Wedding planning requires a lot of work and decision making. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the vendors you are considering and proposals you are reviewing. No matter where you go for your wedding reception needs, a major question you are going to encounter is “What type of bar service would you like”? While the question is simple, the answer may not be, especially because alcoholic beverages can be one of the most expensive parts of your reception. Don’t stress, we are here to help! There are 5 types of beverage service options you can choose from and we are going to walk you through all of them in order to turn your difficult decision into a breeze.
- Non-Alcoholic Bar
While choosing not to serve alcohol at your wedding is not for everyone, it is an option and believe it or not, there is a way to make it fun! You can serve “Mocktails”, offer a soda bar, flavored lemonades, and even ice cream shakes. Don’t be afraid to provide your guests with something unique or even create a signature non-alcoholic drink. Just because you aren’t going to have alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t have fun serving your guests!
- Cash Bar
This is easy to understand, with a cash bar all of your guests will be paying for their own drinks. Even though the explanation is simple, there are still some important questions you need to be sure to ask your caterer when choosing this option. While you are choosing to have your guests pay for all of their alcoholic drinks, be sure that you are providing them with non-alcoholic beverages. You don’t want your guests to end up getting charged every time they order a soft drink or any kind of regular beverage. You may also want to consider the option of combining the cash bar with one of the fun non-alcoholic packages from above. Combining will allow you to provide your guests with a fun non-alcoholic drink station while still giving them the option to opt for alcohol on their own dime. Either way, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves no matter what their preference.
- Consumption Host Bar
A consumption host bar is one of the options that allows you to host all of the drinks at no charge to your guests. This is where things get a little more complicated and a little more thinking has to be involved. We know you want to provide your guests with everything you can, but we also know everyone has a budget. The real catch with this option is that you don’t know what your final bill will be until the end of the evening, scary right? While this may not worry everyone, for those of us trying to make sure we stick to a budget, it could make you a little uneasy. Don’t worry, that’s why we are here, below is a way to figure out a rough estimate of how much this option will cost you in the end. Do the calculation below in order to determine whether or not you think this option will be right for you. Remember, if you have your heart set on fully hosting a bar for your guests, this is only one of two options, so even if after further investigation this is out of your price range, all hope is not lost!
Consumption Host Bar Calculation (for a 4-hour event) Get the consumption drink price for beer, wine, and a mixed drink, add them together and divide by 3. This is your average drink price. Divide that number by the price for the 4 hours of bar time, that will give you the number of drinks per person. For example lets say beer is $5, wine is $6, and mixed drinks are $7, that gives you an average drink price of $6. If a 4-hour bar is $24 then we divide 24 by 6 and get an answer of 4 drinks per person.
See, the calculation is simple! The only catch here is, only you know the drinking habits of your guests. If you think there is no way each person will drink more than 4 drinks, this might be the right choice for you budget wise. If you have a lot of heavy drinkers attending, this option is probably not your best choice and it might be time to scroll down and look at the open bar option.
- Open/Host Bar
As mentioned previously, this is your alternative option when you plan on taking care of all your guests’ drinks for the evening. With the open bar option, you are paying a fixed price, which allows you to accurately calculate your budget and provide your guests with free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for the night. Most venues and caterers will offer different levels of open bar, which are typically charged by the hour. The longer you purchase, the less expensive each drink becomes.
- Partial Cash Bar
We’ve mentioned budget a lot, and for those of you stressing about it, this option is our gift to you. We know you want to offer your guests everything you can in order for them to have the best time possible at your wedding reception. If you have your heart set on providing your guests with drinks but your budget does not seem to be in agreement, there is a way to please both. There are a few different options when choosing a partial cash bar. One way is to use drink tickets, you can offer each guest 1 or 2 drink tickets to redeem at the bar. If your guests want additional drinks after they use their tickets, it would be cash. There is a way to make the ticket option fun, you can print nice tickets with your wedding logo, pictures, or fun quotes. If you choose this option you might as well go all the way, make the tickets something you are happy with, really incorporate them into your all around wedding theme. If the drink ticket method is not for you, you can go with the maximum bar spend option. The maximum bar spend option allows you to put a fixed amount towards the bar tab and once that tab is reached, it becomes a cash bar. None of these options sound like something you like? Luckily, we have one more for you. Our last option is to host an open bar for only a fixed amount of hours. Let’s say you’re having a 5-hour reception, you may choose to host the bar for the first 3 hours then let the bar switch to cash for the last 2. There are many different options when it comes to choosing a partial cash bar, the only thing left to decide is which will work best for you.
There you have it, the 5 types of beverage service options you can choose from for your wedding reception. So now, take a deep breath, decide what you really want to offer your guests, take a look at your budget, and make it work! It is possible to please your guests and your wallet. Wedding planning isn’t easy, but your wedding should be one of the greatest days of your life. Find an option that works best for you so that you are able to enjoy your special day to the very fullest!