Should We Have An Open Bar At Our Wedding?

Beetle Juice Mobile Cocktail Bar at a Wedding in the UK

Every wedding I have attended has had a different approach to providing alcohol at the reception.  Whilst finances play a big part in the final decision, the different attitudes towards alcohol across generations also shines through. 

Millennial’s and Gen Z are known to consume smaller quantities of alcohol but will choose premium options like craft bears and slow gin.   The Baby Boomers and Generation X are wine connoisseurs and beer drinkers who often drink larger quantities.  Layer in health and religious reasons, and your cousin who is vegan and like every wedding decision this one can be a minefield!

Do You Have The Budget?

I recommend all my couples consider their budget when thinking about having an open bar wedding.  As a base calculate two drinks per hour, per person, to determine a base cost. 

How does this number look against your entire wedding budget?  Your first reaction to this number should give you an indication if you want to have an open bar.  Be honest with each other as to if you can afford it.  What could you spend that money instead? 

Now consider these additional costs to the base cost.  Without fail every time the words ‘open bar’ have been uttered at a wedding someone starts ordering shots!  Cocktails are the next common order and bottles of champagne.  If guests are staying close by or within walking distance of the wedding the ability to ‘let loose’ and consume more alcohol does result in a higher bar budget.

Have A Cash Bar.

There is no shame in not providing alcohol at a wedding and all your guests know that it is an expensive day for you.  Any conversations can be circumnavigated by making a note on your wedding invitations that there will be a cash bar at the reception.  This allows people to be prepared with money on the day and to have budgeted.  All the venues I’ve worked at have told me the alcohol orders are significantly less when people have to pay for themselves.

Have An Open Bar With Restrictions.

Being generous is one thing, being taken advantage of is another.  If you choose to have an open bar I would recommend some restrictions.  No shots, cocktails or bottles until after speeches.  This removes the potential ‘free for all’ from the start of the reception. It will limit any rowdy behaviour at a time you want your guests to pay attention!

The Rise Of The Alcohol Free Wedding.

As more people become sober curious I have now attended a few alcohol free weddings.  None of the couples have told their guests about this beforehand to limit any peer pressure/questions leading up to the event.  Guests were all offered well known mocktails to drink and once the initial shock wore off were praising the couples! 

Best of luck with your choice.  Remember this is your day and also your budget so only spend what you can afford.

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