Etiquette

UK brides: Cash bars - still rude?

edited December 2016 in Etiquette
Hi everyone,

To all UK brides, I know cash bars are a big no-no in the USA and some continental European countries but are they actually considered rude in the UK? I have been to very few weddings that didn't one. Even quite well off/rich couples I know had one. 

It seems that most UK venues make it almost impossible to fund your own bar because either the cost of the drinks or the corkage charge is prohibitively high. One venue I contacted charges £20 ($24 US dollars) per bottle as corkage or the drinks were between  £5- £9 ($6- $11 US) per glass.

People drink on average 2 glasses an hour so if you have an open bar for 4 hours with 50 guests that is about £2000/$2,455 if each drink costs  £5. Statistically speaking British people are the heaviest drinkers in Europe so you are probably looking at spending more. I read that Americans get charged per person as opposed to by each glass which is why they can afford open bars.

I spoke to my wedding planner about it and she has done hundreds of weddings. She said there is a cultural divide on this issue and that in white British culture it is much more normal to have cash bars. However most ethnic cultures, e.g. black, indian, turkisb etc frown on it and it is considered rude. For this reason I am having an open bar.

Also venues that cater to ethnic crowds often charge no corkage, so it's easy for me to do all the alcohol myself. However there are not many venues like this. Most charge a wedding package where guests get a toasting drink, drink with a meal and a cocktail drink and that's it.

Due to the constraints placed on British brides are cash bar still considered rude?

Re: UK brides: Cash bars - still rude?

  • Different venues have different rules. I looked at places that offered prepaid packages, consumption rates, and byob (some with corkage fees and one without). I automatically removed any place that charged a corkage fee (or a cake cutting fee). Everyone has constraints against them when planning a wedding, not just in the bar area. I think it is a lazy, cop out to blame other people for your (general you) decision to have a cash bar. Just because a lot of people do something doesn't make it less rude, just common. You wouldn't invite someone to a dinner party and then charge them for a glass of wine. Wedding receptions are just big parties, polite hosting rules still apply.
    short+sassySP29OurWildKingdomcowgirl8238
  • It's common, and sadly, expected in a lot of circles in the UK - but that doesn't make it right. For our wedding the main thing we prioritised was an open bar, but we just had a pretty average budget so we had to be slightly more creative about it. We found a venue with no corkage and provided our own. We popped over to France and were able to more than cater for our heavy drinking crowd of 100 for a steal - probably for the same amount a hotel might charge for providing a glass of fizz for the toasts. My living room looked like the back room of a working mans club for months! It can be done, easily. You just need to want to do it. The way I look at it is that having a cash bar is actually asking your guests to subsidise your wedding. You want everyone to drink and have a good time, you want the party atmosphere that comes with drinking.....you just don't want to pay for it. So your guests have to pay instead. Like I said earlier, its common but that doesn't make it....


    I actually agree with you and I am doing the same thing as you by going to France. I've asked my caterers,  MC, dj and my photographers - what makes a really fun wedding and they all gave similar answers - open bar, good food, limited or no waiting around and good entertainment. They said people are always happier with an open bar.

    I don't know why more brides don't ask their suppliers for advice because they have seen more weddings than anyone else. Mine told me people don't ask them very often about what guests would like.

    The issue with cash bars is that I know how hard it is to get venues with no corkage, especially in London so I always felt a little bad side-eyeing cash bars.
    SP29
  • We had under 70 guests and our open bar (including malt whiskey and liquors) only cost £660, the venue had to refund us in the end! We had provided a lot of table wine so that helped.  We had the bar open from 4pm till 12 midnight.  

    We wanted a venue where we could afford an open bar so kept looking till we found one.  Corkage was £6, their fizz was £21 and pints of Punk IPA, quality bottled beer etc were £2-2.50, posh gin and malt whiskey were £3-4 each.  In total our drinks bill including corkage, soft drinks, etc was under £3,000.  If we had booked the standard hotel I'm sure we would have easily spent double.  

    In answer to your question OP, I think that cash bars are almost ubiquitous in parts of Scotland and by most people are not considered rude per say, unless the bride and groom have spent shitloads on crap at the expense of their guests like fancy cars.  

    For example at a hotel I worked in the bride spent £4,000 on flowers but had a cash bar, I thought that was in poor taste myself and I hope her guests did as well.  On the other hand I've been to a couple of weddings with cash bars and preferred a cash bar to a dry wedding, sorry if that makes me rude!

    Our family doesn't do cash bars at weddings, it's concidered poor planning.  I just don't side-eye them at other people's weddings unless I see extravagant crap that cost thousands.  


    englishrose-2
  • edited December 2016
    We had under 70 guests and our open bar (including malt whiskey and liquors) only cost £660, the venue had to refund us in the end! We had provided a lot of table wine so that helped.  We had the bar open from 4pm till 12 midnight.  

    We wanted a venue where we could afford an open bar so kept looking till we found one.  Corkage was £6, their fizz was £21 and pints of Punk IPA, quality bottled beer etc were £2-2.50, posh gin and malt whiskey were £3-4 each.  In total our drinks bill including corkage, soft drinks, etc was under £3,000.  If we had booked the standard hotel I'm sure we would have easily spent double.  

    In answer to your question OP, I think that cash bars are almost ubiquitous in parts of Scotland and by most people are not considered rude per say, unless the bride and groom have spent shitloads on crap at the expense of their guests like fancy cars.  

    For example at a hotel I worked in the bride spent £4,000 on flowers but had a cash bar, I thought that was in poor taste myself and I hope her guests did as well.  On the other hand I've been to a couple of weddings with cash bars and preferred a cash bar to a dry wedding, sorry if that makes me rude!

    Our family doesn't do cash bars at weddings, it's concidered poor planning.  I just don't side-eye them at other people's weddings unless I see extravagant crap that cost thousands.  


    Personally I think a dry bar is worse than a cash bar and most British people I know would hate a dry wedding far more than a cash bar! For most British people, alcohol in an essential part of a social event. Dry weddings generally speaking would not go down well here! Lol
    englishrose-2
  • edited December 2016
    Oh I agree with the side eye when couples waste thousands on flowers, cars, and a fancy hotel where a glass of house white is about £9 at the cash bar. Come on pal, I've already paid for a new dress, a hotel for the night, and a set of towels from your John Lewis registry! That being said, if I heard it was a dry wedding I might have other plans that weekend. Or hiding in the toilets like this....





    The funny thing is I am teetotal and never drink alcohol but it is important to me for guests to have an open bar. I've seen parties fail due to lack of alcohol. Whether we like it or not, drinking alcohol is ingrained into British culture in a big way, moreso than any other european culture. 

    I always thought it was because England, more than the rest of Britain, doesn't have a laid back culture like Spain or Italy. So people rely on alcohol to get them relaxed enough to have fun because they are not used to having raucous fun in the absence of alcohol. This is one of the few areas where I personally disagree with Tk majority view. I think a cash bar is better than a dry wedding

    Also, I think the bride should pay for bridesmaid dresses. They are only wearing the dress because the bride asks for it! But in America I think it is common for the bridesmaids to pay. These are the only areas where I disagree.


  • Nah, I'm pretty sure all parts of the UK binge drink to the same standard.
                 
  • edited December 2016
    Nah, I'm pretty sure all parts of the UK binge drink to the same standard.


    I meant English culture is less inherently laid back compared to Scotland, Wales etc. Not that English people drink less.
  • Max_G said:
    Oh I agree with the side eye when couples waste thousands on flowers, cars, and a fancy hotel where a glass of house white is about £9 at the cash bar. Come on pal, I've already paid for a new dress, a hotel for the night, and a set of towels from your John Lewis registry! That being said, if I heard it was a dry wedding I might have other plans that weekend. Or hiding in the toilets like this....





    The funny thing is I am teetotal and never drink alcohol but it is important to me for guests to have an open bar. I've seen parties fail due to lack of alcohol. Whether we like it or not, drinking alcohol is ingrained into British culture in a big way, moreso than any other european culture. 

    I always thought it was because England, more than the rest of Britain, doesn't have a laid back culture like Spain or Italy. So people rely on alcohol to get them relaxed enough to have fun because they are not used to having raucous fun in the absence of alcohol. This is one of the few areas where I personally disagree with Tk majority view. I think a cash bar is better than a dry wedding

    Also, I think the bride should pay for bridesmaid dresses. They are only wearing the dress because the bride asks for it! But in America I think it is common for the bridesmaids to pay. These are the only areas where I disagree.


    For some reason I can't bold.  Yes, that is true, in the U.S. bridesmaids generally pay for their own dresses.  Not always, I was in a wedding where the bride paid for our dresses, but usually.  There are etiquette rules with it.  For example, the bride needs to ask for a budget (privately) from each person and then either stick to that budget or make up the difference for everyone.

    But I agree with you.  It's not considered bad etiquette, but I've always thought it was a little odd that...unless a bride gives a general "wear a knee length blue dress"...the bride does not pay for the BM dresses.  I've heard in the UK it is more typical for brides to pay for BM dresses.

    It's also true that, in the U.S., it's easy to find venues that charge a flat rate per guest for the bar.  With that said, it is not always the best "bang for your buck".  I'm making a broad generalization here, but I've usually found the flat rate to equal the cost of about 3-4 drinks per guest.  That can work out for a heavy drinking crowd.  But not so much if most guests drink less than that.  On the positive side, a host doesn't have to worry about a surprise "larger than expected" bill at the end of the night.

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    SP29
  • I honestly don't think anyone in the U.K. will complain about a cash bar in the evening, unless as ScottishSarah says, money has been spent on non-guest focussed things. I think as long as there's drinks for the reception, table wine and a toast, people don't expect an open bar.

    Very few venues are set up for it unless you put a credit card behind the bar and pay the tab, which can be thousands of pounds. UK wedding venues all seem to assume a cash bar for the evening.

    I have found a venue which is no corkage for the day and "cash bar" in the evening. I am going to pay the tab but I am more fortunate with my budget than most.

    i know the advice on here might be if you can't afford a cash bar then have a dry wedding or whatever, and that it's rude for guests to complain about a dry wedding, but I agree with the others that people would consider a dry wedding pretty rude in the UK, unless it was because the B or G had alcohol issues or something. I honestly think expectations are different over here than to the US about cash bars. In the evening, I think they're appreciated but not expected as the B&G will have provided shed loads of alcohol for the day reception.
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California
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  • edited December 2016
    Cash bars are tacky AF. No way to excuse it. One could easily have a barrel of beer and wine for guests but often people chose venues they can't afford. 

    When I picked our venue,I specifically only looked at places with bar packages. When I asked venues about it that didn't have it advertised, many said they would create something even though they didn't have a set package, as I explained it was a necessity. 

    But evening guests and cash bars just scream those tacky, 4 weddings, cheap roast dinner, and bridal diamanté tiara weddings. It is like those rude people that blow their money on a ceremony venue then invite like 100+ evening guests bc they didn't want to feed them a meal. It's just tacky. 

    I also disagree that it's ok in the evenings. A wedding is 1 event- having evening guests is super rude, and having evening guests AND switching to a cash bar is one of the most crass things I have ever heard of. Have people no shame?! Have the wedding one can afford! 

    Onr could easily have a hog roast and some beer/cider/wine but it interferes with their princess day. 
    What do you mean by bar packages? Are you saying that you found venues in London that agreed to let you bring drinks corkage free when that wasn't their policy? I have spoken to many venues in London and most want you to put a credit card behind the bar or pay per drink because it's more financial beneficial to them. I don't know of a single venue that will just change their policy. I only raise this issue because I wondered if etiquette needs to be bend a little due to the attitudes of venues. I'm lucky in finding a place that doesn't charge corkage, but these places are limited especially in London. You can also get charged for barrels of beer. It's also not about wanting a venue you can't afford. The case is most venues in the UK charge prohibitive levels of corkage to force people to use their bar. It just seems unfair to be dogmatic to some users when they may have no other choice. Surely you must have noticed this in the UK?
  • As others have stated, "common" is totally different than "not rude". Tons of common things are rude. Among my family and family-friends, all of whom are from about a 20-mile area, things are always cash bar. So it's extremely common. But that doesn't make it etiquette-approved! And we're in the US.

    Also, I don't know where you got the idea that it's cheaper to have an open bar in the US. Most of the venues when I was shopping had a cost of about $55/person for open bar, and that was not including the tax and tip (which would end up about 25% more or something like that). For a 150 person wedding we were expecting to pay around 10k for an open bar if necessary. However, we found a venue that let you bring in the alcohol wholesale--the actual "bar cost" was only around 2k, but that doesn't include everything we paid for bar tenders, glassware, etc., from the caterer--I assume it added up to over 5k total for the open bar. We're in a major east coast city, so I assume it's less elsewhere, but still not cheap!
  • MandyMost said:
    As others have stated, "common" is totally different than "not rude". Tons of common things are rude. Among my family and family-friends, all of whom are from about a 20-mile area, things are always cash bar. So it's extremely common. But that doesn't make it etiquette-approved! And we're in the US.

    Also, I don't know where you got the idea that it's cheaper to have an open bar in the US. Most of the venues when I was shopping had a cost of about $55/person for open bar, and that was not including the tax and tip (which would end up about 25% more or something like that). For a 150 person wedding we were expecting to pay around 10k for an open bar if necessary. However, we found a venue that let you bring in the alcohol wholesale--the actual "bar cost" was only around 2k, but that doesn't include everything we paid for bar tenders, glassware, etc., from the caterer--I assume it added up to over 5k total for the open bar. We're in a major east coast city, so I assume it's less elsewhere, but still not cheap!
    Seriously? That is so crazy to me. That is more than what we paid for buffet, hall rental, and open bar combined (ours was $30 for food/hall rental per person, and $10 for open bar). I knew ours was fairly cheap for our area, and I know our area (Toledo Ohio) isn't generally expensive, but that is crazy to me!
  • MandyMost said:
    As others have stated, "common" is totally different than "not rude". Tons of common things are rude. Among my family and family-friends, all of whom are from about a 20-mile area, things are always cash bar. So it's extremely common. But that doesn't make it etiquette-approved! And we're in the US.

    Also, I don't know where you got the idea that it's cheaper to have an open bar in the US. Most of the venues when I was shopping had a cost of about $55/person for open bar, and that was not including the tax and tip (which would end up about 25% more or something like that). For a 150 person wedding we were expecting to pay around 10k for an open bar if necessary. However, we found a venue that let you bring in the alcohol wholesale--the actual "bar cost" was only around 2k, but that doesn't include everything we paid for bar tenders, glassware, etc., from the caterer--I assume it added up to over 5k total for the open bar. We're in a major east coast city, so I assume it's less elsewhere, but still not cheap!
    Seriously? That is so crazy to me. That is more than what we paid for buffet, hall rental, and open bar combined (ours was $30 for food/hall rental per person, and $10 for open bar). I knew ours was fairly cheap for our area, and I know our area (Toledo Ohio) isn't generally expensive, but that is crazy to me!
    Yup. Prices vary widely. Yours sounds shockingly cheap to me (NJ). 
  • MandyMost said:
    As others have stated, "common" is totally different than "not rude". Tons of common things are rude. Among my family and family-friends, all of whom are from about a 20-mile area, things are always cash bar. So it's extremely common. But that doesn't make it etiquette-approved! And we're in the US.

    Also, I don't know where you got the idea that it's cheaper to have an open bar in the US. Most of the venues when I was shopping had a cost of about $55/person for open bar, and that was not including the tax and tip (which would end up about 25% more or something like that). For a 150 person wedding we were expecting to pay around 10k for an open bar if necessary. However, we found a venue that let you bring in the alcohol wholesale--the actual "bar cost" was only around 2k, but that doesn't include everything we paid for bar tenders, glassware, etc., from the caterer--I assume it added up to over 5k total for the open bar. We're in a major east coast city, so I assume it's less elsewhere, but still not cheap!
    Seriously? That is so crazy to me. That is more than what we paid for buffet, hall rental, and open bar combined (ours was $30 for food/hall rental per person, and $10 for open bar). I knew ours was fairly cheap for our area, and I know our area (Toledo Ohio) isn't generally expensive, but that is crazy to me!
    Yup. Prices vary widely. Yours sounds shockingly cheap to me (NJ). 

    NOLA here and we fall about in the middle, lol.  I'm reading and thinking, "Wow, that's high.  Wow, that's cheap."  I didn't get married here, but I've thrown big company Christmas parties and have seen a lot of quotes.  Usually an open bar runs around $24-$28/person (beer, wine, well cocktails) or $3 more/person for premium cocktails.  And, yeah, you need to add tax and mandatory tip on top of it.  It can also be found cheaper than that, especially for smaller venues.
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