Is it OK Not to Have an Open Bar?

open bar wedding
Photo by Heather Mayer Photographer

Q: We need to cut money from our wedding budget and my FH suggested we eliminate the open bar. We’re having an evening wedding and a lot of of our friends are drinkers. Is that wrong?- Rachel

A: When it comes to weddings, you can eliminate a lot of things and traditions you don’t want (and add in those that you do). Hate the idea of a first look? Don’t do it. Garter toss? Bye bye. Receiving line? Nope. But when it comes to having an open bar, this is one thing we whole-heartedly think a wedding should have. A wedding is a party you are throwing to celebrate your marriage, and while it’s your wedding and your rules you still want to treat your guests to a great night out. You don’t make guests pay for their own wedding food…why would you make them pay for their own drinks?

RELATED: Wedding Alcohol Calculator: How Much Do You REALLY Need?

With that said your wedding budget is equally important, and finding ways to cut money from it is something that can definitely be figured out. Before I eliminated an open bar I would definitely look at other areas you could cut costs from, such as wedding favors (get rid of them), pricey bouquets (consider baby’s breath instead), and excessive desserts (most wedding guests won’t even get around to them) to name a few. If those items are already maxed out in terms of savings, then I would look at the TYPE of open bar you are having, as well as talking to your venue about how you can drive down costs. Ways you can typically do that when it comes to an open bar are:

  1. Serve beer and wine only along with one or two speciality cocktails (perhaps a vodka or tequila and/or bourbon based one).
  2. Skip the champagne toast (this is one of our favorite ways to save money at a wedding).
  3. Choose less expensive but still great spirit options, such as Tito’s vs. Grey Goose or Jim Beam Black vs. Woodford Reserve can often save you $15+ a bottle.
  4. Ask your venue to charge you per person vs. per drink. A consumption based bar is often much more expensive (especially if you have a lot of drinkers in your crowd).

Whatever you do our advice is to NOT eliminate your open bar. Guests are there to have fun and so are you…there are other areas we would DEFINITELY cut before the open bar.

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