A Beginner’s Guide To Venue Bar Service

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— With 10 years of experience and more than 150 weddings under her belt, it was a natural progression for Katrina to set-out on her own venture as a Wedding Coach. Katrina focuses on providing guidance and support for wedding couples who wish to actively plan their own wedding but also wish to benefit from the expertise of a pro throughout their planning adventure. A person with a true entrepreneurial spirit, Katrina also owns and operates Subtle Details Lifestyle Management Company.


What type of bar service is right for your wedding?

Bar service (and budget) is a key focus for most wedding couples but it is also a topic that can divide them and/or their families. In some cases this divide is due to concerns about perception, but it can also be due to a lack of knowledge of available service options.

Depending on your venue, there are generally three main types of bar service that can be offered to your group:

Host Bar – the cost of the bar service is determined by the group’s total consumption on the night of the wedding. In the guests’ perspective, the bar is ‘open’.

Pro: Allows flexibility for the bar menu offered. As the couple/family is paying based on the drinks ordered, there is more opportunity for the wedding couple to customize the bar menu to their particular group’s preference.

Con: It can be difficult to predict the final bar costs. If a couple underestimates the consumption of their group, they could receive an unwelcomed surprise when they receive the final bar tab from their venue.

Open Bar – this type of bar service is offered as a package with a specific bar menu served at a set cost per person. In most cases, a venue will offer at least two open bar packages; one based on a menu of standard selections and another based on a premium selection.

Pro: This type of service allows couples to have a pre-set bar budget regardless of the group’s final consumption.

Con: An Open Bar Package is confirmed based on the full wedding group size (excluding kids). It does not take into consideration any adult guests who do not drink alcohol or the number of guests that might leave before the night is over. So a wedding couple who selects an Open Bar Package must be prepared to pay for their full group regardless of these types of variables.

Cash Bar – wedding guests pay for the full cost for their drinks with no expense to the wedding couple (unless a venue charges a bartending fee, etc.).

Pro: The couple does not need to worry about the cost of bar service and can allocate more of their budget to other areas of their wedding. This type of service can also help to reduce overall consumption as guests tend to drink less when they are responsible for the costs.

Con: This style of bar service should be noted on your wedding invitations. If it is not, guests are likely to assume that an ‘open’ bar is offered and will not come prepared to pay for drinks.

Some venues may also offer the option to hold a ‘contribution or by-donation’ bar. This type of bar service is far less popular but if available, it can be a good way to help off-set some costs or collect funds for a donation of choice.

Regardless of your initial vision for bar service, make sure to speak to your venue about all available options. Before making a firm decision, take the time to ‘punch the numbers’. You might be surprised – an option you initially omitted without much consideration may in fact be your most ideal and financially-sound choice.

If you’d like more advice regarding what bar service is best for your wedding, connect with me at [email protected].

To see more of Katrina’s work, check out her blog: http://katrinascarlett.com/blog/

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