An open bar vs a cash bar, which is better?

If you’re not sure whether to go for an open bar free for all or a cash bar at your wedding, here are some things to consider before making your choice.

Styled by Varu

Open bar:

Typically, at most reception venues this is an option. You pay a set amount per person, and included is their meal and a beverage package, usually one you’ve selected. It might be for a few types of beer, a few types of wine, a cider or two and assorted nonalcoholic beverages, or it might be a premium selection with cocktails, additional beer and cider options, more wine selection and even spirits.

Drop Bar

Not all wedding venues are like this, however. Some will have a full-scale bar and allow your guests to choose whatever they like from the selection, and other venues will allow BYO, meaning that you can buy your own alcohol, provide a cool room or use the venues fridge, and reap the savings. It does, however, mean you will need to hire some bartenders, but otherwise, this is a really cost-effective solution if you have the time to shop for alcohol and don’t mind having some leftovers. Just don’t run out… that could lead to some rage among guests!  You can buy booze in bulk at liquor stores like Dan Murphys, or Liquorland, and you can get soft drink in bulk too from office supply shops or even just by stocking up at the supermarket. Don’t forget bottled water, tea and coffee.


Liquid Infusion

There is one potential pitfall of the open bar, however, and that depends largely on your group of friends… will they abuse it? Will they all have one or two too many? Obviously your bartenders will watch out for this, but it is hard to tell if someone is a little tipsy or just… you know, having a really great time. Your friends might not pace themselves as much if you are footing the bill for their debauchery.

Bartique Vintage Caravan

Cash bar:

Of course, this option saves some money, but guests might have some thoughts about paying for their own drinks. Some guests will expect alcohol to be covered so consider adding a note to your invitations to manage expectations and ensure people have allocated some cash.

Drop Bar

Somewhere in the middle:

Some couples opt to do something in between and offer free wine, beer, and soft drinks, and simply ask that guests that are choosing to indulge in cocktails and spirits pay for those.

Another alternative is to cover a certain amount – whether it be $10,000 or $1000, and then ask guests to pay once the amount is up.

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A third alternative is to provide drink tickets to guests, whether you provide several or not is up to you, and then let them redeem these tickets for a drink at the bar. That way, they know whether or not their drink will be covered before heading up to the bar and know if they need their wallet or not.

open bar

Foxtails – Premium Bottled Cocktails

Of course, you will need to discuss this with your venue and see what options they have for your bar service. If they allow, you can even have an external mobile bar if that’s the vibe you’re after for your celebration.