Plan The Perfect Wedding Bar

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Planning your ideal wedding ceremony and reception is quite the task! It’s not so simple to just decide to have a bar at your reception dinner. Each decision comes with a slew of follow-up questions – What kind of bar would you like to provide? What type of drinks should you stock your bar with? Do you want to create a custom cocktail or two? The decisions can feel endless and overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to planning your wedding reception bar.

This post will help guide you in planning for your wedding reception bar while being considerate of your budget and making it memorable for your guests.

Professional or DIY

To start, you could go one of two routes with your wedding reception bar. For those who love a challenge, doing it yourself is an option. You will have to figure out how much of each item to provide for your guest list count, gather all the supplies, and hire a certified bartender to serve the drinks. Whether you want to go DIY can depend on your state and venue’s requirements and rules. Most venues will require you to use a professional, licensed bar service so do your research before purchasing all your booze.

Hiring a professional bar service will be more costly but is worth the peace of mind. If your caterer is full-service, they may provide bar services in addition to your reception food and/or desserts. Going with your caterer will help reduce the number of vendors to manage and provide you with reduced stress levels. A quality caterer will accurately stock the bar according to your guest list so you’re not paying for untapped kegs or have to worry about running out of wine.

Bar Styles

There are two types of bars to choose from when deciding on professional bar service. Do you want to provide your guests with an open bar or a cash bar for your wedding reception?

Open Bar

An open bar, also commonly called a hosted bar, is when the couple covers all the bar expenses for their wedding reception. This allows their guests to enjoy any drink choices without tapping into their wallets. This is a great option if you want to provide a superior experience for your guests. An open bar is always a nice gesture to provide your guests especially if they’re traveling from cross country or spending money on accommodations to celebrate with you. Plus, you won’t find many who won’t enjoy free drinks at a party!

Although hosting the bar is a grand gesture, it can be a costly one. If you’re on a tighter wedding budget, consider hosting select items such as beer or wine or offer a cash bar instead.

Cash Bar

A cash bar is a great alternative if you are looking for budget-friendly options for your wedding. This style of bar service is when guests are responsible for paying as they go for the drinks they order. This will allow you to save money on this feature of your wedding reception and instead focus it on other aspects like lavish florals, a full dessert bar, or for your honeymoon.

Even though this is a solid option that saves you hundreds, it could appear tacky to your guests. Some feel that food and drinks should be provided as a sign of hospitality for attending your nuptials. Consider the situation from a guest’s perspective and consider going with an open bar or hosting a select bar menu to appease your guests without breaking the bank.

Personalize it!

No matter what style of bar or service you go with, you can do things to level up the experience for your guests and make a lasting impression!

Custom Cocktail

A custom cocktail is a fun and easy way to make an impact on your guests. What’s your go-to cocktail? A Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, or Negroni, perhaps? Feature your favorite drink with colorful signage at the bar to give a personal touch.

Champagne Toast

Providing a champagne toast is a classy way to ensure everyone has something to cheers you during toasts.


Not everyone drinks alcohol and they should not be forgotten. Feature a tasty nonalcoholic libation so everyone can join in on the fun.


Don’t forget about customizing the bar to match the rest of your wedding day details. Add some simple florals to the bartop or drapery to the front to tie it into your reception atmosphere.


There is so much that goes into planning your wedding reception. If you’re looking for more ways to make your reception dinner extra special, check out these 5 essential tips for planning catering for your wedding reception.

With Sterling Catering, we offer a superb selection of beverages coupled with our experienced, professional, and friendly staff. Our beverage services include domestic and imported beers, an extensive wine list, premium and top-shelf liquors, soft drinks, non-alcoholic beverages, knowledgeable bartenders, and complete setup and cleanup.

Our beverage service will make your wedding complete. Inquire now to learn more and start planning your wedding reception bar.