Is It Proper Wedding Etiquette To Host A Cash Bar?


With so many things to consider (and so many friends and family members likely sharing their opinions and wishes), one of the trickiest aspects of planning your reception is the bar. What will be served? Will it be an open bar? Should we host a cash bar? One of the questions wedding planners get asked the most: Is it proper wedding etiquette to host a cash bar at your reception? Today on the blog, the Chancey Charm team is weighing in and sharing wedding planning advice to help make this decision easier. Enjoy, friends!

– The Chancey Charm Team 

Wedding Etiquette, Cash Bar, Wedding Planning Advice, Wedding Planning Tips, Chancey Charm, Chancey Charm Weddings, Luxury Wedding Planners, Luxury Wedding Coordinators
Photography: Courtney Leigh, Design: Skylar Caitlin of Chancey Charm Houston

Is it proper wedding etiquette to host a cash bar at your reception?

“I don’t want to say it’s tacky (that’s a bit harsh), but it definitely isn’t ideal. There are a lot of reasons a bride and groom may opt for a cash bar, and their guests will probably understand those reasons. If you can afford it, absolutely offer your guests either a full or limited bar, but please don’t do a cash bar. It’s expected that the bar will be provided. If the alcohol is not provided for guests, it is the responsibility of the bride and groom to inform their guests. That way they can come prepared mentally and financially.”

“Your guests are traveling and celebrating you. They have shelled out gifts, travel expenses, and something to wear. You should at least host beer, wine and soft drinks. Hard alcohol can be on a cash basis. At the very least, host a portion of the evening, maybe the first hour. If you do decide to host a cash bar, make that clear to your guests so they know to bring cash or their credit card. Post this on your wedding website or spread the word verbally. Also, many off the beaten path venues don’t take credit cards or don’t have an ATM close by! Keep that in mind when booking – ask those questions! Guests would be very upset if they couldn’t get anything to drink because they were not informed!”

“I strongly discourage clients from considering a cash bar. It creates an awkward experience for all involved: the host is perceived as being cheap (whether that’s true or not is irrelevant), guests may not have cash on hand, and it slows down the flow of service at the bar. As an alternative, consider options that make your guests feel spoiled without breaking the bank by either reconsidering your guest count, providing a limited selection or only beer and wine, or closing the bar a little early before the reception ends! If budgeting alcohol is not a priority without a cash bar, my suggestion would be to not serve alcohol at all.”

“For those out of town guests that have traveled far and spent money on travel, hotels, food prior to the reception meal AND your wedding gift, providing a couple of drinks is a good option! You don’t have to splurge on the local brewery for your big night, but a simple Bud Light or Yuengling goes a long way! You don’t have to splurge and provide unlimited drinks per person either. You can consider providing a ‘drink ticket’ for one of your signature drinks that can be swapped for a beer or house wine and have the rest be a cash bar!”

“Your guests are already spending a decent amount to attend your wedding between travel, a gift, nice attire, finding a babysitter if they have kids, etc. They expect in return, other than seeing your beautiful commitment to one another, a nice meal and an open bar. Asking them to also pay for their own drinks, especially if they are expensive, may make them feel put off about your day. Plus, when couples do have a cash bar, the party often ends early because guests are worried about overspending at the bar. An open bar or a limited bar (if you are trying to save money) is easier for your guests and more appreciated. An open bar allows guests to get a drink whenever they please versus waiting for a server to wait on them or to settle up at the bar. By having an open bar, your guests feel just that – that they ARE your guest and you appreciate their presence by hosting them for an evening.”

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