Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wedding Reception: Hosted vs. Cash Bar Dilemma

I need your advice, ladies.

As I've mentioned before, Stephen and I are funding our own wedding and are trying to stick to a budget, which has already increased since we’re getting married in an expensive area. Well, we've hit a bump in the road when it comes to choosing between a hosted or cash bar.

As much as we'd love to offer a fully hosted bar, we simply can't afford to. As of today, we're thinking of going with a package that offers unlimited soft drinks, tea and coffee, as well as a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider for toasting. We’re also planning to feature a signature sangria that will be available either for purchase or as a complimentary drink throughout the night, depending on the cost estimate we get from our venue. Other types of alcohol, including wine and various hard liquors, will be available for purchase.

I've heard and read tons of opinions about how tacky a cash bar is, and I agree with some of those views. After all, we're asking our guests to be, well, our guests! And that's not to mention the money they'll have already spent traveling out of town to attend the wedding, as well as purchasing gifts for us.

We've thought about offering a hosted bar for just an hour or two, but even that is looking like it might be overly expensive. Do you think a cash bar is acceptable? If so, is it best to let guests know beforehand?

(Photo Credit: istockphoto)


  1. You already know how I feel about this one. I don't like it when people say it's tacky or cheap to offer a cash bar. It's not like we're not offering our guests anything! Afterall, we're offering unlimited sodas, punch, the champagne toast and coffee service at no charge. Neither my fiance nor I drink alcohol at all and both of us were affected by alcoholic parents growing up. Therefore, we feel it is totally fine for us to not withhold alcohol from our guests just because we don't drink it, but at the same time, we're not going to pay for it for them either. Our family and friends know our lifestyle and none of them will have an issue with paying for their drinks. I believe this is one of those areas where budget ability, lifestyle and the overall type of event you are offering should all be a factor in a bride and groom's decision.

  2. I think this one completely depends on your guests. In our families, cash bar would be considered completely tacky, so open bar was a top priority. We knew our guests wouldn't notice decor, my dress, or many other details, but they would certainly notice and frown upon a cash bar. But *your* guests might be completely fine with it, or at least might understand it. So if you feel that they won't mind, don't worry about it. If you're not sure, talk to people from both sides of the family. Hope you figure something out that works for everyone!

  3. Open bars are expensive. If you can't afford it... don't! You are already providing food and some beverages for your guests. You don't even have to HAVE alcohol... but, I bet if given the choice, your guests would rather pay for it than go without. ;) Definately let them know somehow before hand that there will be a cash bar so they can be sure to have some $$ on them if they want to induldge!

  4. We didn't want to spend the money on an open bar either but because we are having a destination wedding we felt we needed to. We are doing a bill on consumption bar and it's working out much cheaper. Maybe you can offer something like that for a cocktail hour and make the rest of the night cash bar?

  5. I'm with Katerina 100%. There is always the option to do beer and wine and not a completely open bar. It's less expensive and people will barely notice. (At least I've never really noticed...I'm a wine drinker.)

  6. We picked a venue that would let us bring our own alcohol. We're serving champagne, red & white wine and beer. It's saved us a fortune.

    I think as long as you tell people so they can bring some money, you will be fine.

  7. Honestly, if people need to drink to enjoy themselves, to me that would hurt my feelings. Just because people come to your wedding, doesn't mean you have to get them drunk! I think people understand that it's not cheap and not always an option for everyone. Open bars are so expensive, and I don't drink very much so to me it's almost a waste of money. I know you are supposed to entertain your guests, well you are, with food, fun and dancing! I did initially want an open bar but started to think about how many people don't drink, vs the ones that do. The ones that don't far out weighed the ones that do. I have asked everyone I know if cash bars are tacky and they all said no. They know how much you are paying for the wedding, that's the last thing they "EXPECT", maybe it's different in my state. I would never expect that of anyone and hope the same for my guests. And I am not paying for the food, my soon to be MIL will be paying for it and she doesn't think it's necessary.