Is the Cash Bar Really *That* Tacky?

Cash bars at weddings are a perennial topic. Do you or don't you?

signature cocktail
Image by Geoff White

It's Friday. And by way of an exclamation point, let me just say, woohoo! So here comes the weekend, and maybe a few of you are heading out for a night out on the town with friends. Maybe you will be attending a wedding. In either case, if you find yourself in one of these situations, you will likely be drinking. At the bar, most of you will pay your own tab. But what about at a wedding?

Last week's Wedding Podcast Network's Bridal Scene (of which I am a big fan) mentioned Wedding Wire's Cash Bar Thread originally posted in February of 2009. While I am, strictly speaking, no Miss Manners, I personally do not think you should make you guests pay for drinks. I did two little budget-minded DIY things to ensure my guests could drink.

  1. I limited my guest list.
  2. I served only wine and beer and made custom labels to pretty up my 2-buck chuck. And I had a signature drink for the toast: Moooonshine!

Now I know a few brides on a budget who are freaking out at the per person cost of a full bar. But I have to agree with Holly and Robert and the scores of other brides on wedding planning forums and say, "take care of your guests; show them a nice time." But what if you just don't have the money? 

Limit Your Guest List: The most common answer to budgeting woes is: limit your guest list. Full stop. It really does work! You save lots of money and get to enjoy plenty of time with the people you truly love and want to be with.

Scale Back on non-essentials: Another trick is to scale back non-essentials like favors, and decor. I advocate for providing food and drink to your guests. It does not follow that you must buy them favors, offer them programs for the ceremony, create OOT (Out-Of-Town) bags. You have to prioritize your expenses. If paying for your guests food and drink at the reception means you will have to nix the programs and favors, then so be it.

Other Bar-centric Tips: If you decide that a cash bar is not your thing, but you're broke-as-a-joke and worried that alcohol will destroy your budget, consider these budget-minded tips.

  1. Serve a single signature drink such as Southern Lemonade or Pamplemouse Cocktail. For inspiration  check out the Wedding Workroom's "siggy" of the month.  Epicurious and Martha Stewart also offer great ideas for fun drink ideas.
  2. Serve beer and wine instead (If you're serving budget wine, consider making your own wine labels.  I did this and it was fun and super inexpensive. For more info about making your own wine labels check out…Creating your own Wine Labels, part one and part two
  3. Limit the amount of time you offer cocktails. Serve cocktails for an hour (i.e. the cocktail hour) then switch to beer and wine.
  4. See if your venue will allow you to bring your own alcohol.

One final note on the matter. And this falls into the it's-your-wedding-do-what-you-feel-most-comfortable-doing-and-the-hell-with-the-debbie-downers-who-will-poo-poo-your-ideas genre of advice: In the end, this is your decision. If you feel comfortable having a cash bar, then do it. Don't worry about what everyone else thinks .And if you're worried that your decision to have a cash bar will be considereed tacky, check out Ariel's post  Is Your Wedding Tacky on Off Beat Brides. Basically, something in your wedding will make someone somewhere think its tacky. Don't worry about it; it your wedding!

Additional Cash Bar bridal threads:

Have any of you been to a wedding with a cash bar? What was your experience? your thoughts?