Do I need to inform guests it’s a cash bar only?

The bulk of New Zealand weddings serve alcohol, and it’s often assumed it’ll be free. If you’re serving alcohol but expecting guests to pay for their own drinks, that is your decision.  However, part of sticking to appropriate wedding etiquette and keeping guests happy is managing expectations. So today’s post is covering what you should do if you’re having a cash bar.

Do I need to inform my guests that we are having a cash bar?

Strictly speaking, no, you don’t have to warn guests that it’s a cash bar only. It’s not a requirement at all, and you could rely on word of mouth to spread the news. But it’s good form to give people fair warning so they can be prepared by bringing their wallet and budgeting enough money for their night out.

shop custom stir sticks here

WTF is a cash bar anyway?

Many people use the term “cash bar” to indicate that guests will have to pay for their drinks in some way, versus the proper use of the term which is – the bar will only accept cash, no eftpos or credit cards! If this is the case for your venue, and if your venue is away from an ATM and/or you know that your guests will want to grab some spending money for later in the night, then it will be especially important to let your guests know when you invite them.

How to word on the invite that we are having a cash bar at our wedding?

If you’ve decided to pop some text in a “Further Information” section of your invite, here’s some different options you can use to communicate there’s a limit of some sort in place:

  • BYO drinks or BYO spirits [if you’re offering some sort of BYO]
  • Cash bar only
  • Some beer and wine will be provided
  • A set selection of beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages will be available under a bar tab. Alcoholic drinks outside of this range will be available by a cash bar.

Can we shout only certain guests drinks?

While it’s not like it’s illegal to shout some people drinks, and not others, I think this is a bad idea. I strongly recommend you have a blanket approach to how you pay for alcohol – i.e. do not have a bar tab for some guests while some other guests are paying for their drinks.

We’ve attended a wedding where some guests received a stamp to get free drinks at the bar. As the bride got drunker, more stamps got dished out (…and with less discretion). As well as leaving the non-stamped guests with a sour taste in their mouth, many of those guests getting free drinks were going up and ordering for the others anyway!

Have you been to a wedding where you’ve paid for your drinks?

If you’ve been to a wedding where you’ve had to buy your own drinks, how was it managed? Were you surprised, or did it say something on the wedding invitation?

9 thoughts on “Do I need to inform guests it’s a cash bar only?

  1. We are having a NO Host – so they pay for their own meal and drinks; we will pay for one round of sparkling to toast the Bride and Groom and that’s it… no presents required other than their presence… We living together and are in our later 40s why get ourselves into debt?

  2. When my best friend got married it was an open bar. Meaning the bride and groom paid for the drinks until the night was through. This was roughly $6,000.
    I thought this was ridiculous. Some of the things I noticed that concerned me were distracted guests sitting their drinks down unfinished forgetting where the drinks were and going up and ordering another (wastefulness) also open bar meant there was always a few guests that drank way too much and I worried about them getting home. The last thing I would want at my wedding is for my guests to worry about other guests and how they will get home. That responsibility puts a damper on everyone’s good time. Lastly, my fiancée doesn’t drink. I rarely do. What about the bride and groom that aren’t big drinkers? I don’t feel the need to load my guests up on alcohol. I want them to have a good time but if that is what the reception is about then they are missing the point. We are having a cash bar. If you want to get drunk you’ll need to pay to do so. If you want to drink responsibly than purchasing 2 drinks shouldn’t be an issue.

  3. Its is a hard topic. Our venue doesnt do fixed budget so we had to make a choice. We will have water, wine, beer included for dinner but as soon as that is done and people go to the bar for drinks they will have to pay. I dont think its a problem. Funny how some people think its rude or tacky. I never expected everything to be free when I attented a wedding. Im there for the couple not the drinks!
    We will give certain people a bracelet of some kind so they dont have to pay all night. Like our parents, siblings, bridesmaids and groomsmen. If they get a few drinks for other people it will be fine but we dont want them to pay!
    Dont think this will even be noticed by most people so all good!

  4. Oh, a controversial topic, but a goodie! Weddings are expensive, so I can see why people would take this option. I’d definitely let people know. Good advice here.

    1. Yep I agree – it’s one of those awful parts of the budget where you can have no idea how much it’s going to cost you, so having a cash bar (or a fixed amount that you’ll pay) saves the couple some anxiety 🙂

  5. Most weddings I’ve been to have covered drinks. Some with a fixed tab which is fair enough and guests can pay once the tab ran out. Another I went to had subsidized drinks which I thought want a great idea.

    1. We had a fixed tab Sam. I forgot about that till the other night, hubby & were talking about how much alcohol we went through (2 kegs in an hour of beer!). After a fast start our guests slowed down. The bar tab run out about 10pm and being late, we said to keep it going, it only went another $300 or so after that.

  6. Very interesting to see some of the effects of some approaches. We personally went with a fixed budget and selectively top shelf for a few that didn’t drink wine and beer. Some very useful tips! Thanks!

    1. It’s a tricky topic as every set of guests is different huh 🙂 but yes little decisions can have big impacts (as you know in your line of work!)

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