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Who Pays for Wedding Drinks at Your Wedding Reception?

Open bars, cash bars, complementary drink tokens… There are so many options when it comes to organising refreshments for your wedding reception! So, you might be wondering who should pay for all those wedding drinks. The answer really depends on the kind of bar you’re having. Here’s a guide on the different bar options and the etiquette surrounding each one.

Open Bars

Open bars are becoming more popular here in the UK. At an open bar, the newly married couple (or other party paying for the wedding, such as the parents) provide free wedding drinks for guests. The bar will keep a tab throughout the night; if money is tight, you can always ask the staff to keep an eye on the bill and cap it when it reaches a certain amount. After this, guests will have to pay for their own beverages. If money isn’t an issue, you can splash out and give guests unlimited drinks! Open bars are an expensive option, but they’re sure to keep a smile on everyone’s faces!

Cash Bars

At a cash bar, guests must pay for their wedding drinks. If the bar doesn’t take cards and there aren’t any nearby ATM machines, let guests know so they can bring some money with them. If a cash bar is a necessity, consider providing some alcoholic and soft beverages at the tables during the wedding meal. This way, you’ll still be able to treat guests without breaking the budget.

Tree of Hearts - Woodland Flowers Wine Bottle Label (Wedding Drinks)

Featured Design: ‘Woodland Flowers Wine Bottle Label and Heart Table Confetti’

If you can’t afford an open bar, you should try to provide a cash bar rather than nothing at all; most people will prefer paying for drinks over not having any available. The UK etiquette of a cash bar at a wedding may not apply in other countries, so bear that in mind if you’re getting married abroad!

Wedding Drinks Tokens

If the budget’s too tight for a full open bar, but you still want to give guests a treat, why not combine a cash bar with a complementary drink for each guest? Give guests tokens or tickets that they can hand in at the bar for a free drink. You can provide as many as you wish. Match their design to the decorations and stationery to keep your special day coordinated!

Tree of Hearts - Je t'aime Wedding Drinks Tokens

Featured Design: ‘Je t’aime Drink Tokens’

Wording Etiquette

As you can see, there’s a lot of choice when deciding how you want to run your wedding bar. And, with so many variations, guests probably won’t know which one you’ll use unless you tell them. The last thing you want is a room full of guests who can’t enjoy a drink because they didn’t bring cash, so make sure you let everyone know! The easiest way to inform people is by using your invitations or guest information cards.

For invitations, all you need to do is add a sentence at the end saying what kind of bar will be available. If you’re having an open bar, you might add a fun aside like, ‘Drinks are on us!’. If you’re having a cash bar, you might feel awkward telling guests they’ll need to bring money with them. But don’t worry! Friends and family will appreciate all the other things you’ll be providing for them at the wedding, such as the food, entertainment, and favours. They’ll also appreciate the warning to come prepared!

Don’t want to spoil the appearance of your invites? In that case, pop a guest information card in with the invitations and let guests know the arrangements that way instead. Or, if you have your own wedding website, you can include a note about the bar there. Just don’t forget to tell guests the web address.

Tree of Hearts - Rustic Chalkboard Flowers Invitation Suite with Guest Info Card Wedding Drinks

Featured Design: ‘Pastel Chalkboard Flowers Invitation’

Of course, you’re not obligated to pick one of these three options. It’s your wedding day, and you might choose something totally different from the examples we’ve listed here! Some venues allow guests to bring their own drinks in, while other couples make an event of signature cocktails. All you really have to do is let people know beforehand so they can plan accordingly.

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