Common Wedding Bar Types

Let’s get this party started!

The bar is often an important part of any wedding, whether all of your guests drink or not. It helps create that social wedding culture for which we all strive. As the drinks get flowing, the people get more comfortable and the celebration gets popping!

Though the bar can be an amazing feature at your wedding, there should be caution with over serving your guests and ruining the night as well. That is why there are so many different bar types or styles to choose from. You can control the situation based on how your guests generally handle their booze.

Do your guests generally overdo it when drinking hard liquor? Would a beer and wine only bar help that situation? Maybe instead of hosting an open bar, you should have a limit for your guests? Would only hosting a signature cocktail be alright?

Why don’t we discuss each bar type and get into the nitty gritty of each?


Open Bar

An open bar is entirely hosted by the couple and/or their family and guests don’t have to pay for their own drinks. All people over 21 years old are charged. This means that the hosts decide on which alcohol will be available at the bar, and guests can walk up and get anything that is offered. The options available will depend in the venue or caterer. If a venue already has a full bar with a hard liquor license, they will most likely be able to offer a full bar for a wedding. On the other hand, if the venue doesn’t have a full liquor license, they may only be able to offer beer and wine. Some venues don’t offer alcohol options and all and that may be when a caterer needs to supply those options for you.

There are generally two ways that open bars are priced: package pricing or pricing by consumption.

Package pricing: Generally the hosts are charged a set price per person for an open bar package price. This is a great option if your guests are big drinkers and are going to utilize the open bar to its fullest. It is also nice because the hosts know what price they will be paying upfront and won’t be surprised later on. It wouldn’t make sense to pay per head if you don’t have a lot of big drinkers.

Pricing by consumption: Generally the hosts pay for the alcohol based on what all of their guests consume the night of the wedding. This is a good option if your guests aren’t huge drinkers or if you have a lot of people not drinking. It doesn’t make sense to pay for everyone over 21 to drink if not everyone is going to utilize that option.


Hosted Bar

A hosted bar can be done multiple different ways and will generally depend on how the venue will allow it. Generally, the host will only pay for the guests alcohol for a certain amount of money, time, or amount of alcohol.

Monetary hosted bar: This is where the host sets a dollar amount they wish to pay toward the bar and after that money runs out, the bar will transition to a cash bar where guests pay for their own drinks. This is a great option if you have a set amount you wish to spend on alcohol and don’t want to pay more by any circumstance.

Time limit hosted bar: This is a hosted bar set by a time limit. The hosts set an amount of time in which they wish to pay for the guests alcohol and after that time ends, the guests begin paying for their own alcohol. This is a good option when the hosts only wish to pay through cocktail hour or maybe a bit longer. They do not wish to pay for their guests alcohol for a longer period of time.

Amount of alcohol hosted bar: This is where the host pays for a set amount of actual alcohol before the guests begin paying for their own drinks. Say they want to pay for 2 kegs of beer and 4 cases of wine. After the set amount of alcohol they paid for runs out, guests will begin paying for their own drinks. This is a good option to set an amount if you want to control how much your guests may drink because once it turns into a cash bar, guests tend to slow down.


Cash Bar

A cash bar means that guests pay for their drinks the entire night just like they would at a bar or restaurant. In this case, the bar finances are not the responsibility of the hosts. A cash bar definitely costs the host less money however it does often set a different tone for a wedding. The guests are burdened not just paying for their drinks but also with getting in a bar line, opening a tab, leaving a tip, and remembering to close out their tab at the end of the night. Cash bars make the most sense when you have a large majority of people at the wedding not drinking. Some hosts also choose a cash bar to control the people who might get extremely drunk because when guests have to pay for their own drinks, they generally drink slower.


Signature Cocktails

Signature cocktails are such a fun way to show the couples personalities! Basically, either the couple chooses one drink that represents both of them or they can choose two drinks that represent each individual person in the couple. These are often colorful and delicious! Signature cocktails can also be created at a beer and wine only bar. You can do a champagne cocktail such as a Bellini or a wine sangria. A beer cocktail could be a michelada or chavela.

Signature cocktails can be integrated into an open bar or hosted bar.

Signature cocktail-open bar: Any signature cocktails can simply be included as part of your open bar. There may be an additional cost for this on top of the per person price. If you are going off of consumption, the price will be judged off of how much of those were consumed.

Signature cocktail-hosted bar: Many people host just a signature cocktail nowadays. Instead of hosting the entire bar, a couple can save money by just hosting their favorite drink. Most guests will drink whatever is free but you will have other who might pay for their own drinks because they may not like what the signature drink consists of. A signature cocktail can also be hosted with a wine and beer bar.


Beer & Wine

Beer and wine only wedding are a lot more common than you might think! This type of bar can be open, hosted, or cash just like a full bar. The reason some hosts choose a no hard liquor bar is because they don’t want their guests getting belligerently drunk. Yes, people can get drunk from beer and wine however it generally allows for a more controlled environment. Another reason some hosts choose beer and wine only is to save some money. A full service bar with liquor is going to cost a lot more than a beer and wine bar. The wholesale and retail costs for hard alcohol are substantially more which in turn makes your wedding bar more as well.


Dry Bar

There are many circumstances where the hosts choose to skip the alcohol component and serve only soft drinks. Some of these reasons include the time of day, religion, or culture. Not serving alcohol will save the hosts ample amounts of money. There are still ways to do a champagne toast without champagne such as serving sparkling apple cider. It is important as a guest to follow the hosts wishes for a non-alcoholic wedding.


Actual pricing for alcohol at each venue or with your caterer will vary. The kegs, wine, hard alcohol, or mixed drink pricing will change and so might a per person price for an open bar. You will need to speak to each individual venue or caterer to figure out what they charge for each bar style. Once you know pricing, it will be easier to determine what you like and what you can afford.


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