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Can't Afford an Open Bar, but Want One

Ask a Savvy Bride: Is It Tacky to Cut the Bar?

Wedding planning and etiquette can be tricky. If you have a dilemma like the one below, share it in our Ask Savvy group.

Dear Savvy,
My fiance and I really want to offer our wedding guests a full bar for our cocktail hour and reception, but after looking at the numbers, we truthfully can't afford it. I'm willing to get creative in order to make it happen but my fiance's idea just doesn't sit well with me. He thinks we have an open bar until we reach a certain dollar amount, then cut the bar to just beer and wine. I envision a record scratching when that time comes — do you have any ideas for us? I don't want us to look tacky or cheap.

Want the Booze Becky

To see the Savvy Bride's advice, read more.

Dear Becky,
Having an open bar at any kind of reception is no doubt expensive. With that said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with serving beer and wine to keep the cost down! If you're completely opposed to that idea, I suggest you dictate an end time for the open bar as opposed to setting a dollar amount. Perhaps you serve cocktails during cocktail hour, then close the bar for the reception. Another way to be mindful of money is to have a limited bar. Stick to just a few different kinds of alcohol (see if you can bring them in-house yourself) and shy away from specialty drinks that require additional bells and whistles.

Hope these suggestions help. While it might seem like a big deal to you, I'm sure your guests will be more concerned about having fun and celebrating you and your new husband than what alcohol they are drinking!

Ask anything budget-, etiquette-, or planning-related — well, almost anything — by posting your questions in the Ask Savvy group, and I'll find the right expert to help you out. If you are planning a wedding, already happily wed, or still looking for Mr. Right, start sharing your big day with our community. Don’t forget to check the wedding content box on your post.

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Join The Conversation
danakscully64 danakscully64 5 years
I personally love the idea of a signature drink, but it can be really hit or miss with your guests. If you decide on that, consider making it something everyone (or most) would like. Some couples just match it to their color scheme, ignoring the taste. I like the idea of a limited bar (beer/wine/basics: maybe vodka, rum, a few other liquors, plus mixers). Talk to your venue, see what deal you can get. I like the idea of setting a limit and switching to a cash bar once the limit is reach (with or without beer/wine... I think the DJ could announce it, not sure on the etiquette there). Personally, I'm not a huge fan of only the beer/wine paid for because as skigurl said, not everyone who drinks enjoys beer and wine. This is why I prefer a limit rather than beer/wine only. Just something to consider :) In the end, do what you can afford :)
chloe-bella chloe-bella 5 years
My cousin's wedding had unlimited beer, wine, and then a signature cocktail (they chose Bellinis). It was great, and I didn't even notice the lack of hard alcohol.
skigurl skigurl 5 years
I think it's fine to only offer beer and wine as "open" but ask guests to pay for mixed drinks. But I disagree with this comment: I'm sure your guests will be more concerned about having fun and celebrating you and your new husband than what alcohol they are drinking! Some people don't drink beer or wine, and when I was younger, that was me, and I wouldn't be having that much fun if I was forced to...I would be wishing they had some vodka and mix. But I'd happily pay for it...I just would be mad if there was no option whatsoever.
lickety-split lickety-split 5 years
It's your wedding. You aren't obligated to provide drinks of any kind. Let the day be what you want it to be.
Spectra Spectra 5 years
We had unlimited beer and wine and soda as well as a cash bar for those that wanted something different to drink. No one in our families are big drinkers, so no one really complained at all.
socalbeachgal socalbeachgal 5 years
I like the idea of a theme cocktail and beer and wine. And there is nothing wrong with "closing" the bar after the cocktail hour especially if you are having wine with dinner.
a1stbornunicorn a1stbornunicorn 5 years
I agree with the theme cocktail idea and perhaps even elaborating the menu to include a few signature cocktails, for variety's sake. You don't want to be worrying about how much the bar is costing you (or when you need to scale it back) on your wedding night!
filmgirl81 filmgirl81 5 years
I think beer and wine, and/or a themed cocktail is not at all tacky. What's tacky is a cash bar. And I agree with savvy about doing it by time instead of amount. Maybe you can do open bar during cocktail hour, and then stick to beer and wine.
LipstickonPaper LipstickonPaper 5 years
Becky, I'm planning my wedding for next summer and am in the same dilemma. I've seen ideas on creating a "theme cocktail" to match your decor, which can definitely cut on costs depending the drinks you purchase. I have a book called "Bridal Bargains" and it's awesome on cost-saving tips.
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