How to Save Money With a Cash Bar at Your Wedding

One way to save money on your big day is to have a cash bar wedding. Our guide includes cash bar etiquette and invitation wording samples.

By Jennifer Prince

Cash Bar at Your Wedding
Photo by Emma Cleary Photo and Video

The First Look ✨

  • A cash bar is where guests pay for drinks themselves; however, you can have a limited or ticketed version.
  • It is a proper cash bar etiquette to inform your guests ahead of time that they need to bring cash or a card.
  • Even with a cash bar, designate someone to cut off guests who overdrink or are drunk.

As your wedding attendants are busy planning their toast speeches, you’re deciding what to pour into their glasses, and that not only includes the drink for the toast, but also the alcohol for the entire reception. Dollar signs click away as your budget increases. An open bar wedding can often be attached to a lot of dollar signs; however, you can save money by having a beer and wine only wedding reception or a cash bar at your wedding. From wording your wedding invitations to cash bar etiquette, here are our top tips for successfully pulling off a cash bar.

Zola: How to Save Money With a Cash Bar at Your Wedding Photo Credit // Tall Small Event

How Does a Cash Bar Work?

Think of cash bar service as being like a traditional bar. Patrons come up, order what they want to drink, and either start a tab or pay on the spot—viola! It’s easy, and that’s quite similar to how a cash bar works. It's easy for wedding guests to understand when they can go and order their signature cocktail or multiple alcoholic beverages during cocktail hour.

However, with a pay-per-drink bar at your wedding, there are a few other options. You may not be able to have a bar filled with every selection under the sun. And that’s ok, as there are a few different ways to handle a cash bar.

  • Ticketed Cash Bar: Some couples don’t wish to commit to a cash bar fully. However, they need to avoid paying for guests who want a lot to drink. A good in-between option is to have a cash bar with tickets, where guests receive one to two vouchers for complimentary drinks. When their tickets run out, they need to ante up and pay for their alcohol.
  • Limited Cash Bar: Just because you have a cash bar doesn’t mean that your bartender needs to offer anything and everything. You don’t necessarily need five different vodkas and specialty vermouths on your wedding day. Talk to your bartender about what spirits he or she recommends, or simply go with beer and wine to keep it simple. - Traditional Cash Bar: If you want to go traditional, each drink is paid for by the guests. However, still do Champagne or a signature drink for your toast. The toast should be complimentary, of course. You can save a little bit of money by having staff only fill the toasting glasses halfway—that way, less alcohol goes to waste.

Cash Bar Wedding Etiquette

Zola: How to Save Money With a Cash Bar at Your Wedding Photo Credit // Emma Cleary Photo and Video

Inform Your Guests That You’re Having a Cash Bar Wedding

Making your guests aware ahead of time is where it gets a bit tricky. You don’t want to keep your cash bar service a secret, as you need loved ones to prepare in advance. The last thing you want is to surprise your guests and have them scrambling for cash or their credit card. It’s proper cash bar etiquette to be upfront with your attendees.

Skip the Tip Jar, and Pay for Gratuity Yourself

Also, there is a bit of a debate about having a tip jar. A cash bar is preferable for some guests over a dry wedding. However, some may balk at having to pay and leave a tip after paying for alcohol. One way to get around this is to pay for the gratuity yourself. Many venues and caterers include tips in the contract, yet giving each bartender a $50 to $100 bonus is appreciated.

Give Your Cash Bar Service Provider’s Permission to Cut Guests Off

Unfortunately, you may have some guests who will drink too much, even though they are footing the bill. However, just because they are paying, you still need to create a responsible reception atmosphere. Give your bartender, staff member, or designated relative the authority to talk to individual guests. That way, that individual can cut people off if guests are consuming too much.

Cash Bar Invitation Wording

When conveying that you have a cash bar service, it’s essential to use proper communication. Place the information on both your wedding website and your invitations, so that your guests quickly see it. Here are a few examples of how to tactfully say cash bar, ranging from formal to creative.

  • Formal: We can’t wait to celebrate with you and host you for dinner. Unfortunately, we have chosen a cash bar, so please bring cash or a credit card to enjoy bar service.
  • Casual: Dinner’s on us. Drinks are on you. So, if you want to consume, bring a buck or two (or a credit card).
  • Two Drink Tickets: We are excited to host you for dinner. However, if you would like more than two drinks, please bring cash or a credit card for our cash bar service.
  • One Drink Ticket: Our wedding will be beautiful and our reception fun. With drinks, bring cash if you want more than one.

One Last Word About a Cash Bar Wedding

We realize that weddings are expensive. A lot of planning and financing goes into one day. However, think about your guests when you’re considering a cash bar. Many are traveling, and there are other expenses to factor in for those who attend. They may purchase new clothing, spring for a babysitter, and—hopefully—buy you a gift.

Instead of using a cash bar, it may be better to go with a ticketed or limited option. Doing so will let your guests know that you appreciate their attendance. However, having the host spring for some—but not all—drinks communicates that you don’t want anyone over-consuming. Most wedding professionals will encourage you to go another route before solely going with cash bar service.

Of course, you know your guests and your finances best. Therefore choose whichever option you and your partner feel most comfortable utilizing. No matter what, your family and friends will enjoy celebrating with you on one of the most important days of your life.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola