October 2014 Weddings

Cash Bar - Tacky or Practical

I could save $4-5,00 if I provided a cash bar for my guest, but I feel that is tacky. My fiance and I do not drink, people know that- but should we provide free liquor? It is beyond rude to expect them to pay for their drinks?

Re: Cash Bar - Tacky or Practical

  • Exactly what PP said.  Your reception is a party for your guests; therefore, you don't ask them to foot the bill for anything. It would be nice to provide your guests with some options, even if you can't or choose not to do a full bar.  Some people will expect booze, so my advice would be to provide something, though you can have limited options to save money.  My FI and I are brewing our own beer to save on costs.  We're also having wine and a signature cocktail (girly for me) and a drink (more manly for the guys).  We're still saving money, but it doesn't feel like we're cheating our guests either.
    image


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    PrettyGirlLost
  • PPs are correct. It's never nice to make your guests pay for anything. You are hosting them, so host properly. No to cash bars!

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    PrettyGirlLost
  • I disagree.  While the etiquette books say that a cash bar is tacky, I think it's practical.  My FI and I are doing an open bar only during cocktail hour, and the rest of the night will be a cash bar with (maybe) 2 sig drinks as free for them.  I'm also providing sodas, coffee and tea for free so they don't have to pay for that.
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    wajohnson09
  • ashwise said:
    I disagree.  While the etiquette books say that a cash bar is tacky, I think it's practical.  My FI and I are doing an open bar only during cocktail hour, and the rest of the night will be a cash bar with (maybe) 2 sig drinks as free for them.  I'm also providing sodas, coffee and tea for free so they don't have to pay for that.

    Agreed. I have never been to a wedding that did not have a cash bar. I think it really depends on where you are from - grew up in ND, live in MN now. 

    We are doing one or 2 kegs, 10-15 bottles of wine, and unlimited pop. If our guests want something else they have the option to purchase it themselves.

    LeftyKatie24
  • When FI and I were discussing Cash bar vs Open bar, I mentioned that teh Guests from North America would expect (rightly so) that there would be an open bar. FI said that cash bars are done where we are getting married because to do an open bar would be most of our budget and people would waste drinks and well, our friends drink like fish...Still figuring it out...Think i will do soda, tea, coffee for free so people have choice and for those who dont drink...


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  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    ashwise said:
    I disagree.  While the etiquette books say that a cash bar is tacky, I think it's practical.  My FI and I are doing an open bar only during cocktail hour, and the rest of the night will be a cash bar with (maybe) 2 sig drinks as free for them.  I'm also providing sodas, coffee and tea for free so they don't have to pay for that.

    Agreed. I have never been to a wedding that did not have a cash bar. I think it really depends on where you are from - grew up in ND, live in MN now. 

    We are doing one or 2 kegs, 10-15 bottles of wine, and unlimited pop. If our guests want something else they have the option to purchase it themselves.

    No, no, no.  Tradition/Customs =/= Etiquette.  Just because something is commonly done in an area, or you are used to seeing XYZ at weddings, doesn't mean it's not rude.

    Host your guests properly, however you can afford to do it.  If that means you have a dry wedding, limited bar wedding, or a wedding at a non-meal time, then that's what you should do from an etiquette standpoint.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    Jean0715TeddiD34HisMrsJ
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    @grumbledore wrote this great post about Cash Bars in the E forum, and I'm going to cross post it here:

    It's come up a lot lately, and I know a lot of new members aren't going to want to search through pages of threads to find an answer before posting a question for the 100th time this week...

    1. Is it rude to have a cash bar?  Yes.

    2. Why?  Because your wedding reception is a thank you gift to your guests for attending your wedding, and no one should be expected to pay for any part of their own thank you gift.  

    3. But, I can't afford to pay for all of my guests to drink!  There is no rule that says you have to provide alcohol at your wedding reception.  Yes, many people like to drink, but you are planning this thank you gift for your guests and you should plan what you can afford and host it graciously.  If that means you serve a simple dinner and non-alcoholic beverages, that's okay.  Just make sure that whatever you do serve is not paid for by your guests.

    4. But, if people want to drink, shouldn't I accommodate them and allow them to get a drink on their own dime?  No.  Firstly, your guests should not be so rude as to expect anything specific at your reception, other than a meal (if it is a mealtime) or some refreshment (if it is a non-mealtime), so while I understand your desire to make them happy, this is not something that should even come up.  If you are hosting your reception properly, your guests should not need to supplement what is provided with anything additional.  We all need to be able to act like adults and expect other adults to act like adults.  

    5. But, everyone I know had a cash bar!  Why shouldn't I?  It it's normal, it can't be rude!  We almost all know at least one couple that has done this.  You shouldn't because you know better and it's so avoidable.  Just because something is common, does not mean it is not rude.  Tradition or commonness is not a good reason to be rude.

    6. Okay, how about we have an open bar for cocktail hour and then switch to a cash bar?  Or continue hosting beer and wine but switch to cash for hard liquor?  This isn't a good idea.  You want to avoid cash bars, as we already know, and you also want to avoid changing what is available and confusing your guests/making them uncomfortable.  You want to avoid this because, remember, you are hosting this party as a thank you gift to your guests.  Their comfort should be of the utmost importance to you.

    7. But, I had a last minute change of circumstances and now I can't afford to host what I originally planned - surely my guests will understand!  It sucks when plans change - when someone has an unexpected medical bill, a death in the family, a major car repair, anything that can set you back financially is an unneeded stress, especially when you are in the home stretch of wedding preparations.  But take heart - what your guests will definitely understand is if you opt not to serve alcohol at your wedding due to a last minute change in financial circumstances.  And if a guest holds this against you, the guest is being rude, not you.

    8. But, it's not my job to get my guests drunk!  I don't even like drunk people!  Then have a dry wedding.  Having a cash bar will not keep people from getting drunk.  Just stop by a regular bar sometime for confirmation.  Having a cash bar for this reason is insulting to your guests and a very poor excuse.

    9. But, if I can't afford to host an open bar all night and I am not comfortable having a dry wedding, what other options are there?  Luckily, there are other options.  How many of these are available to you depends on your venue, so consider this at the very beginning when you are researching venues.  If you are locked into a venue and have a change in financial circumstances, do everything in your power to get your venue to adjust accordingly.  The options available to you are:  hosted beer and wine all night, open bar without top shelf liquor, limited bar with specific options (say, a couple of beers, a couple of wines, and a couple of signature drinks or specific liquors with mixers).  Whatever you choose, make sure it works for your venue and make sure there is signage posted on the bar with the available drink options so that your guests do not have to guess what is available.

    10. Okay, I hear you, but I still think my reasons are special/circumstances make it okay/you don't know anything about me/etc.  Listen, no one here can stop you from doing as you please.  We're not the wedding police.  We're just here trying to give and receive the best advice possible so that we all have great weddings and our guests have a great time and leave happy.  What you do it ultimately up to you.  There's no reason to try to justify rude behavior - if you insist on having a cash bar, so be it.  But consider the advice above - it was written by someone who has no reason to lie to you.


    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    TeddiD34HisMrsJ
  • I second @PrettyGirlLost

    Host your guests properly. Like I posted earlier, this is a thank you for celebrating with us reception. You do not have people pay for their thank you dinner/drinks. 
    TeddiD34PrettyGirlLost
  • I 3rd PrettyGirlLost

    Please do the hosting properly; your guests will appreciate it!

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    PrettyGirlLost
  • See while I can agree with some of that, since when does my reception become a big "thank you" to people?? I'm sorry, and maybe I'm in the minority here, but I believe my wedding to be a celebration of my love to my future husband and we want our closest friends and family to come celebrate our love with us.  Yes we are thankful that they came and celebrated, but it's a celebration of our union and our love--not a thank you for coming to the wedding.  I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.  Would I love to be able to afford to have an open bar--of course, but I refuse to have a dry wedding because the "proper" thing to do is to have an open bar or no bar.  Like I said before, perhaps I'm in the minority but I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.
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    wajohnson09LeftyKatie24shannie11
  • @ashwise

    Some people find it rude and offensive. Others don't. IMO, I think its rude. Its like going to a birthday party and expecting to pay for birthday cake. 
    TeddiD34PrettyGirlLostHisMrsJ
  • Fran1985 Fran1985 Narnia member
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    ashwise said:
    See while I can agree with some of that, since when does my reception become a big "thank you" to people?? I'm sorry, and maybe I'm in the minority here, but I believe my wedding to be a celebration of my love to my future husband and we want our closest friends and family to come celebrate our love with us.  Yes we are thankful that they came and celebrated, but it's a celebration of our union and our love--not a thank you for coming to the wedding.  I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.  Would I love to be able to afford to have an open bar--of course, but I refuse to have a dry wedding because the "proper" thing to do is to have an open bar or no bar.  Like I said before, perhaps I'm in the minority but I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.
    Thats literally what a reception is. You receive your guests. You ask them to come support your union at your ceremony, and then you thank them. Even though they love you, its a ton of money to go to weddings. The guests are often spending more each to be there then you are spending on them. You can almost always afford alcohol. You can have a brunch reception with mimoas, or pick a venue where you can bring wine and beer, or you can cut your guest list way down. So when you have a cash bar you are saying I wanted alcohol, but I want YOU to pay for it, just like you paid for a gift and a hotel and plane tickets. I want a band at my reception but I can't afford it. It doesn't mean I charge my guest 25 bucks each so I can have one. That's why its insulting, you are making your guests pay for something you want. 

    image
    PrettyGirlLostkeochanHisMrsJ
  • I'm with ashwise on this one.  It's your wedding and you are free to celebrate however you want.  I think it would be nice if you could provide beer and wine and then if guests choose to have mixed drinks, they can pay for those drinks themselves, or you could choose not to offer those drinks at all. 

    I went to a wedding once where the venue did not allow any alcohol aside from beer or wine.  Even if I would have preferred a mixed drink, I was not upset at all that the couple was not providing those - they did what was best for them, and I was still happy to be there. 
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    wajohnson09
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    ashwise said:
    See while I can agree with some of that, since when does my reception become a big "thank you" to people??   That is the entire point of the reception, to thank and "receive" your guests.  

    I'm sorry, and maybe I'm in the minority here, but I believe my wedding to be a celebration of my love to my future husband yes, your wedding ceremony is just this and we want our closest friends and family to come celebrate our love with us.  Yes we are thankful that they came and celebrated, but it's a celebration of our union and our love--not a thank you for coming to the wedding Again, that is the entire point of the reception.  I'm sorry, but the reception is not about the bride and groom.

     I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.  Would I love to be able to afford to have an open bar--of course, but I refuse to have a dry wedding because the "proper" thing to do is to have an open bar or no bar.  Like I said before, perhaps I'm in the minority but I see nothing wrong with having a cash bar.
    Cash bars are rude.  If you can't have an unlimited open bar, then host a limited bar.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    Emily104 said:
    I'm with ashwise on this one.  It's your wedding and you are free to celebrate however you want.  I think it would be nice if you could provide beer and wine and then if guests choose to have mixed drinks, they can pay for those drinks themselves, or you could choose not to offer those drinks at all. 

    I went to a wedding once where the venue did not allow any alcohol aside from beer or wine.  Even if I would have preferred a mixed drink, I was not upset at all that the couple was not providing those - they did what was best for them, and I was still happy to be there. 
    *Buzzer sound* Sorry, wrong on this one. 

    The wedding ceremony is all about you and the groom.  The wedding reception is not, and on top of that, once you begin to include other people in "your day" it ceases to be exclusively "your day."  And that is where the rules of etiquette come into play- they are there to make sure guests are treated properly.

    I now this isn't the E board, but since the topic was mentioned, I answered from the correct etiquette point of view.  The topic of cash bars is one that you really have to think about carefully when planning your wedding, because many, many people find them incredibly rude and don't expect them and so do not bring cash to weddings.

    Also remember, that custom/tradition  =/= etiquette.  Cash bars may be the norm or common in your social circle, but that doesn't make them polite.

    2nd bolded- You went to a wedding where the hosts offered what they could afford/were permitted to offer by the venue, and they hosted those options fully so that you didn't have to pay for anything. . . that's what polite and gracious hosts do.  And you were a polite and gracious guest by happily drinking what they provided.  Good on ya! :-)

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    TeddiD34HisMrsJ
  • I agree that a cash bar is rude.
    Now you know, it's up to you what to do.
    PrettyGirlLostWildMagelet
  • My venue has a small restaurant and full bar attached, and that area is where we are having the cocktail hour.  We are hosting a limited bar of wine, beer, and soda throughout the night, but if guests want to purchase liquor from the fully stocked bar they can do so.  I wouldn't consider this tacky, because I can't very well ask the restaurant to not take money if people are willing to pay, and I'm already offering them plenty of other options that I hope they take advantage of.

    If I was at a venue that didn't have a bar and was bringing in alcohol, I would only get what we would host.  It would be tacky to bring something in that you expect your guests to pay for.
  • ashwise said:
    I disagree.  While the etiquette books say that a cash bar is tacky, I think it's practical.  My FI and I are doing an open bar only during cocktail hour, and the rest of the night will be a cash bar with (maybe) 2 sig drinks as free for them.  I'm also providing sodas, coffee and tea for free so they don't have to pay for that.

    Agreed. I have never been to a wedding that did not have a cash bar. I think it really depends on where you are from - grew up in ND, live in MN now. 

    We are doing one or 2 kegs, 10-15 bottles of wine, and unlimited pop. If our guests want something else they have the option to purchase it themselves.


    I could argue the exact opposite thing. I've never been to a wedding that did not have a OPEN bar. I do agree that it depends on where you are from, but "what is normal" =/= "what is proper etiquette."

    (Actually, I take that back, I've never been to a wedding that had a cash bar until I was grown up and my friends started getting married. And that one wedding that did have one, the cocktail hour was open and the reception was cash, but that little vineyard up in New Hampshire had the most absolute wicked best raspberry wine I've ever had. It's a good thing that my now-FI had some cash in his pocket (I didn't carry a purse/clutch that time) so I could indulge in it's yumminess...

    Back to the point: cash bars rude. open bars nice. "Open" doesn't have to be a top/full shelf. Do beer+wine. Just a couple sig drinks like you mentioned, but don't have the option of guests paying for anything other alcohol. 

    Or, my favorite (that a friend once did): make up a few non-alcohol sig drinks, tell people that they are alcohol, and have fun seeing how many people get "drunk" cause they think they're drinking alcohol... ;)


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    PrettyGirlLost
  • Though I would never have a cash bar (we are doing open bar), my fiance and I did recently attend a wedding of a friend who had an interesting way of managing the bar from open, to cash. It saved them tons of money to have the bar open for an hour, cash for an hour, open for an hour and so on. It also slows down the drinking and assures your guests don't go overboard on the booze. I thought it was an interesting idea.
    wajohnson09
  • I would have to say cash bar = tacky. However, providing beer & wine is a good option and perfectly acceptable.

  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Though I would never have a cash bar (we are doing open bar), my fiance and I did recently attend a wedding of a friend who had an interesting way of managing the bar from open, to cash. It saved them tons of money to have the bar open for an hour, cash for an hour, open for an hour and so on. It also slows down the drinking and assures your guests don't go overboard on the booze. I thought it was an interesting idea.
    This is not recommended; not only is it still considered rude as you are not properly hosting your event, but it will confuse your guests when they go to get another drink which used to be free and are now asked for cash. 

    Also, if people find out that the bar is switching to cash word will spread and drink hoarding behavior will ensue, which will create longer lines at the bar.

    Switching back and forth between cash and open bar doesn't make sense to me at all.  If I was at that wedding and figured out the pattern, I would just wait until the bar was hosted again and then order several drinks at a time each time I went to the bar to avoid having to pay for a drink if I wanted one.

    Switching to a cash bar to limit or control guests' drinking is a straw man argument; most guests know how to drink responsibly and behave in public, and those that tend not to are going to get shitfaced and act out whether you try to limit their consumption or not.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • Honestly, will guests be bummed? Yeah. Will they remember? No. It's not like the girls here are making it out to be. I've been to loads of weddings with cash bar and I always remember to bring some money to wedding in case that happens. It's pretty traditional where most of my family is from.

    As for our friends, they understand and aren't expecting us to have thousands to plunk down on booze. We are doing a cocktail hour and then open bar for one or two types of beer the rest of the reception, try doing something like that. It's a nice compromise. But honestly it's a large amount of money and I don't think people should make you feel bad for opting not to do open bar, everyones weddings, marriages, and finances are different. And like I said, it's not something guests remember years down the road and will sit there and fume about. Trust me.
    wajohnson09
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Honestly, will guests be bummed? Yeah. Will they remember? No. It's not like the girls here are making it out to be. I've been to loads of weddings with cash bar and I always remember to bring some money to wedding in case that happens. It's pretty traditional where most of my family is from.

    As for our friends, they understand and aren't expecting us to have thousands to plunk down on booze. We are doing a cocktail hour and then open bar for one or two types of beer the rest of the reception, try doing something like that. It's a nice compromise. But honestly it's a large amount of money and I don't think people should make you feel bad for opting not to do open bar, everyones weddings, marriages, and finances are different. And like I said, it's not something guests remember years down the road and will sit there and fume about. Trust me.
    What you are hosting- a limited bar- is a great way to be budget conscious and is well within proper etiquette. 

    However, your statements in bold are just not true.  Your guests will absolutely remember that you had a cash bar, just like they will remember if they were too hot/too cold, didn't have a place to sit, the food was shitty, your music sucked, etc.  Your guests will not remember what your dress looked like, what your bouquets looked like, what your centerpieces looked like, etc.  They will only recall whether or not they had a good time, and the reasons why they did or did not.

    Don't want to believe me?  Try reading this thread: http://forums.theknot.com/discussion/996525/worst-wedding-you-ve-ever-been-to/p1

    Cash bars are a recurring theme.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


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