Are cash bars at weddings a breach of wedding etiquette?
Savvy couples are looking for any way to cut wedding costs – and rightfully so. Shelling out nearly $30,000 to host a party in these tough economic times just feels frivolous and wasteful. But sorry brides and grooms, a cash bar is never an acceptable money-saving solution. Think about it this way: Would you ever charge your pals three dollars every time they grabbed another beer at your Superbowl party? People at your wedding reception are still your guests, even if the event is not held in your house (like said Superbowl party), so they shouldn’t be asked to pay for anything while there. Also keep in mind that, unlike the Superbowl party, many guests will have likely traveled and paid for a hotel room – not to mention a wedding gift – in order to attend your wedding. While the wedding ceremony is all about you, the wedding reception is about thanking your guests for celebrating in your nuptials.
Some couples think providing non-alcoholic beverages gratis while charging guests who wish to upgrade to an alcoholic beverage is perfectly acceptable, but here’s another analogy: Imagine serving all of your wedding guests free soup for dinner at your reception. Now imagine offering optional lobster tail, but forcing those who wish to eat lobster instead of soup to shell out $30 for their meal. Surely you can see why this shouldn’t be done. You should never offer anything that you can’t afford at a party you’re hosting – and then expect your guest to purchase it.
If a four- or five-hour open bar is not within your budget, there are plenty of less-costly alternatives that won’t offend your guests:
- Offer beer, wine, and soft drinks only.
- Offer a full bar for cocktail hour, then switch to beer and wine.
- Decide on one type of drink to serve – either a specialty cocktail, champagne, or one type of beer or wine. Most venues will charge significantly less to serve only one type of alcoholic beverage.
- Choose a wedding venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol. Believe it or not, there are plenty of venues that do not have liquor licenses and will allow couples to bring in their own. Anything unopened can be returned for a full refund after the wedding. You may need to get a little more creative with your venue with this option and choose a mansion, museum, or a facility whose main business is not generated from weddings and special events.
- Cut back on other wedding expenses. Lose the expensive designer wedding dress and shoes, do your own hair and makeup, consider less costly alternatives to floral arrangements, drive your own car rather than renting a limo, spin your own tunes instead of hiring a band or deejay… Cutting some of these expenses will free up enough of your budget to serve your guests properly. We’ve seen too many brides waltzing down the aisle in a Vera Wang gown carrying a bouquet of imported orchids with newly manicured nails – all while her guests are hitting up the ATM in the back so they can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.
- Invite less people to your wedding. This is the most effective way to cut wedding costs across the board. The significant savings you’ll experience with a smaller guest list will allow you to treat those who you do invite with courtesy and respect.