I personally think cash bars are a way to push the cost of your wedding onto your guests. I know in some regions people say that cash bars are the norm though. We paid a per person price for open beer and wine at our wedding and had no issues with anyone getting out of hand.
I am not a fan of cash bars. When you invite a guest to your wedding, you are supposed to be hosting them, which includes their drinks. I also would not want to have to keep up with cash/my debt card all night long. We are having an open beer and wine bar and the cost, when you put the entire wedding into consideration, really is not bad.
I always thought that if you can afford it, an open bar is an important part of the wedding reception. I know that since I am doing a destination wedding, we're making sure that we have open bar and even booked an extra hour with venue. People are getting you gifts and some may be traveling to celebrate with you, it's a nice way to thank them.
Everyone on here always says cash bars are terrible, but I'm from the midwest and 90% of weddings I've been to, there is a cash bar. Sometimes with a keg or two thrown into the mix, but nevertheless, cash bar. Open bars have always been a surprise.
It is not like being at a wedding means you need to drink. If you don't want to spend money on drinks at a wedding, then don't drink at a cash bar wedding.
That being said, I'm not doing either, so don't come at me people!
Personally we are having a cash bar but paid for a soft drink package through our venue. If guests want to drink then they at least have the option to purchase one but otherwise we're just providing soft drinks. I think it's up to you and what your budget is.
I don't mind a cash bar if we know about it, but I am also not a huge drinker. We are doing an open bar because a lot of the people we invited are big drinkers and we didn't want to have them pay for their drinks. We are paying $27pp for open bar for 5hrs, which is reasonable knowing that most people are going to drink more then $27 work. We will be closing the bar after cocktail hour for an hour until entrances, dances and dinner are over.
I would not do a cash bar personally. If I am going to host something then I don't want my guests to have to come out of pocket for anything. But if there is going to be a cash bar then I would appreciate knowing in advance as a guest.
In my area open bar would only be present in high formal or black tie events otherwise everything is cash bar. A LOT depends on the customs of your region. So take any comments on here with a grain of salt I do think if you want a black tie event then open bar is probably the way to go. But if you need to save money somewhere definitely cut the open bar first. If you know your crowd is mostly beer and wine drinkers then you can do open beer and wine only. A later night wedding I think is when people expect more hard alcohol so if you have an earlier dinner time wedding guests might not even notice.
Please do not make your guests pay for their own drinks. it's tacky IMO and a step away from making them pay for their dinner. do a beer & wine open bar to keep costs down if that is the concern. if you know you'll only have a handful of guests who will be drinking, see if you can do a tab bar and give them a few tickets at the very least. but please, no cash bar. it's considered rude in certain regions/cultures.
We did an open bar and was such a good decision. Our family and friends are big drinkers and for us, it just didn't make sense not to do one. We wanted everyone to have a good time and not have to worry about potentially bringing their own alcohol. If your family/friends don't drink a lot, it could be more cost effective for you to explore the cash bar option or offer beer/wine as "open" and cash bar for any drinks made with liquor.