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Ask the Experts – “Do wedding guests expect an open bar or free drinks at the reception?”

“I haven’t been to many weddings, but I recently went to one that had a great drinks reception with a variety of cocktails etc for guests to choose from. They also had an open bar for an hour which was a huge surprise to me. There is no way I could afford something like this although I would love to of course. My question is, do guests expect an open bar for a while at a wedding? If not, what is the standard for a drinks reception? I want to make sure we’re treating our guests to something nice but I don’t want to put myself in the poor house for it!” – George

From the Experts

The Heritage Golf & Spa Resort – View Profile

“I would think that 90% of wedding would not have an open bar, I would suggest that a welcome sparkling wine reception, wine with dinner and a toast drink or better again a top up to their wine is all covered by you & outside of that guests do not expect to get an open bar.”

Kilshane House – View Profile

“During the drinks reception, it is useful to have a reasonable bar tab so people can have beer, wine, gin & tonic, etc. but not shorts. You already provide all the wine during the wedding dinner. An open bar after all that is a bad idea and I don’t believe people expect it. An open bar encourages people either to drink things they aren’t used to and risk getting messy or not to have a drink at all to avoid being “too hard” on the couple. After the dinner, guests are happy to buy drinks that they like and are used to and often to buy drinks for other guests.”

Lough Rynn Castle Hotel – View Profile

“No – it is very rare nowadays – an arrival drinks reception and perhaps a toast drink during the meal would be the minimum expectation.”

Rathsallagh House – View Profile

“We have hosted over a 1000 weddings in the past, however over the past 3 to 4 years we have seen a trend away from the an open bar. Because of the present economic climate in Ireland an open bar is not really expected anymore. In addition we have seen a move away from Champagne towards Prosecco , the later being of far better quality than what was available here before, and better value to boot. Where the bride and groom feel they should pay for additional drinks other than the reception drink ( Prosecco, Champagne, Pimms etc) they may also offer an open bar for beer and soft drinks only up until the time the party is called for the meal, again this is totally acceptable nowadays. The only exception would be where the wedding is held at home in a marquee, here guests would probably expect not to have to pay for drinks.

Main image by Peter Rowen Photography

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Former editor, current contributor, (she just can't let go!) Karen enjoys writing fashion but is known to dabble in decor from time to time. Her favourite section on the site is the Real Wedding section, followed closely by the Health & Fitness forums.

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