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Are Donation Bars at Weddings Tacky?

Ask a Savvy Bride: Is It Tacky to Have a Donation Bar?

Wedding planning is stressful — especially when you're striving to produce a giant day on a small budget. imweddin posed this question in our Ask Savvy group. If you need help preventing a bridal blunder, ask the Savvy Bride.

Dear Savvy Bride,

My fiancé and I are planning our wedding, and have been feeling very torn about what kind of bar to offer our guests. We will have between 120 to 160 guests, and our friends and family aren't the type to shy away from having a few cocktails. I want everyone to have a great time, and hope we will party into the night. That said, we can't afford an open bar. A friend suggested a donation bar. He has been to a number of weddings with a donation bar — there's a jar where people can make a donation if they wish (say throw $30 in at the beginning of the night and maybe throw tips in for the bartenders) but technically the bar is open. This seems like a good middle-ground solution to my problem, and would really help cover costs, but is this tacky?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Thank you!

To see the Savvy Bride's advice,


Savvy Bride says:

Having an open bar at a wedding definitely comes with a hefty price tag. The majority of SavvySugar readers think having a cash bar is tacky, but if a donation or cash bar are the only affordable options for you, so be it! It sounds like have a fun vision for your big day and there's no doubt guests will fork over a donation for drinks if they are asked to. Another option you might want to consider is bringing in all your own alcohol to the venue, if you can, and skipping out on bartenders all together. Letting people pour their own beverages, those you can hopefully buy in bulk, would be a big money saver.


At the end of the day, you and your fiancé are entitled to make whatever decisions you'd like for your big day. If you do set up a donation bar, make sure you have an agreement with the bartenders so they don't expect to take home the whole pot. Everyone will have an opinion, but it boils down to what you have to do. If it's having a donation bar, by all means have one — it's your day!

Ask anything budget-, etiquette-, or planning-related — well, almost anything — by posting your questions in the Ask Savvy group, and I'll find the right expert to help you out. If you are planning a wedding, already happily wed, or still looking for Mr. Right, start sharing your big day with our community. Don’t forget to check the wedding content box on your post.

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Join The Conversation
simplysweetcdn simplysweetcdn 5 years
I to am part of the minority! I am getting married in July and in this day of hard to earn cash, I am providing three bottles of wine per table, food, pop, juice and punch. If people want to drink more than what I have provided, than they can pay for it! On that note, I am providing alchohol for my guests, im just putting up a donation jar. If they can put somthing towards what they drink, great! If they cant, well they will have a great evening anyway. As I said, if they want more than I have provided for them, then they can buy it.
danakscully64 danakscully64 7 years
I'm definitely part of the minority, I don't think a cash bar is tacky ("donation" bar... maybe a little). Alcohol is optional, don't feel like you have to compromise on certain things to pay for it. If you can't afford an open bar, don't have one. Remember if you serve beer/wine only, you might be excluding some people from the party. I know a lot of people who only drink mixed drinks, that pretty much gives free booze to some, nothing to others. I think if you really want to pay for some of the alcohol, have a limit on the bar. You can even have it open for an hour or two, then it turns into a cash bar after that. If you do have a time limit, make sure you're setting a cap on the amount. I've heard of a 1 hour bar turning into a 7-10k tab for the couple. As long as the non-alcoholic drinks are free, it's not tacky.
socalbeachgal socalbeachgal 7 years
Agreed it is tacky. I was at a wedding recently that did beer/wine/champagne/signature cocktail. Cut costs somewhere else but if you are going to have a full bar, don't ask your guests to pay for it.
sourcherries sourcherries 7 years
^ agreed. Definitely tacky.
Beauty Beauty 7 years
I think a donation bar is tacky. I think offering beer/wine is a good way to go, and then if people want other liquor offerings, they can pay at a cash bar. That seems to be a reasonable middle ground.
ShaynaLeah ShaynaLeah 7 years
It's tacky, sorry --- Try some of the above options to cut costs - or if you have friends who enjoy making beer/wine see how much it would cost to supply them with the ingredients needed for a signature brew for your day (I recently attended a wedding that did this to great effect)
lilkimbo lilkimbo 7 years
I agree with gabi and running. I think having beer and wine only is a great way to cut costs. And, while I'd certainly notice it, I wouldn't find it odd or tacky. I would find a cash bar or a "donation bar" tacky. Frankly, I think that bartenders shouldn't even put tip jars out at weddings and you should tip the bartenders yourself.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Um, if you pay $30 at the beginning of the night for drinks, then no, it's not an open bar. I don't usually even bring cash to weddings. All of gabi's advice is good. You can find ways to cut back (exclude favors, smaller centerpieces, etc.) and have a beer/ wine bar.
gabi29 gabi29 7 years
I have to disagree with the Savvy Bride. It is never okay to ask your guests to pay for something at a party you are throwing. If you can't afford an open bar, there are several other things you can do to cut costs: 1) invite less people 2) choose a cheaper venue 3) cut back on other areas: the dress, stationery, etc. 4) have a limited open bar for a few hours 5) beer and wine only The reception is a party you are hosting; you wouldn't have a dinner party at your house and expect people to pay for it.
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