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Gino Spano

As you plan your wedding, you’ll have plenty of decisions to make. Which venue will you book, and on what date? Which invitation design should you use? Who will you invite? Which caterer will you use?

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One of the more contentious decisions couples sometimes have to make is whether or not to have an open bar at the wedding. Whether you and your partner agree or disagree, you’ll likely have friends and relatives chime in on this particular subject as well. Some people will insist you need an open bar, while others will swing to the other extreme and say you should make the wedding completely dry.

How much does it cost to have an open bar?

This is the number-one concern for most couples, and according to the Bridal Association of America, an open bar will set you back an average of $3,000 (or around $4,000 Canadian). Bearing the cost in mind, do you need an open bar at your wedding?

Pro: Open Bars Keep Wedding Guests Happy

If you happen to stumble onto wedding forums on the internet, you’ll likely find the open bar issue a topic of intense debate. Some couples opt for dry weddings, wherein no alcohol is served at all. Guests often take to forums to complain about these weddings, and some share stories about sneaking in their own alcohol.

One of the biggest advantages of having an open bar is that it will keep your wedding guests happy. Anyone who wants a drink can indulge, while those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages are under no obligation to have one.

Generally speaking, most guests agree they prefer an open bar at the wedding.

Con: Open Bars Encourage Excess

One reason you may not want to have an open bar is because you know free-flowing drinks often encourage people to be excessive. Maybe it’s your partner’s embarrassing uncle or maybe it’s your best friend, but an excess of alcohol can quickly turn the most magical wedding into something you’d rather forget.

This is one reason some couples opt for a dry wedding. “Closed” and cash bars are another good alternative. You can offer guests one or two drinks, giving them tickets or trinkets to redeem. Another option is for guests to pay for their own drinks, which may discourage excess.

Con: Open Bars Are Costly

As noted, the average cost of an open bar in the US was estimated at around $3,000, or just slightly more than $15 per guest with a guest list of 170 people. If your wedding is smaller, you may pay a little less since there are fewer people, but the cost per person would increase.

Counting on the exchange, that puts the price of an open bar at an average of $4,000 Canadian. Many factors go into the cost of the bar, including the cost of alcohol, the number of people being served, the length of time your guests will be served, the number of people staffing the bar, and so on.

The price is usually the biggest reason couples skip the open bar, opting to go dry or use a cash bar instead.

Pro: Open Bars Make You a Better Host

Many of your guests likely had to spend some money to get to your wedding. They may have needed to buy a present, travel from out of town, or even spend money on their attire. Others may have had to rearrange plans, such as cutting a vacation short. An open bar is often seen as a good way for the couple to say “thank you” to their guests.

Cash bars are often viewed as tacky, and they’ll get you labelled as a frugal host. An open bar will ensure your guests remember your wedding for the right reasons.


Gino Spano

Starting with roots in a kitchen at 14 years old, he worked his way up the ranks and by the young age of 17 was responsible for daily events of 50 to 600 people. Gino continued to use his talents to work in catering, banquet and restaurant kitchens across the GTA. His love for Italian, French and Asian cuisine paired with his wide variety of knowledge brought him success in his new venture at Seventh Heaven in 2001. Over the past 12 years, he has cooked many meals for social events, corporate events and government officials. His love for new challenges brought him into corporate sales where he and the Seventh Heaven team won Best Catered Event for Canadian Linen’s “The Great White North” – Facility Grand Opening in 2009.
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