Wedding Cakes & Food Forum

Bar package or pay the bar tab?

Our food package also covers our cocktail hour (beer, wine, cocktails), ice and hot tea and coffee for the whole night and a champagne toast. Beyond that, we can put a certain amount towards the bar and pay the tab or go with a per person package.

The per-person package price covers beer, wine and soda for the 4 remaining hours. We'll break even if each guest consumes four alcoholic drinks over the last hour hours (or eight sodas, they are half the price of drinks).

Basically, we're trying to guess how much people are going to drink after the cocktail hour and which option makes more financial sense. About 10% of the guests will be under 21. Which would you pick?

Bonus question: do you think much wine will get wasted if we put a bottle of red on each table with dinner?

Bar package or pay the bar tab? 20 votes

Do the bar package.
55% 11 votes
Pay the bar tab.
45% 9 votes

Re: Bar package or pay the bar tab?

  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    If you serve mixed drinks (aka cocktails) at your cocktail hour then you need to serve them throughout the night as well.  Many people prefer to stick with one drink through the course of an evening so if someone were to start with rum and coke and then try and get another one after dinner only to find out that cocktails are no longer available they may not really be all that happy.

    So with that said I would suggest talking to your venue and see if they can substitute the cocktails with an additional app or two and then you just serve beer and wine all night (plus sodas, etc) which is perfectly acceptable.

    As for whether you should do a bar package or pay according to consumption is a really "know your crowd" thing.  I know for our wedding that we had a large amount of drinkers so paying for an open bar was more cost effective then by consumption.

    Finally, for the wine.  A bottle of wine contains approximately 5 glasses.  What happens if everyone at the table wants a glass?  Or what if someone has a bit of a heavy pour which happens when people serve themselves?  And no white wine?  Personally I would skip the wine on the table.

  • tammym1001tammym1001 Akron, Ohio member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    I would skip the wine on the table also. I don't really see the point in that if they can also get wine from the bar. Like Maggie said you may end up with more people at the table who want wine or tables where only one glass gets drank out of a bottle.

    For us, it made way more sense to do the package price for the bar. Our venue may actually reconsider their package prices after our friends finish drinking that night. LOL There's no way we would have taken a chance with a consumption bar.
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  • Thanks for the advice! Thinking I will skip the wine on the tables now.

    I'm still up in the air about the bar package -- we do have 10 or so big drinkers but even more that are under 21, don't drink or are elderly and will leave early. Hmmm...
  • Fairyjen1Fairyjen1 member
    250 Love Its 100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited May 2014
         I think it depends on your crowd. I'm doing 18 people at lunch, so beer/wine/soda only. I'm trying to see if Disney has the option to pay by the glass, as I know our guests will have , at most, two glasses with lunch. If not I'll just get their package. 

         If we were doing a larger wedding it would be cheaper with my family anyway to do the packages. I'd also only host beer and wine. Cash bars are rampant in our family, but the one wedding where the bride actually did a full open bar she did it by consumption, she ended up with an 8K bar bill at the end of the night! This was for probably 120-150 or so people. She told the restaurant it was at people could get anything they wanted, so uncles were getting 200$ bottles of wine and other's would get expensive bottles of scotch to take back to the table. Also people would get a drink, put it down, the  forget where so get another drink even though they hand't drunk any of their first drink. At the end of the night there were almost full mixed drinks everywhere! My family is not only tacky hosts, we also are not gracious guests. Hence the immediate family only wedding!
  • theartistformerlyknownastheartistformerlyknownas peaced out. member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers First Anniversary
    Fairyjen1 said:

         I think it depends on your crowd. I'm doing 18 people at lunch, so beer/wine/soda only. I'm trying to see if Disney has the option to pay by the glass, as I know our guests will have , at most, two glasses with lunch. If not I'll just get their package. 


         If we were doing a larger wedding it would be cheaper with my family anyway to do the packages. I'd also only host beer and wine. Cash bars are rampant in our family, but the one wedding where the bride actually did a full open bar she did it by consumption, she ended up with an 8K bar bill at the end of the night! This was for probably 120-150 or so people. She told the restaurant it was at people could get anything they wanted, so uncles were getting 200$ bottles of wine and other's would get expensive bottles of scotch to take back to the table. Also people would get a drink, put it down, the  forget where so get another drink even though they hand't drunk any of their first drink. At the end of the night there were almost full mixed drinks everywhere! My family is not only tacky hosts, we also are not gracious guests. Hence the immediate family only wedding!
    That's horrible!! Open bar weddings I've been to never even allowed shots, let alone bottle service!

    We're expecting about a $6-7k consumption bar tab for 250 guests. Some lushes, some in recovery, some "one and done."

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  • tcnobletcnoble member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    Thanks for the advice! Thinking I will skip the wine on the tables now.

    I'm still up in the air about the bar package -- we do have 10 or so big drinkers but even more that are under 21, don't drink or are elderly and will leave early. Hmmm...
    We had a similar predicament with our bar package.. we could either pay per person, cash bar, or do it based on consumption. After looking at our guest list we only had a handful of people that we felt would really take advantage of an open bar, but most were under 21 or elderly/non-drinkers... so we opted to do it on consumption. 
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  • tcnoble said:
    Thanks for the advice! Thinking I will skip the wine on the tables now.

    I'm still up in the air about the bar package -- we do have 10 or so big drinkers but even more that are under 21, don't drink or are elderly and will leave early. Hmmm...
    We had a similar predicament with our bar package.. we could either pay per person, cash bar, or do it based on consumption. After looking at our guest list we only had a handful of people that we felt would really take advantage of an open bar, but most were under 21 or elderly/non-drinkers... so we opted to do it on consumption. 
    Interesting. Did it end up being cheaper doing it by consumption?
  • tcnobletcnoble member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    tcnoble said:
    Thanks for the advice! Thinking I will skip the wine on the tables now.

    I'm still up in the air about the bar package -- we do have 10 or so big drinkers but even more that are under 21, don't drink or are elderly and will leave early. Hmmm...
    We had a similar predicament with our bar package.. we could either pay per person, cash bar, or do it based on consumption. After looking at our guest list we only had a handful of people that we felt would really take advantage of an open bar, but most were under 21 or elderly/non-drinkers... so we opted to do it on consumption. 
    Interesting. Did it end up being cheaper doing it by consumption?
    That is to be determined... Our wedding is next year :) but based on our current guest list and the PP cost we would spend $6,000... We are fairly confident we won't see a tab that high on a consumption basis.
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  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Eighth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Maybe investigate if you can do a compromise, and instead of a full open bar do beer/wine/ fizzy drinks/ and 1-2 signature cocktails all night. You might find this to be a more cost effective solution instead of having to wonder about consumption. But I agree with PP- you have to make available the same thing all night. 
  • We are putting a certain amount towards our tab. If our guests dont drink that much we get the balance back, if they pass it it turns into a cash bar, and honestly, if they pass it, I'd rather they start paying themselves because that means they are drunk out of their minds, we have something like enough for 5 drinks each, plus bottles of wine on the tables, enough for 2 glasses per, and a champagne toast. And there is a signature drink (alcoholic and non) during the cocktail hour. If they need more than that.... lol
  • So, I went through and estimated how much everyone on our guest list will drink and I made it a generous estimate. It was $900 less than the package price. Then I did a 'worst case scenario' -- the absolute maximum I could imagine every guest drinking. It's $200 more than the package price.

    I think we will be going by consumption...
  • Our venue is based on consumption only, they don't have per person packages. They calculate based on the when your reception is (ours is a Saturday night) and say on average they see people have 3 or so drinks regardless if it's pop, water or alcohol, and then also take the number of people you are having approximately. Water and pop at our location is $3.00, house wine is $5 I believe and domestic beer I believe is $4.00. So I believe the quote they have us to pay is around $1,750 for our bar tab if we are under we get it back, if we go over we pay out of pocket and if we get close say $200 to our maximum then we can stop and turn it into a cash bar and still get the left over money back.
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  • Our venue is based on consumption only, they don't have per person packages. They calculate based on the when your reception is (ours is a Saturday night) and say on average they see people have 3 or so drinks regardless if it's pop, water or alcohol, and then also take the number of people you are having approximately.
    See, that makes sense to me. I'm guessing people will have between three or four drinks over the course of the night. 

    Some websites say to plan for people to drink two to three drinks per HOUR and that just seems insane to me. Half the guests would have alcohol poisoning if they drank like that.
  • caitlinmcacaitlinmca member
    100 Comments 25 Love Its First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited May 2014

    Our venue is based on consumption only, they don't have per person packages. They calculate based on the when your reception is (ours is a Saturday night) and say on average they see people have 3 or so drinks regardless if it's pop, water or alcohol, and then also take the number of people you are having approximately.
    See, that makes sense to me. I'm guessing people will have between three or four drinks over the course of the night. 

    Some websites say to plan for people to drink two to three drinks per HOUR and that just seems insane to me. Half the guests would have alcohol poisoning if they drank like that.
    Also you have to think about when your wedding ceremony starts and the reception begins. Our guests arrive at 6ish pm with the ceremony to start at 6:30 pm, and is set to last 15 minutes give or take. They cut the bar off at 11:30 pm and guests/everyone have to be out at by/at midnight. As you said, I don't see myself doing 2-3 drinks per hour maybe for the evening, but not by the hour.

    But it does depend on your location though to, if they count just alcohol in that number, or if they count non-alcoholic beverages, our location that we chose counts all beverages regardless if its alcoholic or non-alcoholic and they also count people people regardless if they are 5 years of age and going to be having water or punch/juice you name it, or if they are 50.
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  • FYI - I got married on Saturday, WHOOOOOOOO!

    Thought I would come back and share the results to anyone who is interested in this thread. All numbers include any mandatory tax and gratuity on the bar bill.

    What we would have paid with the per head package: $2700
    What I thought we would pay with the consumption bar: $1800
    What we actually paid with the consumption bar: $1000

    And lots of people were drinking heavily. It's just that for every person that was getting buzzed and drunk, there was another staying sober or leaving an hour early.
    tammym1001tcnoblecaitlinmca
  • @randerson123 thank you for sharing!! and CONGRATS!! :)
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  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    meliebean said:
    We are putting a certain amount towards our tab. If our guests dont drink that much we get the balance back, if they pass it it turns into a cash bar, and honestly, if they pass it, I'd rather they start paying themselves because that means they are drunk out of their minds, we have something like enough for 5 drinks each, plus bottles of wine on the tables, enough for 2 glasses per, and a champagne toast. And there is a signature drink (alcoholic and non) during the cocktail hour. If they need more than that.... lol
    And if I was going up to the bar for just my 2nd drink of the night and found out it turned to a cash bar, I'd be ticked off.  And probably embarrassed, because I wouldn't have money on me (because I thought it was open bar!).  I can count on one hand the number of "bad" weddings I've been to....and yours would definitely be added to it. You need to host your guests properly for the entire night.  DH and I still talk about the awful weddings we've been to. 

    If you can't afford to host an open bar or pay the entire consumption bar, then you need to scale back and host what you can the ENTIRE night.
  • JoanE2012 said:
    meliebean said:
    We are putting a certain amount towards our tab. If our guests dont drink that much we get the balance back, if they pass it it turns into a cash bar, and honestly, if they pass it, I'd rather they start paying themselves because that means they are drunk out of their minds, we have something like enough for 5 drinks each, plus bottles of wine on the tables, enough for 2 glasses per, and a champagne toast. And there is a signature drink (alcoholic and non) during the cocktail hour. If they need more than that.... lol
    And if I was going up to the bar for just my 2nd drink of the night and found out it turned to a cash bar, I'd be ticked off.  And probably embarrassed, because I wouldn't have money on me (because I thought it was open bar!).  I can count on one hand the number of "bad" weddings I've been to....and yours would definitely be added to it. You need to host your guests properly for the entire night.  DH and I still talk about the awful weddings we've been to. 

    If you can't afford to host an open bar or pay the entire consumption bar, then you need to scale back and host what you can the ENTIRE night.
    I mentioned this on another thread because our venue coordinator tried to get us to do the same thing - set a limit, and if it is passed, you go to cash bar. How do you tell your guests that? "Yes I'll have a vodka soda." ok that was free 20 minutes ago, but now that'll be $8. UMMM???? No. Just no. You either host the open bar on a consumption basis and be prepared to pay the entire tab, or you host what you know you can afford ahead of time - be that beer&wine only, signature drinks, etc.
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