Expert Advice
June 20, 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Bar Service At Your Wedding

Alcohol at weddings stressing you out? Here’s how to ace the game and give your guests the bar of their dreams

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If your past google searches resemble something like “how to serve alcohol at weddings”, “average cost for alcohol at weddings” or “serving alcohol without a bartender”, you, my friend, are not alone. Hundreds of brides-to-be are stressing out over the complicated procedure of serving alcohol at their wedding. Take a deep breath, because this article will perfectly prepare you to take on full service bartending, open bars, and non-alcoholic options for your special day. It is easy to use, detailed, and complete with the industry’s best tips and tricks. We’ll cover everything you need to know so you can make your purchase with confidence. Become an expert on open bars, tap trucks, signature drinks, and everything else needed to find the best bar service for your wedding.

Let’s get started!

How Much Will it Cost?

Wine and glasses in a bucket

The Most Important Question

The most important question, finally addressed: how much will this cost you? We all know how pricey weddings can be. You’ve got to have the flowers, the food, the dress, and of course, the booze. Whether you decide on an open bar or a cash bar, the prices can vary greatly. So how can you satisfy your guests while still staying within your budget? We’ve referenced several Wedding 101 sources to create this foolproof guide for average costs for alcohol at weddings. Did someone say happy hour?

1. Get Your Booze Headcount

The first step to knowing how much to pay begins with how much alcohol you really need. Don’t overdo it by ordering an open bar if most of your guests are only light drinkers! This is a great way to save money. By knowing your guests well, you can calculate how much booze you’ll really need. Compare price estimates after you know this number!

2. Reference Your Literature

The most surefire way to make sure you aren’t getting taken advantage of with your bar service is by reading up on standard prices. Compare with the competitors, and make sure that the prices offered reflect the quality of service being given. An easy trap to fall into is cheaper alcohol bundles that end up having extra fees, or, in the worst case, end up running out mid-reception. Our favorite example to use is this alcohol price list for weddings made by the outstanding caterer The Smokehouse Grill. The list gives several options for different bundles you can buy*.

*based on 100 guests

Option 1

4 hr min.

3 beers, 5 wines

$14 per person

Option 2

4 hr min.

3 beers, 5 wines, 9 top shelf liquors

Absolut, Jose Cuervo, Jack Daniels, more Top Shelf

$16 per person

Option 3

4 hr min.

3 beers, 5 wines, 5 premium liquors

Crown Royal, Three Olives, Patron Silver, more premium liquors

$20 per person

Option 4

4 hr min.

3 premium beers, 3 domestic beers, 5 wines, 9 top shelf liquors, and 5 premium liquors

$25 per person

Wine and Glasses

3. Don’t Forget Mixers

Make sure when ordering your bar service that mixers are included. This is a standard shoe-in, but you really don’t want to be screwed over last minute by extra fees for things like OJ and Lemonade. The way to save is in the details, and this is one that you don’t want to have to pay for.

4. Bartenders and the Bars

While these two players are undeniably important in making the alcohol service at your wedding a success, know that they do come with extra fees. These extra costs are a small price to pay to make your wedding day go smoothly, and are relatively inexpensive (anywhere from an extra $100 to $200). Bite the bullet for this cost, because you’re not going to want to have your cousin who took one bartending course twelve years ago become your only option.

Types of Bars

Are There More Than One?

Don’t be alarmed, if you’ve only ever heard of a cash bar and an open bar, you’re amongst the majority. Those are the two most popular bars to be used for weddings, but it’s smart to know your options. You can make some $erious $aving$ depending on bar type, so check out our informative list of them below.

1. Cash Bar

Everything comes down to what you can and can’t afford. Don’t get hung up on the taboo of cash bars-- your guests will just be happy to share this special experience with you. The cash bar is a great option if you are young. If you’re 24 and have friends who can really throw drinks back, this is a surefire way to not go bankrupt afterwards.

2. Tap Trucks

Mobile bars and tap trucks are the new rave at weddings. If you’re someone who is up-to-date on all the latests trends and fashions, this is a great way to bring that excitement to your special day. Tap trucks offer a variety of alcohol, from locally brewed IPAs to specialty crafts, the truck is sure to satisfy your fun-loving guests. It comes with a bartender, too! The Smokehouse Grill is a reputable caterer that is licensed to offer full bar services in all of Maryland, but it is also one of the few companies that provides these spunky tap trucks as an alternative!

tap truck services
Image Source:

3. Open Bar

The most generous of the bars! If you really want to treat your guests and are willing to shell out some serious dough, the open bar is the best way to do so. Open bars can carry several brands of beers, wines, and even signature cocktails to keep the party rolling. If this sounds of interest to you, check out this site’s must know’s on everything to do with open bars.

4. Limited Bar

Limit your guests’ alcohol consumption and save a quick buck by getting a limited bar. This affordable option delivers great variety, often providing packages that carry several brands of beer, wine, and top shelf liquor.

5. Keep It Dry

Going for a theme that is non-alcoholic? Since serving alcohol at weddings can be an extremely expensive ordeal, so if you’re leaning towards making this choice, your wallet will thank you for it. Special alternative drinks can include fizzy water, sparkling sodas, and virgin mixed drinks, all perfect for weddings!

Looking for more a more in depth analysis of the different bars? The Knot does a great breakdown of different ways to serve alcohol at weddings.

Beers and Wines and Liquors, Oh My!

mix drinks

Booze the Right Way

You probably have a variety of guests RSVPing for your wedding day, ranging from your grandparents, to distant aunts and uncles, to your college besties. While one of those groups may enjoy Crown Royal, another may drift towards tequila, and a third may prefer a solid IPA. How can you make sure all of your guests

Signature Drinks

A special night calls for some special drinks. Whatever bar option you and your fiancé decide on, be sure to include the necessities for your favorite cocktails. If you feel like you’ve seen it all before in the drink department and want to switch it up for your special day, we recommend a few signature cocktails courtesy of The Knot. Our two favorites? The Honeydew Ginger Gin Fizz and the White Cosmopolitan. Check out the rest of the list of signature cocktails for weddings here.

white cosmopolitan
The White Cosmopolitan, courtesy of St. Germain

The White Cosmopolitan

This sophisticated cosmo looks elegant in a clear martini glass and decorated with an orchid for that extra pizazz.


  • Vodka
  • St. Germain
  • White cranberry juice
  • Lime Juice
honeydew ginger gin fizz
Image source: Food Network

The Honeydew Ginger Gin Fizz

This one is cool and refreshing, perfect for a summertime wedding. Yuzu juice can be found at Japanese markets, or easily replaced with lemon juice as a substitute.


  • Gin
  • Honeydew juice
  • Yuzu juice
  • Iced green tea
  • Ginger beer
  • Mint

Local Breweries

beer tap

The DC Metro area is booming with local breweries, and your wedding venue is the perfect place to explore them. Serving alcohol at weddings becomes a lot more interactive and enjoyable for your guests when they can recognize and appreciate beers that are made locally. What are some of the best breweries in your area? We’ve picked our favorites for you:

1. Bluejacket

This brewery is for the more sophisticated palette. Bluejacket boasts a list of over 20 original brews and five different casks including everything from sours to saisons. This collaborative and experimental company has come together for your enjoyment of their impressive ales and lagers.

2. 3 Stars Brewing Company

The most romantic of them all! Mike McGarvey, a co-founder, began his successful company when his girlfriend got him a home brew kit. If that’s not enough to sell this place for your wedding, than their dozens of beers provided all across the DC area are sure to. Delicious, refreshing, and hoppy!

3. Hellbender Brewing Company

Starting out as no more than a hobby for two buds, Hellbender Brewing Company has transformed into a successful local brewery that would provide the perfect alcohol service for your wedding. Whether it is their floral Red Line Ale or the German inspired Bäre Bönes Kölsch, expect your guests to be blown away by their products and service.

hellbender brewing beers
Image source: Hellbender Brewing

See the full list of local breweries that would make great alcohol providers for your wedding here.


Can you ever go wrong with the classics? Your guests are sure to be satisfied with a stocked bar full of familiar liquors, perfect for well drinks, celebratory shots, and more! Only order vodka crans and need a quick refresher? The Bridal Guide recommends saving cash by offering “well” brands of liquor rather than the pricier premium brands. Look for names like Tito’s, Deep Eddy, Skyy, Three Olives, and more.The site mentions some trendy new favorites as well, like cognac, chambord, and limoncello.

Our Recommendation

Alcohol Service At Weddings in the DC Area

beer truck with taps

We hope this article has eased your worry over the complicated process of providing alcohol at weddings, whether it is through an open bar, a tap truck, or you are just sticking to lemonade. After unpacking the steps to hiring an alcohol service for your wedding, we have happened upon our own service that we would feel proud sharing with you. The Smokehouse Grill, located in Maryland, provides an array of inclusive alcohol packages and services for any special event, be it corporate, casual, or wedding! The Smokehouse Grill possesses a statewide liquor license, so they are fully licensed for all of Maryland, making the paperwork easy and efficient. They take their service a step up from their competitors by offering affordable full bar options as well as those quirky tap trucks we referenced earlier. Scope out some of their alcohol packages as well as their beer, wine, and liquor price lists for more information. We can’t recommend The Smokehouse Grill enough! Still looking for more reassurement? Have faith in our word as well as their customers. That’s right, we’re not the only ones who rave about The Smokehouse Grill. Their customer testimonials tell the true tale of their affordability, efficiency, and service that is truly fit for a wedding day.

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