Open Bar Wedding Etiquette: How to Take Full, Responsible Advantage

No one wants to be the rude, annoying guest at a wedding. Weddings are for the bride and groom; it's their big moment, and it is your job as a guest to help make their moment the best it can possibly be.

While in theory that sounds like an easy job, etiquette and decorum rules can easily result in a sticky situation - especially when it comes to managing an open bar.

wedding couple

Sure, wedding receptions are fun events filled with booze and dancing, but even if you aren't paying for your beverages, there are limits to your indulgences. While some limits are enforced by common courtesy, others are as different as each couple. That means that what is expected of you is not always a set of hard and fast rules.

To help you navigate your way though your next wedding, we've worked to compile an etiquette guide on drinking at weddings. Don't worry, the rules are so simple that you'll be able to remember them even if you get a little carried away by the festivities.

Selecting Your Libations

Wedding open bar selection

Not every wedding is going to be equipped with a full bar and top shelf liquors. If you find that that is the case, usually your liquor of choice will be available should you choose to hand over a little extra cash to the bartender.

If it isn't, most of the time there is a signature cocktail picked out by the bride and groom that is being served all evening. Why not try it? It's something special to the newlyweds and may give you an interesting insight into their personalities. Plus, it's not going to cost you anything.

No matter what is available at the bar, don't gripe if something is lacking. You aren't at a club and you are probably getting your (rather expensive) alcoholic beverages for free.

Take this into account before you start complaining to the brother-in-law that they only had Ketel One instead of Belvedere for your dirty martini. Remember you aren't James Bond and this is a party for the bride and groom.

Cash-Only Bars


American custom dictates that the wedding hosts should provide a bar for their guest to indulge at. However, it is not always the case that everything is 100 percent pre-paid. Therefore it is best to be prepared for these situations and ensure that you have a bit of cash on you.

If you want to be sure you're completely prepared for the bar situation, ask the wedding organizers. They will be able to tell you if you do or don't need cash, which could save you frustrations and awkward confrontations on the day of the wedding.


Tipping the bartender at a wedding is not a requirement. Usually the hosts have paid for the evening in full and provided the staff with food. That does not mean, however, that you cannot tip.

In fact, if the bartender goes out of his way to provide you with your call liquor or makes a particularly delicious drink, by all means slip him a tip. Just know that it is not required. 

Last Call

open bar last call

Weddings are generally not places to get sloppy drunk. In fact, it is a mark of courtesy to keep yourself within reasonable limits. That's not to say that you shouldn't let loose and have a good time. Just make sure that when you hear last call, you are ready and able to exit with the rest of the party.

Use last call, not as an excuse for one more drink, but as a reminder that you need to collect yourself. Be considerate in your consumption and preserve the dignity that such a momentous occasion like a wedding deserves.

Make sure that you respect the expectations set by both traditional etiquette and the wedded couple themselves. It will keep you out of trouble and it will ensure that the newlyweds have the wedding of their dreams.

Read More: Are Cupcake Tiers the New Wedding Cake?

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