Working in a bridal shop I find myself, as all of us do, called upon to give bridal advice from time to time. Can I do this? Should I do that? Am I allowed to wear the same color as so and so? During these occasions I find it best not to speak in absolutes because there really is no answer. I don’t like to say things like “never” or “shouldn’t” with one crucial exception. You should never have a cash bar at your wedding. Never. Ever. Never. Never. Never.
I get it. Alcohol is expensive and an open bar, especially if you have a lot of guests, can quickly cost you a small fortune. But there are plenty of alternatives to a cash bar. Cash bars are better kept for actual bars. For the wedding, the tab should be on you. So before you ask your future spouse “what if we just let people buy their own drinks?” check out these options below.
Beer and Wine Only
You don’t have to have an open bar to have a bar. If you cut out hard liquor I promise the price will drop dramatically. You can also opt for less expensive beers and wine and only give your guests a few to choose from. This is totally acceptable, and many guests are accustomed to only wine and beer.
Work with Your Caterer
Bargain. I’m not a great bargainer, but even I managed to finagle a cheaper price from my own caterer because I knew they would rather have my business than not. This will only get you so far, but every little bit helps. If your caterer is not responsible for the alcohol then you can save money buy purchasing in bulk, as in kegs, and then asking a local bartender, or even a friend of the family, to moonlight.
A Dry Wedding
You don’t have to serve alcohol. Many couples have personal reasons for not serving alcohol, and that’s just fine. The real offense of the cash bar has nothing to do with how much your guests will or won’t be able to drink; it has to do with making them feel welcomed. So whether you serve them wine or a killer non-alcoholic punch, the message is the same: thank you for coming, please have a great time on us.
I know, this sounds suspiciously like asking guests to pay for their own drinks, but hear me out. Let’s say you are having a rustic outdoors family style sort of wedding. You can absolutely get away with having guests bring their own drinks. It will help create that informal, communal, party atmosphere that you are going for, especially if you contribute as well. See? You don’t even have to provide all the drinks, but you can get it started. And again the emphasis is making your guests feel welcomed, so as long as you use a little tact and a little creativity you can make your guests feel excited about it. I wouldn’t try this for a black tie affair, obviously, but I trust you to know the tone of your wedding well enough to decide what works for you and your guests.