Okay, Let’s Talk About Cash Bars

The last taboo of weddings

I do a lot of media interviews about weddings. I mean, obviously, it’s my job. And when major publications call me, they’re often wanting to talk about really difficult topics. Money, faith, family, grieving, sexuality… the real doozies of wedding planning. And I happily spend hours on the phone with reporters, dishing and offering a decade’s worth of wedding advice experience about The Big Stuff.

And then every so often they ask me about a cash bar. At which point I gasp sharply and say, “To be honest, I’m not sure you want to go there.”

Because there is nothing, nothing as controversial in weddings as the cash bar. And when a recent real wedding featured a couple that had very little money to spend, and reserved tables at a local sandwich joint for after their ceremony and had guests order and pay for their own lunch at the counter—we watched the internet truly come unglued. If the cash bar is controversial, the cash meal is that-which-cannot-be-named.

I personally, to put it in fancy terms, don’t give a shit. My background is as WASPYy as WASPy can be, so you’d think I’d be horrified at the cash bar. But my ultra-WASPy grandmothers taught me that you never breathe a word of disapproval at other people’s party choices. And growing up in a poor area means that I’ve had plenty of friend that couldn’t afford booze at their wedding. And as long as you warn me so I can bring cash, I’d rather throw down $40 at your wedding for some drinks than go without. (Though of course a truly dry wedding is a different thing, and one people have for lots of reasons I won’t go into here). That’s true more broadly, actually: I’m happy to buy a sandwich or even bring a potluck dish, just let me know well in advance so I know how to prepare. As always, communication is key.

In fact, when it comes to our ten year anniversary party this week, we’re providing a round of margaritas and a handful of bottles of wine. It’s enough to give everyone two drinks, and if guests want more (or something different), we’re pointing them to the pool bar downstairs. They can order whatever they want. In my world, this isn’t a big deal. But I already had a commenter deeply upset about the fact that I said we were serving pasta, and if people didn’t like it I didn’t really care. (Again, there is a bar that serves food right downstairs, and they can supplement their meal as they see fit.) As far as I’m concerned, we’re paying for a nice party… not outfitting guests for the perfect life.

So when those reporters do get me to talk cash bars I always say, “I think a cash bar is fine, as long as you warn folks to bring cash… but trust me when I tell you that many people do not feel this way.”

But then again, who could forget this horror story about guests being presented with checks for their meal. Checks that were unexpected to the guests… and the venue. And that, my friends, is how a cash bar goes to a cash nightmare.

so what is about not wining and dining your guests on your own dime? Do you have strong feelings on the matter? Why is this the last taboo of wedding planning?

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