8 Wedding Bars To Consider for Your Big Day

There are several wedding bar types to choose from, but budget, guests and reception style may influence your decision.
8 Wedding Bars To Consider for Your Big Day
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Elizabeth Ayoola
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Elizabeth Ayoola
The Knot Contributor
  • Elizabeth contributes a range of lifestyle content to The Knot.
  • She also works as a full-time writer at NerdWallet and contributing writer at ESSENCE and POPSUGAR.
  • Elizabeth has a degree in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King's College London.
Updated Feb 18, 2023

You don't need a wedding bar to throw a successful wedding, but bars can add color to your big day. Guests who appreciate a good drink may even look forward to hovering at the bar and ordering their favorite cocktail. But how do you choose a reception bar for your wedding that matches your guests needs and your budget? This article may be a good place to start as we'll outline some of the most popular types of wedding bars.

We spoke to a few experts who will shed light on the different bar packages for weddings. Ultimately, your guests, their needs and your budget should determine the type of wedding bar you settle for.

Open Bar

An open bar wedding, as the name suggests, is when there's a free-for-all bar for guests. You won't have to worry about shelling out any dollars on drinks as the hosts cover the bill. It's also the most popular type of wedding bar, according to The Knot Real Wedding Study, with 57 percent of couples opting for a full open bar.

"Most couples are looking to create an unforgettable experience for their guests and often that doesn't include guests deep diving into their wallets or searching for the nearest ATM," says Camille Plummer, owner of JunePlumm Events in Brooklyn, New York. Plummer says it could cost the couple an average of $45-$90 per guest but the price hinges on details like the liquor brands you choose and hours of service.

Open bars may be a good idea if you have guests who enjoy drinking and want a variety of drink options.

Cash Bar

According to the Real Wedding Study, just 6 percent of weddings have cash bars, meaning guests have to pay for drinks out-of-pocket. "Cash bars are definitely more cost effective for the couple. It affords them the opportunity to provide alcoholic options without the complete and total financial responsibility," says Plummer.

If you're wondering why a couple would choose to do a cash bar, remember that the average cost of alcohol at a wedding is $2,400, according to our study. However, there is a wide range of costs, and a wedding bar with top-shelf alcohol can easily run over $10,000!

Plummer adds that cash bars may be an ideal option for couples with guests who aren't big on alcohol. "Whether it is for personal, cultural, religious or other reasons, this option allows you to save on cost for a full bar but still offers guests the option to partake if they so choose."

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Keep in mind that for cash bars, the service provider typically needs to have the right licensing to sell alcohol. Consider verifying before booking.

Signature Cocktails

Want to wow your guests and add a personalized touch to your drink selection? Then signature cocktails may be a way to go. This type of drink offering may also be the playground for creative couples who enjoy the idea of creating their own drinks.

"Signature cocktails continue to be a hit for most of my clients," says Renee Rimson, owner of Triple R Unlimited in Orlando, Florida. "With this service, I am able to create cocktails that fit the personality, drink preference, color scheme and even the wedding's theme for the couple," she says.

Rimson adds that signature cocktails may be ideal for couples with a robust guest list as usually only one or two liquors are used. It can also be a way to prevent unwanted crowds at the bar seeing as cocktails can be pre-batched or made to order. Signature cocktails can begin at $200 and are usually an add-on to limited bar services.

Limited Bar

Couples who don't have the money to splurge on drinks or simply don't want to splurge that way could consider a limited bar, or a bar that only offers wine and beer (and maybe a single type of liquor). Oftentimes, open bars can come in different packages, but the goal is to limit options and costs. In fact, our study showed that 21 percent of couples had a limited bar of just wine and beer at their reception.

"The less liquor options provided, or the lower-tiered liquors served, will impact per guest cost," says Plummer. "Couples interested in this option may choose a wine and beer only option, signature drinks only or limit total hours of alcohol service. Instead of four or five hours of service, couples will opt for one to three hours of service." The average cost of limited bars can range from $20 to $35 per person.

Dry Wedding

As mentioned above, some people don't drink for religious or cultural reasons. It could also be to respect sober guests. As you can guess, couples who don't drink and have guests who mostly don't drink are less likely to have a bar with alcohol at the wedding (8 percent of couples don't offer alcohol at their wedding). If you fall under this category, you could consider a dry wedding or a "bar" with wedding mocktails that mimic common alcoholic beverages. It's an option for couples who still want the fun and creativity that alcoholic beverages sometimes have without the actual booze.

Self-Service Bar

Having a small and intimate wedding? A self-service bar may be for you. It makes it easy for your intimate wedding party to get and pour their own drinks at their leisure.

"What used to be a simple set up of beer and wine has now grown into intricate champagne/wine walls and displays or even decorated tables," says RImson. Keep in mind that many public venues may require a certified and insured bartender to be on premise for self service bars, she adds. A self-service package could start at $500 depending on the number and types of drinks you include.

Drink Tickets

Drink tickets for weddings are not a popular bar type at weddings, but they are an option. They are a way to control how many drinks each person has, which can also control costs. If you're concerned about how much alcohol guests consume, drink tickets can be a way to monitor this.

With drink tickets, each guest gets a ticket, which allows them access to a certain number of drinks. Once they run out of tickets, they are either unable to get more drinks that night or have to pay for any additional drinks. Once the drink tickets are marked, guests can't re-use them.

In terms of how to go about it, you could distribute drink tickets to guests on arrival.

Full Service Bar

This could be the most expensive option, but it's the one that gives you the most options as relates to drinks. A full service bar gives your guests a variety and can cater to larger weddings. You may decide to include hard liquor, wine and beer at the bar.

"Although this service is generally most expensive as it requires more supplies and staffing, it remains my most popular service," says Rimson. "Well, call, premium and ultra-premium options are available. Mixers and garnishes can also be purchased on these mentioned tiers."

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