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Feedback on cash bars (real experience requested)

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Re: Feedback on cash bars (real experience requested)

  • The only cash bar either my husband or I had ever been to was one in Indiana this past summer (well, they did have a keg of bud - ick!), but never anything around here!
  • I completely disagree with the analogy of inviting someone to your home and asking them to pay for a drink. Your home is not a restaurant/hotel/catering hall. No one expects you to have every single type of wine and alcohol available and therefore can't miss its absence. On the other hand, when you go out, you typically do expect access to varieties of wine, beer, and spirits. 

    Be honest, would you really prefer the couple not to have any alcohol at all, rather than making it available if a guest really wants it at the guest's own cost? Is the etiquette really more important to you? If so, you're probably in the minority. That's the thing, alcohol is not actually necessary to a wedding reception, but most people expect it unless there are religious reasons to have a dry wedding. Along the same lines, say you only offer beer and wine for free, but you don't provide access to other spirits, well speaking as someone who doesn't drink wine or beer and only likes a small number of rum or vodka drinks, I'd be more annoyed by not even being given the option to purchase something I'd like to drink than by having only the limited free menu. I've been to weddings both open bar and cash bar and limited time open bars. Of course, I loved the open bar, but I never had a problem with those who did cash or limited time bars, and will almost certainly be doing a limited time open bar myself. 

    In sum, very few people would seriously prefer a dry wedding to a cash bar, saying to themselves, well I can't get a drink but at least they used proper etiquette! If you can't afford to pay for people's alcohol it should still be offered for purchase, however, soda and juice should always be offered for free.
    [Deleted User]
  • Butterflyz, I completely agree with you but we are actually in the minority here. I don't care about buying my drinks- like you, I don't like beer or wine and actually appreciate the fact that I have a choice in purchasing my own cocktail. 
     




  • Kerigirl9 said:
    Please see @grumbledore's post.

    Cash bars are rude regardless of where you are.  If your are hosting an event you should be providing all of the food, beverage and entertainment for your guests.

    That is the definition of hosting.  If you have a party at your home, do you charge your guests for their food?  Their beverages?  No, you provide what you can afford.  Many times, like @MandyMost, our guests will bring a preferred beverage of choice but I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many times it goes unopened because we have provided sufficient refreshments.

    A wedding is no different.  It is a large party that you are hosting on a grand scale and therefore, you should be providing your guests all of their food and beverage based on what you can afford.

    Thank you... Yes, I understand.. Not sure if you read my entire post. i agree that cash bars suck. i had never seen a cash bar before i moved here. I was simply asking for some experience of local people to see if this cash bar thing is really as prevalent as my FI was telling me. Just looking for extra ammunition to help convince him. Unfortunately telling him it's rude doesn't help much.

    I have already talked him into hosted beer and wine so we're on the right track.

    It is definitely common. And like so many common things, it sucks. :D I had to have a very lengthy discussion with my FI about this because he didn't think it was a big deal and it was an absolute deal-breaker for me (reception-wise, not relationship-wise) - I'd elope to Atlantic City before having a cash bar.

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    Kerigirl9
  • huskypuppy14huskypuppy14 Boston Suburbs member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    I completely disagree with the analogy of inviting someone to your home and asking them to pay for a drink. Your home is not a restaurant/hotel/catering hall. No one expects you to have every single type of wine and alcohol available and therefore can't miss its absence. On the other hand, when you go out, you typically do expect access to varieties of wine, beer, and spirits. 

    Be honest, would you really prefer the couple not to have any alcohol at all, rather than making it available if a guest really wants it at the guest's own cost? Is the etiquette really more important to you? If so, you're probably in the minority. That's the thing, alcohol is not actually necessary to a wedding reception, but most people expect it unless there are religious reasons to have a dry wedding. Along the same lines, say you only offer beer and wine for free, but you don't provide access to other spirits, well speaking as someone who doesn't drink wine or beer and only likes a small number of rum or vodka drinks, I'd be more annoyed by not even being given the option to purchase something I'd like to drink than by having only the limited free menu. I've been to weddings both open bar and cash bar and limited time open bars. Of course, I loved the open bar, but I never had a problem with those who did cash or limited time bars, and will almost certainly be doing a limited time open bar myself. 

    In sum, very few people would seriously prefer a dry wedding to a cash bar, saying to themselves, well I can't get a drink but at least they used proper etiquette! If you can't afford to pay for people's alcohol it should still be offered for purchase, however, soda and juice should always be offered for free.
    We'll I prefer lobster or filet to chicken but does that mean I should have the option of paying to upgrade my meal.  The answer is no.  You accept what the host offers graciously.  What you prefer is irrelevant.  Maybe the bride and groom can't afford a full bar so they are only offering beer and wine.  Just like they can't afford filet so they are offering chicken.  If you don't understand that, then I don't know what to tell you.

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    grumbledorealeighbaker
  • A friend of mine who is getting married in June (in the midwest) will be having a cash bar.  Neither are big drinkers, so I think for them its not really a surprise.  They had a section on their wedding website with the menu (they are doing a buffet) and noted there will be a cash bar for alcoholic drinks. I appreciated this because I can prepare to have cash in advance rather than try to find an ATM at the last minute. 
  • I'll admit...I'm not a fan of a cash bar.  But it's what your budget allows.  If you don't want guests to pay for drinks then you need to sacrifice in other areas in order to afford an open bar.  Maybe cut back on flowers, or don't do programs, or forget about the candy bar you wanted to have.  It's doable.  But it's about your taste and comfort and again, budget.
  • We offered a full open bar at our wedding in Central MA.  However, that said, I also work weddings in Central MA and, honestly - without a doubt - 100% will tell you of the 300+ weddings I have worked in the 10+ years in the business, the open vs. cash bar debate is just about evenly split.  Keep in mind, some may have been open for beer, wine and maybe a signature drink only and the other bevs were on a cash basis...some may have been open during cocktail hour only (remember - this is the hour that guests drink the mot) or open for the first 2-3 hours and then change to cash, some are open to a specific amount set by the B&G.  It's really all over the place and -  the best thing about it...there's NO right or wrong and it's all up to you. Paying cash for a cocktail is not rude...it's pretty normal and most people (IF NOT ALL) have been to a wedding that ha had some sort of cash bar - period. If you can afford to keep the bar open all night long...great.  Just know that people will and do take advantage of it...it i, by far, the largest waste of money when planning a wedding.  No question about that. 

    Do what you want and what you can afford...don't fall for what's right or wrong or whether or not strangers on an internet message board think something' rude or not. Cash bars have been in the game for a very long time and they're not going away any time soon.  Best of luck to you! ;)
    [Deleted User]
  • I have never been to a cash bar in Massachusetts. Its not that I would necessarily mind paying for my own drinks, I just think its touchy because how do you let people know to bring cash for the bar? If someone doesn't come prepared with cash, it might be awkward for them. I heard a horror story from a coworker about someone trying to take their card back because it had cash in it and they didn't know it was a cash bar.

    I think its nice to provide even something simple, like wine on the tables, or cute buckets of bottled beer. Doesn't have to be extravagant but at the same time you want all your guests to have fun. 

  • ashleyepashleyep member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited March 2014
    I've been to one wedding in MA with an open bar - they had a full open bar during cocktail hour and switched to hosted beer and wine for the rest of the night with liquor available for purchase.

    Most I've been to have been open bar for only the cocktail hour. I have no problem with either and always bring cash with me to weddings. I've seen it mentioned on the wedding website that there will be a cash bar to give guests a heads up.

    It's been an uphill battle with my fiance and parents to try and get them to agree to hosted beer and wine all night, not just the one hour open cocktail hour that's so common. I still don't know if I'll win that one.
    Anniversary
  • Don't pick a venue because of the bar. Lol. I found that comment funny. It's about atmosphere and service. The bar is secondary!
  • If you sincerely have "a friend" who wouldn't attend a wedding without open bar... you need better friends.
  • In our case- while we can afford a full open bar if we so choose- and we plan to offer something to our guests- much of our family think we are showing off by offering an open bar. One thing I feel like you need to consider when offering open bar to people who are not used to it is the idea that they might drink a lot because they finally do not have to pay for their drinks! (ie the free drink attitude) My first open bar wedding that I attended was tough- the free drinks go down so quick and easy (granted I was younger and I have learned self control now) but no-one wants a lot of "drunk" sloppy people at their wedding. This raises the question- are you better off controlling alcohol consumption by offering only beer and wine? Should you offer liquor too that guests can pay for or not have it available at all. Is offering beer, wine and two signature cocktails and absolutely nothing else (except soda & water) pay for purchase acceptable and even worth our trouble considering our goal of avoiding the drunk sloppy people that we feel lack self control.
  • prettysmile40prettysmile40 Wakefield, MA member
    10 Comments First Anniversary
    I'm not a fan of drinking in general so refuse to pay to have people potentially get drunk at my wedding. Then again we are trying to cut costs so this is one way we will do so.
    [Deleted User]
  • We like to drink, but we RARELY get drunk. We're hosting our bar all night because the majority of our guests will need to pay for a hotel stay the night of our wedding. We are just as happy to pay for our drinks as we are to tip the bar tenders at an open bar, and it doesn't change our opinion about anything. If we know ahead of time that the bar will be hosted, we tend to spend a little more on gifts than we normally would. Hosted bar is a very generous option, but we're perfectly happy if we have to buy our own. We always bring cash to a wedding either way. You never know!
  • edited September 2014
    Our venue offers open cocktail for one hr option or for the full time by consumption or per person. We're thinking of doing open beer and wine and non-alcoholic for the entire time - it's approx. $26 a person and then maybe a signature cocktail. We can't afford to do full open bar, especially by consumption - it just makes me too nervous. I think offer what you can but do what you can afford. It's not worth going broke over! :)

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  • primafaba15primafaba15 member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited September 2014
    My fiance is from the South Shore and while I expect his family to drink a lot more than mine (mine is half teetotallers from the midwest), his family is really weirded out by the idea of an open bar -- or mostly, the expense of one. 

    Meanwhile, my family has made it clear that a cash bar is not an option because they have to come so far for the wedding. So open bar it is. 

    I'm torn myself -- I appreciate the etiquette aspect of it, but it is also a very expensive strain on our budget, even though ours won't be based on consumption. We're going with a beer/wine/soda/champagne open bar, and anything else people can pay for, which I think is fair. I know it might be confusing, but there is only so much we can afford. It would cost us an extra $5/head on top of the base open bar price to add hard liquor.  We're not having an extravagant wedding and there aren't a lot of other places we can trim, so the alternatives would be (a) accepting more money from my parents and thus ceding even more of our choices to them or (b) having a family-only reception. 
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