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How Much Is An Open Bar At A Wedding

Pros And Cons Of An Open Bar

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According to Baxter, most couples choose an open bar because its a better experience for the guests. It makes for more of a celebration, she says. Your loved ones have likely already spent money on travel, gifts, and more, and its a polite gesture to host them for the evening. Your guests appreciate coming and not having to bring their wallet, or worry about how many drinks they want to pay for. It makes the events more seamless and enjoyable because you just dont have to think about those things.

Also, paying for drinks does take time, and since the wedding bar tends to be a popular place, having to pay as you go can make for longer lines. And having to close out a tab at the end of the night is the absolute worst thing you can ask your guests to do, says Baxter. Some guests will consider cash bars a bit tacky, she says. The only real con of an open bar is the cost of paying for it, of course.

Ways To Save On Your Wedding Bar

Calculating alcohol costs is a sobering experience. Plan it right, and you can save while your guests sip away.

Once you’ve hit the wedding planning ground running, you realize how fast entertaining your friends and family for an evening adds up. From the big-ticket items, like the band, to the tiniest details, like monogrammed cocktail napkins, every little thing has the potential to break the budget if you’re not careful.

Families looking to dance the night away with libations in hand will quickly realize that providing cocktails for everyone you know is costly. Hosting an open bar can be really expensive, even if you go with the lower end package offered by your caterer. Don’t fret. We’re here to help you celebrate while sipping champagne in the most frugal ways possible. Here are some well-kept secrets to saving money on your wedding bar.

How Much Is An Open Bar For A Wedding Reception

  • How Much is An Open Bar for a Wedding Reception?

This is a difficult reality of wedding planning: food and drink usually consume a large portion of your overall budget. When it comes to wedding bars, costs can skyrocket. An open bar means the party host pays for all the wine their guests drink. Typically, open bars are included at weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, and other celebrations. Keep reading the article to know how much is an open bar for a wedding reception?

The cost of an open bar depends on a variety of factors, such as the choice of alcoholic beverage served, the number of guests, and the type of open bar, etc. Below we will discuss the cost of an open bar for a wedding reception.

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The Best Options For A Subsidized Bar

  • One way to subsidize an open bar is by paying for drinks up to a certain time. Or you can pay for the open bar up to a dollar amount. Once your limit is reached, the bar will switch to a cash bar.

  • Or you could pay for an open bar during cocktail hour, plus wine and beer during dinner. When the bar reopens after dinner its a cash bar.

  • Another choice is to pay for wine and beer and offer a cash bar for guests to purchase cocktails.

  • Or you could pay for wine, beer and a signature drink. Then have a cash bar for any other cocktails.

  • Another good option is to subsidize individual drinks. Your bar can offer all the drinks for $2. Then youll pay for the cost above that.

  • One more way to offer a subsidized bar is by paying for 2 drinks per person. For this option, youll need to use drink tickets. Each guest will get 2 tickets to use for the drinks of their choice. Once theyve used their tickets, the guests will pay for any extra drinks.

The Second Option: How Much Would Serving Only Beer And Wine Cost

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Do the math: Compared to having an open bar stocked with premium liquors, a wine-and-beer bar will be significantly cheaper. For the most part, this will appease your guests. If you’re really concerned that the crowd will want something stronger, you might also consider serving a signature cocktail or two. They won’t be able to order whatever they want, but they will have options.

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How Many Guests Will Be There

The more guests at an event, the higher of open bar or drinks cost will be. If your guest’s list is big, then the bill for the following things will also be larger.

  • Catering costs
  • Equipment costs
  • Venue costs, etc.

All of your wedding and drinks costs depend on your guest’s list. Besides, beyond determining the number of your guests, you should estimate what percentage of your guests will drink at your wedding reception. If you know that your guest’s list is full of heavy drinkers, this may help you decide on the best alcohol option or package. So, make sure that how many people attend your wedding reception, it helps to choose the best open bar package option.

Are Cash Bars At Weddings Acceptable

People on the internet love to complain! About weddings, about the food and especially about cash bars. Luckily youre not inviting a bunch of random people off the internet to your wedding. Youre inviting the people from your neighborhood. What matters most is how weddings are held in your community.

In some places weddings are always cash bar. In others its less common. Youll have to think about your family and friends who are coming. Think about other weddings youve been to. Did they have cash bars or open bars? If you havent been to a lot of weddings talk to your parents, relatives and soon to be in-laws.

If cash bars are the norm where you live, set one up and have fun. If cash bars are truly frowned upon in your community think about some of the other options. You can offer drinks and still stick to your budget with some of the limited or subsidized bar options.

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Tip #: Set Places With One Wine Glass

Convention dictates that place settings include two wine glassesone for red, and one for white. But empty wine glasses are meant to be filled, and thats bad news for your budget.

If youre trying to limit cost, put one white glass at a table instead of both white and red, suggested David Mawhinney, the chef at NYC-based catering company and event space Havens Kitchen. People who want to drink more willthey can always askbut this lessens the likelihood of double fisting.

Final takeaway: As far as American wedding conventions go, the cash bar is likely gone for good. Lets all pour one out for it.

Wine Beer And A Specialty Drink

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Having a specialty drink lets you offer something other than just wine or beer, without having a full bar. A specialty drink can also be a cool, unique way to feature something at your wedding that includes a story about the bride and groom. If, for example, the couple are avid horse riders, you could include mint juleps because of their fame at the Kentucky Derby.

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Eat Drink And Be Married

Remember that this entire day is built around celebrating you, so have a little fun with every little detail. Its becoming more and more popular to have signature drinks at the bar with themes surrounding the couple or lovely nicknames Bloody Marry , Blushing Bride, Tar Heel Tea for a good Southern wedding so get the creative juices flowing before the bartenders get pouring.

Now you ask, but what about cannabis bars at weddings in states where its legal? Unlike here in North Carolina, its a thing. Maybe well include more about it in next years issue? Who knows.

What You Want To Serve

Expensive liquor increases the overall costs of an open bar. It seems like a no-brainer, but here is where the Hyundai and Ferrari analogy comes in. If you want a floater of $100 scotch on top of each cocktail served, your price will increase. To save more money, choose the $20 bottle of tequila, not the $120 bottle of tequila.

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Average Cost Of An Open Bar At Weddings

Serving alcohol at a wedding can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. However, we do have an estimate of the average cost.

According to a 2018 survey , the average cost of an open bar at a wedding is around $2,500. If you add in taxes and fees, youll typically be paying a little over $3,000.

For some couples, $3,000 is a reasonable price to pay for the benefit of guests drinking for free. For others, a few key budgeting strategies could help bring that number down.

Charge Of The Bartenders

How Much Alcohol Should I Have At My Wedding?

To run an open bar safely, you just need a bartender. Open bars require trained and licensed bartenders to serve guests safely. So, when you going to book a bartender, make sure that they have liability insurance or license. The best way to have an open on a budget is to compare different bar center rates. If you ask a bar catering company to host an open bar, a bartender fee will probably be included in the package.

Bartender prices range vary from state to state and according to the bartender’s experience. Typically, the average bartender rate is $40 per hour. This price range can change, depending on the bartender’s experience, location. Keep in mind that you can hire a bartender if the catering company does not offer a bartender.

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Tip #: Opt For A Daytime Affair

Unless your wedding is anchored by a bottomless mimosa bar, people are likely to drink much less during daylight hours than at a Saturday night wedding. You can plan accordingly with a scaled back liquor order.

At a summer brunch wedding, they may be happy with white wine, rosé, a little bit of bubbles, and beer, said Rebecca Shenkman, owner of the NYC-based wedding planning service Pink Bowtie Events. Throw in a bloody Mary and Aperol spritz, and youre pretty good.

Figure Out How Long Your Wedding Reception/cocktail Hour Will Be

Assume guests will have 2 drinks in the first hour of the open bar, and 1 additional drink each following hour. The total length of a wedding reception will vary but assume for general purposes it will be 5 hours .

So for a 5 hour cocktail hour/reception, thats 6 drinks total per guest, which is what a lot of websites will recommend. Overall, we always like to err on the side of caution when it comes to an open bar and not running out, so we actually recommend adding one drink to that calculation, bringing it to7 drinks per guest for a 5-hour event.

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Its not that people will consume 7 drinks/person, and of course not everybody will drink 2 or even 1, BUT you have to take into account how many times servers might pick up a half-full drink, or somebody misplaces theirs while dancing. It happens, and if youre DIYing your own wedding bar with no extra inventory , why take the chance? Extra bottles of wine that go unused after the wedding can make for great hostess or holiday gifts, and you wont be freaking out thinking that you didnt order enough alcohol.

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A Cash Bar As An Alternative

If youre obsessing with the idea of a bar in the reception but dont have that much to spend for everyones booze, you can opt for a cash bar. Its a cost-effective alternative to an open bar.A full range of liquor is offered in a cash bar, but the guests pay for what they drink. Its a pocket-safe way of bringing alcohol at your wedding reception minus the worries of covering the cost.But in wedding stats, cash bars were hired for only 7% of weddings, and this low number means couples still believe that a cash bar is a less hospital way of accommodating guests at the reception.Because its deemed not too friendly, top wedding organizers advise that couples pay for a complimentary drink or two, and should the guests opt for more drinks, thats going to be on the guests end. This is a better way of striking a balance between treating your guests well and keeping the cost at bay.

What Questions Should I Ask My Venue Or Catering Company


Effective wedding planning is all in the details. The more information you have, the more prepared you are to plan, afford, and execute the wedding youve always wanted. When booking your bar service, ask your venue coordinator or catering contact the following questions:

1. What is the consumption rate factored in by the venue?

2. Does the venue offer a max cap on alcohol service, ending service after an agreed-upon tab amount is reached?

3. Do they offer an open bar flat rate?

4. Is gratuity built into their pricing or in addition to it?

5. What tax rates or other additional expenses will be added to the quote?

6. Do they charge a fee for event setup or tear down?

7. Can you exclude non-drinking guests from the price?

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The Wedding Reception Timing

Take the timing of your wedding celebrations into account when settling on alcohol options, too. The hour of the day can determine how ready your guests are to party.

If its in a brunch reception after a sunrise ceremony, many will likely be asking for a coffee bar, Grech says. Even if you opt to serve alcohol, guests may still drink less at a luncheon that they would at an evening reception.

The day of the week can have a similar impact on how ready guests are to party.

If the wedding is on a Sunday or weekday when most people have to work the following day, theyll be less likely to complain, if you choose a dry event, cash bar, or otherwise limit drink options, Grech says.

The Venue And Caterer

Perhaps the biggest is your choice of venue or caterer. Many, but not all, wedding catering services and venues offer alcohol packages alongside other services. Other venues may not allow for any outside alcohol to be brought in, or for alcohol to be served at all. So along with talking about the dinner menu and seating, be sure to include alcohol in your discussions about services and costs.

Joslyn Beile, a nonprofit operations director, chose a private club just outside of Sacramento, California, as the venue for her 2015 wedding. The biggest selling point of this venue, Beile says, was its flexible alcohol policies. She was able to hand-select three beers and two wines to serve, and even brought in a keg from her favorite brewery.

The club also didnt charge us for unopened or partially-consumed bottles, she adds. Guests were still able to freely imbibe, but the costs were significantly lower than a full bar option.

Her total costs for unlimited beer and wine for 150 people over 5.5 hours came to just $1,086.

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