Open vs Consumption Bar

We are having about 100 guests at our wedding next summer (only about 50% of our guests will dringk alcohol). 

Cocktail hour will start at 5:30pm.  Guests will be seated for dinner in main hall at 6:30pm and the bar will close at 11:30pm with the party wrapping up at 12:00am.  The bar will be closed for 1.5 hours during dinner (& only wine and water will be served during this time).  The open bar cost is $35 per head.  If we do consumption bar drinks will run from $2 (for bottled water) - $6 for a mixed drink or imported beer. 

We are really trying to save money where you think we are better off paying $3500 for open bar for out 100 guests or do you think we will end up paying less if we do consumption bar? 

Does anyone have a direct experience with this from their wedding?

Re: Open vs Consumption Bar

  • ring_popring_pop member
    edited December 2011
    It depends on your crowd. If you want to do the math... let's assume that each drink is $4 on average. $3,500 would get you 875 drinks. For the length of time that the bar would actually be open (4.5 hours), that's almost 2 drinks per person per hour on average. That actually sounds like quite a lot to me so unless you'll have a lot of heavy drinkers, I think consumption bar would probably cost less.

    If you're really on a tight budget, could you tell them to do consumption bar but cut it off when they have reached a certain number?
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  • blush64blush64 member
    Sixth Anniversary 500 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I prefer open bar. You pay one price and you don't worry.
    People generally drink more at weddings/parties.  You might only have 1 drink/hour BUT you might have several people at a time having shots together.

    $35/person for so little hours just doesn't sound good though.
  • LittlinLittlin member
    edited December 2011
    Most people who drink would probably get a drink during the cocktail hour, a glass during dinner, and one or two drinks after dinner (depending on the length of the reception) - we'll say 4 drinks.  Now if even EVERYONE gets the most expensive thing, 100 x $6 x 4 = $2400.  This is still less than your open bar price, and you said only half would be probably be drinking.  Every person would have to drink at least 6  $6 drinks for it to be worth having an open bar.  I would say consumption is the way to go in your situation.

    Now, if you were at my wedding, open bar would be the way to go because DH's family likes their wine and scotch, and everyone had a lot to drink - and we knew this!
  • Jewel224Jewel224 member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Comments Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    I concur with Littlin - alcohol will really depend on the kind of crowd you have but also keep in mind, I find that people usually do tend to drink more at weddings.  So take a look at the kind of people you have - in my case where we're having about 150 people, our friends alone can drink 6-8 beverages each and they're big guys.  That's not including our families, like Littlin who love their wine and scotch, so we're better off with an open bar.

    ETA:  I've been told to consider a consumption bar too, because for one of my friends, the venue lost the bill so they didn't have to pay for alcohol at all.
  • achiduckachiduck member
    5000 Comments 5 Love Its
    edited December 2011
    I was wondering the same thing. My reception venue charges $24 per person for an open bar package. They only charge $4 per drink (no matter if it's a shot, beer, wine, etc). That means each person would have to have 6 drinks to make it worth it. That seems like a lot to me. My family aren't really big drinkers. A small portion of his are so I think the non-drinkers on my side would make up for it.
  • mattycammattycam member
    Seventh Anniversary 1000 Comments 5 Love Its
    edited December 2011
    I guess it depends on your package and your guests. The package we went with was approx. $48/pp and it came with an open bar. If we took out the bar,it wouldn't have made a huge difference in our total cost. Both my H & I have people on both our sides that appreciated and made good use of the bar.
  • miellenmiellen member
    edited December 2011
    Yes, definitely depends on your guests.  At every wedding I've personally been to this year, everyone is doing shots at the bar. Like 10-15 shots at a time among a group of friends. But maybe we just drink a lot compared to others...

  • unplainjaneunplainjane member
    edited December 2011
    totally depends on your guests. we didn't have a choice of paying per head for open bar. the venue charged us per drink. they said i should budget about $36-41 a person. when i got the bill it ended up being $27 a person. so it was way lower then i had expected. PP had mentioned how shots can really rack up the bill. my venue actually told us they do not allow shots and won't serve them. so perhaps you can ask your venue not to serve them if this helps the budget if you decide to do consumption bar.
  • SNTJ2012SNTJ2012 member
    edited December 2011
    Thanks so much everyone,

    I think we will have consumption bar excluding shots and perhaps ask the venue to cap the bill at $2500.  This way we are guaranteed to save at least $1000.  Probably 1/2 of our guest will drink alcohol and of those who will drink alcohol there might be 5 "heavy" drinkers/folks that may drink more than 6 alcoholic drinks during the evening so i think we will be safe with this plan. Thanks again for your suggestions/advice.
  • edited December 2011
    We went with an open bar because of the fear of the unknown... then when nobody was drinking heavily my husband decided to do a consumption bar for the last hour... same scene as hardly anyone hit the bar.
    Well boy were we shocked when a couple weeks after the wedding we got a bill for nearly $1000 for that one hour (between 11 and midnight).
    Wires must have been crossed somewhere... and the issue was eventually resolved, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I've also heard from friends who were on a consumption bar and complained the staff at their venue took away half empty drinks to ramp up sales.

    Best of luck with which ever option you go with - either way your guests will have a great time!!
  • edited December 2011
    Our venue is a pub/brewery, so the cost of the open bar is included in the cost of food.  We're paying $50/head for all of their beers, domestic brands too, house wines, and all standard alcohols and mix (so vodka, gin, rum, whiskey).  We can pay another $7.50 pp to add on bottled coolers, premium import beers and premium liqueurs but we're waiting to see how we look money-wise.  The owner said we can adjust up to 3 days' prior.

    The open bar is four hours and afterwards, we were offered the option of paying a flat rate to extend or setting a consumption cap amount, or just ending service.  The owner said financially, we're better to do consumption because at the end, that one hour extra is NOT going to be worth the flat fee amount "but I offer it for people who just want a set number and no stress". 

    If you're paying either way and your guests won't work the open bar to full advantage for the amount, go consumption for sure.  In our case, it's adult-only and we're mostly heavy drinkers, so open is the only way for us!
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