What type of bar service is right for your wedding?

Bar service (and budget) is a key focus for most wedding couples but it is also a topic that can divide them and/or their families. In some cases this divide is due to concerns about perception, but it can also be due to a lack of knowledge of available service options.

Depending on your venue, there are generally three main types of bar service that can be offered to your group:

Host Bar

When the cost of the bar service is determined by the group’s total consumption on the night of the wedding. In the guests’ perspective, the bar is ‘open’.

Pro: Allows flexibility for the bar menu offered. As the couple/family is paying based on the drinks ordered, there is more opportunity for the wedding couple to customize the bar menu to their particular group’s preference.

Con: It can be difficult to predict the final bar costs. If a couple underestimates the consumption of their group, they could receive an unwelcomed surprise when they receive the final bar tab from their venue.

Open Bar

This type of bar service is offered as a package with a specific bar menu served at a set cost per person. In most cases, a venue will offer at least two open bar packages; one based on a menu of standard selections and another based on a premium selection.

Pro: This type of service allows couples to have a pre-set bar budget regardless of the group’s final consumption.

Con: An Open Bar Package is confirmed based on the full wedding group size (excluding kids). It does not take into consideration any non-drinkers or guests who do not stay the full night.

Cash Bar

When wedding guests pay for the full cost of their drinks.

Pro: The couple does not need to worry about the cost of bar service and can allocate more of their budget to other areas of their wedding. This type of service can also help to reduce overall consumption as guests tend to drink less when they are responsible for the costs.

Con: This style of bar service should be noted on your wedding invitations. Otherwise, guests are likely to assume that an ‘open’ bar is offered.

Some venues may also offer the option to hold a ‘contribution or by-donation’ bar. This type of bar service is far less popular but if available, it can be a good way to help offset some costs.

Regardless of your initial vision for bar service, make sure to speak to your venue about all available options. Before making a firm decision, take the time to ‘punch the numbers’. The results may surprise you.

Katrina Scarlett, Wedding Coach

Do you have any questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you – hello@katrinascarlett.com.