(Closed) Cash Bar vs. Open Bar

posted 7 years ago in Reception
Post # 107
823 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

Around here, cash bar is totally normal. I will say that if it came down to a cash bar or no alcohol, my social circle would much rather but their own drinks than attend a dry wedding and they would freaking say so. 

If you are paying for nonalcoholic beverages, I think it’s totally fine to make guests pay for alcohol if they want it. They NEED a beverage to quench their thirst, they DON’T NEED alcohol. If they choose to enjoy it at cost, that’s up to them. 

And as for this nonsense that a cash bar creates classes among guests, who flipping cares? Seriously, even if someone isn’t drinking alcohol, no one knows that it’s because they can or can’t afford it. Everyone’s a big cry baby these days, get over it. 

Post # 108
38 posts
  • Wedding: August 2014

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@MrsPhilly:  Car bar!!

Post # 109
1609 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

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@MrsPhilly:  lol!  Must be a Canadian thing.  I’m out on the east coast.  We call them “car bars”

Post # 110
1405 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

I posted a poll here on weddingbee asking people how long from the day they became engaged to their wedding day. There were a number of people who responded that they are waiting more than two years and even three years to get married. Many were waiting so long because they cannot afford a wedding right now. I think that is very sad.

That really made me stop and think about how out of hand the whole wedding game has become, with the average cost of a U.S. wedding at $28,000. That’s the average, so a number of people are spending much more. Then people feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses. This topic of open bar versus cash bar has come up a lot on weddingbee, with a fair number of people who say they would be offended by having to pay for their own drinks. Sure, an open bar is lots of fun. But I think it is more important that two people I care about are able to afford to get married than that I be provided with free drinks. I really never had a problem with a cash bar, and it wasn’t until I joined weddingbee that I realized a number of people thought it was rude. After after seeing the results of my poll and realizing the effects of the financial pressure, I feel more strongly than ever that this ought to be a socially acceptable option and that guests should not complain about it.

That said, there might be other options for you. I did have an open bar. The venue offered a flat rate of $23 per adult guest, but I took my chances, on the advice of other bees, and just ran a tab. The result was $695 for about 50 guests on a Sunday afternoon (a lot less than if I’d paid the flat rate). Keeping the wedding small is an option that allows you to really splurge on the people you do invite. Holding the wedding on a Sunday afternoon (ceremony at 12:30 p.m.) helped keep the drinking down.

I opted to have fewer guests, but to be able to do a lot for them. This may not be possible if both of you have tons of relatives that you feel obligated to invite.

In the end, we just can’t keep giving in to all the expectations that have led to the average cost of a wedding being $28,000. I would not want people I care about to start their marriage in debt just in order to impress me. If more people start having the cash bar, it will become more acceptable.

Post # 111
666 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

We’re hosting house beer, house wine, and non-alcoholic drinks.  However, the venue provides a full bar, so those that wish to can purchase other drinks.  I don’t see any problem with this.

If my friend invites me to her house for dinner, it’s nice that she feeds me and gives me a drink, and I can perfectly well enjoy what she is serving to me.  However, I don’t expect to be able to get any drink under the sun from her, and if there’s some drink I especially want, she might not necessarily have it – so then I can bring my own.  Cash bar is similar to this I believe.  As long as some refreshment is provided (preferrably including some alcohol, but I don’t think is absolutely required), offering the guests a chance to purchase something they may prefer is fine.

I’ve myself not been to a wedding without a cash bar, although I know some people that have offered open bar, so I think in my area it is mixed.

Post # 112
778 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I don’t think an open bar is necessary for a reception, and I won’t be having one at my wedding.  As long as you provide non-alcoholic drinks for your guests, I don’t see what the big deal is.  As long as a cash bar is available and people know ahead of time, I think it’s fine.

Post # 113
3080 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

@aaangelaa:  it would be a huge no no where I live to have a cash bar. But if its ok by you, then go for it. 

Post # 114
371 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

This has to be a regional thing maybe?  Or like other have said, a social circle thing.  I have been to very few open bar events for the whole night.  Most of the weddings I have been to have hosted bar for the cocktail hour with a switch to cash bar, and it is completely acceptable and not considered rude at all.  Hosted bars are NOT the expectation where I am from.

Post # 115
128 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

I would do the open bar for the cocktail hour and the cash bar for the reception.


I work in catering at a wedding venue. I work with couples as they are planning their menus, and many couples are opting for this these days. We would all love to host an open bar for the entire night but that’s just not an option for everyone anymore. As a wedding professional, this is VERY common and no longer as “rude” as some seem to think. As a wedding guest I prefer to have the option of having alcohol at my own expense than not at all! I don’t mind paying for my own drinks but I would be more put off if they did not even offer the option of a cash bar and had a dry wedding for money reasons (not religious, cultural, etc.)


Do what you can comfortably afford.

Post # 116
794 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

As of now, the plan is that we are having beer and wine available at no charge all night (with a rather large selection of beers and a variety of wines).  If guests want liquor drinks, they’ll have to pay for those.  It’s saving us over $1,000 so I hope no one thinks we’re being stingy, just trying to stay within budget!

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