with Hall & Co Event Design –  should you have a free bar at your wedding?

24 July 2020

In yesterday’s blog post, we discussed the difference between a paid bar and a cash bar at your wedding, and which one is right for you.  Obviously a lot of this decision comes down to budget, so today we’re running you through the age-old question ‘should you have a free bar at your wedding?’ – with the help of Elizabeth from Hall & Co Event Design!

“Weddings at venues with their own bar almost always switch to a paid bar after the wedding breakfast, as couples have either provided a drinks package or paid corkage on the drinks prior, and  both of these can take a large chunk of the food and drink budget.

On the other hand, the vast majority of our clients getting married on private land or at a venue without an in-house bar or a corkage charge, provide their guests with a free bar, stocked by themselves and staffed by our team until the end of the night.

Initially this can seem like a highly cost-effective option, and it often is the best way to maximise the drinks budget but the following items shouldn’t go overlooked when budgeting:


1. The cost of glass hire

We would strongly recommend against using complimentary glasses from well-known wine suppliers, as they all need to be returned clean and you need a lot! We will always ensure you have enough to last to the end of the evening, and they won’t require any on-site washing up facilities. This adds a little to the cost, but saves a lot on the headache!


2. Ice and garnishes

You’ll be amazed by how much ice we go through – no-one wants warm white wine, do they?


3. Stock quantities

We will help advise on quantities with our tried and tested formulas, but we will always err on the side of caution and recommend a little extra. This is also why we recommend purchasing on a sale or return basis (where you buy the alcohol from retailers who will accept returns on any unopened bottles.)


4. Drink preparation equipment

Does what it says on the tin – and out of the tin, into the glass.


5. Bar structure

The actual, physical bar itself needs to be setup too, don’t forget.


6. Staffing of the bar and glass collecting

Most free bars need staff behind the bar to mix and serve, and to roam about collecting glasses (so that you can a) insure you’re stocked up and b) get that deposit back!).


As you can see, the answer to the question should you have a free bar at your wedding? is personal choice – there’s more admin involved in providing your own alcohol and free bar, however ultimately the flexibility to serve personal favourites can often be the driving force behind this decision. Plus, being left with the odd case of wine or bottle of your favourite gin is never a bad thing in our eyes!

We will always defer to the professional mixologists and dedicated mobile cocktail bars when speciality cocktail menus are preferred for the evening. These work much the same as a venue bar and can be either wholly covered by the hosts or paid for by the guests. The additional cost of these can be balanced by the theatre they provide, adding to the overall guest experience.”

For more wedding bar etiquette, wedding planning advice, help, and services, check out Hall & Co Event Design’s profile here.