Planning a wedding can be a complex process. Between choosing the perfect cake, picking the ideal wedding flowers, and negotiating the price of your venue, there are many elements that require your attention. Plus, you’ll need to decide on having an open or cash bar – a decision that will definitely affect the vibe of your big day.
So what’ll it be? Do you want to throw caution in the wind and let guests get wild at your open bar wedding? Or would you rather let them pay to play (thus encouraging responsible adult drinking behavior)? Does it necessarily have to be one or the other, or is there a happy medium?
This seemingly simple question is something that many young couples struggle to answer. Well, we’re here to lay down the pros and cons of both – as well as proffer some alternatives if you’re more inclined to compromise (a skill that keeps relationships strong, of course). Let’s get to it!
Pros and Cons of a Cash Bar
The more host-friendly of the two options, cash bars have become more and more popular throughout the years. Many couples opt for this choice primarily because it’s a lighter hit on their budget, but it’s also an effective way to keep guests with less self-control sober enough to remember your special day.
- It’s cheaper – it won’t cost you a dime if Grandpa Greg decides to help himself to another three glasses of Bourbon. Let him do his thing, he’s celebrating on your account after all.
- You can budget for other wedding goodies – Thanks to the money being saved, you can put those funds into other aspects of the reception. Maybe you want a more expensive DJ, or would like to pay for that really fancy caterer you’ve been eyeing in wedding catalogues. Maybe you can splurge a little more on the honeymoon?
- Fewer drunkards, less drama – Since your guests are footing the bill for the booze, there is a smaller chance of them getting wasted. People will hopefully restrain themselves (on account of their wallets) and avoid getting too drunk. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is acting the role of babysitter.
Saving some extra cash to invest in your post-wedding life together is another nice perk of going with the cash bar!
- Bummed guests – Guests might not be all too pleased about having to fork over their dough for some drinks. If you want to be a people pleaser, this might not be the right option.
- The party may end early – Some guests might leave before the reception wraps up if they’re focused on keeping that buzz going and dislike the thought of dancing sober (of course they could still pay for drinks though).
- Appears stingy – It might come off to some as a bit stingy or cheap, particularly for guests who traveled a long distance to attend your wedding.
Pros and Cons of the Open Bar
This is the norm these days, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it! Many people hear the word “wedding” and associate it with free drinks. Having an adult beverage (or several) is a part of the allure of wedding crashing, and of course being invited to one. While this will definitely cost you more, it does have its perks:
- It’s expected by some guests – Some attendees will be quite surprised (and possibly unprepared) if there is a cash bar.
- It’s a nice gesture – To your loved ones, as well as all the friends you’re surrounded by on your big day. They’ve supported your relationship and are have gone out of their way to celebrate with you this day, and an open bar is one way of showing your appreciation for that.
- It’s often more fun – If making sure your guests have a blast is a priority, then this is a good step in that direction.
- It’s more expensive – No words necessary here. You will pay more for an open bar.
- Some may abuse it – Your guests might take advantage of your hospitality and drink more than they would have normally, which not only costs you more but may leave them drunk and unruly.
- It can become a distraction – If you have other fun wedding activities planned throughout the evening, it might be a good idea to save the open bar for later. That way people don’t rush to the bar and lose track of what’s on the schedule.
Is there an in-between option?
While you might be leaning one way or the other, there are ways to come to a middle ground if you can’t decide. In celebration of the importance of compromise, here are few alternatives to settling on a completely open or 100% cash bar:
- Provide your guests with one drink of their choice, but then have them foot the bill for the rest of their drinks.
- Put two bottles of wine on each table, and then have a cash bar for those who want something a little stronger.
- Have a Bespoke bar where they can help themselves to shots or whatever they fancy.
- Do an open bar but with a cap, so you can hone your budget, and avoid ending up with exceptionally drunk guests.
- Make a signature wedding cocktail, and bring it to the wedding. Name it something fun that’s representative of your new marriage. Treat them to it, and have a cash bar for those who want more.
- Provide the champagne to toast and one extra drink.
- Skip the expensive brands of champagne, and treat your guests to an open bar at a lower cost.
Remember to be mindful of your budget, your guest demographics, and even the vibe you want to create for the night. Do your friends and family tend to drink more or less than other people? Do you have family members who are stringently opposed to alcohol or who just don’t drink at all? How many guests are you inviting? Do your friends and family have expensive taste in booze, or will they be happy with bottom-shelf libations?
Try to pinpoint the amount of money you could save by cutting out the open bar or even simply modifying it, and take those numbers into consideration when you finally do decide. Whatever you end up choosing, embrace it and move on with your life. Being stressed over one (fairly minor) aspect of your wedding isn’t a good idea. Whether you go with the open bar or end up selecting a cash one, you’re going to have a good time either way!
Do you have any wedding experiences with open or cash bars you’d care to share with our readers? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Need more inspiration and wedding-related fun? Drop by our Facebook and Pinterest pages for some fresh and free photos, videos, and more!