bartender making cocktails at open bar wedding

How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Bar for Your Big Day

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  • Post last modified:September 14, 2023
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Nothing compliments a celebration quite like a libation. While not all of your guests will partake in the consumption, an overwhelming majority of couples will opt to have some type of bar at their reception. Let’s be real, the reception bar is a highly anticipated element of your special day–for both you and your guests.

Depending on the type of bar selected, this element may consume upwards of 20% of your budget. As with so much wedding planning, it’s imperative for couples to do their homework, not only taking cost into account but also guest preferences. 

wedding bar reception pouring champagne catering service

Let’s break down the different types of bars found at weddings: 

Open Bar

It’s just as it sounds–the guests are welcome to as many drinks as their hearts desire. The term “open bar” can encompass a lot, which typically is dependent on the reception venue. If your reception is held in an establishment with a bar on site, your options will tend to be broader. If it’s an outdoor catered wedding, you might be supplying the booze or may be limited depending on the catering company.

In most instances, venues and caterers will offer open bar packages where you will be charged a fixed amount for each adult guest, regardless of how much they consume. This option is excellent if you hold an extended reception or if your guests like to drink. 

Consumption Barmen enjoying wedding catered bar cocktails beer

Like the open bar, your guests are welcome to have as many drinks as they want, but instead of paying a flat rate, the host will be charged based on the number of beverages consumed. This option is the best fit in instances where an open bar is appropriate but the majority of the guests are not big drinkers.

Signature Cocktails

As much as 40% of weddings in 2022 included at least one signature cocktail. Featuring a concoction that embodies the newlyweds or wedding theme can elevate any open bar or be a great cost-effective compromise for those who opt to offer alongside a beer and wine bar. 

Beer & Wine Bar

A bar that only serves beer and wine is a fantastic option for couples who would like to include alcohol at their wedding but don’t see themselves craving cocktails. It’s also great for weddings held earlier in the day. Opting to forgo liquor at your wedding will lower beverage costs substantially.

Don’t let beer and wine hold you back from getting creative! Beer and wine can easily be turned into a refreshing and unique mixed drink–queue the Shandys! Consider adding a signature cocktail to satisfy those looking for a spirit! 

Dry Bar

Couples are not by any means required to serve alcohol at their wedding. They may choose not to do so for religious and cultural reasons as well as to maintain a safe atmosphere. Not only will a dry wedding keep your embarrassing uncle off the dance floor, but it will also yield significant savings. If keeping costs down is your only prerogative, consider a BYOB reception.

Mocktails & Non-Alcoholic Beers

Who says you can’t have a fun drink without alcohol? Creating a mocktail menu (regardless of what type of bar you chose) is a great way to include sober and underage guests by serving them fun, fruity drinks without the booze. Incorporating non-alcoholic beers such as Heineken 0.0 or Guinness 0 will cater to those wishing to be sober or to pace themselves but despise water. Also, don’t waste your money on O’Doul’s. I’ll just leave it at that. 

handcrafted wedding reception mocktail bar catering

Cash Bar

Just as it is going into a bar, the guests pay for the alcoholic beverages they consume. This option is best if you know very little of your guests intend on drinking. Having a cash bar saves the newlyweds a great bout of money, but can set a different tone for the event and put additional burdens on the guests.

Along with paying for what they drink, tipping, starting a tab, and closing out credit cards will result in longer lines and slower service. If you plan on opting for a cash bar, please notify your guests so they don’t show up empty-handed!  

Supply Alcohol

In some instances, couples may have the option to purchase liquor independently for their wedding. This has become increasingly popular for this option allows the couple to control what they’d like to serve. While this may be appealing to those trying to pinch pennies, consider the following:

1 750ml bottle of wine equals 5 glasses

1 750ml bottle of champagne equals 8 glasses

1 750ml bottle of liquor equals 18 cocktails. 

1 15.5gal keg is approximately 124 pints 

Tasty Table recommends using this super handy drink calculator to determine how much and what you should buy!

BRIDE TIP: If you purchase too much alcohol for your wedding, keep your receipt! Some states will allow you to return unopened liquor bottles. 

Pricing for relative wedding bars is fairly intuitive; the more options you give your guests the more you should expect to pay. Adding premium spirits, mixers, and garnishes can create a beautiful beverage to waltz around the dance floor with but can become costly quickly. Other factors such as décor, locale, season, and availability can influence costs. Don’t forget to ask your wedding caterer or venue liaison if items such as glassware rental, mixology tools, and bartenders are included in your package!

Wedding planning is a fun, yet the tedious process that can easily become overwhelming to even a seasoned party planner. Tasty Table Catering is here to help create your perfect wedding day. Give us a call at (610) 251-0265 or email us at [email protected] with your wedding date, guest count, location, and any ideas you may have. We will happily get back to you within 24 hours or the next business day.