Wedding Bar Terminology 101

wedding bar terminology

Let’s take a look at all wedding bar terminology so you are clear about all the options available for your big day.

wedding bar terminology
Wedding Bar Terminology 101

When looking at venues or bar services for your wedding, it is not uncommon to be overwhelmed by the terminology used to describe the different bar services available.  There are many options to accommodate any budget or vision.

TIP – All inclusive venues such as Church Ranch Event Center in Westminster, CO will serve as  a restaurant to make everything easy.  You will not have to provide alcohol, cups, bartending tools, garnishes, or ice.

Basic Bar Rules

A general rule is to plan for one serving per guest per hour. Based on a wedding of about 100 guests that runs five hours, you’ll need 500 servings of alcohol for an open bar. Your budget will determine what those servings are made up of.

The basic wedding bar generally doesn’t have much, but will usually have at least one bottle of the following: whiskey, Scotch, gin, vodka, tequila, and vermouth. For mixers, you can expect soda, tonic, and seltzer. There are a handful of great cocktails that can be made from basic, minimal ingredients.

If this seems overwhelming to you already, let’s take a look at different options for your wedding.

Reception Bar Styles

Hosted Bar

A hosted bar is paid for by the person or persons paying for the wedding.  The cost will depend on the venue pricing of drinks, the alcohol used, and your guest count.

A hosted bar’s drinks are pre-paid.

Open Bar

An open bar is a bar that is on one tab and will be paid for at the end of the night.   The cost will depend on the number of guests, length of the event, and how much your guests will drink.  The person paying for the wedding may or may not be paying the bill at the end of the night.  Often we see it is a family member who is gifting the bar.  An open bar will include spirits, but typically there are different options to have control over a budget such as well spirits versus a premium option.

Soft Bar

A soft bar is a bar that offers lighter options.  Typically the couple will choose a white wine, a red wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks.  This is a great cost-cutter and still allows the couple to host the bar.

Cash Bar

A cash bar is where the guests will pay for their own drinks.  This is a great option if you are on a tighter budget or you know your guests like to drink a lot.

Dry Bar

If you don’t drink or have a majority of underage guests, consider a dry bar instead. Simply provide a mix of sodas, juices, flavored waters, tea, and anything else you love—no alcohol required.  You can even do fun mocktails.

Subsidized Bar

Want to stick to a certain budget?  Consider hosting for a certain time frame or dollar amount.  You can host a cocktail hour and then switch to a cash bar.  This way you gift your guests with drinks and dinner, but you’re not responsible for them overindulging 😉

The Fun Stuff

Signature Cocktails

Wine and beer are great options, but a signature cocktail adds a little personality and fun to your big day.  Add fun signage and choose drinks that represent what you like, your theme, or your personality.

Portable Bar

If you are hiring out, consider a bar service that has wheels.  It is a fun entertainment piece for your wedding.

Use Fun Garnishes

You could try florals or mini umbrellas with your initials on them.  Something fun to tie in with the theme.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect when it comes to the bar when planning your wedding.  Step one would be to figure out your bar budget and then go from there.  The next step would be to see what your venue allows.  If they do not carry alcohol and you must bring in your own, then you have to plan for that.  If you don’t want to worry about the bar at all, but just want to put a certain amount down to cover some or all of it, an all-inclusive venue would be the way to go.  At an all-inclusive, you have the option of all the styles of bar types including a hosted bar to a cash bar.  Is an all inclusive right for you?  Check out this blog.  Happy planning!

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