Is a Cash Bar all that different to asking for Cash Gifts?

Why is a ‘Cash Bar’ so offensive, if asking for Cash for your wedding gift is okay?

A woman has made headlines this week for suggesting a cash bar at her wedding to make some money back (until her bridesmaid told her it was “incredibly tacky”):

We thought about it and decided to do a cash bar. We figured we could buy the booze and pay one of my cousins to be bartender for the night. We realised we could probably recoup some of our costs on the other wedding expenses by charging moderate prices for drinks – win-win!”

Am I the a**hole?” 

Well, is she? When I first saw this, my first thought was how tacky it was, but then the argumentative part of my brain asked just how different this was for asking for cash as a wedding present.

Over the past couple of decades, couples have been cohabiting first and marrying later, and are no longer in need of a serveware set for their wedding gift. While it has long been the custom in other (especially ‘Eastern’) cultures to do so, increasingly, it has become more acceptable here to ask for cash, or otherwise a monetary contribution, for a wedding gift. So why is asking guests to pay at a cash bar is still the most insulting thing a couple can do…?

Is it Okay to ask for Cash for a Wedding Gift?

The majority of engaged couples now wish to ask for cash for a wedding present, but it’s a phenomenon with which not everyone is comfortable. While some consider it mercenary, tacky and vulgar, most have begun to accept that it’s realistic and sensible.

For those who haven’t gone the “traditional” route of living apart until marriage, having to set up a traditional wedding registry of gifts of kitchen appliances and other household goods can be a complete waste.

When we got married four years ago, we had already bought a house together, filled it with homewares and paid for our honeymoon, so we asked our guests to contribute towards the purchase of a new dining table from which we would enjoy all our romantic meals to come. I’m still waiting on the romantic meals, but at least I use the table every day, and am writing this article from it now. The same cannot be said for the Vera Wang crystal stemware I was given as an engagement gift, as beautiful as it is.

While some people are ‘old-fashioned’ and disagree that it’s okay to ask for cashnearly four-fifths of couples are doing so, and receiving for a gift that’s guaranteed not to be gathering dust. I’d be willing to estimate that 90% of wedding guests completely accept the need to move away from ‘tradition’ in this instance, and are happy to make a financial contribution which the couple will actually use and appreciate.

Is It Tacky to Have a Cash Bar at Your Wedding?

Just as asking for cash has long been acceptable in other cultures, whether a ‘Cash Bar’ offends may depend on where you’re from, but most Kiwis and Aussies tend to expect to be fully catered at a wedding, and that includes the booze.

Weddings are expensive for all involved, not just the couple, with the cost of attending a wedding sending some broke, by the time they’ve paid for flights, accommodation, outfits and gifts, so to be asked to pay for their own drinks is a step too far for some. If you are having a cash bar, it’s good etiquette to tell your guests in advance, so at least they know what to expect, and be aware that some guests will bitch and moan behind your back (but what’s new!)

After doing some research on what guests think about having a cash bar, it seems that many are actually okay with it, so long as paying for their drinks is in lieu of gifts. This i a sensible approach, I suggest, and one to be mindful of as you draft your wedding invitations. If you think you’re going to have a cash bar, note this on your info card or wedding website, and let guests know that a present is not expected.

The Wedding ‘Money Go Round’

It’s no surprise that within groups of friends, weddings are often condensed within a few years, and in doing so, it can become a bit of a ‘Money Go Round’.

What do I mean…? Well, the first couple pay for their wedding (and often cover the cost of the bar in full), their guests contribute cash to a wedding gift, and then the following month, the attendees become the hosts and the newlywed couple essentially give the same money back as the gift to their friends. This can go on for years – the only ones who actually part with their money for very long are those who wait longer to get married (and are probably still better off financially, having not paid for a wedding!)

Should we be more practical and just pay for a cash bar?

Cash gifts, cash bar, the wedding money go-round… what is the point at the end of the day? Is it all that different to ask for money in a wishing well, to asking for that same money to cross the bar?

In a practical sense, it’s not – the same money changes hands, the guests pay for their own drinks, they don’t have to think about how generous they need to be for a gift, and if they have particularly deep pockets, they can still choose to bring one.

However, IMHO, there’s actually something a bit more special about the couple choosing something to ask for money towards, and their guests helping them along with it, than just buying their own drinks. For many, it’s the honeymoon, for others, it may even be the beginning of a house deposit or renovation, and that specific investment is one their friends have contributed to. For me personally, knowing that my closest friends and family bought this table for us will make those romantic meals all the more special – when they start, that is…

If you’re currently planning your wedding, make sure to get your hands on the little white book wedding planner and diary, and have a look at the index of wedding planning content too.