve alcohol at your wedding.  There are a lot of different opinions and sometimes people can get into a heated argument about it.

I’d like to present some pros and cons and different things to consider when choosing to serve alcohol at your wedding.

Open bar (usually served during the cocktail hour)

  • Your guests don’t have to worry about reaching for their wallets and pulling out cash (especially if they didn’t bring any)
  • Guests have many choices and varieties of drinks
  • An “open bar” typically can serve drinks more efficiently than a wait staff assigned to bringing/offering drinks to tables


  • Some of your guests may overindulge. Knowing your family and friends you’ll have to make a good judgement call.
  • Expense. Having an open bar can be a budget buster and that is why many opt out.
  • For friends and co-workers an open bar can be a distraction from other events at your wedding reception and you may finds that some guests were more interested in drinking at the bar because the drinks were free, than watching other events at your wedding such as the grand march, toasts and first dances

If you choose a cash bar for your guests and are holding your wedding at a fancy establishment (where they charge more for drinks) your guests may feel frustrated.  They may even choose to leave your wedding reception right after the meal.
However you have less of a chase of guests over indulging.
For some families and in some areas its normal and expected for the bride and groom to pay for an open bar.

You’ll have to decide what’s best for you and your guests and what fits best with your budget.  When working with your venue or caterer, ask if there is a package/fixed price for the bar or if you could pay on a consumption basis. You may be surprised and find that your guests may not drink as much as you originally might have thought or planned.

You don’t always have to include alcohol to have a fun and successful event.
You can also consider just offering alcohol for champagne toasts shortly after dinner.  I’m sure you’ll make the choice that best fits your plan, budget and personality.