Open Bar vs Cash Bar – Overview and 6 Tips to help you choose

open bar vs cash bar

Open Bar vs Cash Bar – A little background

Having an open bar assures guests that drinks are on the house, while a cash bar means drinks are to be paid for by the guests. An open bar optionally can also include a notice that guests need not tip since the host will tip. A cash bar involves working with a bartending service that will show up at your at your wedding with an alcohol supply and charge guests for each drink.

The choice of open bar vs cash bar can be a vital decision for your wedding. There is no perfect answer to which option is right. Each couple can have a different budget, guest drinking habits, wedding style, etc. We hope we can help guide you into choosing whether an open bar or a cash bar is right for you.

Can you afford an open bar?

Maybe you are getting married very young without financial help from parents. Or could it be that you still have tons of student debt and can’t pay it down fast enough? Maybe you had bad luck spell and were out of work or underemployed for a while. You could even be a recovering shopaholic that has mountains of bills to pay. It doesn’t matter how you got here. If you can’t afford a cash bar, then you shouldn’t have one. Your guests will understand because they see that you are barely getting by.

Are your guests more fun to be around when drinking?

If many of your guests are angry drunk alcoholics, you may want to have a cash bar. Free drinks could cause them to drink more than they would have if they had to pay for their drinks. On the other hand – do your guests dance more and liven up the party after a few drinks? Having an open bar can go a long way to getting everyone to dance and be in a good mood.

What are your guests’ expectations? What have you seen at similar weddings?

Each region/city/town/ethnicity can have its own culture and expectations. In a Polish wedding, for example, most Polish guests would expect it to be an open bar. If you had a cash bar, the main topic of conversation for the night would be about how the hosts are cheap. You don’t want the center of the attention of the evening to be on this topic. There are other cultures where rarely anyone drinks.

Are you having a simple wedding where you insisted on having no gifts?

Most guests give a gift (usually cash) that is large enough to cover the cost of inviting them. If you are trying to keep it straightforward and low budget and have asked for no gifts, it is entirely reasonable for you to have a cash bar.

Are you and your fiancee non-drinkers?

If you are non-drinkers and you spend most of your time with your friends without drinking then having a cash bar seems more reasonable. It is not part of your culture, but you are giving the option to guests to purchase a drink if they prefer it.

We hope this helped you think through the choice of open bar vs cash bar. Most weddings tend to be an open bar, and unless some of the above reasons apply to you, we would advise you to have an open bar. It usually makes the night more fun, guests happier, and encourages dancing. Having an open bar doesn’t mean you have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on it. We have a guide on how to save money on your open bar. Let us know in the comments if this helped you decide open bar vs cash bar or if you have any other tips.


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