Cash Bars: What To Consider When Having Your Guests Pay for Drinks

Posted by Helena Hambrecht on

You’re hosting a huge event and getting things organized. You’ve figured out the date, the time, the guest list, and the food. Now you just have to figure out drinks.

This is where you’ve hit a roadblock. How are you going to handle the drink situation?

You decide you want to serve alcohol, but how? You don’t have much money left in your budget.

Have you considered a cash bar?

What Is a Cash Bar?

A cash bar is when you host a big event (think weddings, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs) and have your guests pay for their drinks instead of covering it yourself as you would for an open bar. Guests can usually pay with cash or by card.

This type of bar also can be called a no-host bar.

A cash bar is an alternative to an open bar, which tends to be the more common choice for big, formal events, especially weddings.

Why Would You Want a Cash Bar?

There are a lot of benefits to having a cash bar for your event.

  • You’ll save money (Obviously)
  • People are less likely to get too drunk if they have to buy their own drinks
  • Depending on the type of event you have, you can give drink tickets as gifts or prizes
  • You can put money towards other parts of the event

Are Cash Bars Considered Rude?

Cash bars are highly controversial. There’s something about them that makes people quickly jump to their defense or attack them viciously.

The attitude seems to depend on which side of the bar you’re on. Are you paying, or are you drinking all the free alcohol?

Overall, cash bars used to be considered tacky, but times are changing. Many people are becoming more okay with the idea of a cash bar these days, especially younger people.

Of course, depending on where you are in the world and what your opinion is on alcohol, you might have a different opinion on this subject.

Just be aware that if you go with a cash bar, lines may form because bartenders have to not only serve but also handle money. If you notice eyes aren’t on you on your special day and your guests are at the bar instead, it happens. Your guests aren’t being rude; they’re just trying to get something to drink.

If you go this route, make sure your venue has a proper system to handle cash and card payments.

If you want to walk a middle ground, you could always pay for drinks up until a certain point (like the end of happy hour) and then switch to a cash bar. You could also provide your guests with a certain number of drink tickets, and then when guests run out, they have to pay for their own drinks.

Make Sure Your Guests Know About the Cash Bar

There’s nothing worse than arriving at a party with no money for the bar. You need to make sure your guests understand what a cash bar is and what it means for them.

The best way to do this is to note it on your invitations or on your wedding website (if you have one).

But how can you tell everyone that they’re paying for their own drinks? That’s a pretty awkward situation all around. It’s best to be simple and straightforward. You don’t want there to be any misunderstandings.

Different Ways To Introduce a Cash Bar

  • Honest and straight to the point: We won’t be covering the bar for this event, so please bring money for alcoholic beverages.
  • Formal: Thank you for joining us at (event)! Unfortunately, we can’t host the bar, though they will take cash or major credit cards.
  • Casual: Cash bar at (event); remember to bring some money!

If any of your guests have questions about cash bars, make sure to explain it thoroughly so they understand before the big day.

Other Options for Your Event

If you want to save money for your event but are afraid of any backlash that might come from having a cash bar, you have other options.

Save Money Elsewhere

People usually choose cash bars to save money when planning an event, but have you thought about trying to save money in other areas of your budget?

You can trim down your guest list. For example, do you really have to invite that former coworker that you talk to occasionally? Probably not.

For weddings, some people cut down on the number of flowers they have decorating the venue.

You can also close the bar during dinner or 30 minutes before the end of the night. This is a great option because it also gives people a chance to sober up a little before leaving.

Limited Bar

A limited bar is the perfect middle ground between an open bar and a cash bar. A limited bar is when you decide what kind of alcohol to stock instead of ensuring the bar has anything and everything on hand. This style can be both open and cash.

You can offer beer, wine, something non-alcoholic, and a special cocktail or mixed drink. This saves you money while still allowing your guests to enjoy free drinks.

When deciding on what to serve, look at different brands of alcohol and put together a rough estimate of what everything will cost. That should help you decide if you’re comfortable with the number.

Open Bar, Then Cash Bar

Get the best of both worlds with this option! You can offer an open bar for the first hour or two of your event and then turn it into a cash bar.

This is a great option because you’ll still be considered a fantastic host, but won’t necessarily be draining your savings.

As with a regular cash bar, you need to let guests know that the open bar will only be open for the beginning of the event.

What To Consider When Deciding What Kind of Bar To Have

There are a few factors to consider when deciding the kind of bar to have at your event. Take time to consider these elements before making your decision.

Your Guests

The first and most obvious thing to consider is your guests. How many people are you inviting? If you have a long list, a cash bar will be the better option if you’re looking to save money.

Also, how many alcohol lovers are on your guest list? Hopefully, you’re close enough to everyone on your guest list to know this. If you aren’t, maybe consider the guest list again. You can base your decision on how many people are likely to take advantage of an open bar to decide if it’s worth it.

How Long Is the Event?

How long do you plan to party? Is it an all-day affair, or is it just a few hours?

If you plan on taking up someone’s whole day, then a cash bar will probably be considered rude. If it’s only a few hours, then a cash bar is more appropriate.

When Is the Event Happening?

Would you be surprised if we told you that the time of day and year could affect how much people drink? It’s true!

People tend to drink more in warmer weather, so guests are likely to drink more if your party is in the summer. If it’s in the winter, people tend to drink less.

Similar to the time of year, different parts of the day affect drinking. People tend to drink more at night than in the morning or afternoon.

Is a Cash Bar Right for Your Event?

Whether or not a cash bar is the right move really depends on you, the kind of event you’re throwing, and your budget. If you’re throwing a formal event like a wedding, cash bars are fine, but you may hear some mutterings. If the event is semi-formal, cash bars are more likely to be expected.

Think about how many guests you have, how much alcohol they might drink, and the estimated amount an open bar would cost.

For any event, make sure your guests know about the cash bar beforehand so they can be prepared to pay for their own drinks. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for you and your event.

Sources:

Open Bar vs. Cash Bar at Your Wedding | Wedding Wire

How To Budget For Your Wedding Bar and Alcohol Costs | MyWalletJoy

Is It Tacky to Have a Cash Bar at Your Wedding? Readers Weigh In | Glamour