© Sierra Amor Images | Monterey, CA

Wedding Bar Options – Pros & Cons

You’ve picked out your venue, you know their packages, and you’ve got to select what type of bar you’re going to have. There are a few different options when it comes to having a bar at your wedding. If your wedding venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, great! This is the best way to save money on your wedding day (unless you’re just choosing to go without a bar which of course will be the cheapest option)! Below I will list out the different types of wedding bar options along with their pros and cons.

Open bars: Let’s start with the most preferred type of bar. Most couples choose this option because it’s easy. No thinking about how much your tab is going to run up, what drinks people might like, or worrying about how much people will drink. Cash bars are done in a few ways:

  • Just wine/beer
  • Full bar with liquor
  • Price per person
  • Price per bottle
  • Price per drink
  • Price per hour


– No fuss or stress that you’ll end the night with a large tab to pay (it’s predictable)

– Guests don’t need to worry about bringing money or paying for their own drinks

– It’s proper etiquette 

– There are several ways to customize it so you and your guests are happy


– The most expensive option. 

– If guests don’t drink enough to justify the expense it can be frustrating. You have to pay for the non-drinkers as well. 

– People usually get really drunk.

Cash bar (guests pay): A cash bar is like an open bar in the fact that guests can drink whatever they want but in this case, the couple doesn’t pay for anyone’s drinks.


– It’s cheap for you (except for your own drinks). You don’t have to pay a huge amount up front and have guests not drink enough to justify the cost. 

– Guests might better regulate how much they’re drinking (because they have to pay for their own drinks)


– Even your guests that aren’t drinking alcohol will most likely need to be pay for other drinks as well.

– It’s not proper etiquette

– You may have some guests that are upset by this decision

– It could effect the amount and types of gifts you receive (gifts are sometimes based on the amount you’re paying per guest)


Consumption bar (couple pays): Sometimes venues offer couples the option to just pay for what their guests drink. To your guests, it acts as an open bar because they don’t have to pay for anything and they can get whatever they want. However, this means that at the end of the night, depending on your guests, you could end up with a massive bill! If you are thinking about a consumption bar, consider offering a limited bar and putting the amount that you’re comfortable spending on the bar tab. That way, when it runs out, guests can pay for their own drinks.


– If your guests don’t drink much or you’re only having a very small wedding, you won’t end up spending too much and guests can still get what they want


– May end up with a massive bill (it’s very unpredictable)

© Sierra Amor Images | Second photographing for Blissful Moment Photography

Limited bar: A limited bar is when the couple pays for only a portion of their guests’ drinks. This could be based on a ticket system, only for a specific amount of time, or with a certain amount of money on the bar tab. Once time or money on the bar runs out, guests start paying for their own drinks. Also, ask your venue if you can have a limited bar but choose which alcohol is included. This will help make sure the amount you put on your tab will last longer.


– You still provide alcohol for part of the time and it’s not as expensive as an open bar.

– You get to customize how much you want to spend


– You most likely will have to pay for sodas/juices as well which can add up for those that aren’t drinking alcohol. 

– Even though you’re paying for some of it, it’s better etiquette to pay for an open bar.

– If you have a tab to a certain amount, it may run out quicker than you think.

© Sierra Amor Images | Second photographing for Blissful Moment Photography

BYO: BYO standings for Bring Your Own. This when your venue allows you to bring your own drinks. Although the alcohol is cheaper in this case, there many be other costs associated with bringing your own alcohol/drinks. Some venues allow you to only bring your own wine, others only beer/wine, and others allow everything. The venue will likely also require you hire someone to bartend which could be an added expense. If the venue doesn’t provide cups, ice, coolers, and other needed bar items, you may also have to purchase these separately. https://www.liquorland.co.nz/party-planning/ is a great way to see how much of each type of alcohol you should be buying!


– Cheap and you can choose exactly what you want to serve 

– You can purchase the alcohol ahead of time so the cost is spread out over time

– You can purchase the alcohol when it’s on sale or at bulk pricing


– More work involved 

– It could end up being the same or similar price because of all the extra purchases

– You have to store and transport all the alcohol to the wedding

– There may be a corkage fee per bottle

– You have to hire a bartender separately

– Less options than a full bar provided by the venue

© Sierra Amor Images | Second photographing for Blissful Moment Photography

No bar: This will probably be the least desired option by your guests but, it’s your day! If you choose to not have a bar because you cannot afford it, consider still offering your guests drinks through a cash bar or asking your venue if your guests can bring their own drinks. Whatever the reason may be, be prepared some some guests to be offended!


– No one gets drunk so you don’t have to worry about them getting sloppy 

– It’s cheap for you (and your guests)

– Everyone gets home safely without needing a taxi/Uber/Lyft


– Guests may be upset and some may not even attend

– There may be less dancing (haha)

– Could effect the type or amount of gifts


I hope this helped you to understand the pros and cons of different types of bars you can offer! Whatever you choose will end up being the right choice for you. Regardless of others’ feelings, only provide what you can afford. It’s really not worth going into debt for! If having a specific bar is important to you but you cannot afford it, consider cutting costs in other areas! For those having BYO weddings, you can also host a stock the bar engagement/bridal/bachelor/bachelorette party where guests bring different types of alcohol/drinks! 


Signing off,

Mary Taylor <3


Featured image (first image) by Sierra Amor Images | Monterey, CA Photographer

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