Wedding Etiquette for a Cash Bar


A wedding reception is a celebration, and many couples feel that their guests will not be able to relax and enjoy themselves without a full bar. However, an open bar for your guests during your reception carries a high price tag. Some couples might consider offering a cash bar, giving those guests who want to drink the option to purchase alcoholic beverages. Although this option cuts costs for the bride and groom, social etiquette experts like The Emily Post Institute state that cash bars should not be a part of any wedding reception.

General Etiquette

  • Cash bars are not recommended for wedding receptions because guests should not have to pay for anything, according to The Emily Post Institute. For a formal party like a wedding reception, the event hosts are expected to foot the bill. You should not ask guests to pay---or tip---for drinks.

Limited Bar Options

  • Rather than asking guests to pay for their drinks, brides and grooms can limit their guests' choices at the bar to cut down on costs. Stay away from expensive premium liquors, as suggests. Instead, you can offer beer, wine and champagne or sparkling cider for the toasts. If you'd like to offer a cocktail but don't have the budget for a full liquor bar, consider offering a signature cocktail. Offering just one cocktail cuts down on the amount of liquor and number of ingredients you have to buy, according to The Knot.

Limited Bar Time

  • To give guests access to an open bar while limiting expenses, suggests reducing the time the bar is open. You can close the bar during dinner or an hour before the end of the reception, which also gives guests time to sober up before they head home.

Non-Alcoholic Reception

  • Although wedding etiquette says that you should not have a cash bar, there is no standard requiring any other kind of bar at your reception, according to the Emily Post Institute. If you cannot afford to pay for an open or limited bar, then do not have a bar at all. Of course, consider your guests when you make this decision; guests who attend a reception expecting alcohol and do not see any might be disappointed and perhaps even leave early.

Bring Your Own Liquor

  • Some venues and caterers allow the bride and groom to supply their own alcohol, meaning you can buy it in bulk to reduce costs. You will then only pay your caterer a bartending fee, and you can take home any extra alcohol or return any unopened bottles for credit, according to

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  • Photo Credit bar image by Dmitry Nikolaev from
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