Wedding Etiquette: Cash Bar vs. Open Bar
Engagement season is in full swing, and wedding planning seems to start immediately after! After brides & grooms finish celebrating their engagements, one of the first steps in the wedding-planning process is to set a budget for the wedding. One of the larger expenses, believe it or not, is typically providing alcohol at the wedding! For this reason, the old cash bar vs. open bar debate has always been a hot one. While couples can save thousands of dollars with a cash bar, couples often worry that their guests will be disappointed when they learn they’ll have to pay for drinks themselves.
A cash bar is where wedding guests are required to to pay for their own “spirits.” Couples often use cash bars to reduce the cost of the reception, but still typically provide a glass of champagne for toasts at no charge.
An open bar is where the bride & groom pay for all costs associated with the bar at their wedding. This includes the bartender and typically a full-service bar. With an open bar, the host pays for all drinks, either by the hour, by the bottle, by the drink, or per person, depending on the company.
Which Is Right For You?
When making the decision between a cash and open bar, there is a lot to take into consideration. In the end, cost will probably be the deciding factor.
For open bars, rates can vary depending on location, date of the event and special skills of the bartender, but the basic party rate for a bartender can range from $20 to $50 per hour per worker.
As a general rule, you need to allow one bartender per 80 guests for beer and wine bars and one bartender per 60 guests for full bar service.
Also, some venues will allow you to book a bar package (a flat rate for an open bar for a period of time) while others insist on a consumption-based approach (total drinks consumed counted at the end of the event). Most couples opt for the bar package because it is all-inclusive for the full duration of the event.
If you do end up deciding on a cash bar, we’d recommend notifying your guests ahead of time so they are aware.
For an easy way to notify and message guests, check out one of our online wedding invitations that allows you to send messages to guests and track responses and RSVPs! It’s that easy.
Which type of bar are you going for – cash or open bar? Let us know in the comments below!