The drinks

Should you have a free bar at your wedding?

Would you consider having an open bar at your wedding? Two writers debate over the merits of a free bar

When the topic of an open bar comes up in the YYW office, we’re a rather divided team; on the one hand, it’s the most amazing thing to arrive at a wedding reception and know you don’t need to reach for your wallet all night, but on the other hand, spare a thought for the couple who are footing the bar tab.


Two team members battled it out over whether it’s okay to expect a free bar at weddings. Read on to see their arguments, and let us know which side you’re on.

Real wedding: the drinks

Yes, there should be a free bar at weddings

Says editorial and fashion assistant Molly Coughlan: “Don’t get me wrong, I know that planning a wedding can be expensive. The costs add up, and unless you’ve got an unlimited budget, the thought of funding a free bar for 200 guests might leave you in need of a strong drink yourself. 

Weddings are magical – from the speeches to the first dance (yes, I will weep at you slow dancing to Ed Sheeran), but while the day is ultimately about the couple, the enjoyment of your guests should also be high on the priority list. 

The thought of my friends and family stressing about money and counting their pennies to attend my wedding doesn’t sit right with me, so providing a free bar would be an important part of my budget. 

No one’s expecting Champagne and rare whisky, and there’s no shame in budget spirits and basic wines and beers. 

If your guests fancy something more luxe, then they can treat themselves. The point is, after the travel, hotel, outfit and gift for the happy couple (plus the hen do), my monthly budget takes a beating – and ultimately, it’s money I wouldn’t have spent otherwise. 

I’m not trying to be ungrateful. It’s always a pleasure to be invited to share such a special day with two people I adore. And, of course, if I truly couldn’t afford it, I would RSVP with a no. But with guests paying an average of £1,015 to attend a loved one’s big day, it feels a little discourteous to then expect them to cough up for drinks. And it does make a difference. Think of the best wedding you’ve ever attended. Was it the one with the pretty florals and glam décor? Or was it the one with the free bar and dazzling DJ who took requests? 

You certainly don’t need alcohol for a good time, but an open bar is a lovely way to thank your guests for coming – and it is a party, after all!”

Vintage meets rustic: The drinks

No, there’s no need for an open bar at weddings

Says junior digital write Rima Barakeh: “With the average cost of weddings now exceeding £32,000 (yes, ouch!), I think anyone who attends with an expectation of free alcohol all evening is acting a bit entitled.

As a wedding guest, you are treated to a range of freebies throughout the day, including welcome drinks as you arrive (usually Champagne) a three-course meal with half a bottle of wine per head, a buffet and entertainment that’ll see you through into the early hours.

That’s already very generous, without adding a free bar. What’s more, from work Christmas parties to generously stocked social events, we’ve all seen the not-so-desirable effects that a free bar can have on otherwise-pleasant human beings. Don’t get me wrong; while I do welcome having a few drinks and celebrating the happy couple, unlimited alcohol can sometimes lead to guests getting a little too excited, too quickly.

It’s wrong if guests feel a free bar is what they deserve because they’ve had to spend money on an outfit, travel, and maybe a hotel. Yes, weddings are expensive to attend, and yes, we all wish it was cheaper – but everyone’s in the same boat.

Having an open bar should be a decision a couple makes out of generosity, not because they’re afraid of being labelled stingy by ungrateful guests. Weddings would be a lot more fun for us guests if we spent less time moaning about how much money it costs us and more time enjoying the day – whether the drinks are free or not.


Guests who feel hard done by when they realise they have to pay for their drinks are greedy and won’t receive any sympathy from me. If I attended a wedding with an open bar I’d be so grateful, but weddings are expensive enough. Sulking guests might think differently when it’s their turn to plan a wedding!”