Ask Apocalypstick: Are Cash Bars Tacky?

jackie john f. kennedy wedding photo

Hi! I know you’re not a wedding blogger, but you’ve written about weddings before and you have good advice in general about stuff, so I wanted to ask you about this. Please be honest!!!!! I am engaged and I am very excited & happy and hes [sic] the best. He’s helping me with everything. There’s a big issue that came up. Should we have a cash bar at our wedding? Do you think cash bars are tacky? Our families are divided on this……we’re having a big reception and we want to give alcohol but it’s so much more expensive than I thought it would be to have a full bar. Half of everyone is saying, do a cash bar and then the other half are like NONONONONO!!! I think I know what I want to do but i [sic] just need someone not involved to give me their honest opinion….so yeah. I didn’t think it was going to be so stressful. 

Okay, let’s dance. First of all, big congratulations to you and your man! Second, who is “everyone”? There are way too many people involved here, which is probably why it’s so stressful. If you listen to everyone’s opinion, you won’t hear anything.

Since you pleaded with me to be honest, here you go: YES, CASH BARS ARE TACKY! A wedding reception is a party, which is why the people you invite are called guests. That makes you the host. Hosts do not ask guests to pay for their food or entertainment, period. The rules don’t change because it’s a wedding. You’re throwing a party because you want to celebrate with your family and friends. Thus, you need to provide for them. If you cannot afford to pay for everything for your party, then you should not have a one. If you had them over for a big party at your home, I’m assuming you wouldn’t say to them, “Please bring cash. Beer and wine is $3, mixed drinks are $5. Thanks!”

But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I just went to my dear friend Katie’s wedding and she did a wine and beer bar. There was a special brew named after the couple along with a good variety of beers on tap and bottled, and a nice variety of wine, including champagne. At Katie’s kind request I got very, very day drunk and all was good. I even went exploring in the very pretty park and managed to avoid getting hit by the sprinkler yonder.

almie rose

Drunk daytime exploration is the best kind of exploration, fact. Also I want to point out that I was NOT wearing white. it’s light pink. It only looks white in this photo. And I cleared the dress with the bride ahead of time, just to make sure. And she said, “LOL you’re fine, that’s not white” and I said, “I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE TO AVOID FUTURE ARGUMENTS WITH MYSELF” which I clearly failed to prevent.

What do YOU think, everyone? Are cash bars tacky?

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Photo credit: JFK Wedding photo, 1953, by Lisa Larsen for LIFE magazine, via LIFE photo archives for Google.


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11 thoughts on “Ask Apocalypstick: Are Cash Bars Tacky?

  1. Christa

    Cash bars are tacky, end of story. Agree with all points. You’re hosting them, they’re giving you a gift (which you probably picked out for yourself), they deserve to have some free fun. We didn’t want to have a full bar (mostly because my friends would get beyond obliterated) so we did beer, wine, and margaritas. It was cheaper and they still managed to get decently destroyed. You can always cut back, but don’t make guests pay!

  2. Anonymous

    Wine and beer are almost a given, since you’ve chosen to have alcohol and are probably serving dinner. Yes, liquor is expensive, but if you can’t afford to host a large number of guests, then have fewer guests. A new trend is serving a signature drink (like Margaritas or whatever, like Christa did) that can be made by the pitcherful. Cash bars feel stingy to me. (On the other hand–speaking of greedy–I also think that if people cannot enjoy a lovely reception without free booze, they should politely decline the invitation. It’s a wedding, not a fraternity party.) A good barometer is, if it feels even a little tacky, IT IS.

    Another rule of thumb? Nobody desperately wants to go to your wedding except your mother. Limit the guest list to people whom YOU KNOW feel truly honored to be included, no matter what you serve or don’t serve.

  3. cantaloupe

    Fun fact: JFK’s wedding was a cash bar.

    Is what I was expecting you to write somewhere in the entry. And I would have laughed for like ten hours. Maybe made a prostitute joke. I don’t know.

    I agree with the above comment about the size of the wedding. That seems like the real problem here. I mean, come on, do you really know and love that many people?

    Also, this entry raised another question: could someone have a BYOB wedding? I bet there are backyard weddings like that, somewhere, maybe? Would that be tacky? I host many parties and they’re all more or less BYOB. (Although I do try to have sooome alcohol on hand, but people be drinkin like fishes, so…)

  4. Natalie

    Do what you want/can afford/feels right to you.

    It’s a wedding not a show. People should be coming to celebrate a day where you have gone to the effort, time and expense (regardless of whether or not you provide the booze) to publicly commit to one another.

    Personally, I love going to weddings where booze is included; it’s nice to feel spoiled and dress up (and get day drunk 😉 but it has no baring on whether or not I want to be there. Anyone going to your wedding who is going to pass comment on whether or not they have to pay for their own alcohol, is there for the wrong reasons.

  5. amy

    A Cash bar is only tacky if its in a backyard wedding! I’ve had people ask me if they can do this (veteran wedding bartender and wedding planner). I wouldn’t go as far to say that Cash bar is tacky always but it is a drag.
    If an open bar would break the bank on your wedding budget then…limit your guest count, have a Daytime wedding, serve only beer and wine ….or if you absolutely must have an open cocktail hour then switch the bar to cash and I’ve seen beer and wine open but spirits are cash.
    I just recently was a guest at a Brunch wedding, super cute with a Mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar…keeps the cost down all around. I was also invited to a wedding (as a date) and we were asked to pay for our own meals WTF!!!

    1. Kelly L

      Same here – beer/wine are hosted, anything beyond that is $.
      However, I have never HEARD of a wedding where you had to pay for your own food. *THAT* is the epitome of tacky…

  6. Kelly L

    Most of the weddings I’ve been to host beer and wine, and if you want a mixed drink or something besides that, you’re on your own (aka: cash). It’s just kind of how things are done ’round these parts. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to one where it was 100% open (though, there were a few that were free for me because I was a bridesmaid and the wedding party didn’t have to fork over any cash.) To me, that seems like a fair compromise. Offer a selection and if someone wants something else, it’s on them.

  7. Joy

    So what do you do if you are straight edge?

    We opted at my wedding to not allow alcohol, except for the toast, which we provided wine and grape juice for.

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  9. Doreen

    Over here we get wine with the meal, but if you want any more bring dollar to buy from the bar. It’s only fair, and I go to a party expecting to bring my own booze also?
    But if you’re worried about what people think/have different cultural norms invite less people. Simple.

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