Who Pays For Alcohol At A Wedding

There is no single answer on who pays for alcohol at a wedding because families differ in how they tackle the wedding finances. However, you’ll learn below who typically pays for liquor at weddings and the etiquette of serving alcohol to the guests. 

Weddings usually have an open bar, meaning the hosts will pay for the guests’ drinks. Here’s how much is an open bar at a wedding to help you plan your budget. 

who pays for alcohol at a wedding


Etiquette On Who Pays For Alcohol At A Wedding


Bride and/or groom’s family

Traditionally, whoever is paying for the wedding reception will also pay for the liquor served during this part of the wedding. Since the bride’s parents usually pay for most of the wedding needs, they are also shouldering the costs for the alcohol served at the reception. 

However, no one is obliged to cover the costs of the wedding alcohol. Another situation is where the groom’s family pays for the liquor. 

If the bride and groom’s families split the wedding budget, the bride’s family might be responsible for the ceremony costs, while the groom’s family will pay for the reception or some aspects of the reception. The groom’s family might offer to pay for the open bar since most of the wedding expenses are shouldered by the bride’s family. 



The bride and groom’s families can also split the resulting expenses of the wedding bar. But in modern times, it’s not surprising that the couple will also pay for their wedding liquor. 

It’s more common nowadays for couples to spend for their wedding, including paying for their wedding alcohol. Typically, older couples or those having a second wedding host their own wedding. 

Families are not expected to offer to pay for their expenses compared to young couples or more traditional cultures. But what if you and your partner have limited resources? 



While some would think it’s tacky to have guests pay for their alcohol, it’s acceptable to have a cash bar instead of an open bar at the reception. You can explain to your guests briefly why you’re having this type of wedding bar. 

You can have an open bar for a limited period or certain types of drinks only. But, then, anything beyond that can be paid for by the guests themselves. 

Some couples only pay for the drinks during the toast and then have a cash bar. It’s expected for the guests to get free drinks at the wedding, but you can constantly adjust according to your budget. 


Does Groom’s Family Pay For Alcohol?

The groom’s family is paying for alcohol at some weddings since the bride’s family traditionally pays for most of the wedding expenses. Therefore, the groom’s family might present to shoulder the open bar’s cost as their contribution to the wedding budget. 

However, there are no rules on who pays for the alcohol at a wedding. More so, as the bride or groom, you cannot oblige your family to shoulder the reception, expenses such as the liquor. 

If your budget limits you, you can consider a cash bar. You can even have a dry wedding and have the reception early in the day to eliminate the free alcohol expectations from the guests. 


Should You Pay For Alcohol At Wedding?

It’s the etiquette for the hosts to pay for the alcohol and treat their guests, similar to paying for the foods served at the reception. However, modern times have allowed the cash bar at the wedding. 

This means the guests will pay for what they drink at the bar. Of course, your guests will appreciate free alcohol, but you can always limit the types of liquor available or only have an open bar for an hour instead of the entire night. 

Learn what drinks to serve at a wedding to set your budget accordingly. 


How To Budget For Your Wedding Bar

Here are some tips to save on alcoholic beverages expenses for the wedding if you’ll be paying for the wedding bar:

  • Consider a cash bar or have an open bar with limited drinks or duration of use
  • Serve select drinks
  • Compare the costs of bringing your own booze to the reception versus using their bar
  • Be your own wedding bartender
  • Have the guests prepare their own cocktails
  • Time the reception earlier in the evening or consider an afternoon reception where alcohol is not expected
  • Consider a “bring your own booze” policy


What Kind Of Bars Are At Weddings?


Open bar

An open bar is the most generous and expensive wedding bar because the host’s shoulder all the drinks served in the bar. The guests will not pay for anything; they can drink as many or as long as they want. 


Limited bar

If an open bar is too much for your budget to handle, consider a limited bar and mention it on your invitation. Of course, you’re still thanking the attendees with free drinks, but you limit the time the bar is often to cut on costs. 


Cash bar

A cash bar is the most affordable type of wedding bar since the guests pay for their own drinks. However, some find this tacky as they believe the hosts should always treat their guests.



And that’s it! To recap who pays for alcohol at a wedding, it can be the bride or groom’s parents. 

However, the couple can also pay for the drinks themselves, or they might have a cash bar for the guests to pay for their own drinks. There is no right or wrong answer, but be practical with your budget. 

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