What You Need to Know About Wedding Bar Service

Whether or not you and your partner are drinkers, it’s basically a given that your wedding will include some kind of bar service. What that looks like for you can have a major impact on your guests’ experience at your reception as well as your budget. Here, we break down the five basic types of wedding bar service to help you decide the best fit for your celebration.


Open Bar

A white oval shaped wedding bar with bottles of liquor on the front counter and a shelf of copper moscow mule mugs, the bar is decorated with flowers, vines and a sign reading M & A
Photo Courtesy of Mike Cassimatis Photography

With an open bar, guests can order anything on the menu and they are not expected to pay for any of their drinks — the host (that’s you) foots the entire bill. Open bar service usually includes spirits, beer, wine, mixers, and other non-alcoholic beverage choices. In general, open bars are priced in two ways: Bar packages, which charge a fixed price per guest, or pricing by consumption, which charges for the number of drinks ordered. It’s important for you to consider how much drinking you expect at your reception to determine which avenue is appropriate for your wedding bar service. For example, if you have a rowdy crew attending who like to throw it back, a bar package would be easier on your budget than pricing by consumption.


Signature Cocktails

A blue shark fin shaped beverage menu listing signature wedding cocktails sits on a white bar counter with yellow and coral flowers, and clear bottles in the background
Photo Courtesy of Brett Hickman

Not only are signature cocktails a fun, trendy way to add some personality to your wedding bar service, they also give you an option to include spirits while cutting down on costs. While you can of course include signature cocktails with a more expansive open bar service, whittling down your bar options to wine, beer, and a few signature cocktails will streamline ordering, cut down on wait times in line, and reduce the overall cost. Plus, you and your future spouse will have so much fun coming up with concoctions that reflect your personalities and wedding theme.


Beer and Wine

A rustic wood wedding bar top set on wine barrels, with wine and champagne glasses, bottles of wine on the counter and in an ice bucket, and a vase of dried wheat
Photo Courtesy of O’Malley Photographers

To really simplify things and save a substantial amount of money, choose to serve just wine and beer during your wedding reception. This is a great option if you’re having a daytime or casual wedding but still want to offer drinks for your guests. You can also elevate a spirit-free wedding bar service by creating elegant wine pairings with dinner or international beer flights during cocktail hour.


Dry Bar

A non-alcoholic pink paloma cocktail with a salted rim, grapefruit wedge, and thyme garnish sits on a cutting board with a burlap napkin
Photo Courtesy of The Wooden Skillet

If you choose not to serve any alcohol at all — whether it’s for religious, cultural, or personal reasons — you can still offer an incredible wedding bar service. There are so many delicious, beautifully packaged sparkling waters, seltzers, and sodas on the market right now that would look lovely at your reception. Also, non-alcoholic spirits, wines, and beers are growing in popularity, so you could easily mimic an open bar vibe without anyone getting sloppy at your celebration. You can even jump on the signature drink trend and work with a mixologist to craft a signature mocktail.


Cash Bar

Wedding bar service set up in a courtyard, including a wood bar with the words Cocktails Anyone? painted on the site in white script
Photo Courtesy of Rachel Havel

Finally — and this option is a bit controversial — is a cash wedding bar service. At a cash bar, guests pay for their own drinks. This will obviously save you a ton of money (alcohol eats up approximately 20 percent of your wedding budget), but it does put an additional burden on your guests, many of whom have already traveled to your wedding, booked a hotel room, bought you a gift, etc. However, if you know most of your guests aren’t drinkers but still want to offer an option for the handful who like to imbibe, a cash bar can be a smart, budget-savvy approach to wedding bar service. Just keep in mind that it’s good etiquette to alert your guests ahead of time that your event will include a cash bar.


Now that you know the types of bar service available, what do you think will work best for your celebration? Join the conversation on our Instagram!



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