Well, I have to start by saying what you choose as a bar can be just as controversial as your seating charts. Depending on where you live, you find people are used to one type of bar set up or another. Doing something out of the ordinary can cause a lot of flak. So what are your bar options? You have a variety to choose from: Open, Limited, Dry or Cash.
The Open Bar is a pretty common thing around here. In PA, the client must purchase the alcohol. We provide the mixers, cocktail fruits,. glasses and a qualified bartender to serve it. Along with all the basic ingredients, you often see people add a specialty cocktail. It might be a certain drink the couple likes or even something they invented for their reception. This type of bar means you pay for everything and your guests simply enjoy themselves.
The Limited Bar can mean a few things. The most common limited bar here is to offer beer and wine only. This usually satisfies most people. A signature cocktail is often added. Depending on where you are, limited can also mean a limit on time they serve or amount they serve (dollar wise). So you can say, I am allotting $1,000.00 for the bar. Once you hit that amount, the bartender or venue/caterer will tell you that you are at the limit. At that point, you can decide to add more to keep it open or let them charge your guests. Some people will have the bar open for cocktail hour. The bar closes during dinner and when it reopens, it is cash.
The Cash bar is not something we see here much. In Pennsylvania, you must carry a liquor license to sell alcohol. That’s not the same as having liquor liability insurance. Most caterers/venues around here don’t have liquor licenses unless they also have a restaurant/bar. That means we can’t do a cash bar. You can usually do it if you have your reception in a restaurant or a hotel. Aside from charity events, I have only seen 1 cash bar for a wedding I have attended. It’s not something you see much here. No one had cash with them as it wasn’t made known to the guests prior to arriving. I have to tell you that it left a lot of people looking a bit unhappy.
The Dry bar is something you don’t see often. We have done dry weddings for a few devoutly religious couples and a few that we to young to drink. Other than that, it’s not common around here.
With the exception of a dry bar, your biggest consideration is to have a qualified bartender. Someone who is TIPS certified and has liability insurance is the best way to go. People often want to leave bottles of wine at each table. That takes control of how much people drink out of everyone’s hands. It can lead to a liability situation.