Wedding Bar Ideas: Should You Have An Open or Cash Bar?

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Open Bar Sign

It’s one of the biggest conundrums of throwing an Irish wedding reception. Should you make your guests pay for drinks, or do you risk the open bar?

Wedding Reception

Throwing a wedding can be a minefield between pleasing relatives, keeping an eye on costs and creating a wedding day you and your partner will love. While you want your guests to have the best day possible you can’t do so at the detriment of your own finances and overall happiness.

One of the biggest issues couples face when wedding planning is the mystery of the bar- should it be open, or should guests have to pay for drinks?

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Pros & Cons of a CASH BAR


1. You don’t have to worry about how much people are drinking as you’re not paying for it! Phew, no more stressing as to whether your brother-in-law has had ten shots or twenty as chances are he’s funding that intense habit himself!

2. You can put the money you’ve saved by having a cash bar at your wedding into other areas which may be important to you, such as the meal, the room dressing or the thank you gifts. If you’re a foodie couple instead of a boozy couple then splurging on a prime cut of beef or a canape reception may be money better spent.

3. Tee-total guests may feel a bit more comfortable. No one likes being the sober one in a room full of messy drunks, and having a cash bar could mean that your sober guests don’t feel excluded. Chances are guests who are drinking won’t indulge as much if they’re paying for it and there will be no alcohol-related mishaps.


1. In some cultures expecting your guests to pay for drinks is considered rude, especially if people have traveled long distances to be at your wedding. Weigh up the sacrifices people have made to be a part of your big day and whether a cash bar or an open bar would be a better option.

2. Some people consider a cash bar a little bit tacky. Yes, you’re saving money but expecting guests to fund their own good time can come across as a little bit cheap.

3. Having a cash bar actually means a little extra organising on your part. Will the bar take card payments? If not, is there a cash point nearby for guests to use? The last thing you want is for your nearest and dearest to feel stifled on what should be a carefree day.

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Pros & Cons of an OPEN BAR


1. Your guests will most likely be very, VERY happy (and drunk. But drunk and happy!).

2. It’s an easy way to give a little back to your guests and thank them for coming to your wedding. As mentioned before, some guests travel long distances or make big sacrifices to go to weddings. Having an open bar is an easy way to say thank you without going over the top.

3. It can be a financial success if you choose your audience correctly! Are some of your guests guaranteed not to drink, or stick to one or two? If you are confident your audience aren’t heavy boozers out to take advantage of your generosity then open up the bar and avoid any awkward issues. It’s a risk, but it could pay off.


1. Open bar equals drunk guests. By all means go ahead with the open bar if you can handle your drunken Auntie Sally leading the macarana across an empty dancefloor, but maybe consider who you’re inviting first!

2. It’s costly. Opting to free up the bar means you’re liable for everything consumed behind it. Make sure you can trust your guests not to neck everything in one go.

3. There’s the big chance many guests many not end up remembering the night. Think about how memorable you want your wedding to be and whether having everyone sober means more to you than a boozy evening.

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The Happy Medium

Want to combine the two but a bit unsure of etiquette? Here’s what we suggest.

1. Provide one glass of Prosecco per person for a toast to the couple. Prosecco is a cheaper alternative to champagne and is more in vogue at the moment, and by limiting each guest to one glass you’re keeping costs down. Chances are some guests won’t even go for a glass.

2. Pop two bottles each of house red and house white wine on every table. This way guests have something to drink, but you aren’t worried they’ll order a few bottles to themselves at the bar.

3. Create a personalised “Shots Bar”. If your venue allows, create a bespoke bar for shots that you have stocked yourself. Guests can help themselves to a shot or two and you don’t have to worry about them getting carried away at the bar. When it runs out- it runs out!

4. Have an open bar, but cap it at a certain time or at a certain amount. Make sure the venue are fully aware that at some point no one will be allowed any more free booze.

5. Create a ‘signature wedding cocktail‘ for the event. Mix it at home and bring it in large jugs to pop behind the bar. Guests can sip on one of these if they’d rather not pay for a drink of their choice.

6. WHO are your guests? Are they wine drinkers, or beer guzzlers? You can offer a ‘limited‘ bar which offers a type of wine, a type of beer, a type of spirit and unlimited soft drinks. Tailor this limited offering to what you know your guests will want to drink.

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It can be tough to find the ideal location for your reception, not to mention, arrange the caterers. But don’t worry. Take a look at our new directory which lists the best Wedding Receptions & Catering in Co. Fermanagh.

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