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Savvy November 2022

Ending open bar before ending reception?

Natalie, on June 10, 2021 at 4:38 PM Posted in Wedding Reception 0 15
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At our wedding venue, guests have to get there by car. The vast majority of guests either live within 20 minutes of the venue or will be in a large airbnb at a place a few miles down the road.

Recently, my parents strongly encouraged my fiancé and I to consider switching from open bar to cash bar/no bar approx. 60 minutes before the end of the reception. I.e., open bar would be available for guests to enjoy from cocktail hour all the way through some dancing (roughly four hours). I think their hope is to curb drinking before folks have to drive home/to the after party. I'm unsure, as I want to look out for my guests' well being, but I also believe they're capable of making a responsible decision when it comes to drinking. Fiancé and I are paying for everything in the wedding, but I'm an open book when it comes to my parents' advice.

Has anyone hosted a wedding or been to a wedding that used this system? Thoughts on how you as a guest would feel, or would you care at all?

15 Comments

Latest activity by Lisa, on June 11, 2021 at 11:32 PM
  • Cool
    Super July 2020
    Cool ·
    • Flag
    I would not recommend doing this. Like you said, people should be responsible enough to know when to stop drinking if they are driving, switching to a cash bar would only leave people on a negative note. I think it’s normal to have last call 20-30 minutes before the party ends.
    • Reply
  • Toby
    Beginner June 2021
    Toby ·
    • Flag

    Our guests are also driving themselves, either from the hotel 20 minutes away or home about an hour away. We've decided to trust our guests to drink responsibly and our caterer will be closing the bar 30 minutes before the end of the evening. I don't think I would recommend switching to a cash bar at the end (might be a weird way to end the night), just close it at whatever point would make you feel comfortable.

    • Reply
  • Stacey
    Super May 2021
    Stacey Online ·
    • Flag
    Our venue closed the bar 30 minutes before the reception ended. I think this is fairly common.
    • Reply
  • Apryl
    Devoted March 2022
    Apryl ·
    • Flag
    The weddings I've been to did a last call about 30 minutes before the end of the reception to give everyone a chance to sober up.
    It's not an uncommon thing to do.
    • Reply
  • Sarah
    Master September 2019
    Sarah ·
    • Flag
    Like others have mentioned, I would just close the bar 30 minutes early. I never really understood the idea of cash bars deterring people- maybe because the few cash bar weddings I’ve attended have had just as many drunk people at them as the ones that were open bar.
    • Reply
  • Ashlee
    Expert September 2022
    Ashlee ·
    • Flag

    Does your venue allow for cars to be left overnight? My sisters venue did, so she included a sign near the exit that cars could be left overnight and ubers were encouraged for anyone under the influence (not that exact wording but you get the point).

    Also I've been to weddings where they switched to cash bar at a certain point, and it did not deter anyone. People who have had a few and want to continue having a good time are going to be willing to pay if they want more drinks.

    • Reply
  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
    • Flag
    This is extremely common to cut off the bad an hour before close. Then serve coffee and other nonalcoholic beverages during that time.


    No bar is always preferable to cash bar.
    • Reply
  • Cyndy
    Rockstar May 2019
    Cyndy ·
    • Flag
    Most weddings have last call about 30 minutes before the reception ends. If people are old enough to drink, they are old enough to be responsible. I wouldn’t recommend stopping earlier than that or having a cash bar.
    • Reply
  • P
    January 2014
    Pam ·
    • Flag

    Pretty much every wedding I've attended closed the bar 30-60 minutes before the end of the reception. Most of them even set up a coffee/tea bar at that point, too, which was really welcome and a nice touch.

    • Reply
  • Hanna
    VIP June 2019
    Hanna ·
    • Flag

    We had an open bar and our venue had a "last call" at the bar 30 minutes before the reception ended. At most weddings I've attended, the bar typically closes 30 minutes before the end of the reception

    • Reply
  • B
    Savvy October 2021
    Brittany ·
    • Flag

    To echo what others have said, it is very common for the bar to close 30-60 minutes before the end of the reception. No need to make it switch to a cash bar, just close it (but give guests a good heads up).

    • Reply
  • S
    Expert November 2021
    Sara ·
    • Flag

    We're having an ultra-formal black tie wedding and even our open bar will be closing somewhere between 15-30 minutes before the end of the reception. It's very common for the bar to have a last call before the end of the night and close shortly before the reception ends. No need to switch to cash, just close the bar!

    • Reply
  • L
    Lady ·
    • Flag

    I think it's kinda crappy to pull a bait and switch like that. Either close the bar completely a little before you're venue closes (lots of people will probably leave at that time) or just hvae it be open the whole time. It's not uncommon to hear a last call and then the DJ plays a few more songs, then it's over.

    • Reply
  • SHY
    Master January 2022
    SHY ·
    • Flag

    I agree with everyone else about not switching it to a cash bar. You'll have a lot of confused and upset guests when they go up for their next drink to find that they have to pay.

    Our guests are driving themselves, and we trust them to be responsible and not drink and drive. We have a shuttle bus that will take us and the bridal party to and from the hotel, but we aren't advertising that since the venue is 25 minutes from the hotel/city. We don't want guests taking advantage of that knowledge and having way more people than estimated wanting to use it, since each trip/wait would be almost an hour wait.

    Most weddings have the DJ announce 'last call' within 20-30 min. of closing time. So I honestly think that would be the best way to go. It gives your guests plenty of time to get their last drink, and the bartenders time to close up and clean their stations.

    • Reply
  • L
    Lisa ·
    • Flag
    Your venue and bartender have local/state requirements for “last drink” as it relates to venue closing time. I would reach out with them to confirm when your dj should announce last call. Usually the announcement is made 30 minutes prior to last call and the last drink is served 30 minutes prior to shut down.
    • Reply

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