I’ll Drink To That: 2022 Bar Basics For Your Wedding Reception

Steve HanfCateringLeave a Comment

wedding bartender

Couples have plenty of options for providing alcohol to guests on this special day – including making it a dry ceremony. So is it an open bar, a cash bar, or a DIY affair?

When it comes to making this decision, lifestyle and cost play the most significant role. An open bar seems like a no-brainer for couples who regularly hit the bars or throwback lots of drinks when celebrating with friends. Others used to more modest consumption may tone it down at the reception and serve beer and wine.

There are still plenty of folks around who are perfectly happy having a dry wedding. That being said, in this day and age, most people have come to expect alcohol at a reception, so it’s a good idea to spread the word if you’re planning a dry event.

Let’s face it: We’re all part of the problem of understanding why open bars cost so much. Typically, you’re pleased drinking a simple rum and Coke. But since these drinks are “free” – to you! – you get fancy.

Because it takes so much alcohol to stock it and a bartender to run it, experts put the cost for an open bar at 10 to 20 percent of your reception expense: some $16.50 per person. But the scary thing – perhaps even more terrifying than that drunk relative offering an embarrassing story to your new spouse – is that you might not know what the final tab is until the end of the night, depending on how your contract is written. Some are flat fees, while others are consumption-based.

Depending on the location, couples can bring in their alcohol for guests to enjoy for an OBX wedding, which could mean visiting one of the great local breweries for a selection of regional favorites from places like the Outer Banks Brewing Station or checking out the Outer Banks Brew Dolly. This portable Kegerator system is perfect for any occasion.



A big challenge when doing it yourself involves figuring out how much alcohol to buy. Generally, experts say five to six cases of beer for every hundred guests, two to three cases each of red wine and white wine, and half a case of champagne. Know your guest list, of course: If you’re expecting a thirsty crowd, err on the side of excess. Someone probably will take one for the team and take home extras if you ask nicely.

Beyond deciding what to serve and how much to have, there are other considerations on the DIY route. For example, the ABC Board requires a Limited Special Occasion Permit (for $50) to serve alcohol at a wedding reception as long as you have permission from the owner of the building. And be aware of extras your venue might charge, such as corkage fees.

You might even have to worry about liability insurance should someone drinking at your wedding cause an accident on the ride home. You may even consider booking the OBX Trolley to transport your guests to and from the reception for this very reason.

The consensus on this one is that it’s bad to make guests pay for their alcohol. If you’re worried about costs associated with a bar, consider an earlier start time for your wedding and reception. If you decide on a cash bar, it’s essential to let your guests know ahead of time to plan accordingly.

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