July 14th, 2016

Free Bar-2526

If you were thinking about having a free bar at your wedding, forget about it. One of our readers emailed to ask us at Off To Wed what we think about running a free bar and I have to say that we’re not fans.


I hope you can help settle an argument that I’m having with my parents!? I’m paying for my own wedding with a ‘little’ help from both mine and Ben’s parents but my dad thinks that we should be providing the guests with a free bar but we’re not keen. What do you think? – Claire.


I think that if your dad wants a free bar he should stump up the cash for it. The concept of a free bar is less common these days. I know that weddings can end up hitting the guests’ pockets, with the outfits, travel, accommodation and gifts but they do get a free meal, canapés and some free drinks so they’re not that hard done by.

It would definitely be on the tight side if you didn’t serve wine with the wedding breakfast, most couples budget for two glasses of wine per guest but why not provide three glasses per guest which amounts to a glass per course. You’ll also give people a glass of bubbly with the canapés and another with the speeches so your guests are already on four or five glasses of alcohol, that’s not bad when you think about it.

The risk of offering a free bar is that someone will undoubtedly take advantage. When the drinks are free it’s sometimes easier for your guests to go to the bar and get a fresh drink rather than go back to their table and finished their half full glass. But worse still, I’ve heard stories that the bar staff will take advantage of a free bar too.

If you do want to compromise with your old man, you could put some money behind the bar, but when I say put it behind the bar I mean that figuratively – you could leave a wine or beer token on the table as part of the wedding favour. The risk with having a certain amount of money behind the bar is survival of the fittest. I was once a guest at a wedding in which the bride and groom left £400 behind the bar – the groom’s rugby chums rushed straight to the bar ordering beers and shots before most people got a look in.

So the answer to your question is, don’t feel obliged to have a free bar. There are better places to spend the budget. More canapés, for the guests, the décor or your honeymoon kitty. Even with a paid bar people will have a great time, everybody loves a wedding.