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To free bar or not to free bar that is the question?

If you’re anything like me you’ll want to make sure friends and family are well looked after during your wedding day and are full of praise for what a great party you organised. The pressure to provide alcoholic drinks to make this happen is getting greater and greater and so is the cost, the bar bill could extend well into the thousands. So how do you leave guests overwhelmed by your generosity after a great night but without leaving you wanting to crawl back into bed and hide at the sheer sight of the bill in the morning? It’s not just those on a budget that should be conscious of bar spends. A venue will always encourage you to have a free bar, after all it’s in their interest. In reality there will be enough wastage and left over to fill your fridge for weeks, all of which will be charged to your account while their profits soar!

There are a few simple ways you can give your guests a great time whilst keeping an eye on what is spent.

Put a set amount behind the bar – Decide in advance how much you want to spend. Once you have come to a figure, agree with the venue that once this figure has been reached regardless of how many drinks everyone has had they will convert it to a cash bar.

Offer free wine & beer only – Restrict the free bar to only wine and beer. Do not include spirits as this is where most of the cost will be.

Signature cocktail – Select a cocktail or 2 that represents your interests or the style of your day. Make jugs of these available and complimentary for the guests that wish to drink them. Other drinks will be purchased from the bar on a cash basis.

Tokens – Make drinks tokens to be given to guests. You can either include them in the invitations or make them available on the day. If you make 100 tokens then only 100 drinks will get added to the bill. Some guests may not want to drink and will pass their tokens on to friends but that doesn’t matter the drinks will always be capped at the number of your choice.

Free bar for selected guests – It may be that you are keen to provide drinks for certain guests. For example, your bridal party or direct family. You can arrange in advance with the bar manager for this to happen. Open a tab behind the bar and make sure they are aware of exactly who can charge to it.

Stick with drinks at the table – Offer bottled wine and/or a two drink equivalent at the table to accompany the meal. Once these drinks have gone guests will have to purchase their own. Try and negotiate a drinks package with your venue in advance. Most will include a welcome drink, drink with the meal and toast drink with the wedding breakfast. If the package says wine then great but there are always other options so it’s worth deciding what you want in advance and asking them. After all, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Of course, there are many other options but whatever you choose, it really isn’t something that will make or break a great wedding reception party. Most guests won’t be bothered about paying for their own drinks so definitely do not fret about having to provide people with more than you can afford. The most important thing is deciding on your budget and sticking to it. Great news if you can provide champagne and cocktails all night for all your guests but don’t feel pressured to if you can’t. Use the money you would spend on the bar towards entertainment. It will be appreciated much more by your guests and you will get the benefit and enjoyment of it too.

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