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Wedding w/cash bar - strange or not?

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Was having a drink with a friend last night and she mentioned a wedding she attended. She was really surprised/insulted/chagrined that they had a cocktail hour (complimentary) and then after that a cash bar. I said that it was pretty common and that we did that for my first wedding (lo those many years ago lol) as it was a big wedding and parents (nor I) could afford free flowing liquor. I have also attended alot of weddings with the same. She thought it was tacky - what say you?

  1. Unless the host had deep pockets, I'd say it was understandable.

    Tacky? Not at all.

    5 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      Dolores I'm surprised at your response because I know your from the NYC area. Growing up there, I heard tell of but NEVER attended a cash bar wedding. And then right after college a bunch of us were invited to the wedding of a friend who lived in the Midwest. We showed up sans cash (because we were all young and broke). This was in the days before there was an ATM on every corner. Needless to say, we were a bit chagrined after having bought plane tickets, hotel rooms (not too mention a hideous green bridesmaid dress that stained me green). I say, if you can't afford to give your guests an open bar, invite less guests! Or at the very least, offer free beer and wine. Even that gives me embarrassment chills. The aggravation we went thru and the hassle of having to scare up cash far outweighed any hurt feelings I may have suffered if she'd called to say she was getting married but it was going to be a very small ceremony.

      1. re: southernitalian

        southernitalian, I imagine that the current cost of liquor for an open bar is through the roof, so I would no longer consider it tacky to have a cash bar if everyone and their brother is to be invited.

        It's either tacking the words 'cash bar' on the invitation or making certain relatives and their kids and their kid's kids angry.

        1. re: dolores

          The cash bar thing is inappropriate IMO, but I would like to know in advance if that is the case as I generally don't take cash to a wedding.

        2. re: southernitalian

          Wow. So you would rather miss a friend's wedding than go, knowing in advance that you'd have to pay for your drinks? That sounds a little tacky, but then maybe she wasn't such a good friend.

          I'm from NYC area too, and I've seen it go both ways. It's nice if you can treat all your friends to free drinks, but crikey, it's your wedding! you shouldn't have to choose between friends and free drinks if you just don't have the means.

          I'd never show up to a wedding without any cash, but I suppose letting people know in advance would be a good way to prevent what you went through. Then the "friends" who think it's too much aggravation to pay for their own drinks can stay away.

          1. re: Kagey

            No. Not at all what I meant. My point was I would have preferred my friend have a nice wedding where her guests were treated well and not put in a position where they had to pay for a glass of wine with dinner. It was very awkward for all of us once we realized that the wedding reception was clearly a stretch for her and her parents. Why bother making that clear to all by having a cash bar? Just have the wedding you can afford. And if not being invited to the wedding meant my friend and her family would be in a position to be better hosts and make all of their invited guests feel welcomed and wanted (and not a financial burden to be offset with a cash bar), than I certainly would have missed the wedding.

      2. My gut reaction is that it's tacky. Invite less people or change the venue or time of day or something (like serving wine and beer rather than a full bar). I've never been to a wedding with a cash bar and it's not the norm here (Richmond, VA) but it may be one of those regional quirks (as most weddings here do not involve sit down dinners which are common in other parts of the country).

        6 Replies
        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          I'm with you on this one. Tacky indeed. My own wedding 30+ years ago was late afternoon. At the reception afterwards it was lots of hors d'ouvres, wine and endless champagne. Cake of course, bride's and groom's. It was over by 6:30.
          The wedding was not huge. It was limited to people who had been close to us and our families.

          Sometimes I think the over the top weddings where even distant friends of friends etc. are invited are just a crass way of boosting the gift list. I know in some cultures their would be family feuds if even the most distant cousin of a cousin was not invited. People who don't know the bride or groom but are business connections etc. Somehow, that seems to take the intimacy out of what is a very personal event. I feel sorry for those who have to do that.

          1. re: Candy

            >>I feel sorry for those who have to do that.

            Reallllllly? My father and mother gave me one of THE best weddings I have been to. There were over a hundred people there, and came from all avenues, work, friends, relatives. There could have been more if a mutual agreement was reached.

            There was an open bar, some of the best food I've ever had at a wedding, and it wasn't one of the wedding factories I visited.

            I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it still remains an outstanding memory.

            1. re: dolores

              Depends on the family, but I think Candy was referring to really much larger weddings. I have been at weddings with 300, 400+ people and the bride and groom have no idea who most of the people are. I think that's just crazy.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                Agreed. Dolores' 100+ person wedding seems intimate by many of today's standards...

                1. re: rockandroller1

                  You got it. Mine may have had close to 100 maybe a bit less. Maybe around 75 people. What I regret was forgetting to hire a photographer. We have to rely on pix our family and friends took.

            2. re: Janet from Richmond

              I think it's tacky too. Not every wedding has to involve hundreds of your nearest and dearest at a catering palace that charges a small fortune per plate. If you can't afford free liquor for all your guests then, as Janet said, you probably should rethink the kind of wedding you're planning on having.

            3. I've been to plenty of weddings that did just that, but wine continued to be complimentary. I've no problem with it, and I have a pretty sensitive tacky-o-meter when it comes to such things.

              1. My wedding was open bar, and I paid dearly for it... but as a bartender I have also worked cash bars. It all depends on how much the couple can afford.

                1 Reply
                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                  Open bar here, too. And my wedding was in England, where people easily drink twice as much as anyone I know back home! Boy was that expensive!

                2. I have been to a couple of wedding receptions that had a cash bar, as well as a couple of dry wedding receptions(mostly Filipino). It is what it is.

                  For the record my wedding had an open bar, and the liquor, and beer flowed. I would never have a cash bar, or no bar, at a reception I was hosting. Not my style.