Wedding Reception Forum

Paying for an open bar

I'm trying to figure out the best course of action for paying for an open bar at my wedding.  I don't need to make a decision until right before the wedding day, but because this is the last big ticket item I haven't settled yet, it's been on my mind.

I live in MA, south of Boston.  My wedding will have about 100 guests.  My venue charges $24.95 per person for a 5 hour open bar, which will total $3180 with all the fees added in.  I can also pay by consumption, meaning I will just pay for the drinks people actually get.  My side of the family doesn't have any big drinkers, but my fiance's has a few.  It's hard to predict if I will actually save money with the second option.

I know everyone's situation is different, but I'm wondering if people could share some some thoughts with me about this. 

PS:  I don't want pay for just beer and wine, because some people don't like those 2 options, including me.
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Re: Paying for an open bar

  • That's a toughie.

    I personally would pay upfront for the full bar. People may drink more than you expect (we did a consumption bar for my bridal shower at NOON expecting that we'd save money and boy were we wrong). But more importantly I think it's worth the piece of mind. The last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is settling  a $3000 surprise bar tab. You'll be at the reception cringing anytime you see someone order a drink. Save yourself the piece of mind.
    June 16, 2012
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  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Why not pay for an open bar for four hours and then during the dinner hour have wine, water and iced tea at the table for people to drink?  The money spent on an open bar during dinner is usually a waste because people will tend to get drinks right before they sit down and then will be too busy eating to get up and get additional drinks.  So with this option you save a bit of money and still have an open bar.

    Oh, this is what we did and it worked out fine.

  • Well, I think most drink calculators and party planners suggest 2 drinks per person for the first hour and 1 per person per hour after that.  With that equation, I believe that's a total of 600 drinks.  So it will depend greatly upon the price per drink.  Has the venue provided that information?
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  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:648021f5-1e46-4311-bb74-4c1297ff4437">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]That's a toughie. I personally would pay upfront for the full bar. People may drink more than you expect (we did a consumption bar for my bridal shower at NOON expecting that we'd save money and boy were we wrong). But more importantly I think it's worth the piece of mind. The last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is settling  a $3000 surprise bar tab. You'll be at the reception cringing anytime you see someone order a drink. Save yourself the piece of mind.
    Posted by acaponi87[/QUOTE]

    <div>Totally agreed!!! Peace of mind is worth the extra money.You just never know how much people will drink.</div>
  • edited August 2012
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:b90e1141-5fcc-4381-ad94-cf2386b5f389">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]Why not pay for an open bar for four hours and then during the dinner hour have wine, water and iced tea at the table for people to drink?  The money spent on an open bar during dinner is usually a waste because people will tend to get drinks right before they sit down and then will be too busy eating to get up and get additional drinks.  So with this option you save a bit of money and still have an open bar. Oh, this is what we did and it worked out fine.
    Posted by Maggie0829[/QUOTE]
    Hmm, interesting idea.  What happens if someone does get up to get a drink during dinner?  Is the bar just closed? 

    Paying the flat fee for peace of mind makes sense...It's just hard for me to spend so much on alcohol, especially when everyone in my family is telling me to not "waste the money" and just do a cash bar (which are very common around here).  My fiance and I want alcohol served, and we don't want people to pay for it, but I want to do so and feel like all that money is being spent wisely and for a good reason.

    EDIT:  @Dave&Kristen:  With those calculations, the total bill would far exceed the $3100.  The average drink cost is about $8.  Hmm.
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  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:46fee9ff-f6d9-4027-b5dc-92106cbe664d">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Paying for an open bar : Hmm, interesting idea.  What happens if someone does get up to get a drink during dinner?  Is the bar just closed?  Paying the flat fee for peace of mind makes sense...It's just hard for me to spend so much on alcohol, especially when everyone in my family is telling me to not "waste the money" and just do a cash bar (which are very common around here).  My fiance and I want alcohol served, and we don't want people to pay for it, but I want to do so and feel like all that money is being spent wisely and for a good reason.
    Posted by ladyomnipotent[/QUOTE]

    I think we had one or two individuals get up and go to the bar to get a beer or whatever but the bartender just politely said the bar was closed during dinner service and would be reopened shortly.

    Have you given any thought about during beer, wine, and 2 or 3 signature drinks?  This may cut down your costs as well.  You get the simple stuff (beer and wine) but then you also get the liquor you and some of your guests like.

  • It's all about knowing your guest list. We debated for a LONG time consumption vs open bar, we chose consumption. We had to pre-pay $15 pp, open bar was $24pp. We ended up owing the venue $3 total, so for us consumption was the right choice. BUT we only had beer/wine/signature cocktail, and the drink prices were $4 for beer, $5 for wine, and $7 for the cocktail.

    My venue suggested that if 1/3 of your guest list (or more) doesn't drink AT ALL, it's worth it to do consumption. 
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  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    For $25/pp for a 5 hour bar, that's $5 per hour per person.  To me, that's a steal when drinks are about $8/each, and worth it to not have to worry about it.  

    Like PP said, we did our RD consumption, thinking that people wouldn't really drink much.  It turned out to be twice what we would have spent otherwise.  Big mistake.
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:db45c619-9d61-4606-83b0-ff32ff3de06f">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]<strong>For $25/pp for a 5 hour bar, that's $5 per hour per person.</strong>  To me, that's a steal when drinks are about $8/each, and worth it to not have to worry about it.   Like PP said, we did our RD consumption, thinking that people wouldn't really drink much.  It turned out to be twice what we would have spent otherwise.  Big mistake.
    Posted by MyNameIsNot[/QUOTE]

    <div>I was going to point out the bolded--sounds like a great deal.  I think it's unlikely that you will save on a consumption bar with that pricing.  It's also good to be able to know how much the bar will cost you and not have to worry about it.  </div>
  • Yeah, everybody is right.  I'm glad to hear that my venue's bar has good pricing. 
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  • I feel your pain. My family doesn't drink at all & I didn't know what would be better, but I thought of it like this: when you're drinking at a wedding, how many times do you grab a drink, take a few sips, & hear a good song and head to the dance floor leaving your drink? You forget about it and then you just go to the bar to get another. There are always 1/2 drinks all over the room, so in that sense, I wouldn't want to pay per drink. 

    We did open bar & it was fine. We did 2 signature drinks during cocktail hour in addition to the bar, closed it for the entrance/speeches and 1/2 of dinner and then it opened up again. I think our bar was a total of 5 hours & our reception was 6-12. I would just pay for the open bar. 
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  • I am so happy it doesn't work that way in Chicago! LOL. Our venues all seemed to include open bar in the package.

    Anyhow, I think its much safer to know ahead of time how much you are going to pay as it could get horribly expensive..You could get some major drinkers which could cost you more. Also, keep in mind, people leave drinks places and won't think twice about getting a new drink even if they didn't drink the other drink..which is literally just wasting money if you pay consumption.

    (I would make sure to have a bargain where they don't charge the fee for minors and vendor's meals)
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:838d4a8f-d9ba-421b-8a13-fb9732363996">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]I feel your pain. My family doesn't drink at all & I didn't know what would be better, but I thought of it like this: <strong>when you're drinking at a wedding, how many times do you grab a drink, take a few sips, & hear a good song and head to the dance floor leaving your drink? </strong>You forget about it and then you just go to the bar to get another. There are always 1/2 drinks all over the room, so in that sense, I wouldn't want to pay per drink.  We did open bar & it was fine. We did 2 signature drinks during cocktail hour in addition to the bar, closed it for the entrance/speeches and 1/2 of dinner and then it opened up again. I think our bar was a total of 5 hours & our reception was 6-12. I would just pay for the open bar. 
    Posted by spartybride3[/QUOTE]

    This is a good point too. Maybe venues where it is not a open bar are better but I couldn't catch a buzz at my own wedding because everytime I set a drink down (to dance or talk to people) the staff and cleared it off within like 5 minutes. It was annoying.
    June 16, 2012
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  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    "Hmm, interesting idea.  What happens if someone does get up to get a drink during dinner?  Is the bar just closed?"

    Our bar closed during dinner.  In our case, it wasn't as much a cost saving idea as it was moreso for giving the bartenders a dinner break.  We placed a small, framed sign near the bars that said, "The bar will close during dinner.  Complimentary wine will be served for dinner".

    This not only let guests know that wine would be available for dinner, but also gave guests a "heads up" that if they prefered a cocktail with dinner, that they should grab one just prior to being seated for dinner.
  • sbradkesbradke member
    100 Comments Second Anniversary
    edited August 2012
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:838d4a8f-d9ba-421b-8a13-fb9732363996">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]I feel your pain. My family doesn't drink at all & I didn't know what would be better, but <strong>I thought of it like this: when you're drinking at a wedding, how many times do you grab a drink, take a few sips, & hear a good song and head to the dance floor leaving your drink? You forget about it and then you just go to the bar to get another. There are always 1/2 drinks all over the room, </strong>so in that sense, I wouldn't want to pay per drink.  We did open bar & it was fine. We did 2 signature drinks during cocktail hour in addition to the bar, closed it for the entrance/speeches and 1/2 of dinner and then it opened up again. I think our bar was a total of 5 hours & our reception was 6-12. I would just pay for the open bar. 
    Posted by spartybride3[/QUOTE]


    This is just what I am worried about. We are paying per drink - it's my only option at our venue. I wish there was some polite way to encourage people to finish their drinks before orering another :-)
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  • I have an open bar.  My FH's family doesn't drink at all, my family are mostly moderate beer/wine drinkers.

    However, we have a lot of friends that are coming that are heavy, heavy drinkers.  I actually had a few friends guarantee me that they would make it worth my while to have an open bar :)

    I think you can do the math by estimating about 3 drinks per person, subtract the people that don't drink at all, then I think on average 3 drinks is about right.  

    Hopefully that helps!
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:f763272b-9889-470c-a1a8-88783aaff020">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Paying for an open bar : This is just what I am worried about. We are paying per drink - it's my only option at our venue. I wish there was some polite way to encourage people to finish their drinks before orering another :-)
    Posted by sbradke[/QUOTE]



    Ask the waitstaff not not clear half-empty drinks. It's not guests' fault for getting new drinks when the waitstaff clears drinks that they aren't finished with yet...
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  • AdeleDazeemAdeleDazeem member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 25 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited August 2012
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:cfb68350-b438-40f6-a99c-90d7b88a577a">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]In Response to Re: Paying for an open bar : Ask the waitstaff not not clear half-empty drinks. It's not guests' fault for getting new drinks when the waitstaff clears drinks that they aren't finished with yet...
    Posted by Avion22[/QUOTE]

    Truth,

    I've also never wandered off without my drink because I heard a good song or got distracted.  I don't do that when I pay for drinks.  I don't do that when I'm not paying for drinks.  This whole idea that people will do this - first of all - and then most especially because it's open bar and they aren't paying it just completely bizarre to me. The only time I've "lost" my drink is because the wait staff cleared it while I was in the bathroom or talking to people.
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_paying-for-an-open-bar?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:5Discussion:0134fcb3-a0a7-42fa-9275-b314c1944272Post:b90e1141-5fcc-4381-ad94-cf2386b5f389">Re: Paying for an open bar</a>:
    [QUOTE]Why not pay for an open bar for four hours and then during the dinner hour have wine, water and iced tea at the table for people to drink?  The money spent on an open bar during dinner is usually a waste because people will tend to get drinks right before they sit down and then will be too busy eating to get up and get additional drinks.  So with this option you save a bit of money and still have an open bar. Oh, this is what we did and it worked out fine.
    Posted by Maggie0829[/QUOTE]

    i disagree with this. dinner doesn't last just 1 hour and it's confusing for the guests. ive been to weddings like that and wasn't a fan. if you're going to have a full open bar do it for the whole night. we did the per person top shelf open for ours.

    i do agree with the bottles of wine on the tables though. we did that and they were replenished throughout the night.

     

  • It sounds like open will be the better deal, as pp have said. I'll just add that people drink more when there's free alcohol and a festive mood.
  • I'm a bartender, and I recently worked a wedding (around 275 people), the bar was open for 4-5 hours and there was cash bar during the meal. Their tab ended up being around $4000. I suggest the second option, especially since you need to remember that of the 100 people, there will likely be minors as well as people who just don't drink or will only have one or two. Those people will make a tab much smaller by drinking sodas. Sure, there will be uncle Will and cousin Frankie who go crazy and drink their share and then some, but it happens. Also, if you choose to do the second option, only offer rail drinks, domestic beers and select wines on the open bar menu, which will also cut down the costs.
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