Planning 101 2nd November 2022

Having An Open Bar 101

Having an open bar at your wedding is a bit of an age old dilemma, with many couples ideally wanting to have one but wondering if budget will really enable them to do so. 

To give you an idea of how much it might cost, to have one for 3-4 hours after dinner for 100 guests it usually comes out at around £1,000 to £2,000 if you put a few limitations in place, such as no top shelf liquor and single shots, or even just limiting it to beer and wine. This doesn't include staff to run the bar which will cost extra.

To help you decide whether or not you would like to have one and ways you can work around the budget, we’ve listed below the pros and cons along with ways to make having one a little more pocket friendly. 

Pros and cons 

Ultimately the pros of having an open bar do often outweigh the cons, however the con is quite a significant part of the wedding planning process - the budget. The positives of having an open bar are that it generally makes for a better experience for the guests, and they will appreciate that having come all the way and spent money on outfits, gifts and accommodation that they won’t need to pay extra on the day itself. From a logistics perspective, having a paid bar at your wedding can cause a backlog at the bar, as it’ll take longer to serve drinks and take payment. Plus if guests have chosen to open a tab, then that can be a bit of a nightmare for guests and the couple themselves at the end of the night. 

The main cons of having an open bar are predominately the cost and also if there are any concerns about the alcohol consumption getting out of hand. One way to help with the latter is to serve only wine and beer and avoid spirits entirely. 

Budget friendly options

Get it gifted by family members

If you really love the idea of a free bar but realistically can’t afford it, one option is to have it gifted by family members as your wedding present. Be it a certain amount of money behind the bar or all the alcohol you’ve purchased for the wedding covered, this is often something closer family members like to do so it’s worth exploring.

Be selective about what you offer

One way to keep the bar budget under control is to be selective over what you offer. Lots of couples often just do the option of beer and wine alongside soft drinks, and perhaps have a cocktail option at the drinks reception to add a bit of difference. 

Many venues will have a small corkage fee or no corkage fee at all, in which case it might be a good idea to get the alcohol yourself to save some pennies.  

Signature cocktails 

If you’re keen to offer spirits and cocktails in some shape or form, you can craft your own signature cocktails that use cheaper spirits and juices to create something a little bit different. This is something that people will often remember, and with a bit of foresight won’t break the bank. 

Time or spending limit 

Another way to show the gesture of a free bar without it going over budget is to set a time limit or spending limit on the bar. Once that time or monetary limit has been reached, it then becomes a paid bar. Ideally you don’t want to publicise this as it can often encourage over ordering or a rush to the bar at the end. 

Buy it yourself 

When venue searching, keep an eye out for ‘no corkage’ wedding venues, as this means you can source and supply all your own alcohol on the day, which is an ideal way to keep the costs down. That way you can shop for bottles within your budget limit, and also in the lead up to the wedding you can snag various good deals at your local supermarket, slowly collecting the alcohol over time.

BYOB cocktail station 

A fun way to incorporate cocktails into your day is to have a cocktail station. Ask guests to bring along an interesting or useful spirit to add to the table and then fill it up with lots of juices, shakers and accessories so guests can get creative. This is perfect for smaller or more informal weddings.



free bar at wedding