Budget Weddings

Open Bar Cost?

Hi there!  I'm looking to get an estimate as to what our open bar will cost.  The wedding is at Salem Cross Inn in Central MA and it's for 150 people (well, that's the "minimum" number of plates we have to pay for - likely we'll have 140 people show).  Bar is based on consumption.  Prices are as follows:


Mixed Drinks $6.00 to $8.50

Wine $6.00 to $8.00

Beer $4.00 to $7.00

These might go up slightly by the time we get married (it's in the contract for very minor price adjustments).  So for 140 people, some of which are *very heavy drinkers, while some are light drinkers, how much do you think we'll pay?  They estimated $30 per person but idk if that's $30pp plus tax and tip?  Then we're looking at almost $40 pp.  Ahh, I'm excited/nervous to hear what you guys think!  

Originally we were going to do just beer and wine but with the liquor prices where they are, maybe we'll do $6 signature cocktails to keep it a bit lower!

Thank you!!

Re: Open Bar Cost?

  • MRDCleMRDCle
    250 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    member

    Hi there!  I'm looking to get an estimate as to what our open bar will cost.  The wedding is at Salem Cross Inn in Central MA and it's for 150 people (well, that's the "minimum" number of plates we have to pay for - likely we'll have 140 people show).  Bar is based on consumption.  Prices are as follows:


    Mixed Drinks $6.00 to $8.50

    Wine $6.00 to $8.00

    Beer $4.00 to $7.00

    These might go up slightly by the time we get married (it's in the contract for very minor price adjustments).  So for 140 people, some of which are *very heavy drinkers, while some are light drinkers, how much do you think we'll pay?  They estimated $30 per person but idk if that's $30pp plus tax and tip?  Then we're looking at almost $40 pp.  Ahh, I'm excited/nervous to hear what you guys think!  

    Originally we were going to do just beer and wine but with the liquor prices where they are, maybe we'll do $6 signature cocktails to keep it a bit lower!

    Thank you!!

    How long is your open bar going to be open? I think your venue should have a decent idea of how much it will be per person, so if they're saying $30 I would assume that's pretty close. I would assume personally that's before tax and gratuity. But, I would also double check that the gratuity is included when they give you a final price, or if you will need to tip the bartenders day of (we tipped ours a bit more on top of what they were tipped through the venue).
    short+sassyahoyweddingSTARMOON44
  • Thank you!  Yes, it's unclear on the tax and tip situation because they provided me with a full breakout estimate with tax and tip after food and then there's a lumped sum "$4,500" beverage deposit which is $30*150 people - the $30 seems low to me.  And the open bar would be for 5 hours - 1 hr cocktail and 4 hour reception.  We might need to just put a cap on it (GASP) because we just can't afford, say, a $7k bar tab - even 6 or 5. 

    Did the bartenders at your wedding have a tip jar out all night?  I'm curious as to how that is handled.  If I am tipping them 20% then I don't want my guests to feel obligated to tip and find cash for a tip jar to tip on top of what we are tipping.  Thank you!
  • MRDCleMRDCle
    250 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    member
    We did not put out a tip jar.  A guest shouldn't be opening their wallet at an event you are hosting. Also, instead of capping the bar - definitely stick to a select group of cheaper beers/wines or do one signature drink.  
    ahoywedding
  • Check with your venue or caterer or whoever is providing the alcohol for an estimate. There are also party planning calculators (Total Wine has a good one) that help you estimate the number of each type of drink you'll need. Adjust as needed, if you know you have more friends who drink beer than wine, etc.

    No tip jar on the bar. You should tip enough to cover that, so your guests don't have to.

    And don't cap the bar. Provide what you can afford, for the entire length of your reception. If that's only beer & wine, that's totally fine! Our venue didn't allow liquor, so just had beer & wine. It's rude to your guests & poor hosting to not cover drinks the entire time. 
    charlotte989875ernursej
  • Your instincts are good, you don't want to have or allow them to have a tip jar out.

    I agree with the other PPs.  It would be rude to cap/stop the bar, so be careful to not put yourself in that position.

    To help keep bar costs lower, I would probably have only red and white wines available that are at the $6/glass cost.  As long as you have one red and one white, that's really all that's needed.  Same with the beers.  Have a few general favorites that are on the lower end of that range.

    The other suggestion of one or two signature drinks, where each drink would be $6, is another great one. 


    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • I'm guessing that your venue is probably doing a standard MA thing so you're paying per drink vs. an overall open bar cost, right?   From what I understand from my out of state family and friends this is fairly common.

    I think you should look at some drink calculators to look at an average # of drinks consumed based on the hours of your reception.  From there, factor that into your budget.

    I'll echo PPs that if you want to save, consider going w/ beer and wine only which can help shrink the tab.  Please don't cap it or try to switch.   When in doubt, factor that anyone of age who isn't pregnant will be drinking and go with that standard knowing that not everyone will follow it.  


  • I think most of the drink calculators out there figure each person of drinking age will have 1 drink per hour, plus one additional drink. That's on average, obviously, but not a bad way to guess at it. So if all your guests are able to drink, that's an average of 6 drinks per person and let's say the average price is $6 a drink... at $36 that's just a little more than they estimated for you. I might ask them to limit the selection to bring the average price down, i.e. no top shelf liquors, take the priciest wines and beers off the menu.
    image
    ernursejshort+sassy
  • banana468 said:
    I'm guessing that your venue is probably doing a standard MA thing so you're paying per drink vs. an overall open bar cost, right?   From what I understand from my out of state family and friends this is fairly common.

    I think you should look at some drink calculators to look at an average # of drinks consumed based on the hours of your reception.  From there, factor that into your budget.

    I'll echo PPs that if you want to save, consider going w/ beer and wine only which can help shrink the tab.  Please don't cap it or try to switch.   When in doubt, factor that anyone of age who isn't pregnant will be drinking and go with that standard knowing that not everyone will follow it.  

    As an aside, it's funny how the "norm" can be so different for different places, lol.  I used to plan company Christmas parties.  As such, I've seen how a couple dozen restaurants/hotels in the Greater New Orleans area handle large events.  I have NEVER seen a "per drink" set-up.  It's always a flat, per person charge, if a bar option is chosen.

    Usually with two bar options.  One per person charge for well drinks.  Or a higher per person charge for call drinks, ie more/better alcohol brands available for guests to choose from.

    I've also rarely seen a bar option choice with beer/wine only, but that could be because I never asked for it.  A company only having beer/wine at their Christmas party could cause a mutiny down in these parts, lol.  

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • banana468 said:
    I'm guessing that your venue is probably doing a standard MA thing so you're paying per drink vs. an overall open bar cost, right?   From what I understand from my out of state family and friends this is fairly common.

    I think you should look at some drink calculators to look at an average # of drinks consumed based on the hours of your reception.  From there, factor that into your budget.

    I'll echo PPs that if you want to save, consider going w/ beer and wine only which can help shrink the tab.  Please don't cap it or try to switch.   When in doubt, factor that anyone of age who isn't pregnant will be drinking and go with that standard knowing that not everyone will follow it.  

    As an aside, it's funny how the "norm" can be so different for different places, lol.  I used to plan company Christmas parties.  As such, I've seen how a couple dozen restaurants/hotels in the Greater New Orleans area handle large events.  I have NEVER seen a "per drink" set-up.  It's always a flat, per person charge, if a bar option is chosen.

    Usually with two bar options.  One per person charge for well drinks.  Or a higher per person charge for call drinks, ie more/better alcohol brands available for guests to choose from.

    I've also rarely seen a bar option choice with beer/wine only, but that could be because I never asked for it.  A company only having beer/wine at their Christmas party could cause a mutiny down in these parts, lol.  

    MA (especially western MA which we southern CT residents call anything that isn't Boston) has a reputation for having harder drinking laws and therefore more cash bars.  I've attended a few weddings for friends and family where we either faced the bait and switch bar that changed to cash at some point, that was cash the entire time or a notified switch that something like cocktails only would be cash.   That's about as much as I know about it other than hearing other people talk about how that's just the "norm" for how it's done.

    It's interesting because growing up in CT (and in Ffld County as my childhood), there was NO SUCH THING as a wedding that didn't have hosted alcohol.   Our wedding package included the bar as part of the deal.   

    The only times I've seen a beer / wine only event in that area are when the event was at a location that had everything brought in and had no actual stocked bar.    
  • banana468 said:
    (snip)

    It's interesting because growing up in CT (and in Ffld County as my childhood), there was NO SUCH THING as a wedding that didn't have hosted alcohol.   Our wedding package included the bar as part of the deal.   

    The only times I've seen a beer / wine only event in that area are when the event was at a location that had everything brought in and had no actual stocked bar.    
    It's funny you say this bc I'm on the eastern side of CT and I have never been to a hosted alcohol event. Wedding or otherwise. That's why we decided to do cash bar (come for me, idc). People's perceptions 100% change depending on locale.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • @MRDCle - because 1) It is very customary to have a cash bar here, and there’s DEFINITELY not the stigma about that, from the multi-generational, multi-budgeted, multi-social pool of people I’ve talked to. 2) When I brought the idea of a dry wedding up as a suggestion (again, to multiple people, after seeing the horrifying opinions on this forum) all of them automatically assumed FI or myself, or someone in our families is a severe alcoholic. Thus, as I said, we will be doing a cash bar unless we find a dirt-cheap price. 
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • @ernursej - this is absolutely not either of your concern, as I have consulted MANY people about it. Anyone who would rather I spend $40 a head for their booze than save for a good life for my future family is not someone who I, OR ANYONE ELSE, should value highly, especially when it is absurd for someone in my area to do so. This is not up to you, or anyone else but my fiancé and I.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    edited July 26
    @ernursej - this is absolutely not either of your concern, as I have consulted MANY people about it. Anyone who would rather I spend $40 a head for their booze than save for a good life for my future family is not someone who I, OR ANYONE ELSE, should value highly, especially when it is absurd for someone in my area to do so. This is not up to you, or anyone else but my fiancé and I.
    Oh, if I had a dollar for every bride that used that line........

    It is NOT about locale.  It is NOT about custom.  Hospitality is universal, as are manners.  No one EVER expects a host to break their own budget to host an event.  The good news is that an event hosted well never has to break the bank.  It just has to be hosted well.  

    ETA......I’m a bit confused.  You said in a prior post that you were offering beer and wine.  Has that changed?  You are spending money on things you WANT and are CHOOSING to be a poor host for other events.  Are you still planning a “fancy” expensive RD dinner for immediate family?  Are you still considering a “fancy” dinner for you and your FI following the wedding reception?  

    You are correct; it is up to you and your FI.  But don’t claim your rude choices are based on your location.  They are based on your priorities and with whom you share your generosity.  Why invite these other guests?  Why not save a boatload of money and just spend it on the ones you prefer?  My guess is that the family with whom you are “consulting” are those being treated to the “fancy” dinner prior to the impolite wedding reception.

    ETA, Part 2......Not even a little bit embarrassed to say I checked a few of your PP’s.......your wedding is not for 2 YEARS yet.  Much can and will change in that time, @misstomorris.  I am going to strongly suggest you take a load off for a while.  
    ernursej
  • Hey there, please ignore the professional trolls on here and do what works best for you and your family / friends.
    Seriously this forum is ridiculous with all the uptight, know-know-it-alls who push far too many young and stressed out brides-to-be to make decisions based on localized and outdated etiquette. These 'helpful brides' are just living in a bubble thinking if you cant afford a grand ol traditional, debt inducing wedding.. then you don't deserve one at all. God forbid people want to celebrate their love with family and friends without being judged by callous socialites. 

    Knottie91522571
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    Hey there, please ignore the professional trolls on here and do what works best for you and your family / friends.
    Seriously this forum is ridiculous with all the uptight, know-know-it-alls who push far too many young and stressed out brides-to-be to make decisions based on localized and outdated etiquette. These 'helpful brides' are just living in a bubble thinking if you cant afford a grand ol traditional, debt inducing wedding.. then you don't deserve one at all. God forbid people want to celebrate their love with family and friends without being judged by callous socialites. 

    LOL.  Ironic that this is coming from a troll who is merely copying/pasting the same response on others boards.  Lemme guess.....you are a recent #KnottieNumbersRecentlyDeleted#DidntGetTheValidationIWasLookingFor
    ernursejMyNameIsNotInLoveInQueens
  • MRDCleMRDCle
    250 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    member
    Hey there, please ignore the professional trolls on here and do what works best for you and your family / friends.
    Seriously this forum is ridiculous with all the uptight, know-know-it-alls who push far too many young and stressed out brides-to-be to make decisions based on localized and outdated etiquette. These 'helpful brides' are just living in a bubble thinking if you cant afford a grand ol traditional, debt inducing wedding.. then you don't deserve one at all. God forbid people want to celebrate their love with family and friends without being judged by callous socialites. 

    I mean I specifically said it was cool to not even serve booze at all but
    InLoveInQueens
  • ernursejernursej
    Knottie Warrior 1000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    Well hell, I guess I didn't deserve my etiquette approved but inexpensive wedding. Does that mean I get a re-do?
  • Hey there, please ignore the professional trolls on here and do what works best for you and your family / friends.
    Seriously this forum is ridiculous with all the uptight, know-know-it-alls who push far too many young and stressed out brides-to-be to make decisions based on localized and outdated etiquette. These 'helpful brides' are just living in a bubble thinking if you cant afford a grand ol traditional, debt inducing wedding.. then you don't deserve one at all. God forbid people want to celebrate their love with family and friends without being judged by callous socialites. 

    Hahahahahaha!  

    Callous socialite!  That's a GOOD one!

    I was raised by a school teacher and an electrician.  They just taught me that no guest should ever be expected to open a wallet at any hosted event EVER.  That means that you scale back the kind of event you have and not increase the portion of the event that forces the expense on someone other than the host.

    If you can't afford it - don't offer it.    It's just that simple.   It's taught me well in life. 
    ahoyweddingcharlotte989875InLoveInQueens
  • ^^^Yes, people used to know that you scaled back your entertaining to suit your budget, but I think in the era of I'm the Queen of My Day, they've forgotten that most of us are not queens.
  • banana468 said:
    I'm guessing that your venue is probably doing a standard MA thing so you're paying per drink vs. an overall open bar cost, right?   From what I understand from my out of state family and friends this is fairly common.

    I think you should look at some drink calculators to look at an average # of drinks consumed based on the hours of your reception.  From there, factor that into your budget.

    I'll echo PPs that if you want to save, consider going w/ beer and wine only which can help shrink the tab.  Please don't cap it or try to switch.   When in doubt, factor that anyone of age who isn't pregnant will be drinking and go with that standard knowing that not everyone will follow it.  

    As an aside, it's funny how the "norm" can be so different for different places, lol.  I used to plan company Christmas parties.  As such, I've seen how a couple dozen restaurants/hotels in the Greater New Orleans area handle large events.  I have NEVER seen a "per drink" set-up.  It's always a flat, per person charge, if a bar option is chosen.

    Usually with two bar options.  One per person charge for well drinks.  Or a higher per person charge for call drinks, ie more/better alcohol brands available for guests to choose from.

    I've also rarely seen a bar option choice with beer/wine only, but that could be because I never asked for it.  A company only having beer/wine at their Christmas party could cause a mutiny down in these parts, lol.  

    MA (especially western MA which we southern CT residents call anything that isn't Boston) has a reputation for having harder drinking laws and therefore more cash bars.  I've attended a few weddings for friends and family where we either faced the bait and switch bar that changed to cash at some point, that was cash the entire time or a notified switch that something like cocktails only would be cash.   That's about as much as I know about it other than hearing other people talk about how that's just the "norm" for how it's done.

    It's interesting because growing up in CT (and in Ffld County as my childhood), there was NO SUCH THING as a wedding that didn't have hosted alcohol.   Our wedding package included the bar as part of the deal.   

    The only times I've seen a beer / wine only event in that area are when the event was at a location that had everything brought in and had no actual stocked bar.  
  • @MRDCle - because 1) It is very customary to have a cash bar here, and there’s DEFINITELY not the stigma about that, from the multi-generational, multi-budgeted, multi-social pool of people I’ve talked to. 2) When I brought the idea of a dry wedding up as a suggestion (again, to multiple people, after seeing the horrifying opinions on this forum) all of them automatically assumed FI or myself, or someone in our families is a severe alcoholic. Thus, as I said, we will be doing a cash bar unless we find a dirt-cheap price. 
    That's pretty interesting.   I'm a transplant (a Yankee girl surrounded by too many Sox fans) but I think it's going to vary WIDELY depending on where in Eastern CT you are.

    I can tell you that I've attended plenty of weddings now in Eastern CT and you have to head up north to find it to be accepted to have a cash bar.   Even then, if you have guests who aren't from the area (me) you'll find plenty of people who may not tell you directly but who are not enthused by a cash bar and who roll their eyes at it.   I'll venture to guess that this is also around the same line as where the jack and jills are considered a norm vs. where you would never hear of charging guests admission to a party.

    If you can, I'd try to find a way.   Look into local packies or even places like BJs where you can get deals.     I can tell you that I wouldn't go dry either but I just like a hosted bar better. 
    knottieea900ada4b438765
  • The OP has left, but I can add that there are a lot of things that are "the norm" that are just not right. Making your guests pay is one of them. Yeah, I know that it's a thing in parts of Mass (I'm from Mass), but it's still rude and downright mean.
    InLoveInQueensCharmedPamknottieea900ada4b438765
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