Are cash bars at weddings a big no-no?
Wedding bells are in the air, because you just got engaged. Now that you’ve locked up your loved one, you’re ready to start planning a wedding. You’re more than excited about taking your vows in front of family and friends, but a little nervous about the expenses associated with a wedding, especially the bar bill.
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That’s 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 average wedding bar tab in 2021 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 reception in 2020. .
Obviously, alcohol takes up a significant portion of a wedding budget. However, if hosting a dry wedding isn’t an option, you might consider doing a cash bar – but keep that thought in mind.
Should cash bars be avoided?
JoAnn Moore, a master wedding planner in the Colorado, northern and central California, and Lake Tahoe regions, says having a cash bar at a wedding is a no-no.
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“Asking a wedding guest to pay for their own drinks at a wedding is indeed in bad taste and bad etiquette,” she said. “The wedding guest should always be treated as a guest. When you invite someone into your home as a guest, you don’t expect them to pay for part of the evening – the same for a wedding.
Moore added that allowing bartenders to take out tip jars is a sticky decision.
“Bartenders are well paid, and tips are included in their contract or the venue’s contract,” she says.
Keep the booze bill low
If you’re worried about paying 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 beer varieties, a selection of red and white wines and a signature drink or two [that are] special for the couple.
Moore said there’s no need to overdo it with alcohol, as you should only feel obligated to provide the amount and level you’re comfortable with and can afford. She recommended setting a cap on the liquor bill and having the bartender give status updates to parents or the couple at certain times of the evening. Additionally, she said providing creative alternatives to alcohol can also reduce clients’ alcohol consumption.
“Offer coffee as soon as the cake is cut and going to be served,” she said. “The smell of coffee slows 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 — meaning a nearby club or a relative’s home — but specifying that the party isn’t hosted.
“Not hosted indicates drinks are not provided,” she said. “If there’s room in a couple’s budget, they can provide a platter of appetizers like nachos or sliders at the after-party.”
If you opt for a cash bar
Etiquette expert Maryanne Parker agreed that guests shouldn’t have to pay their own bar bill at a wedding reception. However, if you are determined to go this route, you should graciously warn people in advance that you will not cover the cost of their alcoholic beverages.
“Just be honest and upfront,” she said. “Also establish easy access to payments. Do they have to have their credit cards ready? Do they have to bring cash only? Everything should be straightforward and easy to understand, because no one likes to be inconvenienced.
Even if you opt 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 to plan your special day until another time.
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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