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Free Bar: Yay or Nay?

Hello all! This has probably been a topic already........ 

Basically I'm not sure whether to have a free bar or not?

My venue's catering package already has quite a lot of drink included:
- Two and a half glasses of sparkling wine or Pimms per guest for the reception
- 3/4 of a bottle of wine each for the wedding breakfast
- a glass of champagne for the toasts/speeches bit
- plus tea, coffee, water

I'm also going to give everyone a little coupon thingy each as favours so everyone can get one free drink at the bar (as I really could not think of a favour everyone would like that wouldn't break the bank- would hate to see loads of favours forgotten or left behind).

However, I've seen so many posts and articles about how all guests care about whether there's a free bar or not and that it's really "inconsiderate" for the couple to not have one.

Our wedding is really quite expensive already and I never really questioned the free bar thing until now. Baring in mind the amount of free drink I will be providing, do you think I should have a free bar as well?

Did any of you receive any backlash or comments for not having one?

Any opinions and thoughts would be great- Thank you! :)



  • MrsCToBeeMrsCToBee Posts: 2,957 New bride
    As someone who worked in pubs and function bars for years:

    DON'T DO IT.

    It will cost you a fortune, people start ordering silly amounts of multiple drinks then are very casual about leaving them half drunk and getting another one. People get too drunk. Fights start. People get emotional. Things get damaged, by vomit or violence. 
    And please don't think this won't happen because you and your family are well to do or whatever. I've seen it happen across all social classes.
    Many wedding venues actually strongly discourage or don't allow open bars these days.
    My best friend got married last year, put £1500 behind the bar and it went in LESS THAN 10 MINUTES. I didn't even get a free drink because I went for a wee and when I came back it had gone!
  • MrsCToBeeMrsCToBee Posts: 2,957 New bride
    Also to say - I have worked weddings with free bars, but no one in my social group has ever had a wedding with a free bar, and we go to 2 or 3 per year. I think most people realise weddings are very expensive, and don't expect it. I certainly don't!
  • MrsPope2018MrsPope2018 Posts: 1,383 New bride
    I've been to a couple of weddings where its been a free bar, but the majority of weddings have not. They have had the drinks for the toast/welcome drinks etc like you said but all other drinks were paid for. I've never heard anyone say anything bad about the bride&groom at these weddings. I think it's the norm in the UK at least that you pay for your own drinks. 

    At my own wedding we decided to put a set amount behind the bar for our guests and people did appreciate its and it seemed to last a lot longer than we thought it would, we were lucky no-one got stupidly drunk, well not that we were aware of anyway! 

    I think you should just do whatever you feel comfortable doing, but it is absolutely not expected and shouldn't be by any of your guests. 
  • OmRumOmRum Posts: 947 New bride
    Don't feel obliged to have a free bar if you don't have the budget. As long as you make sure people have the opportunity to purchase further drinks for themselves it's fine. It's not inconsiderate as you're already paying for a lot of drinks. 

    We paid for welcome drinks, toasting drinks and a voucher for a drink with dinner, then we had a mobile cocktail bar come in to sell drinks for the rest of the evening and it was perfect. 
  • I think free bars are quite American, and i have found a lot of online resources put a free bar as the norm but its purely because they're american articles! 

    Personally, id never do it. 

    1- I know what my friends are like 
    2- Think of HOW MANY half filled drinks you see left on tables and outside, if people aren't paying then they don't care if they put a drink down and forget which one it is, they'll just get another, but you've just paid £8 for them to have three sips of a double G&T. 
    3- Your wedding is not their piss up - if they want to get trollied they can do it on their own dime haha. 

    It wont impact anyone's enjoyment at all! I think a few drinks with food is nice, and a token is a lovely gesture, but i don't think anything more than that is expected. 
  • I'm stateside and no, I did not have a free bar at either of my weddings.
    There's the expense, first of all, which can become insane.
    Second, I think people drink a little more prudently when they are having to pay for it.
    Three, neither of my OHs drink much and I don't at all, so for us, alcohol wasn't a priority. Really good food was!
  • I completely disagree sorry.  We had a free bar and there was no violence, fights, vomiting 😟 or anything else that is noted above.  Many guests commented that they enjoyed the fact that they could order what they wanted.  I thought it made the atmosphere more hospitable, and it didn’t cost a fortune.  
  • I like the idea of doing a free bar but like you there is quite a lot of drink included in our package so I think we will
    put some money behind the bar (maybe 750/1000) about 7pm when the evening guests come so that everyone will get a free drink then but once it’s gone people will buy their own xx (60 day guests and extra 30 evening) xx
  • Laura, we had 64 guests and also had lots of arrival fizz and wine with the meal.  The bar tab only came to about £900 on top of that for all extra drinks including malt whiskey, gins, softs, beers etc and the bar was open from the meal at 5pm till midnight.  It’s not often as expensive as you would think.  
  • GinAndBlingGinAndBling Posts: 1,311 New bride
    I don't think it's expected but it's a nice touch. We went to our friends last year and they had unlimited wine on the tables, fizz, and then a free bar for the remainder of the evening, which her parents covered. The bar tab was £3k for around 70 day guests and around 30 evening. 

    Conversely we've been to several weddings without a free bar. Tokens sounds like a perfect way to do it. You could always open a tab and then buy people a drink as and when you are chatting to them as a gesture? I don't think it's expected though or inconsiderate if you don't. We've paid extra to have a no-corkage venue so will have a DIY spirits bar and a few kegs dotted around. Once that's gone there is a cash bar! 

    In terms of people getting out of hand, if they are that way inclined they will do that regardless of whether it's on your dime or theirs. If you can't trust people to behave they probably shouldn't be invited. 
    Our planning thread: We're completely winging it.
    Our report: A fun, classic May day in navy and blush
    My weightloss thread: Diet denial! 
  • I like your idea of the coupon for a drink with the wedding favors. I am thinking of doing something similar myself but maybe with miniature bottles if Gin maybe?? I don't think guests really expect a free bar and it looks like you have catered well enough for them during the day :)
  • MrsCToBeeMrsCToBee Posts: 2,957 New bride
    Poundland sell a roll of drinks tokens in their wedding range if you are looking for them - we are thinking about putting them in evening invites, and possibly adding one to the daytime favours too.

    I'm not suggesting every single wedding with a free bar gets out of hand, but having worked hundreds of functions I'm just saying the chances of it ending in tears are significantly higher if there is one. Of course some people just can't be trusted  - my sister could start an argument sober in an empty room, so I'm looking forward to seeing if she behaves. I've appointed my brother to keep an eye on her!
  • @GlitterQueen I think your drinks package already sounds plenty generous!

    The only complaint I ever had about drinks at a wedding was when we weren't told in advance that the bar was cash only (no cards) and no-one had enough cash with them! Not such an issue now that cards are almost universal - this was like 12 years ago or something.

    I've been to a few with open bars recently, but mostly because the venues kind of demanded it, and it wasn't so easy to bring in a pay bar - a farm on a hill outside Melbourne, and the mother of the bride's back garden! Both only had wine, beer and soft drinks - no spirits.
  • Laura, we had 64 guests and also had lots of arrival fizz and wine with the meal.  The bar tab only came to about £900 on top of that for all extra drinks including malt whiskey, gins, softs, beers etc and the bar was open from the meal at 5pm till midnight.  It’s not often as expensive as you would think.  
    Oh wow That’s a really good price! We’ll put what we can behind there and if it lasts great but if it doesn’t then at least they won’t be paying for a whole nights drink I guess xx
  • MrsGtoBMrsGtoB Posts: 712 New bride
    Laura, we had 64 guests and also had lots of arrival fizz and wine with the meal.  The bar tab only came to about £900 on top of that for all extra drinks including malt whiskey, gins, softs, beers etc and the bar was open from the meal at 5pm till midnight.  It’s not often as expensive as you would think.  
    That is really cheap less than 3 drinks per person? Think our friends and family would have done that in and hour  :)
    We had cocktail, fizz and beer reception drinks, mini beers with the canapés, fizz for toast and unlimited wine during the meal.  Shots as favours and a complimentary gin trolley with 5 bottles of gin and I know some of our guests still had bar bills in excess of £100!  Night guests had drink tokens for 1 drink each too.

    We only had 7 people not drinking though and the rest made up for them :) 

    I'd go with tokens and an unpaid bar, the risk is too high it would get ridiculous and people don't expect one as long as you offer some drinks.  We went to one wedding where we only got a glass of prosecco to toast and that is a bit too stingy!
  • I run a mobile bar service, and I would say you have enough already - what we call a tab bar. Once the vouchers are used up, people have to pay for their drinks.

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