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Sips in Celebration

A detailed guide to wedding bars

Much like enjoying a slice of wedding cake, many guests expect to partake in a celebratory drink or a few at a wedding. When planning your wedding, knowing the different options for serving drinks at cocktail hour or your reception is important. Our guide will help you determine the best bar option for you and your guests.

Open Bar

An open bar means the hosts foot the bill. This option includes spirits as well as beer and wine. Most bar services offer different tiers of alcohol, which can help you determine the price and stay within budget. Packages are usually priced in basic, premium or super premium options. Most bar services provide specific brands, but you may be able to make special requests should you want a certain spirit or wine. In some cases, you may have to purchase alcohol and pay the bartenders to serve it. Service providers often have two options—a package price or price by consumption. With the price-by-consumption option, the hosts pay for the number of drinks ordered. This is a good option for guests who don’t drink much. A package is a fixed price per guest, no matter how much they drink. A bar package is often the better deal if most guests opt to drink. With a package option, you will also know the cost upfront.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Steddom

Beer and Wine

A beer and wine bar is popular for those who want to serve alcohol but don’t want the celebration to be spirit-focused. This option saves money, as spirits often have a higher price tag. This is a popular option for daytime weddings and for those who don’t drink much. You can make this option all the more fun by providing wine pairings with dinner or offering craft and local beer selections.

Signature Cocktails

Photo courtesy of Woodland Fields Photography

A signature cocktail bar includes specialty drinks picked by the couple that a bartender makes. The specialty drink could be a part of the open bar or served alongside beer and wine. This could be a classic cocktail that the couple likes or holds meaning, such as a margarita or Old Fashioned. Or give the mixologist an idea of preferred flavor profiles so they can craft a specialty cocktail that is reflective of you. Many guests consider this a special and fun way to feel close to the couple. Some couples go as far as having specialty cocktails named in honor of their pets.

Cash Bar

A cash bar means guests pay for their drinks. This is an option for those who only have a handful of drinking guests or simply don’t want alcohol to be a focal point of the celebration. This option saves the host money but requires your guests to pay when they’ve already paid for gifts and possibly travel expenses. Keep in mind that while the hosts won’t have to pay for the drinks, they will have to pay to have bartenders present. Also, consider offering free, non-alcoholic drinks like tea, lemonade and sodas.

Photo courtesy of Sarah & Paul Photography

Dry Bar

At a dry bar, only non-alcoholic drinks are served. This option is becoming more popular, whether the couple is sober or for religious or cultural reasons. A dry bar can be the only option, or you can arrange a dry bar alongside a regular bar. Keeping the dry and spirit bars separate can make non-drinking friends more comfortable. It is encouraged to have fun with non-alcoholic craft cocktails, mixing drinks that are both delicious and visually appealing. Zero-alcohol wines, beers and sparkling ciders are great options.

Feature photo courtesy of Better Together Beverage

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