(Closed) Open Bar vs. Cash bar- Advice

posted 11 years ago in Food
Post # 17
1616 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

@morganangelita: Maybe I’m just a stickler for etiquette … I think it is totally tacky to refer to someone else’s wedding choices as tacky.

I think you should do what you can afford. As long as you provide non-alcoholic beverages, and maybe some wine or something you are fine. The only people who will complain are probably small petty people anyways, they are there to celebrate your union, they shouldn’t expect to get sloshed on your dime.

Post # 18
1128 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2011

We are having a Champagne Brunch reception, so as far as alcoholic drinks, we are providing unlimited champagne only, with all the things one would like in champagne (like orange juice, strawberries, etc.) and a cash bar for anyone who wants something aside from champagne. The way I see it (for my guests), if they want something else, they can pay for it themselves. Can you do something like that?

I am also going to note that on my website (said in a nicer way, of course Wink) so my guests will know what to expect ahead of time, and to bring cash if they choose.

Post # 19
1585 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: November 2010

ask your venue about kegs they can prob get one! also our venue suggested a set # of premixed drink they could display and have the bartender pour.

Post # 20
12340 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

I like the idea of putting a little note on the website or just mentioning to some of the heavier drinkers that they may need cash if they are going to have a lot to drink.  If we were to use the house party example again, it’d be like saying byob, or please bring a little soda or dessert.  You provide what you can, I wouldn’t expect an open bar at a wedding – even more so now that I know how expensive it is!.. but if it is.. thats just a little bonus.

Post # 21
19 posts
  • Wedding: December 2010

I think cash bars are perfectly acceptable. Not only is it a huge cost saver, considering how expensive alcohol is and how much people like to indulge in free booze. I would try and provide beer and soda however.

When I got married the first time we did two beer kegs and free soda. It also helps people control their drinking. Even with paying for their own mixed drinks, I had a fight break out at my reception due to being waay to drunk. So, I think its a bad idea to offer limitless alcohol to guests.

Post # 22
8 posts

Just from my personal experience…

My wife and I got married last year.  Thankfully, we had it at a place that came with five hours of top shelf open bar (The Poughkeepsie Grand in Poughkeepsie, NY).  We had about 175 people, with a lot of partiers.  It was a blast.


On the flip side of the coin, i went to a wedding at which not only was it a cash bar, but they CLOSED it during all of the pomp and circumstance (introductions, bridal party dance, bride/groom dance, bride/father dance, groom/mother dance, etc).  The bar was probably closed for over an hour.  The two most important things to a fun reception are a good DJ and keeping the booze flowing.  Keep the party atmosphere going.   

Post # 23
3856 posts
Honey bee

We picked an alcohol free venue so we wouldn’t have to pay for it (among other reasons) – I dunno, I guess my opinion is that people don’t need to see your wedding as their personal free booze fest. Just make it clear up front (by telling the right people who will spread the word, or putting it on your website [ours is under the FAQ section, haha – “Will there be alcohol?”], etc.) and people shouldn’t complain. Or if they do, too bad for them!

Yes, it’s GREAT to be able to host everyone and pay for everything, but realistically, it adds up, and if your budget is limited, that money can only go so far. For us, it was either serve alcohol to just the family, or serve soda to family and friends.

Post # 24
936 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

I love the cash bar debate!  Where I am from (CLE), you would never have a cash bar.  Where I live (ATL) many weddings are dry, even if the couple isn’t Baptist.  If I couldn’t swing the open bar, I would do beer, wine and maybe a signature cocktail/alcoholic punch.  This should save a lot of cash.  If somebody wants a drink that bad, they’ll drink the beer or wine.  If I couldn’t swing that either, I would just go dry.  You could do some beautiful and fun things with a juice bar, etc.  I just can’t ask a guest to pay for drinks at my wedding and I think trying to put a set amount to it isn’t going to work.

PS–my sister’s wedding was dry due to finances.  We just all kinda spread the word and people who just had to have alcohol (morning wedding) brought flasks.  We had a casual get together at my mother’s afterward and there was plenty of alcohol there.  My mother allowed outside alcohol:)

Post # 26
6 posts

I think limiting drink choices to beer and wine is the way to go on this one. A lot of liquor stores will let you return all unopened bottles of wine after the wedding. And you could also talk to them about letting you buy wine by the case instead of the bottle and getting a discount for that. 

If you really can’t swing that, I think it’s totally fine to just do fun non-alcoholic drinks instead. That would probably be better than making people pay for drinks themselves. 

Post # 27
121 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

This is what I think:  Cash bars are very normal where i’m from.  I think its your wedding and people do things all the time that others don’t think is “normal” to them.  Some people don’t do garter toss, some people have a brunch reception, some people have a very small wedding while others have a large one.  I think you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that its tacky or that you should just not serve alcohol at all.  I think if you want to go just beer and soda or if you have money for wine too, then do it.  But I don’t think you should feel like you have to go non alcoholic just because you can’t offer an open bar (meaning if you can afford only to do beer, then do it!)  Its YOUR wedding girl and YOUR family and they will be there to celebrate YOUR day.  Just do what you can afford and feel comfortable with!  Best of luck!

Post # 28
2421 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

I don’t like the idea of a cash bar. Some of your guests have spent a lot of money traveling to see you get married and I don’t like the idea of making them buy their own drinks. That being said, your relatives would not want you to go into debt in order to buy their drinks either. I think people here have the right idea- provide unlimited beer and wine, and allow them to pay cash for cocktails. Yes, some people do not care for beer and wine, but some people also do not care for beef medallions, or filets, or caesar salad, or white wedding cakes, etc. You can’t please everyone. However, I think the beer and wine solution is the best one. Believe me, there are plenty of people who may not list beer or wine as their drink of choice, but if it’s free, they’ll take it. Good luck!

Post # 29
386 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2011

I like this debate too, because it does seem to be a very regional thing…

@soontobewalsh…I agree that it’s a New England thing…I have never, ever been to a wedding where there was an open bar.  At the most there was open bar during cocktail hour, and then maybe wine on the table, but I always plan on bringing cash if I think I will want a drink.  

I also think it all depends on your budget, if it’s not in the budget then I personally wouldn’t feel like it’s a must do.


Post # 30
75 posts
Worker bee

Okay, as not to be a total A-HOLE here, but I think everyone understands now that in certain parts of North America, cash bars are considered to be tacky (seemingly mostly in the South)


OP is saying “I don’t want to do an open bar”, and asking for thoughts for alternate suggestions.

Sticking with that theme, IMO, take a good long look at your guest list and turn off what all of these random people who don’t know you are saying. How many people are coming? Do you have lots of guests who will drink excessively? Or are most of your guests 1-2 drink people?  An open bar may be affordable if your crowd isn’t full of heavy drinkers. I like “one free drink” idea, or having a bottle of wine on each table – that way, you are giving your guests a beverage with their meal and anything over and above that is up to them.

Post # 31
83 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

I am in the exact same position as OP!  Thanks for the post! 

At this point, I don’t think we can afford even open beer and wine…  Fiance and I are not big drinkers ourselves and most of our guests will be family members anyway.  Half of our wedding party will be under 21!  We will be providing some fun non-alcoholic drinks, though.  I also really like the idea of putting a note on the wedding website – I want to do that now too! 

Our wedding will be in Vermont, so it is good to know that cash bars are normal in New England!  Thanks soontobewalsh and bpcmarj!

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