Most people like to sip a drink or two while celebrating. And what better place to celebrate than a wedding! But some Las Vegas brides are worried about their weddings being in Las Vegas—party central. What if their guests drink too much? With these concerns in a bride’s mind comes a difficult decision: Should I host an open bar at my wedding?

Rather than lay down the law (oh sure, weddings can have laws ;)), I’ll let each bride and groom make that decision. But don’t worry. I’m not going to leave you hanging with no answers either. To solve this mystery yourself, take a look at these pros and cons, paired with the best and the worst situations, to decide if you’d like to host an open bar at your Las Vegas wedding.

If an open bar isn't appropriate, consider simply hosting a champagne toast.

PROS: Yes, host an open bar!

  • Give back. Wedding guests have purchased travel fare to attend your wedding, spent money on a wedding gift, and sacrificed their work’s “vacation time” to celebrate with you. Give back in a more substantial way than party favors. Give them drinks to have a good time.
  • Keep it classy. When a wedding hosts a cash bar (guests pay for their own drinks), many guests immediately label this gesture as “tacky.”  With an open bar, let your wedding maintain an elegant air while letting guests know you care.

  • Meet expectations to make guests happy. Most wedding guests will expect free drinks (beer and wine, at the least). You want them to remember your wedding in a positive light and to enjoy the reception without complaints.

CONS: Nope, no open bar here.

  • Drunk guests stole the show. Some wedding guests just don’t know when to stop drinking. This could lead to wild antics on the dance floor, messes in the bathrooms (if you’re lucky that’s where the mess will land), and worries as your friends drive home drunk. Don’t ruin your wedding memories by letting guests get out of control on hard liquor.
  • “What happened last night?” If you have a guest list full of people who like to party hard, consider limiting their alcohol intake. You may want to simply host a “soft bar” (beer and wine only), or even establish that the only alcohol available will be the champagne toast. After all, you do want guests to remember your wedding reception.
  • Your venue said, “No.” You might be fine with drinking, and you trust your guests to handle themselves in public. But some venues, such as local parks or conservative places of worship, simply won’t allow alcohol. If this is the case, inform your guests of the venue’s decision via your wedding website. This way, you won’t take the flak from family for not hosting an open bar, and your guests know in advance that B.Y.O.B. simply isn’t an option.

As you decide whether or not to host an open bar, discuss your options with your groom and your immediate families. If not all parties are in agreement, consider a compromise. Perhaps you can host an open bar during the cocktail hour only. Or if your parents are not comfortable making an alcohol purchase, maybe you and your groom can front the alcohol bill while also offering virgin cocktails at the bar.

Drinking can be a touchy subject in some crowds. So keep in mind your opinions, but also be open to your families’ feelings as well.  Remember to pick your battles wisely, and try your best to create an environment for everyone to enjoy.

Author: Allyson Siwajian © 2011

Photograph: Allyson Siwajian