This question is all over these forums. Definitely go with an open beer/wine bar. From a purely etiquette side, it is considered poor hosting. From a practical side, most people prefer 1-2 drinks when they're at a large party/dance event. Without it, you'll likely see more people just sitting and chatting or leaving early. I don't really carry cash on my without a lot of notice, and at parties I don't like bringing a wallet at all. I feel like it's left unattended too long and/or I'll be likely to leave it there...
That being said, an open bar doesn't have to break the band. My open bar consisted of vella boxed wine; blue moon and yeungling lager beers - nothing fancy. The bar was hidden behind a wall, so no one really saw (or cared) about it. We also had two signature cocktails: one gin/one whiskey and used ingredients from the gin cocktail for a 'nonalcoholic one.' I think our entire alcohol set was $200-250 (including mixers) for 50 people.
My fiancé and I plan on mailing out little raffle tickets (3 per guest) with the invites that they can turn in to the bartender at our venue for drinks, so nobody gets too crazy and so we don’t go too broke. But that way they can moderate their own beverages throughout the whole event!
Unpopular opinion but the question was put out there! As a guest I really don't mind paying for my own drinks, though I very much appreciate a hosted drink or two. What I DO mind is, one time I went to a wedding that we knew beforehand was cash bar, but they required a $45 minimum to open a tab. Holy cow! That's the one thing I'd check with at the venue.
As someone getting married in September, we are doing open beer and wine until we hit a dollar cap, we put aside $4,500, it likely won't last all night. At that point if us paying the first almost $5k in alcohol isn't good enough for you then to me you're not our real friends and that entitlement is truly crazy.
We are doing an open bar all night with beer and wine and then allowing guests the option for cash bar for hard liquor. We are also providing mimosas and champagne all night. That way they have lots of options for non alcoholic drinks and alcohol and if they want something special they can do that as well. I’ll be letting people know on our website what the deal is with that setup.
I'm doing entirely dry, but wanted to put it out there all the events I have been to have been cash bar and we all survived. I think open wine and beer for cocktail hour is nice but honestly paying for hard liquor is really expensive and depending on your crowd would be rather unrealistic. Less than 100 people I'd say open bar might work out, but more than 100 I'd do cash.
Our venue offered a package with a certain amount of beer and wine and once that is gone then everything turns into a cash bar. Our venue didnt even offer us the option of a cash bar, and we already knew we didnt want to be paying for drinks all night. If you are having alcohol maybe have just beer and wine and the rest be a cash bar. Cash bars can be pretty pricey. Ive been to wedding where it open bar, and it was nice to get drinks- my brothers wedding...he paid an insane amount of money! And ive been to wedding where it was only a cash bar and thats fine to. I had no issue paying for my drinks. We as guests are there to celebrate the couple and the wedding, not going there to get free stuff. I dont agree with the brides that say guests shouldnt have to pay for anything at weddings. Are you kidding? Weddings are expensive, we are paying enough.
I would say open bar. We are having an open bar because we don't want our guest to have to pay more than they already are. My family is from a different state and will be paying for hotels so the least I can do is have an open bar.
The majority of guests would expect not to pay for their drinks at a wedding. A cash bar post-cocktail hour is fine if the reception is in a bar/restaurant/somewhere that they'd be paying for drinks anyway, otherwise it would be poor etiquette to expect people to pay when you're hosting.
The perfect compromise might be to have a cash bar after cocktail hour, but keep the house red (or whatever your main drink is) free all night-- that way people can drink what you're primarily serving but have the option to buy something else if they want it. Might be a controversial option- I'm sure some people might wonder why you wouldn't just make all drinks free- but it's one for consideration!
My fiance and I are thinking of doing an unlimited custom cocktail and otherwise BYOB, but I imagine it's very dependent on local culture whether or not that would be acceptable!
I think this very much depends on what is typical in your social group/location. In many parts of the country, an open bar is very much expected and to do anything else is going to be seen as very rude. That was our situation. However, we have family in the Midwest/more rural locations and their whole approach to weddings is significantly different and cash bars are very common. If you can afford to host, even beer and wine, for the entire event, I think that is definitely preferable and much more gracious hosting. But if your guests would be shocked by an open bar and you don't want to be the ones to set a new expectation for them or if there is a religious reason for no alcohol or you just can't afford it, then do what's right for you. (However, I really dislike when people say they are going to have a cash bar or limit alcohol because "they don't want people to drink too much." People who want to drink are going to do so, so I think that reasoning is really just an excuse for the couple not wanting to cover the expense.)
I like the idea of beer and wine for the guests. I am not a huge fan of just open bar for all kinds of drinks purely from a financial standpoint unless you have the funds for it. Wine and beer for guests tends to be cheaper and it just makes it simpler.
We originally were going to do a full cash bar but we may do a certain amount of beer and wine. Like maybe a dollar amount or a certain number of bottles. Our venue's bar also has the option to buy a keg so maybe we'll get a keg and like 10 bottles of wine or something then the rest is cash. It's so hard. I understand guests are coming and most will bring a gift of some kind but I feel like since we have to pay for so much already (food, dessert, favors, etc) that people can at least mostly pay for their own drinks. JMO.
My FH and I will be doing a cash bar. We are not big drinkers ourselves so we would rather spend the money on a better caterer. However, we will be providing our guests a champagne toast on us. With the cash bar, FH and I still have to pay the $6.50 service charge per person over the age of 21.