Wedding Finance

Are cash bars at weddings a big no-no?

Dumitru Zaharia /

The wedding bells are in the air, because you just got engaged. Now that you’ve locked down your loved one, you’re ready to start planning a wedding. You are more than excited to say your vows in front of your family and friends, but a little nervous about the expenses associated with a wedding, especially the bar bill.

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This is certainly not an invalid concern, as the national average cost of a wedding reception in 2021 is around $ 22,500, according to The Knot Real Weddings Study. While the 2021 wedding bar average rating was not revealed in this particular study, a similar study from the previous year found that couples spent an average of $ 2,300 on alcohol at their party in 2020.

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Obviously, alcohol takes up a significant portion of a wedding budget. However, if having a dry wedding is not an option, you might consider having a cash bar, but keep that idea.

JoAnn Moore, a senior wedding planner in the Colorado, northern and central California and Lake Tahoe areas, said having a cash bar at a wedding is a major problem.

“Asking a wedding guest to pay for their own drinks at a wedding is indeed bad taste and bad etiquette,” she said. “The wedding guest should always be treated like a guest. When you invite someone to your home as a guest, you don’t expect them to pay for part of the evening – the same with a wedding.

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Moore added that allowing bartenders out of tip jars is a cheesy move.

“Bartenders are well paid and tips are included in their contract or that of the place,” she said.

If you’re worried about footing the tab for a full bar, Moore said there are ways to cut costs.

“I recommend a more limited bar,” she said. “Maybe have a few varieties of beer, a selection of red and white wines and a signature drink or two [that are] special for the couple.

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Moore said you don’t have to go too far with alcohol, as you should only feel pressured to provide the amount and level that you’re comfortable with and can afford. . She recommended putting a cap on the alcohol bill and asking the bartender to give status updates to parents or the couple at certain times of the evening. Additionally, she said that providing creative alternatives to alcohol can also reduce guest drinking.

“Get offered coffee as soon as the cake is cut and about to be served,” she said. “The smell of coffee slows down alcohol consumption.

Once the reception is over, it is common to continue the celebration with an after-party. If that’s something you’re interested in, Moore recommended providing a location – that is, a nearby club or a parent’s home – but making it clear that the party isn’t on.

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“The non-hosted indicates that drinks are not provided,” she said. “If there’s room in a couple’s budget, they can offer a platter of appetizers such as nachos or sliders at the after-party.”

Maryanne Parker, an etiquette expert, agreed that guests shouldn’t have to pay their own bar bills at a wedding reception. However, if you are determined to go this route, you should kindly warn people in advance that you will not be covering the cost of their alcoholic beverages.

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“Be honest and up front,” she said. “Also, establish easy access to payments. Should they have their credit cards ready? Should he only bring cash? Everything should be clear and easy to understand, because no one likes to be disturbed.

Even if you go for a cash bar, Parker said you should always have at least two bottles of wine – free – at each table. If your wedding budget can’t even handle that, she suggested waiting until another time to plan your special day.

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You want your wedding to be unforgettable because your guests had a great time – not because of the cash bar they were shocked to find at the reception. Don’t feel guilty if you have to limit the amount, type or brands of alcohol served, but try to cover the costs of all your guests’ drinks – or at least some of them – because nothing less is a major false break.

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Last updated: June 4, 2021

This article originally appeared on Are Cash Bars at Weddings a Big No-No?

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