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Free bar or no free bar?

Hi all!

Me and my fiance have not held back on the stuff we want for our wedding. Now he's thinking that we should have a free bar in the evening as this is "the only thing people want to know about" when they go to a wedding! Is anyone else having a free bar or do you have any suggestions about a compromise? I'm not sure it's a good idea especially as eveyone's getting free champagne, food and wine during the day!


  • glou1981glou1981 Posts: 471
    I would be a bit hesitant about having a free bar. After a conversation with a friend who has recently got wed i've decided to give everyone their first drink free in the evening (altho not sure how to make sure they only have one! Any ideas?) some people may take advantage of a free bar and people can sometimes get out of hand when they are drunk I'm not saying you may have any of these 'sort' but i certainly could name a few that may do this at ours!! We are having bottles if wine with the wedding breakfast anyway so the majority of guests will be pretty tipsy by then anyway!

    Good luck with whatever you decide!!

    G xx
  • Hi albanyd

    We've been having the same problem, not sure we want to have an open bar all night, worried about cost, people not worrying about putting their drink down and walking away and getting another and of course the odd person who may take advantage and get embarrissingly drunk. However the idea of an open bar was suggested by h2b dad, so we came up with this compromise.....

    after the wedding breakfast my parents are going to ask everyone to join them for a drink to celebrate and will get a drink for everyone. They may also do this in the evening for the eveinging guests. At all other times it will be a pay bar but h2b and myself and both sets of parents will have a joint tab where we can offer people to have a drink with us while we chat with people.

    Hope this gives you an idea to work with!
  • Hiya !

    I initally thought , yes , have to have a free bar but having canvassed opinion i dont think it's worth it. What I am going to do is have free beers, any wine thats left from the meals and free soft drinks, that way if people do buy spirits they are only paying for the spirit. If you have a free bar people will end up getting doubles etc just cos it's free. I am putting a 1500 limit behind the bar , to start from say 7.30 and then when it's nearing the maximum i am going to get one of the staff to come and tell me, if it's about 9pm and the tab is run out i may extend it , if it's about 11 i wont bother . end of the day people do NOT expect free drinks at a wedding so anything you do provide is a bonus and what you save on can go towards your honeymoon!
  • i was going to have a free bar but when i mentioned it to my dad he talked me out of it. He pointed out that I was supplying drinks at the begining of the day and also with the meal and that was more than enough. really i think it is personal choice and as our wedding budget has got way out of control on other things we would be pushing our luck in doing a free bar particulary as i personally know what a lot of my guests would be like in pushing their luck on the amount they drink and this way if they have to pay I hope they will not get too drunk.
  • EmmaRdotEmmaRdot Posts: 583
    I'm undecided on this one - i do quite want one because it seems to be what everybody remembers about weddings is "how expensive the drinks were"! and i don't want that to be all people will say about my wedding but i don't want people getting out of control - i'd like to say that there isn't anybody who would but it's always possible!
  • I too initially wanted a free bar but have changed my mind. Primarily coz with 150 people coming to the day we just can't afford to pay for them all night as well! I am buying drinks for after the ceremony (probably Pimms and some bottled beers or something like that) as well as wine, beer, and fizz throughout the meal. Whatever is left of that people can have at night, otherwise it will be a cash bar. Our whole day is pretty much a marquee with its own bar so I am hoping the drinks are not too expensive. I must admit that was one of the reasons why i didn't want to go with a hotel.

    People will get drunk ( i hope they do - just not paraletic!) and I think there is a danger of 'some of the lads' in particular going too far if there is a free bar. Not because they want to drink you dry, just because they will get carried away. Also looking back on the weddings I have been to, I have only been to one wedding which had a free bar - so it is certainly not expected. I may have done it if I had 50 guests (which was how many the wedding I went to had in total) but not 150. I don't think it is a huge deal. Everyone will have enough to drink throughout the day!

  • leafyukleafyuk Posts: 2,182
    Oh dear, this topic has been discussed a million times on this website and everyone sees it differently and has a different opinion. I don't think there's any one right answer - it depends on you, your family, your guests, your budget, your venue... Just do what feels right for you on your wedding day, and don't worry about what guests will expect or not expect xxx
  • WantThatOneWantThatOne Posts: 1,490
    We are having an open bar - it is my parents contribution to the wedding, we are paying all the rest ourselves. We have got a good deal with the venue though, £12.65 per person all evening and that includes all wines, spirits (doubles), shots and whatever beer we want them to get in (my Dad loves his Harveys).

    We're hoping it will encourage more people to stay overnight, we're asking quite a bit of our evening guests - traveling down to where we are for a couple of hours.
  • We are having a free bar, (just did a post about reception in a barn) as we would have to hire in a bar and pay for staff we have decided to buy all the drinks, we are not offering any spirits, we will have champagne, red,white and rose wine and a selection of beers and soft drinks.

    Anyone got any advice wether to go abroad and buy booze or is it just as cheap here?


    B x

  • Baa1234Baa1234 Posts: 122
    Hi, we are having a free bar as we are getting married at Polhawn Fort, so there is no a bar there already. I wanted a free bar just from my experiences from going to weddings. I think its really nice if there is a free bar and you can decide what you want to have. We are just having wine, orange juice, water and kegs of beer so it keeps the cost down as we are not faffing around deciding what spirits to have. Hope this helps! x
  • tcheynetcheyne Posts: 133
    We are putting a certain amount of money behind the bar and people can use it till it runs out. It will be beer, wine and soft drinks only which avoids people ordering a triple of something nasty only to go and leave it somewhere! Our friends did this at their wedding- it worked really well and the money behind the bar lasted far longer than they were expecting.

    Personally, I always think a free bar at a wedding is a nice surprise rather than something I expect, and I'm hoping that our guests will feel the same.
  • lush224lush224 Posts: 562 New bride
    I think the best compromise is to offer wine, beer and soft drinks for free. Spirits and everything can be paid for by the guest if they want it.

    I have been to 2 weddings with free bars and at both there were some guests who really took the mickey. I saw several evening guests ordering triples, doing numerous shots and ordering all sorts of concoctions/cocktails. I saw so many guests at both weddings getting a drink from the bar, putting it down then forgetting about it and ordering another. So unless money is no object and you (or your parents) are loaded I wouldn't recommend having a free bar.

  • tuppenceuktuppenceuk Posts: 5,346
    definitely not!

    have never even considered having a free bar.

    aside from the fact that we certainly couldn't afford it, (our friends have a history of being able to drink bars dry and still be respectable and un-embarrassing!), I don't think it's expected.

    I've been to dozens of weddings, and none have had a free bar - and aside from one which had hideously expensive prices (as in around £5 per pint some years ago) - nobody has really noticed or minded.

  • We're having a free bar and we're having cocktails (4 alcoholic, 2 non), plus there'll be wine, beer, larger and maybe coke. But I really have no opinion on what's best--I really do think it depends on your personal circumstances.

    Re: where to buy, we were going to france but there are so amazing wine deals around at the moment so we're getting everything now. We've got a really great cote du rhone for £3 a bottle down from £8, we're looking for a white and have found a lovely fizz, Alessandro Gallici Prosecco, from laithwaites for under £7 a bottle. We're serving prosecco rather than champagne after much discussion--I think it'll work fine and it saves us a lot of money. Do keep an eye on, sainsburys, morissons etc and you can find some amazing bargains.
  • ps there's something else you could do, which is charge a set rate for all alcoholic drinks, say £1, then people might not consume so much?

    My only fear is people wasting, ie, putting a nearly full glass down and then picking up another, but I'm hoping the formality of a hired bar will help that.
  • Jadis_NTJadis_NT Posts: 515
    We couldn't afford it anyway - but I don't think I would have done anyway.

    People do get carried away at a free bar - often accidently as they have no real reason to keep count of what they are drinking.

    I know in other countries it's expected, but I really hope it doesn't become so here.

    If you are worried about the price of the drinks, could you perhaps nnegotiate a discount, so you pay enough to ensure the bar is sensibly priced?
  • I really feel that a free bar is important, and it is something I pushed for. I have been to two weddings where it was a cash bar, and the number of people that didn't have cash was astounding - people don't carry a lot of money with them these days, and when you are in a field, in the middle of no where, and told you have to pay for all your drinks, even coke, it really puts a dampner on things - especially for the evening guests who had the good grace to bring lovely gifts, and then were asked to basically pay as if it were a night out in town. One of them even had to put a jug of water on the bar for people to drink as they didn't have the cash to buy anything, and I heard rumours of another person retrieving his card (with cash in as a gift) and taking half of it back so he could buy some drinks! If you want to limit the costs of a bar, just serve beer and wine, or perhaps have a 'signature' cocktail (there are some lovely martinis made with fruit juice, so the ingredients don't cost too much)

    What I have found, through research, and through working in the restaurant trade, is the people don't drink nearly as much as you think they will - if you have a drink on arrival, and wine with the meal, most people won't drink much more- perhaps 2 additional drinks. A lot will be driving, so they won't be drinking, any children won't be drinking, eldery relatives tend to nurse one or two drinks etc. Ask your reception what a normal bar tab is for the same number of guests you are having, perhaps cut the cost somewhere else instead (I know people would MUCH rather have a bar than favours for example - a favour at say, 4 pounds each for 100 guests is 400 pounds - that will go a LONG way to a bar bill) E.g. if you had 100 guests, 20 of whom are children, 20 of whom are driving that leaves 60. If half of those have 2 drinks each (say 3 pounds a drink) in addition to the wine with the meal that is 180 pounds. If the other half of the guests have 5 drinks (remember this is in addition to all the wine, welcome drink etc) that would be 450 pounds. That is 630 bar bill, or ditch the favours and it is 230 extra pounds for a lot of goodwill. Ob just an example, and it will depend on your guests, but I know that most of my friends wouldn't drink more than 5 pints in addition to champage and wine and a welcome drink, even the boozy ones - and most of the girls I know wouldn't drink anywhere near that!

    You can also ask the bar to limit the drinks to singles - they can state it is house policy or something, and you can have a limited spirits bar (gin, vodka, bacardi, scotch) and ditch the alcopops and bottled beer as these are the highest priced items. Ask the venue if you can supply your own alcohol, some will let you, some will charge service/corkage, but be warned, you can end up with a lot of half open bottles to take home with you! You can also instruct the waiters not to automatically fill wine glasses, but to ask people if they want more, so you should have leftover wine for the bar afterwards too.

    I've heard of several problems with some bar arrangements - e.g. where the wedding party is 'free' - the bridesmaids / ushers etc get pestered to get other people free drinks, or people claim to be in the 'wedding party' (brother of/sister of) and it isn't very fair on the bar staff to try and make the call on that. Also, if the first drink is free, people may not understand that the remainder aren't, and order them before they realise, leaving 'wastage' when they change their minds (e.g. a double scotch' 'that will be 4.80' 'screw that, give me a beer instead' ) and the wedding party will have to pay for the wastage most likely
  • fay144fay144 Posts: 15
    I'm having a free bar, and this was very important to me when looking for venues. I've never been to a wedding with a free bar before, but all of my guests will be travelling to the wedding, so I thought it would be nice.

    My venue has no actual bar, so we are providing all the drinks, meaning it works out at about the same price as some hotels charge for their standard day time drinks packages.

    It's been a pain working out how much of each spirit etc to get, but it will be worth it, I think. Majestic wine have been very helpful, and I can't recommend them enough. The people in the shop are full of advice, and they are delivering to the venue the day before for free.

    I'm not really worried about people drinking too much because it's free. Some people drink a lot, whether they are paying or not. You can't offer a free bar and expect people to drink less than they normally would - most people would prefer to pay and drink their fill than to hold back on what should be a great night out.
  • we r having r reception at a village hall so if we had a bar come in, we would have to pay for a lisence to sell alcohol, plus pay a pub to come in, only to charge everyone ridiculous prices for drinks so we have decided to have a free bar. We will only have red/white wine, about 3 types of beer, some different flaours of bicardi breezers, some archers and smirnoff ices - were not guna bother with spirits and just gunna take the view once its gone its gone so hopefully people will just take their time.

    its just a case of thinking how much to buy?
  • We won't be having a free bar we have a budget to stick too. I have been to dozens of weddings and have never been to a wedding with a free bar nor expected one to be there. Expecting a free bar is just damn cheeky!!! If money is no object then why not i'm sure your guest would be very greatful.

  • we have just ordered a load of fosters, stella and carling - 3 boxes for £20 so 112 cans for £40 from sainsburys image
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