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Wedding w/cash bar - strange or not?


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.

                  1. Speaking from a wedding etiquette perspective, a cash bar is seen as a huge no-no. But from a personal perspective, I know that people don't always have huge funds for a wedding. So I can understand if a couple has a cash bar if they're strapped for funds. I've been to a couple of weddings with a cash bar and I thought it was fine. We're there to celebrate the union of two people. But I think I would have a problem if the couple was loaded and they had a cash bar just to save a few bucks (there are some real big cheapskates out there, as evidenced by gryphonskeeper's ex post).

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      "We're there to celebrate the union of two people. "

                      Indeed, I agree that this should be the priority. Cash bar? No problem. Fake wedding cake? No problem. Rented wedding gown? No problem. Not enough food? No problem. No Alcohol at all? No problem. Ceremony in a different language? No problem.

                      I'm there to celebrate and support. I'm happy to be considered important enough in these people's lives that they felt I should be present at one of the most important day of their lives together.

                      I've seen all sorts of weddings, ranging from traditional to unconventional to mixed cultures, from modest to extravagant. I've seen all sorts of permutations and combinations. What seems tacky to one group might be perfectly acceptable in another group. There is no one single standard for the perfect wedding. So I don't bother making judgments about what is tacky or not. If the bride and groom are happy, then it is good enough for me.

                      I am sure that some people would have found my wedding tacky. We were poor, parents are teetotallers, weather was uncooperative (heat wave in June!) alcohol-less gigantic Korean buffet in basement of church, no dancing, no wedding cake (we had a dessert buffet instead), I had a very unconventional dress, wedding half in English, half Korean, no speeches, no cocktail reception, eat and run, and whoever wanted to take leftovers home were welcome to do so (the Koreans ate no cake, so we were giving away nearly untouched cakes to our non-Korean friends to take home for the next day! Plus, have I ever mentioned how much food my mother cooks? She really outdid herself that day - food for 250 plus people, and you should have seen the leftovers, again, we gave a lot of takeout boxes that day). And after the eating was done, the "young folks" stayed around and we went out and played laser tag. As you can see, not exactly a classy affair! Needless to say, we did not make the society pages...

                      But hubbie and I had a great time, we were surrounded by good friends and family, we have lovely memories, we didn't have a huge debt to pay off for the wedding. And we celebrated 13 happy years together yesterday!

                      1. re: moh

                        I don't think your wedding sounds tacky at all...untraditional, yep, but celebration that reflected you and your families. My Mom was a teetotaller and therefore my first wedding had no alcohol and was in the church reception hall (as we didn't have much to spend either), no music, etc. and the people who were there were there to celebrate our marriage.

                        My issue comes when a guest is asked to subsidize the expenses of the couple (or host of any party that isn't a designated pot-luck event or the like).

                        1. re: moh

                          Nope not tacky at all. It reflected the two of you. Some people thought our wedding was tacky too when we tell them about it but our close friends and family loved it and thought it was so us.

                          I come from a huge extended asian family. We all had been going to catholic mass weddings for years. Within 9 months of my wedding, we had four of those weddings alone. We wanted ours to be more of a party/celebration instead of a burden.

                          My wife found a version of the bridal march where she literally danced down the aisle. She wanted it to be a joyous occasion, not a somber one. Her bridesmaid came in to the main street electrical parade tune. My groomsmen and I came in to the tune of Mission Impossible. They marched in like a secret service detail with sunglasses and made a show of checking the crowd to make sure they were "safe"

                          We're big coke collectors and our friends knew that. For the toast we ordered in the glass hobble skirted cokes and everyone had their own bottle to toast us.

                          Our favors were authentic Duncan yo-yo's in our wedding colors and inscribed with our names and date. With it, I had attached a little poem that I wrote that said something along the lines of, marriage is a lot like a yo-yo. There's lots of ups and downs and it takes a lot of work and practice to make sure it keeps coming up. But when you have it working, it's a lot of fun.

                          We had stashed our wedding rings inside a cracker jack box. When the time came, I turned to my best man and he pulled out the box from his pocket and ripped the box open.

                          We weren't trying to put on a show but we wanted some humor. Our main thing was to have people enjoy themselves and it be a celebration of a big occasion in our lives.

                          We had lots of people telling us how much fun it was and not tiring like other weddings. My 90+ traditional chines grandmother who had seen dozens of her offsprings get married in catholic mass weddings loved it. She was raving about it for months. 12 years of marriage and we still have people talking about our wedding.

                          And you know what, somehow no one ever mentions missing the alcohol.

                          1. re: Jase

                            Sounds like a lot of fun Jase! I certainly would not have missed the alcohol! Love and humour are a much more important component of a successful and memorable wedding.

                          2. re: moh

                            I'll bet that the guys were secretly happy that you didn't have dancing at your wedding. We didn't have dancing due to time constraints, and a lot of guys came up to me to thank me for not making them embarrass themselves.

                            Congratulations on your anniversary! Your wedding sounded like a lot of fun! Laser tag! We did karaoke for ours. And a friend of ours did a bouncy castle (I made sure to wear biking shorts underneath my dress so I could go all out and not worry about mooning everyone).

                            Our wedding was also not the most conventional -- no diamond ring, unconventional dresses, minimal flowers, no bridesmaids and no groomsmen (really cuts down on the prewedding drama), no garters, no dancing, unconventional music (ABBA was part of our ceremony), no bouquet, no white cake, no emcee, no speeches on our part. It wasn't unconventional for the sake of being unconventional. It was just what it was. I don't like white wedding dresses. I'm not a fan of the Wedding March (and Pachabel's Canon). I love chocolate cake with fudge frosting. The people who were giving me sh*t about not being the most traditional were those who weren't invited to the wedding and my dad. In the end, my dad thought the wedding went over well. And for the people who weren't invited -- well, I couldn't give a rat's ass as to what they think.

                            Yes, the union of two people is really the most important part of a wedding. Everything else is really secondary. People get all caught up in what appropriate is. I remember arguing with my ex-bf when we were talking about getting married because we didn't see eye to eye on what a wedding should be. He claimed that I wasn't "serious" enough about the institution of marriage cuz my idea of a wedding was a lot more casual than his. Oh, puhhleeeeeeze! A wedding can be anything from a simple civil service ceremony at City Hall to a huge, languid 10-day affair. It's what the couple decides is most appropriate for them. And the amount of money one spends on a wedding is no indication of how seriously they take the marriage thing. And one of my friends did get married when she was 17 at court with only two witnesses. No celebration dinner -- nothing. They were high school students and couldn't afford much. And they've been happily married for 20 years!

                            That said, I do think social circle plays a role into whether or not people find having or not having alcohol/cash bar at a wedding is appropriate. We actually had four wedding celebrations -- one main one on the East coast (mostly friends) and three smaller ones (mostly family) on the West coast. We did have an open bar for the NY one. In our social circle, it's kind of expected that there'd be free booze. But two of our other celebrations were dry. Alcohol wasn't really expected or desired. And the third celebration didn't have a bar, but a bottle of scotch in the middle of every table along with Coke and 7-Up. I would like to think that our guests who drink weren't judging us for not having any booze or for not having an open bar.

                            1. re: moh

                              moh, what a wonderful, wonderful wedding (and marriage)! Congratulations.

                              Same to you, Jase and Needle!

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Thank you Sam! I had been missing your voice!

                          3. It is an etiquette no-no. "Tacky" is a little harsh but for some reason, people think weddings are the exception to all other normally observed party-giving rules, and weddings are FILLED with them these days. Nobody really cares so much about etiquette, they want to do what they want on their "special day" and most won't be talked out of it for any reason, be it registering for a honeymoon instead of (or in addition to) gifts (as if getting married entitles you to a free trip provided by your friends and family), cash bar, "dollar dance" (which is usually a time-honored tradition by one side and a horror to the other side, or at least to some of the guests), expecting guests to give you a gift "worth" the cost of their dinner or else being labeled a cheapskate, and many others.

                            You do not give a party, any party, including a wedding, and make your invited guests pay for something unless it is a fundraiser for a charity or something. At minimum I think hosts should provide beer and wine. If you cannot afford that, you are inviting too many guests, spending too lavishly on food or over-spending in other areas of the wedding. Forego the limo, get your dress online, cut some other corners but don't make your guests pay for something you've invited them to. You shouldn't throw a party you can't afford; it is not a good way to start out a marriage no matter what anyone says.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              Fully agree with you.

                              At SIL's first wedding, I went to the bar and got a soft drink. As I walked away, the bartender screeched "Hey, that's $1.50!". I turned around and handed back the cola from which I had already sipped. The faux pas's at that event flowed faster than anything from the cash bar.

                              You throw the wedding/party you can properly afford.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                Just curious...if the couple throwing the wedding cannot afford to serve alcohol, but also does not drink alcohol at all, is it considered ok for them to abstain from serving beer and wine at their wedding?

                                1. re: iluvtennis

                                  As with any event, a host provides what refreshments they can. If that means so alcohol, the guests should not (from an etiquette perspective) complain.

                                  I think it's strange that somehow charging for alcohol has become OK. Would people make people pay extra for a fancier dessert?

                                2. re: rockandroller1

                                  fully I agree...I am from the South and it is either beer and wine or no alcohol or open bar. Never , Never a cash bar.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    Uh, it is their party and they *can* run it exactly how they want. People who don't like it don't have to go/participate. I'm unclear as to why all of these folks around here seem to think that there are rules that need to be followed when throwing a party. When I throw a party, I do it in a way that I'm going to enjoy, and those that want to join in can do so.

                                    1. re: jgg13

                                      the problem in this case was they didn't know so they didn't have a chance to decide on whether or not to participate.

                                      1. re: LaLa

                                        Fair enough. I still can't believe this would irk someone though. I'll rephrase then: If you're not close enough to someone that small things like having to pay for your booze is going to cause you to not want to go, you probably should just not go because some small thing might very well come up.

                                    2. re: rockandroller1

                                      I'm totally in agreement. Would it be tacky to have a dinner party with no food? Would it be tacky to have a reception without music? Unless you're a teetotaller, the bar is an accepted and expected part of the traditional wedding. Modern weddings do eschew tradition in many ways, destination weddings, for example, but to eschew tradition in a way that costs your guests money (especially in the case of a destination wedding where guests are expected to shell out hundreds of dollars to fly out to attend a party on one night bearing one of the expensive gifts you requested) is, yes, tacky.

                                      As a musician I've been happy to play for friends' weddings without even mentioning the word "fee." If I can save them a couple hundred dollars, good. But the costs of airfare, a gift more expensive than anything I've ever purchased for anyone (including myself), being in the bridal party (because one's own standard tuxedo won't do), not to mention hotel and transportation, can exceed the amount I normally spend in an entire month of living in New York. If after all that, I can't even get a drink afterwards, that's not just tacky, that's a slap in the face.

                                      I think it's great to want to spend this momentous occasion with as many of your loved ones as possible and that sentiment matters a great deal. But just because it makes you feel good, doesn't mean it's the wisest decision to make otherwise every Vegas wedding would last a thousand years. You have the wedding you can afford and if there are corners to cut, the host bears that brunt, not the invited guests.

                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                        I don't think it's a requirement that beer and wine be served, but I would agree that in my mind I'd rather not have my guests pay for anything. We were young and broke, and opted to do heavy hors d'oeuvres instead of a sit down dinner and serve champagne and lemonade only. No cost to the guests, but significantly less expensive than providing a full open bar where a lot of things go half drunk.

                                      2. Is it worse to have a cash bar than no bar at all?

                                        Our wedding, we were young and funded it ourselves. We decided we couldn't afford a bar. But thought a cash bar was too tacky. My friends and I like to drink but we never feel alcohol is necessary to having a good time.

                                        Then again, we didn't ask our attendants to pay for anything. We paid for all dresses, tux rentals, etc. All we asked people to do was show up and we paid for meals during rehearsals and other activities prior to the wedding. We even helped out of towners with accomodations when possible.

                                        We don't believe in the idea of a cost vs return of gift value. We just wanted people to have a good time and help us celebrate. The people who couldn't understand the lack of alcohol weren't going to be good enough friends to be invited to the wedding anyway.

                                        24 Replies
                                        1. re: Jase

                                          I believe it is worse to have a cash bar than it is no bar. Just as rockandroller pointed out, weddings seem to be the event that more and more what is proper is being thrown out the window and is becoming a passive-aggressive means of extortion. Don't expect your guests to subsidize your expenses..it's not proper at a birthday party or a wedding or anniversary party, etc.

                                          Jase, I believe you did great in managing your wedding costs and were generous with your attendants and guests. My daughter is going to be in a wedding next month and she has estimated it's going to cost her $1500 before it's all said and done.

                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                            There's a *huge* difference between a cash bar and virtual fund raising.

                                          2. re: Jase

                                            Sorry Jase. I appreciate your efforts but I don't agree. Especially if you're inviting people from out of town. Given the choice between no drinks at a wedding and a cash bar, I'd reluctantly take the cash bar.

                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                              Fair enough. Although I don't see how inviting other people from out of town should make a difference in the thought process. Because they came out of town, I need to get them drunk? I'm not being snarky, just curious.

                                              We basically made a choice and a compromise and something had to give. At that time of our lives and with our social circle, having alcohol wasn't as important as not putting a financial burden on our attendants. We even told our guests that gifts weren't necessary. We just wanted people to celebrate an important moment in our lives.

                                              For what it's worth the wedding was on a Sunday morning with a lunch reception.

                                              1. re: Jase

                                                I think you did just fine Jase :-)

                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                  It is ok to have no alcohol it is never ok to have a cah bar.

                                              2. re: southernitalian

                                                Wait - because someone was invited and chose to come from out of town, you'd choose to have a cash bar instead of no bar? Yet you seem to disagree with the idea of a cash bar to begin with.

                                                I agree with Jase - why is there a need to have alcohol at the wedding at all if they were paying for everything? It's the people sharing your special day that make the wedding. Not the alcohol. In fact, that often ends up detracting from the day!

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  I would NEVER have had a cash bar. I would have had a smaller wedding and properly hosted the guests at my wedding reception in the manner to which they expect to be hosted. That's just me and my family tradition. Have I been to weddings where the bride/bridal party was "overserved"? Yes. Was that a concern at my wedding? Not the slightest.

                                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                                    "I would have had a smaller wedding and properly hosted the guests at my wedding reception in the manner to which they expect to be hosted"

                                                    But that's my point, alcohol wasn't necessary. They expected to be hosted to a fun event with good food. Given a choice between an open bar and less people vs. no alcohol and more friends, all my circle would choose friends over alcohol.

                                                    Additionally open bar is very expensive. We had a limited budget. We splurged on the food which everyone loved. It wasn't hotel banquet rubber chicken.

                                                    1. re: Jase

                                                      Exactly. It's the friends and family that are important. Not the alcohol.

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        Exactly. It is a gathering of friends/family to celebrate the wedding of a couple - it should be about that and not worrying about "proper hosting" and "proper tradition", etc. Couples should do what they want to do, guests can choose to come or not come if something gets their knickers in a bunch, but I would hope that for most people the comraderie is what's really important.

                                                      2. re: Jase

                                                        I can assure you we didn't serve hotel banquet rubber chicken. I come from a long line of people who are obsessed with food and wine. Obsessed. I have cousins and friends whose parents took out second mortgages on their houses to finance their daughters' weddings to ensure the best wine kept flowing and the best food kept coming out of the kitchen. It's just how things are done in my culture. My family simply cannot imagine toasting a happy couple with Sprite. It would be considered disrespectful and almost like asking for trouble.

                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          "I have cousins and friends whose parents took out second mortgages on their houses to finance their daughters' weddings to ensure the best wine kept flowing and the best food kept coming out of the kitchen. It's just how things are done in my culture"
                                                          To me, it just sounds like it's more a case of "keeping up with the Joneses". If Aunt Carol's family did such-and-such, then Uncle Jerry's family has to do it one better, and so on.

                                                          To me - it's the bride and groom's day. Anyone invited should be there to celebrate that day with the couple. Not pick apart the types of flowers, the ornateness of the wedding cake, or the type of food or wine served.

                                                          1. re: southernitalian

                                                            I didn't mean to imply you served rubber chicken. Just saying for us compared to the other weddings we went to, they had rubber chicken but alcohol.

                                                            I come from a very food obsessed asian family. We all talk about our next meal at our current one. That's why the rubber chicken deal drove us crazy.

                                                            But you're right different cultures. Our family social structure, we would be horrified at the thought of going into that deep of a debt just to feed us. If we knew somone had limited financial means as long as good intent was there and they did the best they could, we would be perfectly happy to toast with Sprite. As long as we saw it as being frugal and not cheap.

                                                            My relatives were telling my parents how shocked and proud they were that we paid for everything ourselves. How their kids had to ask them for money even though we all had full time career type jobs.

                                                            Our entire extended family still love how special and true to ourselves we were with the glass bottle cokes. If we had went with the champagne, it would probably been cheaper and quickly forgotten.

                                                            Trust me, we all love to splurge on food many times to excess. But in my family culture if people found out we sacrificed future financial health for an open bar/food party, they would feel really bad and would look back at the event with sadness rather than joy.

                                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                                              Actually, come to think of it, I've been to cash bar weddings, but I've never been to a wedding where guests had to pay for the toasts. Usually, it goes like to OP said, where there's a cocktail hour and champagne toast paid for by the wedding party.

                                                          2. re: southernitalian

                                                            Let's see...the choice is booze or ten more friends. Not a tough choice in jfood's book, and going from filet to chicken allows five more friends. Sounds like an easy 15 more friends to celebrate a wonderful occasion.

                                                            "in the manner to which they expect to be hosted." Wow, with trying to please the bride and groom (the two big people) and then the parents, it was tough enough to plan a great event (which the jfoods did). But to worry about Aunt Minny and little cousin Janie as well, that's a linear program jfood wants no part of.

                                                            The bride, groom and immediate family (maybe) plan what they want and the guests have absolutely no say or expectations to be considered. Do what you think is correct and affordable and most importanly enjoy your big day.

                                                          3. re: LindaWhit

                                                            I totally think it's a social circle thing. I don't really drink too much so I don't care. But a lot of people in my circle can't imagine a wedding without alcohol. I think it's like an excuse for them to get ripped. When they were teenagers and in their 20s, they got stupid drunk all the time. But as they got older (and supposedly more "grown up"), they needed an excuse to drink heavily. In fact, when I announced to some friends that I was getting married, they said, "Congratulations! I'm happy for you! I can't wait to get totally drunk."

                                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                                              I think that's the reason some people avoid an open bar. They feel that if they have a cash bar, their guest will drink a reasonable amount, but if the bar is open, it's an opportunity for people to get really drunk.

                                                        2. re: Jase

                                                          I think you went above and beyond by paying for all those extras that you wouldn't normally be expected to. I guess it depends on your particular wedding and your families and what is expected at a social event in your circle. If it were me, I wouldn't have paid for attendant's attire and OOT people's lodging and would have used that money at least provided wine & beer. I think an alcohol-free wedding is best if it's a brunch, with maybe just a champagne toast provided. JMO.

                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                            That's another reasonable way to reduce costs..change and evening wedding to a morning wedding with brunch. Sparkling wine and mimosas rather than a full bar.

                                                            There are many ways to reduce wedding expenses...I don't believe the ones involving guests paying for food/drink are appropriate.

                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                              As you said, it depends on the social circle. We were all young and we didn't want to put a heavy financial burden on our closest friends who were the attendants. And alcohol just wasn't that important to having a good time among our circle. We all had gotten drunk and partied before in college, etc. We just didn't think it was that important and we didn't get any flack for it.

                                                              As it was, we had people who were grateful for us paying for everything. The out of towners used the wedding as an excuse to vacation and it meant their airfare was easier without wedding expenses.

                                                              Our wedding was late Sunday morning with a lunch reception.

                                                              I guess the big question out of all this is why is alcohol so important? Don't get me wrong, I like to drink and party. But getting together with friends and having a good time doesn't mean alcohol is necessary and it's less of a good time without it.

                                                              1. re: Jase

                                                                As I said, it depends on your social circle. As you've pointed out, it seems everyone was very happy with the way you did things so case closed.

                                                                In my circle, providing alcohol at a wedding is as important as chairs or soft drinks or food. It's just part of throwing a party. People didn't get rip-roaring drunk, but it's part of our culture. There's always beer and/or wine even at something as informal as a July 4th picnic. Nobody gets drunk, it's just something you normally and automatically provide as you do other things. Everyone is different. As with JanetfromRichmond, my big issue is when people are expected to pay for something to attend, e.g. cash bar.

                                                            2. re: Jase

                                                              >>Is it worse to have a cash bar than no bar at all?


                                                              1. re: Jase

                                                                That's another way of doing it. Of course, as I mentioned before, I got married in England. A dry wedding would be unheard of here, at least in my experience. What some couples do is put a certain amount of money behind the bar so that drinks are free until that money runs out. That usually buys 2 or 3 drinks per person. I still think it's better than not inviting the friends and family you want there, though let them know so they can choose whether or not they attend.

                                                              2. I've never experienced a cash bar at a NY wedding and would find it unusual. However, when a close friend and her family moved to Maine they found most places had cash bars only. When her family planned her wedding the family ran a 'tab' for their NY guests because they thought the NY'ers would be insulted (this was back in the 80's).

                                                                At a recent family wedding in Montana it was also cash bar, again they said that was the norm there. None of the East Coast guests were bothered, we just accepted it as a regional difference, but we had all been discreetly notified that it was cash so no one was caught off guard.

                                                                We did find the practice of paying for dances with the bride and auctioning off dances with her to be...well tacky, but to each his own we were happy to be there to celebrate and support them.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: llinza

                                                                  I went to a wedding a year ago in California where, for various reasons, there was no bar at all, just wine with dinner and it was one of the nicest weddings I've ever been to. I'd rather see some other cost-cutting and just serve wine or beer from a bar, or even have a keg than to charge "guests" for liquor. To me that's like inviting someone over for dinner, serving them some basic wine or drinks and saying if they want the good stuff they have to shell out.

                                                                  1. re: markabauman

                                                                    We offered wine with dinner only, too.

                                                                    To be frank, my friends are drunks (hey, it's the biz) and my husband and I really didn't want our wedding to be back to back shots and half-finished drinks. That money comes out of our pockets directly, and we opted to spend it on wines that paired well with the meal instead.

                                                                    As a side note, I've been a function/wedding bartender and I know first hand how many drinks get mysteriously added to the final tab. One bartender I used to know literally drank himself silly the whole night, putting his drinks on the wedding tab. When it was time to calculate the final alcohol bill, he'd literally double the amount of alcohol the guests actually consumed (example: 85 Grey Goose and sodas became 170).

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      My father was given a per person charge, and that included the open bar. The charge was in line with other places, because I was in on the reviews.

                                                                      I think a wedding is like a funeral -- more for the guests than the participants.

                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                        Yeah, I've seen those per person charges. They probably work well in most situations, since the heavier drinkers will "make up" for the lighter drinkers.

                                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                        (example: 85 Grey Goose and sodas became 170).

                                                                        OMG you know someone who drank that much on a given night??? Sounds like they would drink themselves into a coma! That's just disgusting.

                                                                        1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                          No, I'm saying that the guests drank 85 Goose and sodas, but the bartender charged them for 170 on the open bar totals slip.

                                                                          Just an example of how the people footing the bill of an open bar can get royally screwed.

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            oh, I see, around here when you do "open bar" it is typically a set amount per person up front...So it doesn't matter to the hosts if the bar even keeps track.
                                                                            On the one occasion I had a party that was open bar, but I payed for drinks individually (it was a Sunday afternoon and knew most people would stick to beer and wine) the restaurant was nice enough to definitely undercharge me!

                                                                    2. re: llinza

                                                                      I've been to a number of weddings where wine and beer flowed-- no hard liquor-- but the site (hotel, country club) had a bar somewhere on premises where those who wanted hard liquor could get it and pay cash. The bar was open to the public and at no point was money changing hands inside the wedding reception. I don't even know if that was calculated by the wedding party, or just the happenstance of the venue, but it seems to me more graceful than cutting off the free drinks at some point.

                                                                      1. re: bibi rose

                                                                        What I don't mind is the situation where I've been to a wedding in a hotel or restaurant and they have an open bar at the reception, but the wine choices are limited (Cab or Chardonnay?) or of low quality, and we go to the hotel's bar and spend money on a good glass of wine. That's different to me.

                                                                        1. re: markabauman

                                                                          I think either of those is fine, as is serving no alcohol.

                                                                          If I held a big wedding right now, I would probably serve beer and decent wine and champagne, but look for a place where guests could buy their own hard liquor at a separate bar. Largely because I have one relative on a liver transplant list and a bunch of others on their way there. At weddings in my family, at least one person usally ends up falling on their butt while giving a speech. I know you can get just as messed up on wine, but with my "drunkles: it usually seems to be the gin and bourbon. I like the idea that I'm not directly serving it to them.

                                                                      2. re: llinza

                                                                        Do you mean NY State or NYC because I've certainly been to weddings in NYS that had cash bars.

                                                                      3. I worked in banquets at a hotel in Massachusetts, and I would say for weddings it was pretty evenly split between cash bar/hosted bar. Growing up, every wedding I ever went to was cash bar. I was in my early 20s the first time I ever heard someone say it was tacky, until then I had never thought about it.

                                                                        I don't think I would have a cash bar, but neither would I have a lavish hotel wedding. Not my style.

                                                                        1. I neither think it is strange, nor consider it tacky.

                                                                          I've seen all sorts of odd things at weddings, from the cash bar, to the "no guest" policy unless your guest is legally and lawfully married to you, to the "no meal" wedding.

                                                                          And, at the end of the day, it really shouldn't matter. If you're going to a wedding it should be to celebrate the union of two people on THEIR terms -- it's their day, not your day to get drunk, to get a free meal, or even to spend a half day with your date.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            If I crash a wedding, I would expect to be a witness to the union of two people on their terms. If I am INVITED to the union of two people, I expect to be treated like a guest, not a cash-paying customer. Maybe it's an Italian thing. God knows we got too far for weddings.

                                                                          2. I try to be understanding of people's economic limits, so cash bar OK. What does bug me a bit is the expectation of another wedding gift at a third marriage, when I have previously ponied up for the first two. Matrimonial ineptness should not be an endless profit center.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                              Now that's a very good point, Veggo. Fortunately I've never been invited to a wedding past the first for anyone.

                                                                              I don't believe I would go.

                                                                              Then again, never say never.

                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                I've been married three times and agree with you. I had a traditional wedding for my first marriage but for my second and third, they were private at home with no gifts expected. I am not ashamed of my divorces, but it certainly wasn't what I planned in life and I believe a bit of humility is in order under the circumstance. BTW, my third marriage has lasted as long as the first two put together, so I must have learned something along the way.,..LOL

                                                                              2. Twenty six years ago we had a major open bar so much that the Hilton ran out of beer
                                                                                and had to go get more, we had everything people could want and then some. My dad rented out a floor of the hotel for guests who shouldn't be driving after that and it was quite a party, the next day he had an open ticket for anyone to go up to the buffet. We dragged the standing floral pieces up to the front of the door to one of our rooms and the party continued there when the reception finally shut down. That was in Illinois.
                                                                                While living there (until I moved to Hawaii in 1985) I'd pretty much seen only open bars or beer/wine paid for by the hosts.

                                                                                Here, it is often written on the invitation for weddings (and other parties from birthday to other business events) "No-Host Cocktails" - I like to see "Hosted Cocktails" myself!

                                                                                1. I find the acceptance of cash bars as VERY strange. A guest is a guest, be it at a wedding or a dinner party. Do you charge your guests for drinks at your dinner parties? Generally I would imagine that you serve what you can afford. The same should hold true for a wedding.

                                                                                  Whatever happened to punch and cake receptions?

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                    When my brother got married, his future ex-wifes' grandfather was a minister and was to officiate at the wedding. This gave the bride's parents the perfect excuse to throw a punch and cookies only reception at the church hall since he was against alcohol (they even threw out any bottles they had in the home before he arrived). The real fact is they were dead cheap and paid for practically none of the wedding expenses.

                                                                                    My parents, my two brothers and I worked for weeks putting together a party at our house for the 200 or so guests from our side. Alcohol? you bet, free and lots of it, a hired band, enough food for 300, rides home for those that over did it etc. The kicker was all of her family and friends inviting themselves over for good time, including grandpa. Apparently the drinks weren't a problem if they weren't paying for them.

                                                                                    I used to service weddings for a flower shop in the Chicago area, cash bars were about 50/50 there, many times just to limit over indulgence and waste. Usually there was free beer and wine and just a nominal charge for well drinks.

                                                                                    1. re: Scrapironchef

                                                                                      'When my brother got married, his future ex-wifes' grandfather was a
                                                                                      minister and was to officiate at the wedding'

                                                                                      OK, this took me a minute to figure out, LOL!

                                                                                      That's just poor manners - no alcohol allowed, unless someone else was buying it!

                                                                                  2. One other highly annoying thing about at least some cash bars is that it seems that ANY drinks, not just alcohol, must be paid for. If you want a soda, or even just ice water, sorry--you've gotta pay to get anything to drink. Especially frustrating when there are not even water pitchers on the table, and when you're a not-long-out-of-school, penny-pinching young adult. There may be cases where non-alcoholic beverages are free, but there is simply no way for a guest to know that except by asking the bartender. That's rather off-putting.

                                                                                    Another issue might be not just paying for the alcohol, but also paying for the bartender(s) in the room. There might be some facilities who will throw in the bartender's time for free when the hosts are paying for a full open bar, or when the total catering bill is substantial, or when there's a cash bar (with the assumption that guests will each be ordering X drinks at $Y each).

                                                                                    I'm in the no alcohol rather than cash bar camp. If money is very tight, host a very small party, or have a reception in the early afternoon with just cake and punch afterwards.

                                                                                    1. Most bridal magazines/websites say that a cash bar is a huge faux pas. They recommend serving beer/wine or punch, or no alcohol at all. Personally, I agree. When I throw parties at home I don't ask people to pay for their drinks, and I wouldn't at my wedding. I guess it depends on people's families and your priorities. If I had to cut corners for my wedding, I would serve hors d'oeuvres and have a cocktail party instead of a sit down dinner. My sister actually did that and it went quite well.

                                                                                      1. Until I was getting married, I never heard of half the things associated with weddings. A lot of customs I found to be regional/cultural. I took elements that I wanted and tailored it to my taste. A cash bar was not an option. I would rather skimp on other elements of the wedding without sacrificing my guests comfort. I would never throw a party large or small and ask my guests to pay for any of it. If you're going to make your guests pay for drinks, you might as well make them pay for their entrees and tip their server.

                                                                                        I also think it's tacky to expect guests to give a gift that "covers their plate."

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: MrsT

                                                                                          In terms of "covering the plate" I knew a lot of people that didn't seal the gift card until after dinner.

                                                                                          1. re: MrsT

                                                                                            "I also think it's tacky to expect guests to give a gift that "covers their plate.""

                                                                                            You said it. And it is appalling just how many people out there think that this is a perfectly reasonable mind set. I know people who were VERY miffed with some of the guests at their wedding when they didn't pony up enough to "cover their plates." (It was actually one in a long chain of events that eventually led to me dissolving a long standing friendship with the bride.)

                                                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                              Those are the kind of people I end up praying will get 25 toasters and 15 waffle irons, and not one thing that's pretty! '-)

                                                                                          2. Hi.

                                                                                            Please keep the discussion focused on food and beverage issues at weddings. Dancing, garter belts, etc. are too far afield for Chowhound!


                                                                                            1. Cash bar weddings are fairly common in New England, but virtually unknown in Manhattan, where I sold weddings in hote

                                                                                              Cash bars are fairly common in New England, but not in the New York City area. I sold weddings at various hotel in Manhattan for 20 years, and never once with a cash bar, because it is considered tacky. To save money, some couples restrict the open bar to the cocktail hour, and then serve only wine, or wine and beer after that. Some places will allow you to pay for your guests, by the drink, but that is less common, because they make a lot less money.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: NJcook

                                                                                                "Cash bar weddings are fairly common in New England,"

                                                                                                Not really! I'm from CT and my parents would rather have me elope than to have had a cash bar at my wedding. I have only ever been to 2 cash bars, both of which were NOT in New england!

                                                                                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                  One of the places I bartended was considered the best venue in Central Mass and about 50% of the weddings had cash bars.

                                                                                                  I assure you, they're very popular.

                                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                    Hmm, it might be more of a cultural thing than a regional thing then? My husband is from Amherst (technically Western MA) and I've been to at least 3 weddings in the area and none I went to were a cash bar. In addition, I've also been to numerous brunches and other dinners and events, many of which were hosted by the College. None of which were a cash bar either. The events are always more low key than in the NYC area, but I've seen no guests paying for their drinks!

                                                                                              2. Because of limited money, we opted to serve only beer and wine rather than mixed drinks. If you can't afford to host an open bar, treat your friends and family to what you can afford even if this means only soft drinks. Hopefully, they're there for the wedding not the booze.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: ola

                                                                                                  "If you can't afford to host an open bar, treat your friends and family to what you can afford even if this means only soft drinks."

                                                                                                  I like that. Well said.

                                                                                                  Throw what you can afford. For our wedding, we invited only our immediate families and had a wonderful, intimate Chinese banquet. It wasn't that we couldn't afford something more lavish, but we felt it would be a terrible waste of our money to spend the going rate for a wedding. We didn't need our friends to witness the occasion. The real friends see you through thick and thin anyway.

                                                                                                  Btw, I went to a wedding recently where the bride and groom went out of state (where the booze was cheaper) and stocked up the bar themselves. They rented the space for the wedding and the reception but had to provide everything else. I thought that was good thinking.

                                                                                                  1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                    @gloriousfood - the majority of places will not allow you to bring in your own alc. if they already provide it. There are some, but you have to find them.

                                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                      Personally, I was surprised myself that they could do this. But this place allows you to rent just the space only and you provide everything else. Not an option for everyone, obviously.

                                                                                                  2. re: ola

                                                                                                    Ok, but what if the place serves alcohol? If you're treating your guests to what you can afford (soft drinks), but some of them ask for beer at the bar, isn't that effectively a cash bar?

                                                                                                  3. I am horrified that so many chowhounds think that cash bar weddings are OK! I am 25, and have a large extended family, so I've been to about 21-22 weddings. I have NEVER, EVER been to a wedding with a cash bar. I think that is incredibly gauche. I'm guessing it must be some sort of regional thing. I guess a bunch of people are saying that it is pretty normal in the Northeast. Well, I'm Catholic and from the South and there's no way a cash bar would fly!

                                                                                                    If you can't afford a full bar, limit your options to beer and wine. If you can't afford that, then go with just wine/champagne or nothing at all. Just as others have said, would you expect friends and family to pay for their drinks if you invited them over for dinner?

                                                                                                    Also, most people are going to spend a fair amount of money on a gift for you to start your life together, and (I would think) would be perturbed by having to pay more on top of that to have a few drinks at the reception (I would be).

                                                                                                    And if you MUST have a cash bar, have that printed somewhere on the invitation or RSVP card. There's nothing worse than showing up to a cash bar event minus cash because you didn't know that it wasn't an open bar!

                                                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: cor

                                                                                                      No, it's not "normal in the Northeast". It isn't done in New York City and its surrounding suburbs, as far as I know. I've been to weddings all over the country (though most in the NE) and I have never experienced a cash bar. Open bar, yes. Beer and wine only, yes. Dry, yes (several very religious weddings were this way). But never ever has anyone expected the *guests* to pay their way!

                                                                                                      I wonder -- to those who think the cash bar is okay -- would it also be acceptable to charge for food? for dessert? You can come to the wedding but we require a $xx/pp fee with the rsvp? That all seems really strange to me.

                                                                                                      We deliberately kept our wedding to the number of people we really wanted to invite and thought we could handle (esp. financially).

                                                                                                      1. re: LNG212

                                                                                                        As long as it is noted on the invitation, I have no problem with a cash bar.

                                                                                                        Italians I've known usually figure out the per head cost for the wedding when they put the check in their envelope. I remember hearing stories about relatives who gave cash, and would withdraw some of it if they didn't like the meal.

                                                                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                                                                          Hey! No one's brought up the ubiquitous tipping at the cash bar yet!

                                                                                                          Yes, no? How much?

                                                                                                          And then there's the valet...........

                                                                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                                                                            Tipping at the cash bar or the open bar? I can't see any reason why the cash bartender wouldn't be tipped like a normal bartender, whereas the host tips the barstaff at an open bar (although a few bucks gets you better drinks quicker).

                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                              The cash bar. I found it curious that there were those who didn't think a bartender at an event should be tipped, so I was wondering how this applied at a cash bar at a wedding.

                                                                                                              Volatile stuff. I guess weddings are no less stressful now than they were a hundred years ago.

                                                                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                On cash bars I always tip as I normally would at a bar. For open bars it depends ... I often do anyways just because it (theoretically) would get me better service but I'm also often told by the wedding party that the tip is included as part of the 'open bar'.

                                                                                                            2. re: dolores

                                                                                                              I tip whether I pay for the drinks or not.

                                                                                                              1. re: Kagey

                                                                                                                I do too, always. But there are actually those who don't tip bartenders at events, can you imagine?

                                                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                  Actually, it is considered bad form to have a tip jar at an open bar too. A tip should be covered in the contract with the venue, etc., etc. Some of the bartenders put out a tip jar anyway. Now I don't want to begrudge anyone in the service industry their due (god know I put enough years in the service industry myself) but if the tip is already part of the contract, and the bartender has the audacity to put out a tip jar, well that's just plain tacky.

                                                                                                                  1. re: charlesbois

                                                                                                                    It is up to the hosts (i.e. bride/groom) to tell management that they don't want tip jars. Of course, then the hosts should be sure to tip well at the end of the event.

                                                                                                        2. re: cor

                                                                                                          guess a bunch of people are saying that it is pretty normal in the Northeast

                                                                                                          Absolutely not. Not in my area of Ct, or anywhere I've ever been in MA or RI!

                                                                                                        3. I've seen all sorts. Full open bar, open bar on beer/wine/well drinks, open bar on beer/wine, cash bar. I've never once heard anyone think one was tacky or not, its just what the couple wants to do and pay for. Its not their job to fund the guest's drinking habits.

                                                                                                          That being said, I prefer it when it is open bar for obvious reasons, but I've never once thought anything bad about someone for not doing it.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                            A cash bar is tacky. Period. A cash bar with a tip jar? Don't get me started .....

                                                                                                            That said, if you can't afford to have an open bar, and still want to provide beer and wine, there are ways to cut corners on that too. If you cant afford alcohol at all, then a morning wedding with lunch, or and early afternoon wedding with punch and cake, is the way to go.

                                                                                                            I can still remember the sound my dad made when he got the final bill for the open bar at my sister's wedding but since everyone had a great time he was OK with it. I've been to a few of the big italian weddings noted above, and wondered how people afforded it. I remember the first time I went to a wedding with a cash bar (as above, without cash and way before ATMS were ubiquitous) and being very disappointed by not getting even a glass of champage. Years later when that marriage broke up, I told the bride it was a bad omen (I didnt have the heart to tell her at the time that I thought the groom was a jerk, and she had to figure that out for herself). I've also been to a wedding reception where tickets for drinks (2/person) were handed out to us as we arrived. Anything beyond that, we were on our own. And I suppose if you're going to be tacky enough to have a cash bar, you should be tacky enough to mention it up front. Women generally dont carry much cash in those little purses, and arent expecting to be ponying up for their drinks at these occasions.

                                                                                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                              But again, that begs the question. Why is alcohol necessary? Especially if there's plenty of non alcholic drinks? Why should someone be limited to a daytime wedding if they aren't serving alcohol?

                                                                                                              I love having a good time and downing drinks. But if I'm at an evening party/wedding and there was no alcohol? I'd still go out there, dance and have a good time chatting up with people. Same with most of my friends. Alcohol is nice and would be missed if it wasn't available. But it's not necessary to a good time as long as no one is going hungry and thirsty.

                                                                                                              1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                "A cash bar is tacky. Period."

                                                                                                                I disagree. I can't imagine anyone being so petty as to think that way. Period.

                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                  I agree, jgg13. As to why alcohol, I've been to weddings where the guests were at the bar (in the hotel or the restauarant) beFORE the cocktail hour and bar were opened.

                                                                                                                  Not have alcohol at a wedding?

                                                                                                                  I just can't imagine such a thing, but hey different strokes.

                                                                                                                  Again, one does what one wants and can afford, it's their wedding. If an invitee doesn't like it, don't go.

                                                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                    I finally agree w/ you on something ;)

                                                                                                                    When talking about weddings involving friends of mine, my group of friends is usually told in advance if it ain't gonna be a full bar (and they're often either beer/wine only or sometimes cash) specifically because our bunch would set the newlyweds back years in debt just by ourselves. :) None of us have ever thought bad about this.

                                                                                                                    I can't believe the amount of money people spend on weddings (two friends of mine were talking the other night about how much various DJs cost for their upcoming wedding ... lets just say that I could show up wiht an iPod and save them a few grand, and there'd be a lot less in the way of stupid chicken dances!). I would never think to begrudge someone who didn't want to pay for every would-be alcoholic to pound Walker Blue or something all night ... but I certainly wouldn't complain if they did! :)

                                                                                                                  2. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                    "I disagree. I can't imagine anyone being so petty as to think that way. Period"

                                                                                                                    It's not pettty, It's a difference of opinion.

                                                                                                                  3. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                    I totally agree that a cash bar is tacky. Period.

                                                                                                                2. I think it's tacky for a guest to complain to others about a wedding they attended.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: sharonanne

                                                                                                                    Agreed. Then again, I am probably low-class because I think many older wedding traditions are simply out of date for today. With more couples footing the bill themselves, I would not expect a twentysomething couple to be able to foot the bill for a full bar. Some crowds simply would not be thrilled with a dry wedding, so a cash bar is a reasonable alternative.

                                                                                                                  2. i've never heard of such a thing

                                                                                                                    guess i'm lucky but a cash bar at a wedding sounds worse than tacky

                                                                                                                    and yes, guests should be informed of such a thing in advance. If it feels to tacky to tell them, it's probably to tacky to do.

                                                                                                                    (and as a side note, on my own pedantic pet peeve it's invite "fewer" guests, not "less" guests - fewer guests would mean less of a bar bill)

                                                                                                                    1. I don't think it's strange at all to have a cash bar. I've attended many a wedding with cash bars as I've attended weddings with open bars, partial open bars and dry weddings. Guests have been notified beforehand and we've all had a wonderful time with or without alcohol. Some posters have mentioned that it would be appalling to not have any alcohol or to have a cash bar and that it's important to treat one's guests in the manner that they expect to be treated. But what is important in my opinion, is celebrating the couple's union in the way that they would like their guests to celebrate. Whether that involves alcohol or not or whether that involves a cash bar or not is to me, less important than the actual time spent together with friends and family to celebrate two newly joined individuals starting a life together. As a guest, you're invited to something special, something hopefully magical that you will remember for many years to come. Try to enjoy it and try to stop thinking about whether it breaches certain levels of etiquette or whether it's unacceptable or tacky.

                                                                                                                      At the end of the day as you're reminiscing, you're (hopefully) not going to remember whether it was a cash bar or not. The memories that will be imprinted in your mind are of Uncle Bob who broke into an impromptu elvis impersonation during his speech, or of Aunty Joan whose dress came over her head in an attempt to catch the bouquet. You'll remember the bride and groom's first dance and the way the groom cried when he gave his speech about how beautiful he thought his new wife was when he first saw her. Most of all, what you should remember is that you've been privy to participating in a cherished moment between two people who love each other so much that they wanted you to be there with them.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                        what a beautiful post, Daeira. i share your sentiments completely. it makes me sad that so many weddings have become merely shallow displays of the parties' parents wealth, when everything about the day should be about the couple's commitment to each other and the beginning of their new life together.

                                                                                                                        1. I come from the belief that you shouldn't throw a party you can't afford. Cash bar would be frowned upon by my family and we're not even big drinkers. Keep the wedding small & intimate then but a guest is a guest and shouldn't have to dig into their wallets for a beverage of choice.

                                                                                                                          Maybe it's a NY thing but a guest typically covers the cost of their plate which for me is $200-300 per person, so it is rather rude to expect a guest to pay for their drinks after that, but that's just my opinion.

                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: moymoy

                                                                                                                            I am not sure I understand what you mean by covering the cost of their plate? As in giving a gift worth that much?

                                                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                              And if THAT is the case, I think that's even more rude. Since when is the cost of the gift supposed to "cover the cost of the plate" at the reception? It's a GIFT from the guest. By definition, a gift is "something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present."

                                                                                                                              To honor an occasion. Their choice, not the cost of the dinner as an expected expense on the part of the guest.

                                                                                                                              Emily Post is turning in her grave right now.

                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                Gift-wise I always pick out something (thankfully everyone is internet registered these days) that a) fits my budget and b) fits how close I am to the person. I can't recall ever once thinking "I need this to equal how much they're paying for me at the wedding" ... sometimes it will be more, sometimes less. I can't believe that anyone would ever "keep score"

                                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                  Trust me - some people absolutely do "keep score". But then, those probably are not the people you really want in your life anyway, right?

                                                                                                                            2. re: moymoy

                                                                                                                              Yikes, now I'm worried. Did those eight Reidels cover our (2) plates??? Hmmm- where IS that thank you note?

                                                                                                                              1. re: moymoy

                                                                                                                                So, that would be $600 DOLLARS for a couple? Wow. And NOT get booze from a wedding that presumably cost $600 dollars for a couple???? And not get an open bar from a wedding that cost $300 DOLLARS a head?

                                                                                                                                Please, no.

                                                                                                                                Wow and wow.

                                                                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                  $200-300 per person is too much to spend on any wedding. For my friend's upcoming wedding, she's looked at a bunch of nice venues in town, and for 3 hours of an open, premium bar + food, it is like $65-85 per person.

                                                                                                                                  If you want to save money, how about throwing a cocktail-style reception w/ passed hors d'oeuvres & buffets instead of a sit down dinner? Sit downs seem to be pretty $$$.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cor

                                                                                                                                    Location plays a huge role. In Manhattan, you're going to be hard pressed to find a place that will do open premium bar and food for less than $125/person.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                      Glad I'm getting married in NOLA when I do...

                                                                                                                                      I still say there's no excuse for a cash bar!

                                                                                                                              2. Most of the wedding receptions I've been to have been 1) booze-free (held in church halls, no drinky-drinky allowed) or 2) close family at off-site restaurant, bride's family picked up the check for everyone.
                                                                                                                                I would hope that any reception that has a cash bar (which I personally think is tacky) would have a NAB drink option for free, whether that's punch, iced tea, pop, or a water cooler in the corner.
                                                                                                                                At our reception, it was post-wedding at the church hall on a Saturday afternoon, where drinking would have been frowned upon. It was pretty low-key, just close friends and family and a few co-workers. I really didn't want my guests getting liquored up and having to find their way back to the big city from my home town.

                                                                                                                                1. Worrying about "covering the cost per plate" is tackier than the cash bar, imo. That being said, have the party you can afford. I have been to delightful weddings where the refresments were cake and punch...or in one case cut-out cookies and a keg. I would no sooner charge a friend for a glass of wine at my house than I would charge my guests for booze at a big party.

                                                                                                                                  1. In response to the original post: living on the West Coast of Canada, no, cash bars at weddings are not strange. I have not been to many weddings, but none of them has had an open bar. This has never been an issue to me.

                                                                                                                                    However, after reading this thread, I think I have been swayed to the "tacky" side of things. I cannot imagine throwing a party, then asking my friends to pay for it. (I don't think all my friends feel the same as me, but they're my friends, and I love them; I accept these differences.) If I could not afford an open bar, I would serve a couple types of beer, one white, one red and champagne for the toasts. Also, pop, water and apple juice would be available.I also liked the idea of one bottle of scotch on the table with pops to mix.

                                                                                                                                    I can, however, understand why some dry weddings occur. Alcoholism. Liquor can be a huge temptation for recovering alcoholics, but free liquor... If one person's safety takes away from the fun of others, so be it. Safety comes first.

                                                                                                                                    1. I vote on the tacky side. I just don't like the idea of hosting a party and expecting anything from your guests, whether it be a gift or for them to provide their own beverages.

                                                                                                                                      Let's say you were a young couple, only inviting your closest friends and family and they know your situation (not a lot of cash), I could probably understand it. I do think beer and wine should be free, and when it's out, it's out. But, having 250 people over, splurging on flowers and a couture gown and not being able to provide drinks doesn't make sense to me.
                                                                                                                                      With that being said, I wouldn't be offended if I went to a wedding with a cash bar, but I'd never feel comfortable throwing one myself.

                                                                                                                                      1. Hey Linda.

                                                                                                                                        I didn't read all 100+ responses but I will give you my 2c worth. I have been to one cash bar wedding. It was from very good friends of mine. They paid for the wedding and couldn't afford to pay for everyone's booze too.
                                                                                                                                        The trick is, you have to let people know up front. It's understandable for the most part but unacceptable if you belly up to the bar, order a drink and then find out.


                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                          My brother and wife are both recovering alcoholics and were both short on cash. They actually had a pot luck wedding and it was BYOB. It was not stated on the invitation but close family/friends spread the word for them. Not everyone new it was potluck, only as I said, close family and friends. They had more than enough food and no one seemed to mind going back and forth to their car to get a refill.

                                                                                                                                          It was actually the nicest wedding I have ever been too.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jesoda

                                                                                                                                            Yep, I've been to some deluxe weddings, but one of the ones I remember most clearly was a potluck/byob. The couple supplied the band, the location, the fun, and the memories. It stands out as one of the nicest weddings I've been to as well.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                              When I serviced weddings, I always looked for the ethnic ones where the reception was going to be held at a typically non-catered hall. Those were usually what I called "grandma catered" and in Chicago that meant great food. I'd offer to take the flowers over to the hall, freshen up any damaged bouquets, anything to get a reason to show up and get a plate. I even kept extra orchids on the truck to give to the herd of aunts, cousins and grandmas working like demons to get the food out. Some of the best meals I ever had.

                                                                                                                                        2. strange (as in uncommon)? no.

                                                                                                                                          tacky? yes.

                                                                                                                                          one throws keggers in college to earn money. after that, it's inappropriate.

                                                                                                                                          like others have said: host the party you want to have for the number of people you can afford to subsidize. recognize that there are generally pretty significant costs involved for the guests to attend (gift, transportation costs, boarding costs, clothing/cleaning costs, etc). you shouldn't burden them additionally by making them pay for the party to which you invited them.

                                                                                                                                          1. What jfood finds interesting is that many posters are stating that the bride/groom are "making" the guests pay for something. Now let's carve out the charge for soda and focus on the booze.

                                                                                                                                            No one is MAKING anyone pay for something. It is being offered to those who want to partake. Don't want a Singapore Sling, no need to buy one.

                                                                                                                                            Jfood hates the idea of people getting trashed at weddings and making fools of themselves. And an open bar is a formula for such behavior. Yes it is nice to have a cocktail for some at an event, but the free-flowing vodka and gin is not what the wedding is about. When are people going to grow up and understand that you do not need to be drunk to have a good time. And calling anything at a wedding "tacky", well is sorta calling the kettle black.

                                                                                                                                            And jfood just attended a wedding reception where the parents could afford anything, the tent was 3,000 square feet and guess what, NO BOOZE. It was the most elegant of affairs, everyone was having a great time, peopleate, danced, relaxed at tables, enjoyed the event and the bride, groom and families were as gracious as the event was elegant.

                                                                                                                                            Is the cash bar strange, OK, jfood can get there, but tacky. sheesh people trying to provide something to a guest that they particularly do not want is never tacky, it's finding a way to give a service for some without a huge expense. Don't carry cash to a wedding, oh well can;t get trashed. Are people supposed to have pity on the sober dude with no cash in his pocket? Not jfood, one safer driver on the road.

                                                                                                                                            And the guests who place booze over attendance, please stay home, it ain't always about you.

                                                                                                                                            45 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                              arguing from extremes isn't usually the best approach.

                                                                                                                                              there is a great deal of ground between having a drink at a wedding and going there to get trashed.

                                                                                                                                              that isn't the point here.

                                                                                                                                              likewise there is a great deal of ground between finding a cash bar at a wedding tacky, and not going to a wedding if they won't serve food.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: thew


                                                                                                                                                not sure where jfood argued from the extreme but he merely connected the dots, i.e. and open bar leads to increased drinking leads to sloppy guests. and jfood totally agrees with your bookends of food and attendance, but he did not make that point. Others have been outraged by the potential audacity of not treating the guests as the GUESTS see fit, ouch!!. Jfood's point was for those who are outraged, and believe the bride/groom should plan their wedding to my standards should stay home, sorry for the confusion.

                                                                                                                                                But to the point of "extremes arguing" jfood would advise your looking at your post last night of 6:18PM in which is stated "worse than tacky," Wow tacky is a line in the sand in Casa Jfood and "worse than tacky" sounds even more extreme.

                                                                                                                                                And to the question of the OP. It is probably strange but not tacky, nor worse than tacky.

                                                                                                                                                Just a disagreement amongst posters. C'est la vie.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                  Et tu jfood? My "properly hosted the guests at my wedding reception in the manner to which they expect to be hosted" was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. My word, this has become a heated arguement and confirms something my grandmother always said which is that weddings, births and deaths bring out the absolute worst and absolute best in all of us.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: southernitalian



                                                                                                                                                    When jfood read your post he fell over thinking the concave cheek were rocks slid down from the brain. So glad it was your tongue. FYI - jfood thinks others truly believe that the guests outweight the bride/groom. Ouch!!

                                                                                                                                                    jfood respect meter for southeritalian back to 10. :-))

                                                                                                                                                    Glad noone hijacked this thread to include if you tip the bartender how come you do not tip the servers. :-))

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                                      Had *no* idea (without any emoticon) that you were busting chops. My apologies for any heated replies. :-)

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                        I wasn't completely busting chops. 90% of what I said I still firmly believe. i think most people on this thread agree with me. It certainly was an eye opener.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                                          And I'm not sure if most people agree with you, depending on the area of the country they come from, but OK.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                  "And the guests who place booze over attendance, please stay home, it ain't always about you."
                                                                                                                                                  :::::::::Applause:::::::: Exactly.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                    Wow! Lots of answers - I guess I should clarify that the "cash bar" was NOT in the wedding area. The wedding was at a hotel and we were in the ballroom. I DID NOT put a bar in there but people could go out to the bar if they wanted a drink. I call that a "cash bar" but can see that some of you thought I was referring to a bar IN the wedding area. When you all started with "tip jars" it came to me lol!!! I simply could not afford to pay for drinks other than soft drinks and coffee/tea during the sit down dinner. I was marrying an Italian and my late husband's family insisted we invite tons of people (my Father offered to hold the ladder and give us money if we eloped and in hindsight I wished that he had but that's another story) including extremely distant relatives (some 4th cousins once removed came from Italy).

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                                                      Okay....that I get. And I think that's a small but distinct difference. :-)
                                                                                                                                                      And I think you handled that well.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Linda VH

                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the clarification, LindaVH. Makes complete sense. You chose non-alcohol wedding, but there was an "outside" bar should anyone want alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                        Actually, the wedding *ceremony* is about the couple, the *reception* is about the guests.

                                                                                                                                                        And it's beyond tacky to assume a guest should pay for anything. Why not have a cash dinner, also? What's the difference? Guests don't have to eat at a wedding now, do they?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                          Since when? The reception is just an extension of the wedding, so people can mingle, get to know each other vs. just show up for the church part and then go home. But the focus is still on the bride and groom. Not the guests. Either way - why should alcohol be expected if the couple cannot afford it?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                            When you invite people to a reception, they are your guests and are specifically there to celebrate your marriage with you. Guests take priority over the couple's wants. I know this view doesn't match with the irritating "It's my daaaaaay" sentiment, but there it is.

                                                                                                                                                            If said couple can't afford alcohol, fine, don't have it, offer beer and wine, a limited bar, whatever, I don't care. Just don't expect guests to subsidize a wedding reception, which, frankly, is what a cash bar does. As others have said, would you ever dream of inviting people to your home and having them pay for the booze? How, other than the scale, is this any different?

                                                                                                                                                            I've been to a few cash bars, and I remember them all. Would I have refused to attend had I known in advance? Absolutely not. Was I offended? No, because the slight was not directed at me, personally. But I remember them, and I still think they were tacky.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                              The weddings with the cash bars I've been to -- they did have wine and beer but also offered a cash bar to those who wanted mixed drinks or something stronger. I would think it's nicer to give people the option.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                I guess it's pretty obvious that this is one of my pet peeves, but anyway---how is that any more acceptable than having chicken kiev for dinner, but offering the option of steak or lobster for those willing to pay?

                                                                                                                                                                Incidentally, just as hosts are obligated to provide, without charge and at the very minimum, basic provisions for their guests, guests are equally obligated to accept whatever hospitality is offered without giving the impression that it isn't up to their (the guests) standards or expectations.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                jfood better get one last comment in before tis thread is shut down. But like Linda stated the reception is part of the ceremony for the bride/groom, not the guest.

                                                                                                                                                                What if half the guests belonged to a religion that did not allow drinking? Do you have a full bar for all, no bar for all?

                                                                                                                                                                The day is there for the bride/groom and their families and the guests are there to help celebrate, not be cowed to.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                  This is a great point. As someone who can't drink for health reasons, if I have people over to my house I'm more than happy to serve food but I won't buy alcohol. They're more than welcome to bring over whatever they'd like because I know that many of them enjoy drinking. I just don't feel like I should have to pay for it because I can't partake.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                    "I just don't feel like I should have to pay for it because I can't partake."

                                                                                                                                                                    That's precisely what being a gracious host isn't about.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                    I've been to a few weddings with cash bars, and there were not, in total, comments that came anywhere near the amount of posts on the subject.

                                                                                                                                                                    Linda VH: a cash bar tacky? Absolutlely, positively not.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                      But jfood, why have a party, which is what a reception really is, and not treat your guests the same way you would treat them at any other venue? I don't get it, as someone stated upthread, why a wedding trumps basic etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                      As for the religion issue, sorry, I don't think it's relevant. As I've said, alcohol isn't a requirement, but if one chooses to provide it do it without charging for it.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                        Because having a cash bar is preferable to not having any liquor at all.

                                                                                                                                                                        Face relatives without liquor?


                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                          That's an interesting point M and jfood agress with you on certain points. Basic etiquette does not include liquor, it includes a gracious seeting and a good time. As jfood stated upthread he attended one of the most elegant 300+ wedding receptionlast weekend and guess what no liquor. Did they break "basic etiquette" oh man this was an elegant and etiquette perfect affair.

                                                                                                                                                                          If, given the choice of 20 guests at a cas jfood BBQ without liquor and 10 with liquor due to budgetary constraints, then saddle up the 20 person Q. And if people really want vodka or gin with the meal, they are more than welcome to bring it.

                                                                                                                                                                          And as an aside since the jfoods do not drink they do not have hard liquor in the house. If someone wants hard liquor when they come to an affair at casa jfood, they need to bring their own. And in the last 12 years since jfood moved to CT, only once has anyone made a comment after jfood stated "sorry, we do not have any hard liquor, whould you like red or white."

                                                                                                                                                                          So jfood does walk the talk.

                                                                                                                                                                          Hope that helps and clarifies, marcia.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                            <<If someone wants hard liquor when they come to an affair at casa jfood, they need to bring their own.>>

                                                                                                                                                                            oh my, could you imagine a BYO wedding reception!? Now that's hilarious. :)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                              How do I say this---personally, I find it tacky on the part of guests to basically, without outright coming out and saying it, "your provisions aren't good enough so I'm bringing my own."

                                                                                                                                                                              As for the person who commented, I'm assuming negatively, that you only had wine, a pox on him/her. Like I said, hosts and guests are equally obligated to be within the bounds of etiquette. The host offers, at the very least, the basic requirements of food, drink, and comfort, and the guest accepts those provisions without complaining.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                                nicely put at the end, but there is a third choice amongst friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                the food served at casa jfood is the focus and moderate wines are provided. now the jfoods are totally without the skill in pairings, and their friends love wines and have 100's of bottles in their cellars. So the jfoods discuss the menu and the friends brings lots of great wine to enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                                                one must also know their limitations, and wine is not in jfood's arsenal. but the dinners now have great food, great wine and great fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                  I think that sounds like a lot of fun, and no etiquette faux pas because it's obviously been discussed beforehand and it's accepted practice among your friends that they bring wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                                    it's a great group of people and a great lot of fun. now they have been challenged to find a good pairing for mrs jfood's flourless chocolate terrine.

                                                                                                                                                                                    fall menus already being discussed and Hazan Canelloni and Besh Short Ribs already on the approved list.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                              Your last point is the thing. If the couple does not choose to provide it, fine. But what if the venue has a bar? If I choose to provide soft drinks and beer and wine at my wedding, that's what I've chosen to provide. Is it then my problem if you want to pay for a gin and tonic?

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                            Here's where I'm puzzled. Let's think of an equivalent scenario in which an individual is invited to a dinner at somebody's home. The host provides a wonderful evening, supplies great food, great company but does not provide any alcohol. Instead guests are treated to non-alcoholic beverages. Would we as guests then complain and think it tacky afterwards that we didn't get alcohol at that dinner party? We enjoyed whatever our hosts provided.

                                                                                                                                                                            I think of this situation applied to the wedding situation. If the bride and groom for whatever reason (cultural, religious, personal choice, financial etc) choose not to serve alcohol at a reception, doesn't the provision of a cash bar provide an opportunity for those guests who need/want to drink at a wedding the opportunity to drink.

                                                                                                                                                                            This is the bride and groom's day. Let's try to enjoy it for what they are providing to us, good (sometimes passable) food, good company, great memories and the opportunity to celebrate.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                              Okay, you attend a party where no alcohol was provided. Fine. I don't think that's tacky, since they are the hosts. However, would you find it tacky if the same host charged their dinner guests for alcohol, for whatever reason, be it religious, personal, financial? If someone can explain the difference to me, I'd be quite happy.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                              Guests take priority over the couple's wants.
                                                                                                                                                                              I think you're in the minority opinion there. But that's what it ends up being - your opinion. We will have to disagree on that.

                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                              "The focus is still on the bride and groom. Not the guests."

                                                                                                                                                                              That is a very culturally-bound statement. In much the rest of the world, hosts still operate under the age-old premise that an invited guest is someone to whom you cater and whose presence you appreciate through your hospitality. For the Greeks, this meant a belief that even unexpected guests were to be honored with food, shelter and gifts. To do otherwise would incur the wrath of the gods, as was the case in the Trojan War. In Arab culture, hospitality means feeding your guests all of your best and offering to give them any personal belonging for which they may seem to have an affinity. Even a poor villager in China will spend all to feast for days with every neighbor in celebration of the first son's wedding while the Filipino concept of hiya demands that you give everything to ensure your guests have the best party ever. And if you ask a modern biblical scholar, it was for their inhospitality shown the guests of Lot that God destroyed Sodom. Guests are not tools to enhance a celebration of yourself. They are the reason for the celebration and for who you are and your hospitality thanks them for that.

                                                                                                                                                                              So if you, as the host, want to say, "No! this party/reception is all about me me me and my special day and how special I am today and if the guests can't accept that, screw 'em," you're entitled to that opinion. No one will call you tacky, but half the world might call that self-centered.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                Thank you Jung Mann. That was incredibly well put. That was exactly what I was very badly trying to communicate in my earlier posts. If you've not been raised like that, it seems (and is) archaic and un-American. But that's how it is for many of us. Going into debt to entertain and serve your guests? Why not? You only go around once.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ok, seriously? Going into DEBT just to entertain and serve your guests for a day or couple of days is plain stupid. How much debt do you think is justified?

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                  I think there are a range of lovely and practical options between the two extremes you pose.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree that there are a range of options. You need not go into debt just to have a spectacular wedding, though my culture would not frown on that (except my uncle, the accountant). But several posters have been quite explicit that the wedding reception, or as I would like to phrase it, the party for your wedding guests, is actually a celebration OF the hosts, not WITH the hosts and that any guest who cannot accept that is unwelcome. You can have any attitude you want towards alcohol and its propriety at a wedding, but whether American or not, I think most can agree that my-way-or-the-highway approach is not the gracious role of a host.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                      I never said it was a celebration OF the hosts. I completely agree it's a celebration WITH the bride and groom - but that they should be the main focus, as it's the start of their life together.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                    As one firmly on the side of not providing alcohol if you can't afford it, full disclosure that I am Chinese that was born in the Philippines and didn't come here till my tween years. Still have relatives in both countries that adhere to many of the old traditions. So I fully understand the concepts your talking about.

                                                                                                                                                                                    And you know what, our whole extended family still think it's insane to go that deep into debt. Yes we're going to put out a big old shindig and we're going to pour a lot of food down your throats. But having to make compromises, the alcohol will be the first thing to go.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe I'm just the black sheep in the family. Maybe I get it from my grandmother. She was the first one in her family not to get her foot bound. Her parents were well off and socially all her peers had it. But great grand parents thought it was a dumb tradition and said no.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I still have no problems with the concept of not providing alcohol at a party as long as there's sufficient food and other drinks along with providing a happy atmosphere.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for such a well-written post.

                                                                                                                                                                                      My large, extended family is from Eastern Europe and to not provide ample food and drink at a celebration would be a great embarassment. They would be horrified at the idea of charging guests for drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                      It is very much a cultural issue and I am proud of how we honor our guests. It is a lovely tradition.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                        More utang na loob (the personal feeling of debt) than hiya (shame).

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                          I always love and respect your posts, this one is my favorite!
                                                                                                                                                                                          In a culture where wedding hosts increasingly leave their "guests" waiting in limbo for 3-4 hours while they take pictures, and clear out their registries to (subtly) let people know they prefer cash, I've grown weary of brides and grooms who think the party is all about them in the wrong ways.
                                                                                                                                                                                          While I agree it is a very special day for the happy couple, they are still the host and hostess and with that comes obligations that many bride and groom no longer feel the need to meet.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                            Nicely put. There is a weird self-centeredness in these American wedding discussions and a borderline contempt for the guests they are inviting to their do-- and if they can heap some moral claim onto the pleasure taken in drinking, so much the better. (An earlier discussion presumes drunken loutish behaviour as a logical outcome of a bar-- huh? A few years down the road, with the cash buffet, some hounds may be wagging their fingers about the dangers of obesity and trying to indicate that those who find themselves put off are the churlish, demanding ones.)

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                      Jfood, you know I pretty much am always in agreement with you. However we differ on this point. While I know you are not drinker, you have mentioned you offer alcohol to your guests when dining at your house. It is the same whenever a person hosts a party. Also as I remember once we agreed that guests should not ever be expected to tip at the bar at a privately held party. In my opinion, it is the same concept. I would not ever invite people to a party (no matter the occasion) and expect them to pay for drinks, or BYOB. It's just not my style, but it surprises me that you would argue otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                                                                        jfood offers food and drinks for all. just not hard liquor. but he undestands that his wine is good but not great. While others have great wines and know how to pair them way better than jfood. So in the interest of a better meal with wine for those that want wine, others raid their stash to bring some very nice selections for those who want. No, he does not "expect" BYOB, and it has NEVER been an issue in 12 years. Jfood does not smoke cigars, but some of the guys bring over cigars to hang at the pool. Someone wants some 25 year port, bring it for the cigars. These guys have some great stuff, might as well enjoy them with friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Jfood thinks it is more of a should you bring something and expect it gets eaten or is it a housewarming gift versus a BYOB.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Jfood has no ego in these get-togethers, just a bunch of friends getting together on a Saturday night. He understands his limitations and also understands that if everyone has a better meal with the better wine, more power to the group.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. For myself I would say yes, tacky, but I hear what a lot of you are saying otherwise. The one time a cash bar really bothered me was when we travelled to a wedding in a remote location that can only be described as hellish (and I grew up "in the bush", so when I say hellish I mean it). The trip was exhausting and we were really looking forward to a couple of cold drinks (we aren't big drinkers AT ALL). I think I just about cried when we went to the bar and saw that we'd have to pay. Hello, at least provide a couple of tickets to the, like five out-of-towners who came.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. It never occurred to me to be offended by a cash bar at a wedding (and I've seen at least two over the years). When I had a wedding we couldn't afford lots of booze so only offered beer and wine (and cheap wine at that). No one complained. I'd have been pretty disgusted if they had.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Here's another scenario: we invited 25-30 people to join us for celebratory brunch at our favorite restaurant (open that day only for our party). We offered soft drinks and Mimosas with the meal. A few guests who wanted something else ordered from the resto bar and paid their own tabs. I didn't think of this as a "cash bar" per se as we hadn't asked that the bar be made available to our guests. Where does this fit in?

                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: GSM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Good point, GSM. On the occasions we've hosted that included mimosas and poinsettias in the price of the brunch, all other drinks were noted as 'cash bar'. Management was informed that patrons would pay for their own drinks. This was brought about through one occasion that got out of hand. Once.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                            Dolores - what's a pointsettia besides the poison Christmas plant? What kind of a drink. And you HAVE to tell us what happened "once".

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                                                                              A poinsettia is champagne (sparkling wine, of course, not the real deal) and cranberry juice. Doesn't appeal to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Well, we thought we had it figured correctly on the up front price per person, including tip and tax, but didn't count on the drinkers! Hubby is muuuuch nicer than I am, and only asked for a certain amount more from each person to account for the bar bill. After all was said and done, we were in the hole for the balance.

                                                                                                                                                                                              It wasn't a large amount, but it was a lesson well learned.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. OK. I'm still sticking with my "cash bars are gauche" thing. Linda, I totally think it is OK if you have a dry wedding but there is alcohol on the premises that you can wander around and bring back, like in a hotel. That's fine. Cash bar IN the reception is so not fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                          And all of you people who are saying that celebrating the couple's union shoud be what attending a wedding is about, I agree. Having said that, I was recently a bridesmaid/maid of honor two weekends in a row. Maybe I'm just a waster (live in New Orleans :-P) but it was so psychologically draining that I was DAMN GLAD there were drinks at every associated event, whether it was at the manicure/pedicure salon, bridesmaids luncheons, rehearsals, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                          And guess what? No one got sloppy drunk at either wedding. At my cousin's wedding, in which I was maid of honor, they ran out of vodka and beer, which I also thought was tacky.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't believe in having all the traditional wedding BS, but I do know that when I get married, my penultimate priorities will be good food, good drinks, good band, good fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe I've just lived in New Orleans too long...

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I have been reading this post with interest. In the Boston area, in the early 70's- almost all weddings were cash bar. Not so much now- I have been to weddings where the wine and beer are supplied, but hard liquor is cash. I have relatives from the Midwest, and they had never heard of a cash bar at weddings. Where they live, you bring in your own beer, wine and liquor. Not many places where I live allow that.

                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: macca

                                                                                                                                                                                              @macca - not sure where in the midwest this is, but I've been to dozens of weddings in Ohio and have never seen anyone doing BYOB, it is not allowed at almost every reception venue I've been to. And I've been to plenty of weddings that had a cash bar, probably as many as ones I've been to that didn't, so I always bring cash just in case.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                                BYOB???? Now THAT'S tacky.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Sheesh, and here the idea of a cash BAR is being discussed as tacky?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I did not mean the guests brought in their own booze!! I meant the bridal couple bought all of the wine, beer, liquor and mixes to the hall, hired a bartender and the wedding guests did not pay for any drinks! That does not happen where I live- you either have an "open bar" or a "cash bar", and the bridal couple does not buy the booze- they tell the venus what kinds of liquor, wine, etc they want, and that is what is served at the bar- whether it is cash or open.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  And I am basing my statements on the Midwest on 7 weddings attended in Ohio, so it is probably a small sampling!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: macca

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ah, thx for the clarification. Generally, the difference is in the type of reception hall. A hotel or "event" hall where they have a lot of weddings and special events generally will not allow outside liquor to be brought in, you have to use them/their preferred caterer as the provider. Other reception locations such as church basements or alternative spaces often allow you to bring in your own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yup- all the weddings I have attended in Ohio were in small halls- and entire familes attended. Buffet dinner, dollar dance, lots of booze- real rowdy parties. As a matter of fact, my relatives are surprised when their entire families are not invited to the weddings. My neice got married last year ( on a mountain top in WEstern MA), and the people from Ohio are her second cousins- but most of them vacation with us in NC, so wshe is close to them. They have grown children, and their kids have kids- the invitations went out specifically to the 2nd cousins, and two of them called me and said they were going to bring the extended family- didn't happen, needless to say!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I have been to a lot of weddings over the last 5 years, and I have never seen a cash bar. Yes, I think it's tacky to ask your guests to pay for drinks...kind of goes against the very idea of "guests." It's fine to just provide wine and no hard liquor, and it's even fine to not provide alcohol if you really can't afford it. But it's poor etiquette to ask your guests to pay...just as you wouldn't dream of charging them for dinner when they are guests in your home. Wedding planning is all about tradeoffs...I had to sacrifice certain things in order to afford others (e.g., I had a cheap off the rack wedding dress, but high quality alcohol...others choose to have a sunday lunch reception with wine and beer instead of an expensive saturday night reception with a tacky cash bar). At the end of the day it's about priorities, and I would prioritize not putting my guests in the awkward position of having to pay for their drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Absolutely tacky! I'm paraphrasing here but, according to etiquette, if people are invited to something where gifts tend to be "expected" said guests should not be expected to pay for their dinner (food, etc) or drinks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  When we were younger we traveled to PA from NYC for a wedding for friends of my (now) husband and it was a cash bar. He was surprised when I said it was tacky, but now, years later, he has admitted to me that he realizes it was tacky too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  This may happen when people marry in their early 20's, but anyone over 25 should know better withjout a doubt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. What about those who for what ever reason (religious?) don't drink and it's against their beliefs to purchase alcohol, yet understand that there are those who can't imagine going to a wedding without alcohol. I would think that a cash bar would be the perfect solution in that situation. A loop-hole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Like Jfood said, I would prefer the higher # of guests and no/limited alcohol to low # of guests and premium/open bar. Since when is a wedding about alcohol and not the couple? Why should they limit the # of friends/family members at their wedding so that a few unappreciative people can drink to their hearts content? It's a wedding people, you are there to celebrate the union of two people in love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Discussions like this make me not want to have a wedding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                                                                                      >>Discussions like this make me not want to have a wedding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now THERE'S a good idea!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Discussions like this make me not want to have a wedding."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I second that. Suddenly eloping never sounded so good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Experienced wedding Dad here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Did a nice wedding for Daughter in Arizona three years ago at a resort. Probably 150 guests, dj music, wonderful food, flowers etc. They charged us for the bar based upon # of guests and so much per hour. First hour was the highest and then declined in price. We also provided bottles of wine and sparklers for the tables. As I remember we left the bar open 3-4 hours and it cost me close to 8K. They charged the same for the 20-30 year old guys that were pounding them and for the little old lady that had a couple of cokes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have a son getting married in October in Oregon. The wedding will actually be in Maui with family with a reception to be held a couple of weeks later. Going to have it at my country club. Have already acquired 8 cases of 2005 Cote du Rhone for the red and still need to get whites and sparklers. The reception will be held in the dinning room which is separate from the bar (19th hole). What the brides father and I have decided to do is have wine at the tables, sparklers furnished for toasts. If folks want something else the servers will get it for them, including hard liquor or whatever, we will pickup the tab. If folks go to the bar to get a drink then it is on them. Other areas of the club will be open that evening to members and bartenders will not know who is in the wedding party and who is not. I suspect that even with a few more guests (approx 180) the alcohol bill will be much lower than at last wedding. But the red wine is costing only $10 per bottle (no corkage) and I assume the white will be close or just a little higher. 14 cases of wine, beer and whatever mixed drinks should insure that a good time will be had by all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. tacky. if you can't host an event - reduce the size. or have a pot luck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Have people lost their minds??

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's about the party. A party isn't free food, free booze, free anything. It's all about the party.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The bride and groom feel that you should be included in one of the most important days of their lives and you're worried about whether or not you'll have to shell out a few bucks to have a drink/get drunk?? That's brutal. I've always been honoured to be included in such an event.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The only thing they owe you is honesty. If it's a cash bar, say so up front so. That way you can bring cash. No big deal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            If they're paying for the wedding and it's a way to help keep the costs down, fine. Don't tell me you can't afford it if you really can though.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you want me to bring something because you can't afford to pay for a dinner. No problem, I'll be glad to help. Just be honest with me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The most fun weddings revolve around the guest list. Not the sobriety (or lack there of) of said guests. Get a good group of friends together and you really don't need the booze to have fun.


                                                                                                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                                                              >>Have people lost their minds??

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Why? I consider these valid, albeit lengthy, discussions on a subject I thought was a given.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              >>Get a good group of friends together and you really don't need the booze to have fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Depends on your culture, I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I will be the first to admit it Dolores - I need booze to have fun. At least with massive gatherings of my family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Word up, Janet! Sometimes I don't understand how people can stand their families without a little sauce!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If I'm worried there will be no liquor or a cash bar for that matter, I bring my pretty little silver flask. It looks like a perfume bottle. I guess some people might think THAT's tacky ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cor

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ha Ha...even the thought that I will have to look at my SIL makes me want to drink...and everyone else in the family feels the same way.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Family functions must include alcohol because of her.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Looking on the bright side, it's just another excuse for a cocktail!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mschow

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That the case here except it's my MIL who makes everyone want to drink. I remember the second family dinner with her (as the first one initiated me into the experience that is my MIL at a holiday dinner), Thanksgiving 1999, and a I was snockered by 10:30 am on Bloody Marys and had to sober up in order to finish making dinner. Fortunately as of 2006, she is no longer included in our dinners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: cor

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        >>Sometimes I don't understand how people can stand their families without a little sauce!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Amen, cor!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'll assume you're sincere, but I heartily agree. As to the hosts being responsible for drunk guests, that's true in any event. If I host a dinner at my house, should I not serve booze because someone might drive drunk? Bull.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        People are responsible for their own selves. I have a designated driver (hubby) who watches how much he drinks so he can drive me home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And again, I can't get the Oprah episode out of my head. The wedding hosts took EVERY precaution, and the mother of the bride lost her very young daughter in a MOST horrific manner thanks to another drunk driver plowing into their thoughtful limo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's all in the cards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I saw that Oprah episode as well. I also had been following that story in the newspapers. It brought on a whole new light when you actually got to see the family speaking about that night in their own words. That and the words of the first responders on the scene leave you speechless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finally. Someone talking sense!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      no one is saying drinking is more important than celebrating the wedding. it is about how you treat your guests. i, like many here, would prefer a limited bar or even no bar, to a cash bar. again - would you serve everyone chicken at your wedding, but offer them steak and lobster if they shelled out some extra cash?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "would you serve everyone chicken at your wedding, but offer them steak and lobster if they shelled out some extra cash?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, no I wouldn't. It's an added detail that I'd rather not have to deal with.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We planned and paid for our own wedding. It wasn't big and being a southern wedding, was over early.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For the out of towners we went back to the IL's place and had a nice party. Pulled pork (with all the fixin's of course), beer on tap, wine and paper plates. No fuss, no muss. My sister says it's one of the best weddings she's ever been to. Very laid back and a lot of fun. I was in shorts at my wedding reception by 5pm.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          >>if they shelled out some extra cash?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No, but in 20 years I might take out some of the cash from the envelope if I don't like the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          >>would prefer a limited bar or even no bar, to a cash bar

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And I prefer a cash bar to no alcohol. Tomato, tomahto.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. What about CULINARY considerations?!!?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        At my wedding, a combination of planning, research and good luck resulted in really excellent food (rare, at a wedding, I know). I think really excellent food is best enjoyed with wine, not cocktails or hard liquor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm not exactly sure a wedding dinner should be compared to a dinner party or other party at one's home but I wouldn't serve hard liquor at a dinner party. A frat party, yes. A cocktail party, yes. With a nice meal, no. We had a wide variety of beer and wine, at the tables, and at a bar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Anyway, I have to say, some guests were a bit surprised by the lack of booze. Should I have let them spend their own money at a cash bar? Or am I allowed to decide, at my own wedding, that cocktails, cash bar or otherwise, are . . . .*tacky* ??!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: zoe p.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, as someone who makes their cocktail last all through dinner due to an inability to mix spirits or consume lots of liquor, I like a bar at a wedding, cash or otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          tacky, tackynot, it appears to come down to personal views.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I think this is absolutely regional and cultural. And sometimes safety issues (fear of DUI) come into play. My friend had a culture clash between her side and her in-laws (only 3 hours apart geographically). Her big-city, upper-middle-class in-laws insisted on Open Bar. Her small-town, working-class mother was totally freaked out... people would take advantage and get way too drunk, and in their community it would be seen as showing off (open bar won after MIL offered to pay, but Mom was still unhappy about it).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I also went to a wedding at a vineyard - every guest was from out of town, reception was a 30 minute drive from the local hotels, no taxi service, etc. They had wine during dinner and two drink tickets per guest. My suspicion is that they did this partially to limit the risk of people driving back to their hotels drunk and I don't blame them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Reading through all these posts makes me jealous! I've been to at least 30 weddings in my life and only remember two that had an open bar! Maybe I need friends with deeper pockets. It must be a regional thing because in MN/WI cash bars are the norm. My ex-BF's brother's wedding was open bar and it cost his parents almost $10k! People who normally drink rail vodka switched to Grey Goose, just because they're not paying for it. I don't see cash bars as bad ettiquite, I see it as a couple who who would rather invest in their future than pay $10K to get their friends drunk for a night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I am firmly in the camp of never asking guests to pay for anything at a hosted event. It got me thinking of the two cash bar weddings I attended. Both were not what I would describe as detail-driven, well put together events. Um, er, they were tacky. Maybe that is why I so strongly associate cash bars with overall tackiness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'd be interested in knowing other posters' experiences. Were the cash bar weddings you've attended as nicely planned and executed as those where guests enjoyed an open bar?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chow_gal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been to tacky weddings and really nice, formal weddings and I really don't feel like the bar issue had anything to do with the overall vibe of the wedding. Everyone likes a free drink ( I love a free drink!) so maybe that does something to elevate people's opinions of how nice the wedding was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Stillwater Girl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  >>does something to elevate people's opinions of how nice the wedding was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It does imo. If I can get a drink with top shelf booze, I'm going to be a much happier camper than if the wedding is, saints preserve us, dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There wouldn't be 'can you top this?' wedding shows glutting the air waves right now if it wasn't a case of people doing what their parents want when it comes to the carnival atmosphere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I really hope that if I get married and hold a reception my guests won't think my completely dry wedding is some cheap affair that I put together. I would hope that I can still coordinate a graceful and elegant affair with good food without having alcohol. I would certainly provide non-alcoholic drinks but I don't drink, my bf doesn't drink nor does my family or his family. I just don't want alcohol at my reception because some (not all) do drink to excess and become really unpleasant drunks. And while I recognise that everybody's taste and threshold for alcohol differs, I don't want to be responsible for some person who ends up drinking and driving home because I didn't control his/her alcohol consumption. Next thing you know, I'm getting slapped with some lawsuit because of perceived negligence arising from alcohol consumed at my event.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You will do fine young lady, don't sweat it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Here is an example that jfood posted:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "And jfood just attended a wedding reception where the parents could afford anything, the tent was 3,000 square feet and guess what, NO BOOZE. It was the most elegant of affairs, everyone was having a great time, people ate, danced, relaxed at tables, enjoyed the event and the bride, groom and families were as gracious as the event was elegant."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have heard of weddings with cash bars (writing from Vancouver) but never attended one. In the course of researching/planning my own wedding nine years ago, I understood that the etiquette folks frown on such practices. This traditional approach resonated with me, although I chose not to hew blindly to all traditions. For example, we paid for our whole wedding -- in our culture, the bride's father is supposed to do this. That did not mean that we got to ignore our parents' input, or set things up to please ourselves, though. We looked at all the weddings we'd been to as guests and tried not to do any of the things that made us uncomfortable e.g. we had the wedding and reception in the same place and within a short space of time so that our guests did not go into "limbo" -- we set up a wine and cheese for the short time we were down on the beach getting our photos done. We selected a wedding venue that showcased the west coast scenery AND allowed us to bring in our preferred caterer and bartender/bar/non-alcoholic/wine/beer/spirits. The food was the star (after the bride of course BLINK BLINK) but you could also have the drink of your choice. Bottom line for me, as others have said: you invite guests, you cater to them. Oh and another point of etiquette: the only "transaction" between you and your guest is the rendering of an invitation and the acceptance (or not) of same. A gift is not part of the "deal" and is entirely voluntary, as mentioned way above. Any mention of gifts on a wedding invitation, even to say for example "no gifts please" is considered a breach of etiquette. Etiquette aside, for me the gift is the person coming to see me wed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        >>negligence arising from alcohol consumed at my event.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess, due to some people's inability to maintain personal responsibility, you have a point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Or you could do as the couple on Oprah, who seemingly thought of everything, hired a bus, hired a limo...and still had two horrific fatalities in their family. You never know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A good intention, nonetheless. For my part, I'd want alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The fact of the matter is that no matter what you do or don't do, people will talk. And I don't mean just about no bar/cash bar either. Honestly, I have never heard as much gossip or dish about the couple-to-be as I have at some of the weddings I've been to. And this was all from total strangers whom I just happen to be seated with!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Do what you want and what your culture considers the norm. As for everyone else: let them eat cake!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            IMO not serving alcohol is perfectly acceptable. The bigger issue is having a "cash" bar and charging guests to attend an event you invited them to. The 2 situations are completely different and I'm sure whatever wedding you have some day will be beautiful :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              After reading all these posts, I can appreciate the differing opinions on the acceptability/tackiness/inappropriateness of a cash bar. But I think I'm still in that "it's okay" camp for the reasons that I mentioned way back in an earlier post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If I ever do get married, I can imagine having a dry wedding and people just looking at the non-alcoholic beverage on the table and saying, "this is what I flew 1000 miles for?". Something about that strikes me as very humourous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My cousin actually had a really affordable open bar option at her wedding. She obtained her own liquor license and the restaurant allowed her to bring in her own store purchased alcohol and they charged a corking fee. Guests could help themselves to whatever was there (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and at the end of the night, there was still plenty left over. All out for a wedding of 250 people, open bar cost them less than $1000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am curious about one aspect of cash bars. Whose responsibility is it to cut off alcohol for a guest who has clearly drank one too many? Is it the bartender's responsibility or does it fall on the hosts who then have to keep an eye on all of their guests?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: daeira

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not legal advice:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If it's a hired, professional bartender--as opposed to uncle Eddie--they are the ones with the primary liability, as that's what they were hired to do (so long as you didn't instruct them otherwise, etc). Cash bar also helps, in that you're not even paying for the alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: xanadude

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  correct. however in Daeira's example, with the guests able to help themselves to alcohol, the bridal couple, or their parents, or *whomever purchased the liquor license,* would be the liable party. they very conceivably also open themselves to liability related to underage drinking, which can have serious legal consequences in some areas. i can't imagine just leaving booze out and giving 250 people free access to it with no professional staff regulating things. i'd have nightmares of getting arrested on the morning of my honeymoon because some 17 year old slammed 1/2 bottle of jack daniels at my reception and crashed her/his car into someone's family car or house. saving money on booze is not worth the risk imo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I hadn't even thought about those liability issues with the cheaper open bar option. As far as I know though, there were no underage minors invited to the wedding and all parties were legal drinking age. There were also two police officers stationed right beside the alcohol station that were hired for the evening so I suspect that helped to control alcohol consumption.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The problem is no matter what precautions are taken, something *could* go wrong. The same liability issues could emerge during a New Year's Eve party in which alcohol is also left unattended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Sometimes these kinds of decisions get make because of the complicated relationship between those who may be contributing to the wedding costs. When my niece got married, each of the parental units agreed to pay the dinner costs of the those guests they put on the guest lists and each kicked in an extra 5k for other costs. They initially agreed to have an open full bar cocktail hour, good wine with the dinner, and beer and wine during the dance. But my ex-brother-in-law's family is huge and most lived nearby. So when the responses came in, his portion was more than half of the guest list. So understandably the groom's father suggested that there be a cash bar for the dance portion. I remember the cost of the drinks was very low -- under $4 a drink. I did not feel it dampened the mood at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also given the choice between an open bar and a better quality meal with a nice glass of wine, I think most people would choose the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I took a look at some wedding and etiquette web sites, and every single one of them said that having a cash bar is a huge etiquette faux pas. They recommend having an open bar for a shorter period of time (cocktail hour only), or have only wine and beer, if cost is an issue. If these alternatives aren't manageable or desired, it is acceptable to not offer alcohol. But with respect to etiquette, a cash bar at a wedding is not acceptable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Nicole

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ahhhh, etiquette. So popular in the world today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have more problem with hats in restaurants than I do with a cash bar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "Ahhhh, etiquette. So popular in the world today."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Not sure if you're being sarcastic with this comment or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, etiquette is NOT popular anymore, much to the detriment of our society where rudeness is considered acceptable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: marcia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              >>Not sure if you're being sarcastic with this comment or not

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, absolutely, marcia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              When I post 'Rise and Fall', I am NOT being optimistic about the savagery (have you SEEN the YouTube thing on the hot dog place in Chicago??) in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Actually, I've been to the Wiener Circle and it wasn't that bad, but that's not the point, considering the rudeness is part of the schtick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My point is, that as long as people assume etiquette is going the way of dinosaurs, then it will. Those of us who still care, and there are many of us, will continue to protest what we perceive as rudeness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And I couldn't care less about men wearing hats in restaurants as long as they behave themselves, are polite to the people they're with and the staff, tip decently, etc. It's about how you treat people, not wearing white shoes before Memorial Day in the north.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The weiner circle is *amazing*. The absolute best time to go is on a "drinking night" very late (2am plus).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Besides, their food is pretty good to boot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I'm coming in reeeeeeaaaaally late on this, and I'm far too lazy to read every post, but I have a few thoughts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The first is when it's a huge wedding with a cash bar, yet members of the wedding party have paid for their own dresses or tux rentals, travelled great distances at their own expense, then work something out with the bar to give them a "free pass." In my opinion it is insult to injury to ask them to pay for their own drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "Amercan" tradition, a la Emily Post of a half century ago , and all that jazz, is that all of those expenses are covered by the bride's parents. Well, if it still only cost a couple of thousand dollars for a huge wedding, that would be great, but at today's prices, I think it makes a lot more sense for the bride and groom to elope and the bride's parents cover a down payment on a house for them. It would be cheaper! And if the marriage lasts less time than the debt, at least you get the equity back!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Then there are other alternatives to a bar, be it comp or cash. Was it here (Chow) or the NY Times where I recently read about punches making a huge comeback in bars, of all places. A pair of gorgeous punch bowls, one with booze in it, one without, add a graceful touch to the cake table, gives folks a chance to have an up close and personal look at the cake, most punches taste really good, and they don't run up the tab even half as much as an open bar would. But you do need someone to make sure no one adds more to the punch than you intended! Speaking from a lot of years of experience, there is something special that goes with punch and people not trying to drink each other under the table. It's a gracious way to allow everyone to get a mild buzz and still be sober enough to behave. Can't beat that!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have about zero tolerance for people who think getting zonked out of their gourd with booze (or anything else) equates with a "good time." I am not a 2,000 year old Roman, and the aroma of a vomitoria does not spell "party time" for me. Not everyone is a jolly happy drunk who wants to wear a lamp shade when they're sloshed. I hate bar fights. So I don't like free license for the "advantage takers" to get drunk drunk drunk and jeopardize everyone else's good time. My brother nearly ruined my second wedding that way, and his being a licensed minister today has done nothing at all to make it better! And then, to be pragmatic, there is a serious and very real liability issue too. In many states, Texas and California being just two, if someone leaves your party, whether it's in your home or a hired hall, and is involved in a traffic accident, you can legally be held liable. That's not a reasonable topper for a wedding celebration!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In another thread, I talked about a girlfriend's HUGE wedding where her father stepped in and turned her dream of an intimate home wedding into a literal kill the fatted calf extravaganza. He was a dairyman (HUGE dairy!), and felt his daughter's wedding was a critical business tool for him, and an important way to meet many social obligations. Okay. In a situation like that where there is no apparent limit to the spending, go for the open bar if that's your idea of graciousness. But I still say gorgeous punch bowls are a better way. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think it was just yesterday I heard a statistic on TV that said 70% of today's bridal couples pick up their own tab for the wedding. I think that's a great idea! But I also think it's a great idea to keep the costs at a level that won't excede the duration of the marriage! There is NO correlation I've ever seen between how long a marriage lasts and how much the wedding costs. But if I had to make a guess, it seems logical that beginning a marriage with a huge wedding debt isn't going to be a heavy contributor to wedded bliss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I love the stories here about "unconventional" weddings. A wedding is the couple's way to express themselves and share their joy with friends and loved ones. I eloped the first time I got married, with absolutely no regrets ever. My second wedding ceemony was private for family only, but afterward we invited tons of people to a pot luck reception in a gorgeous park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The invitations requested no gifts (we had everything already and then some!) but asked them to call a girlfriend to sign up for a potluck dish to bring and share. My husband ordered a dozen cases of specially labeled champagne from our favorite California vintner, and I stayed up all night the night before baking our wedding cake. (You can see a fuzzy picture of it under "Photos" on my profile page. It's the one with the guy in the straw cowboy hat standing behind it.) Just to make sure there was an element of fun, instead of the traditional bride and groom topper, I did a cupola with a little guy you tell your troubles to sitting in it waiting to listen. It was a wonderful, fun day. Well, except for my brother, but several of the very staid Ph.D. types from the university offered to chuck him over the cliff for me. That was SUCH fun thinking about...!!! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On the pragmatic side of things, if the bride has her heart set on a white gown and veil, a small intimate and *affordable* wedding will not make a gorgeous wedding gown turn ugly, but ten years of debt damn sure can!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love your suggestion to serve punch - I have been reading the same things you have apparently, and it makes a lot of sense. And I totally agree that getting shnockered at a wedding is not such a great idea. A little booze to oil the wheels so to speak is fine, but people getting sloppy can indeed ruin a wedding, and very quickly. An old friend of mine was married a few years ago and both she and her new husband drank way too much (I think she started early that day and it was an evening wedding...) They ended up getting in a big fight which took them away from their own wedding for almost an hour. By the time they got back, the party had pretty much been ruined and people started leaving very early. I still remember to this day that when my husband and I were leaving and saying our thank yous etc. I wasn't sure she even knew who we were at that point she was so loaded. Very sad. One of the worst weddings we ever attended...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There was a time -- 40's, 50's -- when punch was expected at a wedding and an open bar was considered tacky-to-the-max. It was also considered "in" to have both the spiked and unspiked punches made from very similar recipes so they looked alike and no one knew whether you were "drinking' or not unless they saw which "well" you drew from. It took the focus from anyone trying to drink anyone else under the table. And... Look, Ma, no bartender...! I've never completely given up punch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Was talking to some of my friends last night and realized that a complete cash bar hasn't been as common for me to see as I thought, most weddings we've gone to have either been "beer & wine" or "full bar for the first N hours, beer & wine after that". As I've said elsewhere in the thread, I honestly just don't notice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There was a general agreement though that this is a silly thing to worry about and that generally people in my social circle don't notice or care what it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yup, jgg13, same thing I observed waaaaay back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe a 'hmphhhh' at the booze not being free, but big whoop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                No booze, on the other hand, would be a nightmare.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I think it is tacky to ask yoru guests to pay for anything at a party of any kind. The Bride and Groom pay for what they can afford, beer and wine only or simply a champagne toast. You have already asked your guests to provide you with a shower/wedding gift, and other expenses (travel, clothing, babysitter etc..). To ask them to pay for a drink is wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: yummyinmytummy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  well that's just it. many wedding receptions are held in establishments/vicinities that have a cash bar, somewhere. . . if a wedding guest wanders away from the private room/party into the restaurant proper, walks up to the bar, and orders something, whether it's a cup of coffee, a martini, or six shots of whiskey for the wedding party, i fail to see how this has anything to do with tackiness on the part of the bridal party or their families. the transaction is between the patron and the bar/establishment and the wedding party isn't in any way "asking" or "forcing" the person to seek out the bar, order a drink, pay for it, or drink it. all these posts about "forcing, asking, demanding payment" etc. make it sound like the groom's pocketing some sort of kickback from a restaurant or banquet bar as a result of the wedding guests' cocktails. kind of a weird attitude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  the idea that the bridal party is somehow responsible for trailing their guests on their way to and fro from bathroom, vehicle, etc. to make sure that nobody is surreptitiously purchasing a cocktail with their own money at the bar-- instead, bride and groom should whip out cash from their vest pockets or decolletage--"no uncle andy, you shan't be permitted to pay for that double bourbon! that or the other eight you'll drink in the next three hours, or the pink squirrel you'd like to buy for that charming single lady sitting at the bar who has nothing whatsoever to do with the family party, but whom you'd like to connect with. . . and her friend with the little dog, and those golfers you want to buy a round for, oh wait, everyone in the damn bar is a golfer! here, we were going to go away for the weekend, but hey, lets get you and all your new bffs loaded instead."-- er, that idea strikes *me* as tacky. and wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    soupkitten, I don't think the situation of people going to a cash bar in the establishment but not within the reception itself is weird. I don't know if people plan it that was but it's very common. I think it's a lot more polite than having cash exchange hands inside the reception. (Changing from open to cash bar within a reception seems like it would lead to strange circumstances. What happens-- do people go up for a refill and get told, "You have to pay this time?" Seems apt to lead to embarrassment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      IMO there is a very big difference between a guest purchasing a drink from a cash bar set up in the room in which the wedding party is being held and a guest LEAVING the room that the wedding party is being held in and wandering off elsewhere in an establishment and making a purchase - no matter what that purchase may be. I think it would be fairly obvious to reasonable people that the hosts would/should not be held responsible for such purchases And I'm not saying that a bridal couple is obligated to provide alcohol to their guests. I have attended alcohol free weddings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But once that bar makes an appearance in the room the party is being held in, then it is no longer "just a transaction between the patron and the bar/establishment." The bridal couple/hosts have requested that the bar be there and it is, at that point, plain and simple, tacky to ask your guests to pay for their drinks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh boy, will I take heat for this, if anyone is still reading, but---if a guest wanders off in search of (or just happens by) a bar, purchases a drink that is not offered at the reception itself, the onus of rudeness shifts from the hosts to said guest. Reason being, it sends the message that whatever was provided by the host wasn't "good enough" for that guest, and the guest then "had" to purchase his/her own provisions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        How anyone finds this acceptable is beyond me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          flourgirl, i agree completely!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          let me go about this a different way. i am sure that i do not understand basic ideas about marriage etiquette. so please, let me know where i went wrong in my abhorrent treatment of my guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          i was married outdoors in a public park, on a beautiful sunday afternoon. only very close family and friends were invited to the short, cheap, standing-only ceremony. a friend who is a costumer at the guthrie made my gown, another made the jewelry. we spent money on flowers because we think that flowers are pretty. the males in the wedding party rented tuxes and the women wore their own outfits and were not asked to buy anything. i paid for flowers, jewelry, and salon visit for all of the females. i didn't receive any wedding showers/treusseau or other bullshit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          following the ceremony my dh and i took a drive in my father's antique car around some of msp's urban lakes, chaffered by his antique-car-buff-buddy, and arrived at a local restaurant where the rest of the family, out-of-town visitors and very close friends were being served dinner. we had reserved two private rooms with nice wines with dinner (wine & dinner all paid for by us. we did not opt for or offer to pay for any hard liquor drinks). not everyone opted for the wine-- many of dh's relatives were/are either christian clergy members or faculty members of a christian college and were required to sign a lifestyle statement, no drinking, dancing, playing cards, etc. however we wanted nice wines for anyone who would appreciate them, & we selected the wines ourselves and they were very nice and well suited to the meal options. my side of the family drank more, it's fair to say. some of them went out of the room and ordered hard alcohol at the restaurant bar, which they must've paid for themselves, to my eternal shame, i am sure. dh's dad was released from the halfway house for crackheads on a 5 hour pass for the occasion, dh's mom died when he was 6. needless to say we didn't have a lot of people pitching in for the open bar which would have been appropriate in other circumstances, so we must've looked like *total assholes*. however, if we'd waited until we could have afforded to pay for an open bar, for everyone ourselves, my father wouldn't have lived long enough to have walked me down the aisle. i guess i don't regret our decision to get married when we did, whether or not we displayed proper etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          then, the family reception ended and we switched venues to a local bar which we'd rented for the entire evening. after a combined 30+ years in the service industry, dh and i had *duh,* a lot of hospitality industry friends. a lot of chefs, waitstaff, owners, farmers, cab drivers, musicians, as well as good customers: engineers, landlords, veterans, florists, stylists, artists, authors, architects, professors: drunks. lots of drunks, in other words. folks who average $45/hr in cocktails while they are drinking, and they don't slow down. so 200+ serious drinkers at $45/hour apiece for 4-5 hours: does someone else want to do the math? bear in mind these are all in-town folks. we invited them to the party without any request or demand of *any* gift--certainly not this tacky-as-all-hell "covering of one's plate" which is apparently acceptable in some locations/situations. we paid for the rental of the bar, we paid for the man who was engaged as doorman/security, we paid for the dj, we paid for an open buffet of bar food available to all the guests, we paid for nonalcoholic drinks and a small tab for out-of town guests, we paid for cab services for everyone, and we added on (considerably) to the tips of all the bar staff who served the party that night. we did *not* pay for the hard alcohol bar tab for the guests at the bar, and we didn't limit our invitations to those we thought would give us a gift, monetary or otherwise. when we walked into the bar 200+ people, who were really actually our true friends, and not our parents' business associates, cheered, & then everyone proceeded to drink, dance, socialize, and otherwise have a hell of a time. there were many rounds of 30+ premium shots coming out of the service station several times/hour that night. (each round with backs would have cost close to $400-$500). the bar made a killing. the damn *cab company* made a killing, no guest at our party had to wait more than 3 minutes for their cab. the bartender to this day speaks about our wedding night as the only time he made his mortgage in one night (hospitality folk tip well). our relatives left for their hotel rooms many hours before our rowdy drunken friends. every single person had a smile on their face when they left, & there were no drunk-driving related accidents. dang, people still talk about the wedding years later, and now i find out that i actually apparently had no right to get married since i apparently have a number of friends with expensive drinking habits, which i could not afford to cover at the time (still can't-- hell, i can't even afford health insurance). since it's so "tacky to ask your guests to pay for their drinks," please tell me what i should have done differently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am in the process of planning for my own wedding and just happened across this thread yesterday. I think that you had a fabulous, fun, memorable and successful wedding that was not tacky. Obviously your friends knew that it was not about a no host bar, but rather a celebration of a wonderful union between two people that they obviously care about. I cannot afford an open either and I also know that only half of the guests, maybe even less than half, are drinkers, but boy can they drink. This is a dilemma that I am dealing with right now and if those that I invite are too concerned that I couldn't pay for their drinks, they are people that I would not likely invite. Wish I could have been at your reception, sounds like it was a blast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Folks, it seems like people have had a chance to have their say and now people are taking things personally. We're going to close this thread and ask people to go back to discussing food and drink, rather than who paid for it.