The Bar: Hosted or Cash?

One of the top questions and concerns of a bride and groom planning a wedding is what to do with the bar.

Should I pay for my guests drinks? Should they pay for their own drinks?
Is it rude for me to make guests pay?

This was one of the biggest questions we played with while planning our wedding you are definitely not alone!

Here is some quick vocabulary so you understand the terms I am using:

Cash Bar: guests pay for their own drinks (doesn't necessarily mean they have to use cash)
Hosted Bar: You are paying for your guests drinks - this is generally a per person price and your guests will be able to drink as much as they would like for a pre-set price
Bar Tab: This is a designated dollar amount you select to use toward alcohol and once that number is reached, the bar either closes or guests must pay

With all of that being said, I am going to start you off with this:



Weddings are expensive and that is no secret. Every guest in attendance knows that you are paying a significant amount of money for your celebration and you are providing them with an amazing, fun night with some great food! And they are there to celebrate you! So if anyone feels as though they should not have to pay for a drink, then it is their choice to drink or not to drink.

On top of how expensive weddings are, the bar is one of the priciest. When we first selected a venue, our hosted bar was going to be about $8,000 before tax and service charge! So that definitely gives you a little glimpse on how expensive it can get! And how amazing would it be to invite an extra 10 guests? Or add that beautiful chandelier treatment to the room? Or save $8,000 altogether??

Once again, you DO NOT have to pay for a hosted bar if it is beyond the means of your budget. But there are some things you can do if you want to provide at least some alcohol to your guests, and they are much more cost effective!

1. Wine Service - This means that guests are poured one or two glasses of wine during dinner, or a couple bottles of wine are placed on each table during dinner for guests to enjoy.

2. Host beer, wine, and soda - Liquor is what brings that bill up so high, so venues will often be able to negotiate a price that includes everything but the hard liquor. That way, guests can get a free beer or glass of wine if they would like, but must pay for the shots and mixed drinks! Now that's fair!

3. Host a dollar amount - If you have $1,000 left in your budget and want to host alcohol, place it as a bar tab and allow guests to use the tab until it is finished. After that, they will pay! I would also recommend limiting this to beer and wine to ensure everyone gets a drink or two!

4. Don't host premium alcohol - If everyone were to order the most expensive liquor at the bar, then surely your bar is going to get pricey! So limit it to well and call liquor! If someone does order premium, then the bartender can kindly let them know that they can choose well/call for free or pay for their premium drink...and they can make that decision!

5. Host a signature drink - Choose a drink you and your fiance absolutely love, and allow guests to choose that drink at no cost! Not everyone is going to drink it, but they have the option to get it at no cost!

5. Don't host at all - Like I said before, it is not a requirement to host the bar, or have a bar at all! If a guest doesn't want to pay, then they can choose not to drink!


When it comes down to it, do what you feel is best for you and your budget. If you only have a couple of drinkers, then clearly it would not make sense to host the bar...then you're just paying for extra drinks that will not be consumed! It's your wedding and your money and your guests are going to be ecstatic that they got an invite and are able to celebrate your big day with you :)