So... alcohol... This is the blog I've dreaded writing the most. Alcohol at weddings is such an issue sometimes. If you choose to have a dry wedding, some people may have a problem with it. If you have a cash bar, some people may have a problem with that. If you have an open bar, you'll spend a lot of money and have guests that don't complain (and perhaps get drunk). Here's the thing. It's your wedding, your money, and you do what you want to. If they have a problem with what you chose then they are probably there for the wrong reason. I'm not a big fan of people who don't contribute to the budget adding their two cents. Now that I've said that, I'll break down your different options.
Dry Wedding -- Some couples choose to serve no alcohol at their wedding. They may have tea and lemonade or various sodas. This is typically the least expensive option. I got married at a venue that required couples that served alcohol to hire their own bartender and an off duty deputy for security. In addition to that, they have to buy their own alcohol. People go this route because they don't drink, for religious reasons, or because of addiction issues. Whatever your reason, it's your prerogative. You know your crowd. If you come from religious families, they probably won't expect alcohol anyway. My only advice in this instance is if you have some friends that may expect to drink, just casually let them know in advance. I have uncles and cousins that bring their own bar with them.
Cash Bar -- If you have a cash bar, you are responsible for the cost of the bartender (whether they work for the vendor or you have to find your own) and typically that's it. This is a great option if you don't intend to drink and don't really expect many of your guests to drink much either. Again, if you think certain people may need this information beforehand or if it comes up in conversation, let them know what to expect.
Limited service -- There are several ways to do this. You can provide champagne for toasting and no other alcohol. You can have the bar serve beer and wine only. This is less expensive than full service. You might provide your guests with drink tickets so they get two or three drinks on you and then pay cash for anything beyond that. Or you may provide signature cocktails in addition to soft drinks. I listed them in order of expense.
Consumption Bar -- This is an interesting option. Here you pay for alcohol up to a certain amount. Once you have reached your budget, the bartender will let you know and you have the option to pay more or have the bar become cash at that point. This works if you have to use the venue or caterer's alcohol. You can also manipulate this a bit by having signature drinks. When you have a signature drink, your bartender should mix this in advance and not have to open bottles.
Open Bar -- This is very generous of you. And your guests will appreciate it. Gauge your crowd and see how necessary this is. If you can save money and you don't think it will matter by going with one of the other options, go for it. The best way to do an open bar is to buy the alcohol yourself. Any alcohol that you don't use you get to keep. Also, I don't want you to think that just because you have an open bar, everyone will drink and run up your tab. The beauty of an open bar is that they can have as much as they want of whatever they want. That includes tea, soft drinks, and water.