Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: What’s The Best For You?

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open bar vs cash bar wedding

It sounds like you’re busy making some big decisions about your wedding reception. 

Like, for instance, what the alcohol situation is going to be. 

Alcohol and drinks are normally a central component to any kind of big party, being the good hosts that you are, you’re considering your bar situation. 

If you’ve been planning your reception for a while, the comparison you hear the most option is most likely open bar vs cash bar. 

But how do you know which one is best for you? 

Keep reading, and we’ll tell you all there is to know about each.

(Plus a third wedding bar option if you still can’t make up  your mind!)

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: A Brief Overview

Before we get to any major decision-making, what do these terms even mean?

Don’t worry, because we’re here to give you a rundown!

With an open bar, the hosts of the party (in this case, the couple) are paying in advance for all of the alcohol and everyone’s drinks. You’re footing the bill! 

With a cash bar, the guests must pay for their drinks themselves (with the possible exception of a celebratory champagne toast). 

Simple enough, right? 

Now, let’s dive into the pros and cons so you can figure out the best option for you. 

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: Open Bar Pros

open bar vs cash bar wedding

First, let’s look at all the pros that come with having an open bar at your wedding.

Open bars are a pretty popular wedding choice these days, and for good reason.

Let’s find out why so many couples are choosing to have an open bar wedding

Open Bars are more courteous to your guests

For one, alcohol is extremely common at parties, so chances are, your guests are going to expect to be treated to a drink or two at your reception. 

So you may as well just treat all of the drinks altogether!

(Besides, many of your guests are already spending significant amounts of money on you, including travel and gifts).

It’s a smoother operation for everybody involved 

open bar vs cash bar wedding

Let’s face it: having to pay every time can be kind of a hassle. 

It can take a while for your (potentially tipsy) guest to fumble through their wallets for some cash, and it’ll take another while for your bartender to handle the money. 

In other words, with a cash bar, everything just takes a little longer. 

With an open bar, serving your guests is a much quicker process, and instead of being at the bar, they can hit the dance floor.

You won’t have any extra calculations 

If you’re planning a wedding, you’re likely getting a bunch of different numbers and fees thrown your way. 

This might not be your idea of fun, especially if math wasn’t your strong suit when you were in school. 

With an open bar, you’re paying upfront for everything, and it’s one less convoluted calculation to worry about. 

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: Open Bar Cons

Before you decide you’re completely on board for an open bar, we think it’s best that you have a holistic idea of what you’re getting yourself into. 

Because unfortunately, open bars do come with a few cons you might want to keep in mind. 

Open bars are more expensive 

money fire wallet

Because you’re footing the entire bill for alcohol expenses, that’s going to be more money for you. 

It’s just another thing you’re going to have to incorporate into your budgeting. 

If having a big party atmosphere is a priority for you, then we say go for it. 

But if you have other priorities you want your wedding budget to cover, then there’s nothing wrong with going for an open bar! 

It also might be a waste of a budget if you know the majority of your guests aren’t going to drink very much, so it’s helpful to know what kind of guests you’re inviting. 

Your guests might get a little crazy 

This is definitely something to keep in mind if you know that more than a few of your guests enjoy their liquor. 

It’s possible that some of your guests might take advantage of all the available booze and go a little overboard. 

If you’re looking to have a more low key reception, a bunch of drunk guests will undoubtedly put a damper on the mood. 

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: Cash Bar Pros

Open bars are more expensive

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about the pros and cons of an open bar, you still might be curious about what a cash bar experience might offer

Well you’re in luck, because we’re about to talk about it! 

Stay tuned to see why couples might choose a cash bar as opposed to an open bar. 

Cash Bars Are More Affordable

This might be the biggest pro when it comes to cash bars.

Like we covered in our section about open bars, they’re significantly more expensive than a cash bar 

If you don’t see alcohol playing a central role in your guests’ interests or in the vibe of your reception, then why make the big expenses? 

Those who want to drink will take it on themselves to order their own, and you can save up for the stuff you feel matters more. 

Your Guests Won’t Take Advantage 

Some couples might get excited about the idea of free flowing liquor for their guests at their reception, while other couples may shudder at the thought. 

If you and spouse feel like the latter, then you should definitely opt for a cash bar. 

If your guests have to pay for each one of their drinks, they won’t feel tempted to overindulge. 

Open Bar vs. Cash Bar Wedding: Cash Bar Cons

cocktail margarita lime

Now, let’s look at why wedding hosts may choose not to take the cash bar route. 

Cash bars aren’t as hospitable 

To be honest, most guests are likely expecting that you’ll foot the bill for everything related to the reception. 

So they might be disappointed in the fact that they have to pay for their drinks. 

If you care about coming across as the ultimate hosts, then it might be a better idea to stick with the open bar, 

Because at the end of the day, many guests are not going to remember how hard you worked to pick the decorations when they’re bitter about having had to take out their card every time they wanted a drink.

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: A Third Compromise

If you’re still not entirely sure about which option you want to go for, then we suggest looking into a limited bar. 

A limited bar means that you’ll treat your guests to a few select drinks, like beers, wines, or champagnes. 

(You could even throw a delicious signature cocktail in there if you’re feeling generous) 

Guests would then have to pay for anything extra, like hard liquor or other cocktails. 

Sounds like a fair compromise to us. 

cheers wine glass

Open Bar vs Cash Bar Wedding: Final Thoughts

Here you have a comprehensive compare and contrast between an open bar and a cash bar, with a third option thrown in there for good measure. 

We hope we were able to facilitate the decision-making process for you, though we’re sure you’ll make the right choice for you in the end. 

But if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Sugarhollow.

Our kind, knowledgeable experts will answer every question you might have and then some. 

And if you feel so inclined, we’d love for you to host your big day in our beautiful Tennessee mountain venue. 

Whether you have an open bar or a cash bar, we guarantee it will be absolutely unforgettable. 

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Multi-Day Packages | Lodging included in ALL packages | Seasonal Pricing 

Weekday Packages

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All Inclusive Add On: Starts at $14,000

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All Inclusive Add On: Starts at $14,000

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Discover more in your brochure

Semi-Inclusive & All-Inclusive Packages

Multi-Day Packages | Lodging included in ALL packages | Seasonal Pricing 

Weekday Packages

Semi-Inclusive: Starts at $11,500

Micro-Wedding: Starts at $10,000

Elopement: Starts at $6,000

All Inclusive Add On: Starts at $14,000

Weekend Packages

Semi-Inclusive – Partial Property: Starts at $14,250

Semi-Inclusive – Full Property: Starts at $14,750

All Inclusive Add On: Starts at $14,000

Download Your Brochure

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