Choosing whether to have an open bar or cash beer can be a crucial decision for any couple and their family.

Traditionally speaking, open bars are the polite way to treat your guests, according to Jacey Cranton, a local wedding planner.

"Cash bars aren't a foreign concept but I'd say less than 10% of my clients choose that option," she said. "Complimentary alcohol at a reception could be likened to serving food and desserts. Guests expect to be treated like guests and some view cash bars as tacky."

According to an internal study at, the average amount of money spent on a reception bar/liquor was $2,300. It may seem like a huge chunk of change but many couples consider entertaining guests to be a big part of their special day. 

But letting it flow during the afterparty can still be heavy on the wallet and create problematic guests.

Cranton offers the following suggestions to couples on the fence about their bar decision. She hopes it helps couples do what's right for them and also guides couples who are on a budget.

- If couples want to treat their guests but also avoid overindulgence, offer two types of wine, a selection of beers and one signature cocktail. (Pro Tip: plan the cocktail in advance that has limited hard alcohol in it.)

- Another option would be to have both cash and an open bar. This would include complimentary wine and beer but offer a limited selection of cocktails for a small price, like $2. 

- Open bars can be expensive so check with the venue and caterer about supplying your own alcohol. Buying booze from a local specialty store, winery or grocery store can save a ton of money.

- Whatever you do, don't forget that not everyone enjoys alcohol but wants to feel like they were thought of. Create a non-alcoholic drink that is colorful and served in a fancy glass. Offer complimentary sodas sans alcohol, too. 

Cranton said couples considering creating a signature cocktail drink can really have fun with it.

"I've had couples use alcohols and mixes that incorporate their wedding colors," she said. "You can also incorporate flavors based on the time of year, like pumpkin flavors for a Fall wedding or peppermint in a Winter ceremony. The best part is to have fun coming up with a clever name for the drink. It'll be spoken and repeated the entire night."

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