Ask Jenny – Open Bar Drama.

Hi Jenny,

My fiancé & I are getting married this September & all our plans are going well & we’re very, very excited. However, I am prone to flapping & this week I’m mostly worrying about drinks. Our package at our reception venue includes 4 drinks for each day time guest & I thought this would be fine, but I saw an article on that suggested guests would be peeved if there wasn’t an open bar. Is this just an American expectation or should we be doing it too? I can’t bear to cost it- I’d probably faint in horror- & I just don’t think we could stretch to it, but I don’t want to be a bad hostess!

What do you think? Are we being stingy by just having a cash bar for the rest of the day? Getting sozzled is a given at a party, but I don’t want to have to compromise on everything else to facilitate it. Your advice would be greatly appreciated!

Jenn x

Hello Jenn,

Cor I remember the drinks/open bar stress. Mr O was intent on having an open bar, as was Mr O the Senior. I however have been to many events with open bars, and ended up absolutely sozzled beyond belief (because it’s rude not to, right?)

Let me share my experience of having an open bar wedding. My concern was that people would take the mickey and order double whiskeys and champagne. So after much debate we finally agreed on an open bar set at a limit of a certain amount of money, say £700, and guests were offered beer, wine, and single spirits. This is as well as the four glasses of wine and glass of Prosecco they were offered at their tables. There were guests who of course wanted to drink something different and they were happy to pay for that out of their own pockets.

This set limit lasted until about 6 or 7pm. We were asked if we would like to close the open bar or increase the limit. So we increased the limit. An hour later we were asked the same question. And we increased again. This continued until at 10pm my drunk husband just signed off an open bar for the rest of the night (I believe the night ended at about 3am).

I can’t say whether it made a difference to the party atmosphere, there were a few people who shall remain anonymous who like a drink and ended up completely rat ar$ed – but then it’s a wedding, you will always end up with a few who enjoy a higher state of refreshment! …..As long as there are no fights then you’re all good.

Settling the bill the next day was a little bit of a shock. However we felt immense pride that we had thrown a really good reception, our guests gave us brilliant feedback they had all had a really bloody good time, and the pictures from the fully packed dancefloor speak for themselves. It was worth every penny and I felt that somehow it was a small thank you to our gorgeous family and friends for being so generous, supportive, and loving of us.

Do I always take a fully stocked purse with me to weddings? Yes of course I do, it’s not good etiquette to presume an open bar. Am I offended when there isn’t an open bar? No way! Would you be?

You could always have an open bar for close family and friends, set at an amount you are comfortable with, a few hundred quid maybe? Give the bar staff a code word for them to use like ‘massive wangers’ or something…

“Ahem yes I would like two pints of Carlsberg and three glasses of dry white wine please-massive-wangers”.

You just gotta hope the barmaid hasn’t been blessed in the chest department otherwise that could be awkward.

This means you won’t break the bank with an uncontrollable bar bill, you are keeping those close to you looked after – which will be a lovely surprise for them, and your other guests still have the table drinks to kick start their evening. Everyone’s a winner!

It’s something to think about, and if you opt out of an open bar that is your choice and anyone who judges or complains about it needs to order themselves a double and loosen the heck up! It’s a celebration!

Good luck Jenn, make sure you let us know how your big day went.

I’d love to hear other experiences of open bars, did you have to sell a kidney on the blackmarket to cover the cost? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Craving wine but can’t touch a drop because I’m pregnant again love,

Jen xx

Author: Jenny

53 thoughts on “Ask Jenny – Open Bar Drama.

  1. Big congratulations!!

    Also very good advice. The main reason that we’re going for a marquee reception is that we have been able to have an open bar and stock it ourselves. I am definitely not offended when asked to pay for drinks at weddings, but it’s a really nice touch when one doesn’t have to and we also felt that keeping the bar open would – as Jenny says – keep the dancefloor full. A priority!

    If you are in a hotel then I think it’s fine to limit choices to wine and beer as a compromise. Nobody will mind paying for something different if that’s what they want.

    T x

  2. YAY!!! Jenny’s up the duff again!! Woop! How’s your sickness pet? Any better?

    Also, we had a cash bar and everyone got sozzled anyway.
    I say go with whatever your bank balance is comfortable with.

  3. Hello! its Vix posing as Adam (were at the show and Im logged in as him)

    We have chosen just white wine of our choice and beer of our choice at our ‘free bar’ no spirits, when that runs out then thats it!

    Im a bit worried about offering spirits, I know Malcs friends all too well 🙂

    CONGRATULATIONS JEN – so so so so so so so so pleased for you


  4. I never understood the whole “getting offended when a couple doesn’t pay for an open bar” sort of thing, and I’m an American, so don’t worry. It’s not ALL Yanks that think that way. Is it nice to have an open bar? Yes! But if you want to get absolutely pissed at someone else’s wedding, you should come prepared with a wad of cash. There’s nothing at all wrong with what you’re planning, girl. Congratulations on your engagement! Hope you’re having an amazing time planning! And don’t let this stress you out too much!

  5. This is what sparked off my parents paying for our wedding- my Dad couldn’t bear the idea of not having an open bar and ended up paying for the lot! Bless him- it seems its an old fashioned thing rather than an american import? Definitely difficult- we were worried about people taking the mick, and limited the free bar to beer, glasses of wine and house spirits only- this after two cocktails or glasses of champagne and half a bottle of wine per guest!!

    I think you can never underestimate the party 😉 or the pissheads! xxxxx

  6. Ooh, congratulations!!! So when preggers friends say “you know, I don’t *really* feel like drinking anyway” it’s a bit of a fib….?

    We have a slightly different booze issue. Our post ceremony party is going to be the back garden diy type affair. So, no problem deciding if we should have a cash bar, we’re just going to get in a load of fizz, a keg of beer or two, lots of bottles of wine – and maybe some spirits although I’m not sure about that part – could be dangerous?

    The problem is as we’re in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, how much booze do we get so we don’t run out, but also don’t break the bank buy totally overestimating what people will drink? Any advice on liquid volume consumption would be much appreciated (there will be 76 drinkers attending, the party starts at 3pm…)

  7. Our venue has actually advised us not to have an open bar! The wedding coordinator has also talked me out of having five bottles of wine per table and into three plus a ‘bank’ of extras that staff can replenish where necessary. In her experience, people abuse extra free wine/open bar to a massive extent – lovely stories about her having to clean up vomit/scrape people off the floor! – and whilst I’d like to think my guests have some decorum, I know in my heart of hearts that a few of them (yes, I’m looking at you, ski season cronies…) just don’t! So we’ll be offering welcome drinks (Pimms, local ale and cider), the table wine and sparkling stuff for the toasts. Any left over wine from the meal ‘bank’ can also be used for evening guests.

  8. Congratulations Jenny, that’s great news!!

    That sounds like very sound advice to me. I’ve never been annoyed about having to pay for my drinks post dinner, and most weddings I’d been to did have a cash bar.

    In France, cash bars are BIG no-no’s (partly because they don’t do evening guests over there, another big no-no) so we are having an open bar. Our venue doesn’t make us pay corkage though so we’re just going to buy lots of booze at a supermarket the day before and that’ll be that!

    I’d say the one big problem with open bars in general is that people are less worried about finishing their drink and ordering another, which can be a total waste and inflates the bill at the end of the night…


  9. Congrats Jen! Whoop great news! I wondered last week when you mentioned on twitter about being in a grump…..!

    Well my man works in the alcohol trade, he makes the worlds best vodka (2010 ahem) no less and well he used to be a brewer so its kinda of expected for him to provide drinks ahoy, and we want to. We are negotiating our venue at the moment and the current top one allows you to provide ALL your alcohol with NO corkage it is amazing.

    When there is a free bar it is really nice as it saves you a few pennies but I don’t tend to get extra pissed because you can. However I went to one wedding where beer and wine were free but anything else you had to pay for, not great for me as I am a vodka or cocktail kinda girl!

    Do it if you can afford to, don’t if you can’t, your guests will still have an awesome time, they’re there for you after all not the free booze.

  10. Ah yes, we’ve rather anguished over this. We watched fiance’s nieces and nephews (all late teens and early 20s I hasten to add) use it as an excuse to try evey type of liqueur at his mum’s birthday party and whilst I’m happy to buy people a drink, if they’re just taking the piss (to, er, get pissed) than I draw the line.

    Then we thought we’d charge £1 a drink for wine/beer and it might deter the above behaviour and also stop people losing the run of their glass, shrugging and just getting another.

    We’ve finally decided to do an open bar – but wine and beer only (and soft drinks of course, we’re not the Nick O’Teen of booze); with the exception of the teens, they’re a pretty trustworthy lot.

  11. ooh good topic!

    My chap has suggested that we put a note on the invites asking everyone to bring a bottle of their favourite spirit – then we buy in some bubbles and wine for the meal and speeches, and a couple of kegs of beer for the boys, but just hire a cocktail barman for the evening who mixes up whatever he can think of from the 70-odd bottles of spirit we’d then have!

    Guaranteed drunk-dancing, but do you think this seems a bit cheeky? whaddayareckon peeps?

  12. Hiya! Getting married next May, we could never afford an open bar! I don’t think people expect it these days… thank god. We are paying for reception drinks, and table wine though which should keep everyone going for a while. xx

  13. Huge congrats on baby no 2!! 🙂

    Great post also, I never even considered an open bar – we simply couldn’t afford it and when I think about what we have stretched to instead – An awesome 5 piece band for evening entertainment!

    Would I prefer for guests to be merry out of their own pockets and dancing to awesome music, or sozzled out of our pockets and no dancing due to no music? No brainer for me! Nor would I ever expect to go to a wedding with an open bar; I have never been to one to date!! x

  14. Congratulations!!! 🙂

    You know I have never been to a wedding with an open bar, so we didn’t feel too bad about not having one either. We had a lot of military folk at our wedding (inc the groom) and I have been to enough mess functions to know that military + free booze = a very messy night!

    We provided a glass of bubbly per guest for the drinks reception, and one for the toasts, plus a bottle of red and a bottle of white per table (8-10 people per table) with instructions to the staff to pop another bottle onto tables that had run out (We also had bottles of water on each table). We had bought enough wine for 2 red and 2 white per table plus a few extras just in case (we paid a fair whack in corkage but it still worked out cheaper for us than the drinks package). In the evening it was cash bar, but as we still had quite a few bottles of wine left we got the staff to dot these around the tables for the evening too. We didn’t have any complaints, and we had plenty of people on the dance floor – sometimes it is more to do with the playlist than it is quantity of booze! 😉


  15. Open bar is a tricky one! Our budget just doesn’t allow for it but I have honestly never been at a wedding and been annoyed because I had to pay for a drink or two (or 7).

    We have been to one wedding with an open bar and as a result my lovely other half had to be put to bed in a very posh persons house at 730.. Cash bar for me then!


    ps congrats Jen x

  16. We were only talking about alcohol last night!
    To be honest, we haven’t even considered an open bar – neither of our families are big drinkers so an open bar really wouldn’t be something that would be really appreciated!

    The only people I would anticipate really making use of it are the people we would rather not make use of it!! (if you know what I mean!)

    We are buying enough wine for 4 bottles per table (8-10 people per table), plus soft drinks and also mulled wine after the ceremony

    I have never been to a wedding with an open bar so can’t say I have ever thought too much about it or been offended at having to buy my own drinks at all!

  17. Open bars can be deadly! I tended bar for a couple of years and found people generally take advantage of a free bar (once had 60 people drink me dry when I had enough booze in place for a regular function of 200 paying guests, let’s not even talk about the aftermath). I don’t think guests should be expecting a total free day out, they are invited to join in the celebrations….not have a day trip and booze fest at the bride and grooms expense. It’s a bit like the whole transporting your guests around the place debate for me, it’s a nice thing to do if you have the budget without impacting on other areas of your wedding and life in general but definitely not a must do.

  18. Saying that we are doing bubbles on reception, champagne toast and half bottle wine per person…and after that it’s up to the guests x

  19. We had an open bar at our wedding but then we got married in South africa and the whole bill only came to about £500.00!( bargain). No one expected us to have an open bar but as we coudl afford it we did it. We are going to a very fancy wedding later this year ( couple and there families are loaded) yet we have been told no open bar. Now if you go for one of the most upmarket venues i know of and dont provide an open bar and expect your geuest to fork out a load of money – as a guest i am not happy. I think it is also important to be upfront about these things and make sure no one is expecting it. I love the idea of stating whats on the open bar and what if you want someone else you can pay for it.

  20. We had an open bar until 4am. It was totally necessary and anthing else in my opinion looks a little cheap espically if you yourself are wearing a 3K dress and Jimmy Choo shoes… and then have a large gift list as I have seen.

    We spent the same amount on beverages as we did on food as it was based on a per drink basis, so it was something like 7K on food and another 7 on drinks. In the end it was worth it, everyone had a good time and we all had sooo much fun!

    However my wedding was in Germany where this is standard and expected so I guess you need to judge against what weddings you have been too in the past and what they offered you as a guest.

  21. We had our caterers serve drinks in the afternoon, then a mobile bar was set up from about 7. The in-laws bought the alcohol for the afternoon, we kept it cold in trugs of ice and water. 4 years on and the in-laws still have a few bottles left!

  22. I love a wedding with an open bar….and I love a wedding when I have to pay for my drinks.

    Your guests will love your wedding whether they have to pay for booze or not but I would suggest you let them know beforehand so they can bring their wallets!

    Have a lovely day x

  23. This has been a hot topic in our house. The caterer we have chosen does offer a bar service but the prices are a bit steep. My other half was adamant that he didn’t want our guests paying £££’s for drinks, and I am inclined to agree.

    We couldn’t afford to provide an open bar (which I for one wouldn’t expect at a wedding!), but I don’t want our guests to feel out of pocket. So, we have opted to pay our caterer a one off bar fee to provide barmen and glasses, and we’re providing all the booze and soft drinks. I’ve arranged for kegs of local beer, larger and cider, and we’ll also be serving wine and limited spirits – gin (my favourite, so we’re having 4 types!), vodka and Jack Daniels.

    To recoup some (hopefully all, maybe more!) of the cost we are putting an honesty box by the bar. In my invites I included some text which basically says ‘to save you guys paying extortionate bar prices we’ll be providing the booze, but a contribution to the honesty box would be appreciated’.

    So I guess what we’re providing is a bit of a half way house. We’ve had great feedback from our guests who all think this is a good idea, and most have said they’ll stick a £20 in at the beginning of the evening (cheap for a night out!) and then the rest of the night it will feel like an open bar. Win win!

  24. We are providing the celebration drinks after the ceremony and then table wine with the meal. After that we are going to put a limit of about £400 behind the bar to start after the meal for beer and wine. If people want something else they can buy it, and when the money runs out people can buy drinks. I figure that after having about 5 or 6 free drinks people will be in a happy/buzzed place and won’t flinch at having to pay for additional drinks.

  25. We are having a teeny tint wedding of 16 so am happy to pay for their drinkies for the day! We are having a party with 150 – 200 people when we get back though and like Emily said above, our party venue talked us out of even considering a free bar! They also advised us to remove shots from the bar options – sound advice when my fiancee is a rugby boy probably! We are providing welcome drinks then popping some beer and wine on tables – once thats gone its paid bar! No-one seems to have minded so far and I certainly haven’t minded when I’ve been a guest at other weddings! If people are going to make a fuss about popping their hand in their pockets for their own booze then they aren’t the people I want at my do anyway! A wedding is a celebration of love, not an excuse to get ratted and make a tit of yourself at someone else expense! Stick to your guns and your budget!

  26. I think a free bar is a lovely gesture (if you can afford it) but I would certainly never expect one as a wedding guest. I knew we couldn’t (weddings cost a fortune as it is) and we’re just providing welcome drinks, table wine and champers to toast.

    From experience we went to 5 weddings last year and only 1 had a free bar. Everyone had a great time at all of them. And, in agreement with other comments here, I had to drag the boy away from the

  27. …oops, using my phone sorry! I dragged him away from the free bar as he drank way more than he would normally!

    Have a fab day whatever you decide! Im getting married in september too, only 5 months to go!!! Xx

  28. We have had mini cards printed which say ‘have the first drink on us’ and we tucked 1 per guest in all the invites. This is for the evening bar only, afternoon guests will have wine, soft drinks and water plus a glass of fizz provided at the tables. Anything else an they will have to go pay for it at the bar. We have a stock of extra cards for close family (our kids and parents particularly) to ensure that they don’t have to pay for any drinks. We will settle the bill at the end of the eve. This seemed to be a good compromise between free bar or cash bar plus it’s clear to everyone that they have to pay for everything past the first drink so there are no surprises.

  29. Thanks for sharing this problem — it certainly resonates with me.

    My partner & I are getting married next year, & it is a struggle to save for the basics, let alone an open bar. BUT, I do feel really strongly about being a good hostess, & with guests from the States, UK, Ireland, Austrailia, I’m very conscious of etiquette. We’re doing an entirely DIY wedding (throwing a party in a private residence in the country, hiring caterers, making our own desserts, popping over to France to stock up on the vino) we’re going to cover the wine & beers (& soft drinks!), and then hiring a barman to have a paid spirit/cocktail bar for the evening.

    I really hope our guests won’t mind, but as lots of you have said, they are coming to celebrate with us, not for a free p*$$ up! Happy wedding planning & please don’t let this stress you out too much! <3

  30. Congratulations Jenny! lovely news!

    There is no way that we would be able to offer a free bar, like many others offering welcome drink, wine on tables and bubbly for speeches!

    Have be considering an idea like Shirley’s, which I experienced at a wedding we attended in December where every guest was given a drinks token with their favour and that was for any drink behind the bar. Thought this was a lovely touch and a good compromise between the two – the ones we got were silver tokens but you could tailor these to suit the style of your wedding, and for those creative types could be another little element to have fun with designing!

  31. We had an open bar at our wedding last year. We set a limit and didn’t tell our guests so that they would come prepared in case the money ran out and be smiley happy whilst it was there. Our bar cost us much less than we had thought…i guess we costed it based on the max amount each guest could have possibly drunk (think best man after speech rations!) We are really happy we did it…..although maybe we should have told people before hand as one poor friend went missing for half an hour trying to find a local cash machine to get the first round in!

  32. I have been to a few weddings, not heaps, but a few. I have never come across an ‘open bar’ at said weddings. I would never expect someone else to pay for me to get drunk! I think it is nice if guests can enjoy some wine with the meal and a glass of bubbly for the toasts but that is more than adequate!! Don’t feel the need to have an open bar, just do what you want 🙂

  33. Interesting post – again I wouldn’t ever presume a free bar if I was a guest at a wedding. We didn’t have one – with 200+ guests in the evening there was no way we could afford it. We did pay £150 for our caterers to do a bar, I was a bit aggrieved to do this as I knew they would have made a fortune with our guests! We wrote something on our invites like “Please bring some pennies as a pay bar will be available” As far as I know no-one grumbled! Of course the guests for the meal had an arrival drink, plenty of wine and some fizzy stuff for the toasts on us! Don’t get me started on corkage – we refused all caterers who tried to charge us corkage to serve our wine for our marquee wedding – £6 for you to open and serve a bottle of wine that I paid for and in my own garden?!?

  34. We’re hoping to have bottles on the table with the meal but then a pay-yourself bar. Recently went to some friends’ wedding where they effectively subsidised the bar so that altho everyone had to buy their own drinks, they were at a significantly reduced price. We might do something similar. I don’t really want to pay for the privilege of everyone getting sloshed (esp when i don’t really drink!) and I certainly don’t get offended if i have to pay for drinks so we’re undecided yet….

  35. Whaaa! Congrats Jenny!

    We are not having an open bar, because we really can’t afford it. I think it’s good courtesy to make it known that people will need to bring funds for their own drinks in the evening, especially if the venue is quite remote. So on our invitation info sheet, we’re putting somethig along the lines of “there will be a light buffet and cash bar in the evening”. Would love to be able to provide free drinkies, but with over 100 guests for the day alone it’s just not possible.

  36. Do you know what – I have never been to a wedding with an open bar, and actually never considered having one myself. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very generous gesture for your guests but I guess what with the canapés, toast bubbly, wine on the tables, food etc etc I just um…..thought that was plenty really.

    My Dad did go to the bar and buy everyone their “first” drink as we made our way to the live music but then I had 60 guests which was a considerably different bill to if I had 260… obviously!

    I’m finding all of your feedback really interesting and as always really helpful to Jenn I’m sure.

    Charlotte xxx

  37. Jen…. Congratulations!

    @charlotte neither have i! all weddings i have been to you get one welcome drink (which is normally 2 as the men don’t like fizzy wine so we drink theirs!) and then a toast drink. Some weddings provide wine for meal some weddings haven’t. And those at the table that do not drink wine normally do a kitty to get what they would like to drink.

    We are having a marquee ceremony in the garden of our local assembly rooms, then meal & dancing in the main hall. So we are providing jugs of cocktails, prosecco, beer & whisky for guests after wedding. Then of course a toast drink, beer & wine for tables. With outside catering coming in to do meal, canapes and bar we have it covered. If guests do not like what we have provided then the bar is always there for them to pay for what they would like during the day. we are having 80 guests day but adding 200-300 for night. so cash bar for then as we could never afford an open bar!

    We are lucky that where we are having our wedding we are cutting costs of having a hotel supplying welcome drinks, table drinks etc. by supplying them ourselves.

  38. Oooh, this is me- how exciting! And so helpful- thank you all so much for your various suggestions & thank you Jenny. And congratulations! It’s so good to hear what you all think & good to hear so many weddings don’t have open bars. I really want to give everyone an amazing day & so we might look into one of the options such as putting a certain amount behind the bar, or trying the first drink on us idea, that’s pretty cool.
    All of these comments have been so reassuring. You’re all just so darn lovely!

  39. Ooh congrats Jenny re: pregnancy! Very exciting!

    We are having this dilemma as H2B is South african where (apparently) its customary to have an open bar! The trouble is at our venue (hotel in central London) drinks are very expensive and I really dont want to bankrupt ourselves! I also have never been to a wedding with an open bar so I dont think its really neccessary however I dont want people to feel they cant afford to have a drink! Eek! I think we might go for open bar but beer and wine only?!


  40. After reading the comments and getting married in 10 weeks I am sure of what we want to do. I have been to weddings with open bars and every time there was a disaster…one involved a good friends cousin and a destroyed ‘poshed up portaloos’ which the brides father had to subsequently buy! I think subsidising drinks is sensible and no one should expect a free booze up. My dad always gave money to the wedded couple based on ‘how much it cost to feed you’ not how much it cost go get you drunk…and given he has four kids it was always a healthy gift! 🙂

    Our friends know we are passionate about good food and so we have gone all out on that. We are going to provide free soft drinks and subsidised real ale after the usual arrival drinks/wine on tables/prosecco toasts. I want to enjoy our wedding and our guests not be worrying that someone is abusing my hospitality or offending my family.

    People who ‘expect’ anything for free are not true friends in my opinion.

  41. I think an open bar is definitely on the ‘nice to have’ list rather than ‘must have’.
    I do think creating a two-tier system for guests is a bad idea, something similar to this happened at my parents wedding (not down to them) and there is still grumbling about it 38 years later!

  42. Oh and don’t forget to negotiate!!when I saw it was a ‘quote’ that immediately told me they had leeway…with a little email we now have a round of prosecco worth £350 and money off lager along with no charges at all for the children over the two days-an additonal £150 saved. Try it- it’s not an offence to ask 😉

  43. Congratulations Jenny!

    At this point in the discussion I think all bases have been covered, but I just wanted to add that one of the best pieces of advice that we received was from our caterers and that was to hire someone to act as barperson.

    They told us that in their (considerable) experience even the most diligent guests won’t be particularly mindful of ‘finishing’ bottles of wine before opening new ones! They said that often when they’re clearing up they’ll find twenty half-empty bottles of wine kicking around the venue! We weren’t sure if we could justify the expense, but I’m so glad we did – we had no wastage, but were left with quite a few bottles of wine which we just took home to our ‘wine cellar’ 😉

    So, in short, we did have an open bar, but kept it limited and kept it manned!

  44. Congratulations Jenny!

    Open bar, according to my dad, is a non-negotiable for my wedding – he will stump up for whatever it costs, which considering that at my sister’s wedding he did the same and the bill ran to a couple of thousand for 100-odd people, is really generous 🙂 I think it is a tradition thing, he’s quite old-fashioned when it comes to weddings which is why I think he wants to do it. That said, thankfully none of mine or my OH’s family weddings have ended in people going too nuts with the open bar (at least not to my knowledge!), so if we were to do it I’m pretty sure I could trust people not to go mental.

    It is definitely not a common thing though – the vast majority of the weddings I’ve been to were cash bars, and I was quite happy to pay; I certainly wouldn’t go to a wedding without money in my purse for the bar. I also used to work behind the bar in a hotel that had a monopoly on local weddings and whilst you would get a few fathers of the bride who’d put set amounts behind the bar the majority of the weddings I worked at were cash bars.

  45. Awesome post, Jenny, about a very contentious subject!

    We initially want to offer an open bar, but with 200 guests in the evening, realised this was, well, a bit daft! It would have taken almost half our budget!

    Of the 12 weddings we went to last year, half were open bars. They were the ones with the most drunken/embarrassing behaviour, and I think spendning the money on a cracking band or DJ is more likely to get the dancefloor going.

    We don’t have to pay corkage during the day (thank God – 160 guests would mean a lot of corkage!), so have plenty of wine and bubbly ready!

    Remember that if your caterers are charging you corkage for a marquee wedding, they do have to cover the cost (and delivery/collection/washing up) of all the glasses, and staff to serve the drinks, which does add up. However, when I worked at Blenheim Palace, the corkage was £15 per bottle of wine, which was a tad extreme!!

    And most importantly… CONGRATULATIONS JENNY O!!!! A wee brother or sister for the gorgeous William – too exciting!! xx

  46. Congratulations Jenny!

    We had originally decided on having an open bar (given it was a destination wedding in the USA with 30 guests).

    However, our caterer would have swung us if we’d had even more guests because they gave us a set figure per person for unlimited wine, beer and spirits. (It was n extremely reasonable figure, I think about $35 a person, which, given how much some family and friends can drink, I thought was too good to be true!) But it worked out perfectly, apparently people don’t drink as much as we thought (plus we only had the caterers i until 11pm and then people drank the alcohol we had supplied for the rehearsal dinner the night before, as there was lots left over!

  47. Hello Jen and everyone,

    I realise this post is 5 months old but I have a quick question…

    We are hosting our wedding for about 100 people in a marquee at my parents house. Is it considered ‘awfully bad manners’ (snooty voice) to ask people to pay for a bar when you are having the party at your house (garden)? Even very cheap prices would perhaps deter some of the onslaught of drunken guests…?

    I am just trying to think of ways to save, as I can imagine the nightmare that we may face if we have an open bar….. If it’s too cheeky (and I fully get that) then perhaps we just limit what is served? Or have one or two very trustworthy bartenders who can make sure there isn’t wastage of wine etc?

    Does anyone have any thoughts? Any help/support would be just wonderful.

    Laura xx

    1. Hi Laura,

      Newly wed here! We had our wedding reception in a marquee on a farm therefore had to provide the bar for a similar amount of guests as yourself. We were on a tight budget so couldn’t have paid for it therefore had informed guests it was a cash bar but cheap drinks. It may depend on the type of guests you have I guess but no one even questioned it and even commented on cheap prices in comparison to what you can spend at an actual venue.

      I think as long as you charge not much more than cost price and inform people that you only have the facilities for cash payment then all’s good 🙂

      We provided welcome pimms and bottles of wine per table then made vouchers for the wedding party for some free drinks and had a couple of games for the guests to then win free drinks which everyone really enjoyed.

      Hope that helps a little, but I say just go for it x

  48. Hey @samantha! Thank you so much. Great advice and what a great idea to have some games to win drinks! Now, if only I could stop waking up at 2am every night thinking about wedding stuff and actually get some sleep! 🙂 Laura xx

  49. Hello, We are having our own marquee wedding, and are planning on doing wine on the tables, toast and welcome drinks then a bar in the evening which we are organising ourselves. But what and how much do we stock, we have got 110 to the day and an extra 30 to the evening. Totally clueless…


    Jayne x

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