The death of the free bar: should guests pay for alcohol at weddings?

Should couples pay for their guests to drink alcohol at their wedding? [Photo: Getty]

You’re engaged. All the congrats. Now it’s time to get planning, and a good starting point will be setting your wedding budget.

But with the average nuptials costing a whopping £32,000 – up £27,161 from last year, many couples will be looking to cut costs. Starting with the free bar.

According to a report by Bridebook.co.uk, only 21% of couples now offer a free bar for their big day.

The survey of 4,000 recently married couples in the UK found that a whopping 65% actually have a paid bar, meaning guests purchase their own drinks.

But the passing of the bar tab onto their friends and family doesn’t always go down well with potential guests.

One bride-to-be recently sparked outrage on Australian social media after revealing plans to sell ‘alcohol tickets’ to her guests.

“Hey everyone, so I want some thoughts and opinions. I’m [no] longer going to do an open bar – instead, alcohol tickets,” the bride wrote.

As reported by the Daily Mail, her budget allowed for 10 cases of beer and 14 bottles of wine, which she planned to charge guests for to keep her wedding within budget.

Bottles of beer were priced at $2 (£1.12) each or six for $10 (£5.58), while wine drinkers faced a cost of $2 a glass.

But social media was divided about whether or not it was fair to charge her guests to drink.

“If you can’t afford alcohol at your wedding, don’t have alcohol at your wedding,” one user reportedly commented.

“Inappropriate and tacky to say the least,” another agreed.

A lot of the anger about this particular post stems from the fact that the bride also admitted to forking out on optional extras such as one-to-one dance classes, but is it fair to penalise couples who genuinely can’t afford to pay for their guests booze?

Thanks to the pressure to deliver an Insta-worthy wedding, brides and grooms-to-be are often faced with difficult decisions about what wedding outlays to prioritise.

According to Bridebook.co.uk founder Hamish Shephard alcohol can be an easy sacrifice for couples looking to save money, as it’s one of the few cuts which can be made last minute, without ruining the overall feel of the day.

“Couples can wait until the absolute last minute – even the night before the wedding – to decide whether to pay for drinks or not,” he told Stylist.

“So many couples overspend on their budget that when it comes to shelling out an extra three or four thousand pounds for drinks, it can make more sense to let guests buy their own. It won’t affect their enjoyment of the day and each individual will be spending a fairly small amount.”

Is it tacky not to have a free bar at your wedding? [Photo: Getty]

Of course, the expense of weddings can work both ways.

A recent survey revealed that while one wedding costs guests on average £432, UK adults are, on average, set to attend four weddings each summer, meaning that most will spend £1,728 attending their loved ones’ nuptials.

Another survey by Provident found that guests pay an average of £1,015 on the big day, and twice as much if it’s abroad.

The research factors in pre- and post-celebration additions including hotels, wedding gifts, outfits and the hen or stag do.

Celebratory drinks, meals and engagement party ensembles are also included in the costs.

But lets face it, quaffing free drinks all day at the expense of the bride and groom is a huge perk for guests, but it’s not always a given. And the decision about whether or not to provide a free bar should therefore be the couple’s prerogative.

Plus there are plenty of other ways the soon-to-be weds can show hospitality to guests beyond providing an unlimited supply of sauvignon. And some of these might actually better reflect the couples’ personality and values.

Besides shouldn’t offering friends and family the chance to be part of their big day, be special enough for most guests?

Cheers to the happy couple, no matter who paid for the glass of fizz you’re chinking!

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