Cash bar vs Open bar

posted 2 years ago in Reception
Post # 16
557 posts
Busy bee

hey bee– i see your wedding is in the dells.  i’m also from wisconsin and cash bars are pretty typical there.  our wedding was in door county and pretty much all guests had to drive up and get a hotel, and we had an open bar to really make the guests feel hosted and appreciated for making all the effort to get there.  you could do a limited open bar (like just beer or wine).

Post # 17
248 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2022

Where I live, people absolutely expect an open bar. But we’re going to have a lot of kids and some non-drinkers at our wedding, so we’ll ask if we can do a consumption bar. You may want to look into if your venue/caterer offers that option.

Post # 18
3708 posts
Sugar bee

It doesn’t matter whether random bees think cash bars are rude or not…it matters what’s typical in your circle. If cash bars are the norm where you’re from, then you’re fine doing one. If not then you probably would get some side eye. 

Personally I’d rather have the option of a cash bar than no bar at all!

Post # 19
4884 posts
Honey bee

I have been to at least 25-30 weddings in my life and all but one were full open bars and the one was a dry wedding.  I have never experienced a cash bar in the wild and would be completely unprepared for it as I only take a couple bucks for some tip money for the bartenders or valets.    

Etiquette aside, if cash bars aren’t the norm for your circle, at least let your guests know your decision ahead of time so that they can prepare themselves.  

Post # 20
484 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

Both me and my husband felt strongly about providng an open bar. Destination weddings mean that guests have to travel to come celebrate.  If it were me, I would want to have an open bar.  Maybe you guys can come to a compromise and provide two free alcoholic beverages for each guest. 

Post # 21
217 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2020

We are deff having an open bar at ours, and our wedding is on a very tight budget. I am a bartender and we sometimes host weddings at the restaurant i work at. I wont bartend weddings that are cash bars. im already an awkward person and asking wedding guests for money for their drinks just makes me uncomfortable. 

we have one coming up this weekend and its a cash bar. i am only waitressing it, thank god.. but i could go on and on about why it is going to be a s**t show. for example- only inviting 30 people to the ceremony and the other 100 people only are invited to the reception- the reeption that is having a cash bar.  

Post # 22
165 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: August 2020

 Cash bar is fine as long as word gets around beforehand or there’s an ATM on site. If people are at your wedding and are upset or calling you tacky, they’re rude and need to check their priorities. Just my opinion. It’s nobody else’s responsibility to provide you with your drug of choice.

Post # 23
1113 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2019

My husband and I also don’t really drink, but we did a host bar. We categorized each guest (overestimated): no drinks, 2-3 drinks, 4-6 drinks… and then figured out how much each guest would probably cost if we paid for each drink. We thought we would save money by doing a host bar, and we did. Our closest guest was a 1 hour drive, and didn’t want our guests to suffer just because we’re not drinkers.

Look into a host bar!

ETA: We offered all wine/beer/cocktail options for guests, we just paid per drink.

Post # 24
505 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2019

You can offer just beer and wine, that’s pretty normal where I’m from. I think it tends to be a little cheaper.

Post # 25
210 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2020

I’ve never seen an open bar in my life, my side of friends/family all have cash bars and fiances mostly have wine only (although most have a limit then cash bar).

I dont understand why people expect others to pay for their choice to drink, no where in ettiquette does it say you must provide alcohol and having a cash bar allows people to choose to drink if they wish, its not the couples job to fund it though.

Post # 26
2050 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019

View original reply
ericaleesi :  if I was a drinker (I drink occasionally) I would want the option to get a drink even if I had to pay for it. I don’t think it’s a good idea to remove the option completely. That would cause wayyy more complaints from the guests than having to pay for it. 
Most of my side of the family doesn’t drink but fiancé’s does. My cousins drink and our friends mostly do as well. None are huge drinkers by any means and all are very mature about their choices and wouldn’t get drunk. Our wedding is this Friday. We are doing an open beer and wine selection for the cocktail hour and reception. Any cocktails people want they can purchase. We found that a good middle ground. 

and I personally hate it when people throw around the word tacky in regards to what a wedding is able to provide for guests. If we love these people and are going to their wedding to support their marriage, can’t we also cut them some slack about the bar situation? Like another poster said, no one is obligated to provide someone with their drug of choice and booze is not a “necessity” in that sense. I didint want an open bar with hard alcohol because I don’t want a wedding where guests get that drunk, I also dont want to start off our married life having 3,000 less dollars because it would have been “tacky” to not give guests all the booze they can slug down. People can have plenty of fun with beer and wine or can deal with a cash bar. 

oh and cash bar in my experience is just a phrase to explain having to pay for your own drinks, but our venue takes credit cards. So it isn’t just cash. 



Post # 27
5986 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

I disagree with the other WI bee. I grew up there and have never been to a wedding with a full cash bar so I don’t think you can assume it’s the norm for the entire state. In my circle, we typically see limited bars where there is just beer and wine.

I personally believe in hosting guests properly which would mean not charging them for alcohol. It’s a tricky situation because as a guest I would rather have the option to buy a glass of wine to go with dinner versus a dry wedding but I would also be a bit put off that the wedding wasn’t properly hosted, especially with the drive to the Dells and the price of the typical hotel rooms there.

ETA: I do not recommend just doing the first hour. The one wedding I was at with that had people focused on sucking down drinks and ordering 3-4 drinks right at the end of the hour to have “reserves.” Many people were also then very drunk before dinner. While I think it’s gross behavior, I would guess it’s not terribly uncommon.

Post # 28
269 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2018

Wisconsin bee here! My experience is that some alcohol is hosted, typically beer, because it’s Wisconsin. We hosted beer, and had a full cash bar. People pretty much stuck to drinking beer and soda. Honestly, if people were to get up tight about what kind of beverage I hosted, they could stay home. I don’t need that kind of pettiness around. 

Post # 29
349 posts
Helper bee

Do both! My friend did a cash bar for the first hour or two and an open bar for the rest. I didn’t hear anyone complain and we all appreciated it. Then you and your husband also both get your ways. 

View original reply
ericaleesi :  

Post # 30
244 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2020

I am doing both kind of… My venue has an option where you can put a certain amount towards alcohol for your guests and once that amount is met, the guests have to pay. So we’re going to give out drink tickets (Like 2 per person or whatever) and once their tickets are gone, they can pay. I am also having a morning wedding, so I am not anticipating a long drawn out party- otherwise I’d probably do an open bar instead. I want to make sure my guests will be able to get home midday safely.

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