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Reception Ideas

Cost of open bars

This topic is a bit random, and just out of curiosity really.

I come from a country where an open bar is unheard of, about half a bottle of wine per person, put on the table for the meal, is generally included. It's not even an option/package in wedding deals/hotels etc. I'm sure if a couple wanted to throw their credit card behind the bar they could pay by consumption which is when I thought about cost. Drinks in my country are about 6-7 dollars per drink, which made wonder if ye pay 50-100dollars per person on drink alone?

So what does the average open bar cost for ye?
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Re: Cost of open bars

  • In my area, normally you pay a preset price for open bar rather than by consumption so you can plan for budget purposes.  It varies place to place.  My venue is $7.50 per hour per guest, so I think it'll probably save us money over paying by consumption.  Where are you getting married?

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  • My venue open bar costs $40 per person, but this includes top shelf liquor, for 6 hours.
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  • AdeleDazeemAdeleDazeem member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 25 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited January 2012
    Our open bar was $40 per person for a four hour open bar.  It was "Premium" instead of "Top Shelf" and our venue was in downtown Philadelphia.  We also needed to pay a small fee for two bartenders.

    EDIT: Where are you from?
  • DD and DSIL were able to purchase their own liquor and hire their own bartenders. They were able to get 2 really great bartenders for $25 an hour for the pair.  It worked out great. There are sites on the web that can help you estimate how much liqour by how many people you will have.  I believe most estimate 3-5 drinks per person.  You'll have some that will drink more but you'll have some that won't drink at all (I don't like the taste of liquor, only ocassionally drink white wine - I do like beer though and I know that's odd but I almost only just drink Coke or tea at a wedding).

    They actually ended up buying too much. They could have taken all the sealed liquor, wine and beer back but decided to just keep it as they entertain quite a bit. Over the last year they've gone through the cases of beer and wine and quite a bit of the liquor. It was all top shelf so they also were able to give some as gifts at times throughout this year.

    If you would have to use the facilities liquors/beer/wine and their bartenders but don't know how to estimate the cost, try websites for reception locations around the country. I'd try for some in your region so the costs is similar. You may find all of their catering/liquor costs on their websites and be able to do some estimating that way.

  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    The cheapest way to do it is to bring your own booze and bartender, but unfortunately, this isn't an option at most venues.

    Talk to the venue and see if they'll negotiate a per hour bar price with you.  This way, you pay ahead and you don't get stuck with the sticker shock at the end.  

    If you're forced with consumption, you can estimate 1-2 drinks per hour, per guest.  
    PrettyGirlLost
  • How much it costs will depend on your venue, the crowd you invite and the types of drinks you're offering.  We hosted a wine and beer only bar and  had approx 70 guests, 7 of whom were children.  Our bar bill totalled $18/pp which is probably pretty low because we didn't have a dance at our reception.
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  • were getting married in las vegas. heres our info from out restaurant and what you get. http://www.trevi-italian.com/links/BarPackage.pdf
  • Wow, $40 per person seems an excellent price. It makes more sense now!

    I'm marrying in Thailand, but I'm from Ireland. It's simply unheard of in Ireland and I never even encountered the idea til I started reading wedding forums.

    We will be providing most (hiopefully all) the drink at our wedding, but that's more as a thank you for people that are spending a lot of money and traveling a long way to be with us. The question itself was just out of interest as to how it worked.

    Thanks for the info :)
  • To help figure costs, figure on two drinks per person for the first hour, and one drink per hour thereafter.
  • Everyone I'm talking to is surprised that we are offering any kind of open bar at all. I guess it is really a regional thing. We are doing the following: 

    cocktail hour with specialty drinks 
    champagne toast
    wine with dinner
    1 hr open bar after dinner
    cash bar after that

    I thought people would be really against having any kind of cash bar (even for only a short time), but it turns out that I was more against it than they were, so I'm not too worried about it. 

    I know there are going to be haters saying that it's tacky, but I think it really depends on your crowd. 
    Ionewton
  • I'm from England and generally people buy there own beer at weddings but wedding there are done totally different than here. Most prople get married at the "court" and have a meal with immediate family afterwards then rent out a pub or hall at night..Its pretty much assumed that you buy ur own drinks. . Living in the US now its totally different.. I guess you have to look at where your crowds from. If they expect it and you can afford it then go for it.
  • In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_reception-ideas_cost-of-open-bars?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:5Discussion:18cb2659-a947-49b1-a50d-52cce171f95dPost:31d3ff3b-4f9a-473c-ba43-5f927432d8f0">Re: Cost of open bars</a>:
    [QUOTE]To help figure costs, figure on two drinks per person for the first hour, and one drink per hour thereafter.
    Posted by Peavy[/QUOTE]

    Thanks, but my guests are Irish! Without wanting to fulfil the stereotype, there's no way they'll only drink a drink per hour!
    Pepperallyei34PrettyGirlLost
  • I'm working out these issues myself right now... initally I was blown away by our venues sticker price of $40 per person. We're going to talk out some options and see if we really need that much. Having a 100-120 person reception we're looking at over $4000 and that's huge.

    I don't recommend the champagne toast!

    I worked in college as wait staff for a caterer. By the time the floats are passed out the drinks are flat and most people toast with their regular drink or water anyway. The glasses are then picked up still full and tossed out with the rest of the unconsumed drinks. Save the money and have maybe a special bottle for the head table only.

  • IonewtonIonewton member
    10 Comments First Anniversary
    edited February 2014


  • Everyone I'm talking to is surprised that we are offering any kind of open bar at all. I guess it is really a regional thing. We are doing the following: 

    cocktail hour with specialty drinks 
    champagne toast
    wine with dinner
    1 hr open bar after dinner
    cash bar after that

    I thought people would be really against having any kind of cash bar (even for only a short time), but it turns out that I was more against it than they were, so I'm not too worried about it. 

    I know there are going to be haters saying that it's tacky, but I think it really depends on your crowd. 
    I like this idea. Thanks!:)
  • For the record, an open bar is not 'completely unheard of' anywhere. We have had Irish, English, and Canadian women on the boards who have paid for open bar at their weddings. And any kind of cash bar is so rude. Don't offer anything you're not willing to pay for. Just don't have it available. Just doing beer and wine is also acceptable as long as it's hosted.
    image
    doeydogrumbledorePrettyGirlLost
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Ionewton said:


    Everyone I'm talking to is surprised that we are offering any kind of open bar at all. I guess it is really a regional thing. We are doing the following: 

    cocktail hour with specialty drinks 
    champagne toast
    wine with dinner
    1 hr open bar after dinner
    cash bar after that

    I thought people would be really against having any kind of cash bar (even for only a short time), but it turns out that I was more against it than they were, so I'm not too worried about it. 

    I know there are going to be haters saying that it's tacky, but I think it really depends on your crowd. 
    I like this idea. Thanks!:)
    The bolded is what makes it rude-regardless of what your crowd thinks.

    Everyone's assuming that their crowd is right is what leads to fuzzy etiquette thinking in the first place and what leads to people feeling that they even need to ask about it.  Charging your guests for their provisions, whether it's at a wedding or not, is just plain wrong.  Give up the cash bar.
    doeydoPrettyGirlLost
  • Everyone I'm talking to is surprised that we are offering any kind of open bar at all. I guess it is really a regional thing. We are doing the following: 

    cocktail hour with specialty drinks 
    champagne toast
    wine with dinner
    1 hr open bar after dinner
    cash bar after that

    I thought people would be really against having any kind of cash bar (even for only a short time), but it turns out that I was more against it than they were, so I'm not too worried about it. 

    I know there are going to be haters saying that it's tacky, but I think it really depends on your crowd. 
    I bet there are at least a handful of people invited to your wedding who will find your cash bar rude.  Just because something is common or no one says anything about something doesn't mean it's not rude or that people aren't secretly side-eyeing you.  There are literally hundreds of posts on these boards of people saying "cash bars (or any other rude thing) are super common in my group/region/whatever, and I still find them extremely rude"
    Don't worry guys, I have the Wedding Police AND the Whambulance on speed dial!
    doeydoPrettyGirlLost
  • When we were figuring out the bar we were pretty shocked at the price for a full open bar. We don't have a huge drinking crowd so we are doing a consumption bar (we had planned on this from the beginning but it turns out that our venue only allows consumption bars, a lot of others do as well).  We are accounting for 2 drinks/person/hour figuring that this will even out the heavy drinkers and those who don't drink.  It came to about 4k for the whole evening, about 5k cheaper than if we did a full open bar. Even if we go over the 4k I am sure we won't be spending 9k on alcohol.  The 4k also includes wine service with dinner. 
  • $32 per person for top shelf open bar right outside of Boston
  • RebeccaB88RebeccaB88 Figment of Your Imagination member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    @KnotPorscha - zombie attack!

    This thread is two years old, guys. OP and PPs are likely not only no longer here, but prices are sure to have increased since the thread was started.
    ei34MadHops21
  • indianaalumindianaalum member
    500 Love Its 500 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited February 2014
    I live in the midwest and every venue I looked at had a "package" where open bar was part of thepackage. Most venues ranged from 60-150 per person which include food, drink, and other venue extra (such as cake, etc)

    So for example, my venue cost about 75.00 per person and they got

    cocktail hour with passed h'or doevres
    wine at each table during dinner
    champagne toast
    Open bar all night
    Meal (soup, salad, chicken dish,veggie, potato, rolls/butter)
    Wedding Cake was included
    Tableclothes and nice linens and centerpieces
    plus their coordinator set everything up for me.

    That's pretty much how all the venues are in this area, so it is hard to determine how much the actual BAR costs

    If I wanted a "fancier" meal, the cost was more per person. I also paid to upgrade for some other extras Hope that  makes sense
  • Our venue charges by consumption, but averages $12/person for beer & wine and $15/person for beer, wine, and liquor. Obviously this is just an average and I expect that it will actually cost more.
  • While they might not be 'completely unheard of' they are EXTREMELY rare. Weddings here are much longer - you're talking 12+ hours AFTER the ceremony. An open bar would bankrupt most people! I can guarantee you that no one expects an open bar. Would anyone complain if there was one? Of course not but people do not complain when there is none. And it's not a case of 'just because no one says anything doesn't mean it's not rude' - it is genuinely the way things are done.

  • cocktail hour with specialty drinks 
    champagne toast
    wine with dinner
    1 hr open bar after dinner
    cash bar after that

    Cash bar aside, you're offering liquor, then champagne, then wine, then everything? Most people don't like to change the type of liquor they're drinking back and forth all night. If i get a vodka drink at cocktail hour, I'll either want to keep drinking vodka drinks, or switch to wine and beer (and then STAY with wine and beer) at some point. I have a hangover just thinking of drinking some (likely sweet) specialty drinks at cocktail hour, then a champagne toast, then wine with dinner, then switching back to a mixed drink for open bar (because if I realized it was turning to a cash bar, I'd be thinking I might as well just get drunk during open bar so I don't have to pay later). 
    Maggie0829
  • Most places around here won't even consider a flat fee open bar - the coordinator here actually laughed when I asked about it. The only venue I found that WOULD do it charged an 'all-inclusive' fee starting at $170pp for food, venue, and four hour open bar - standard alcohol, upgrades were available for an additional cost.
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    My venue charges $54.00 for top shelf open bar for 5 hours, and $58.00 for premium open bar for 5 hours.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • Our open bar is for 4 hours and  per person are$18 for domestic beer and wine, $20 for import beer and wine, $22 for beer, wine and liquor and $26 per person for beer, wine and top shelf liquor. We're either going with domestic beer and wine only or beer, wine and regular liquor. My FI is sad because we won't have Jack Daniels (his favorite) unless we do the $26 a person option - but we're not doing the extra $4 a person just because we want Jack!
  • abbyj700 said:
    Our open bar is for 4 hours and  per person are$18 for domestic beer and wine, $20 for import beer and wine, $22 for beer, wine and liquor and $26 per person for beer, wine and top shelf liquor. We're either going with domestic beer and wine only or beer, wine and regular liquor. My FI is sad because we won't have Jack Daniels (his favorite) unless we do the $26 a person option - but we're not doing the extra $4 a person just because we want Jack!
    Sometiimes you can work things into a package. We did....try to talk to coordinator and see if you can get jack thrown in
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