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Savvy February 2020

Is $1000-$1500 too cheap for an Open bar?

Shannon, on May 8, 2019 at 12:23 PM Posted in Wedding Reception 0 9
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Hi Gals!

I've been looking at several forums on open bars and now I'm scared that I'm budgeting too low for an open bar. I've budgeted $1000-1500! My venue has a bartender included with all the cups, ice and garnishes, non alcoholic beverages and we don't have to tip (but probably will). And our venue isn't charging tax.

We just have to supply the mixers and alcohol. Here's how I've calculated our alcohol costs for 200 guests...my ppl are more liquor and wine folks than beer folks. The venue will not allow shots so all of our hard drinks must be mixed. The Fiance and I have decided to not do champagne so that will save us loads!

I'm planning on doing the following

1. Wine - 3 buck chuck from trader joes or groupon wine delivery: ~$3/bottle - 100 bottles = $300

2. Hard liquor - I'm scouring the flipp app and selecting different 750ml bottles that are on sale for under $10 each. i'll buy the bottles here and there up until the wedding. Or, I'm going to go to Costco and try to buy in bulk - $10/ bottle - 40 bottles for $400

3. Cider and beer - for about $1 ea. I'm thinking 100 bottles of beer = $100 then cider costs about $3 each can so, 50 cans for $150

Adding everything up = $950...oh and we're buying our mixers (soda, juice) from the dollar store. I figure 50 jugs of juice/soda should be about $50...

Lastly, I'll probably add in 2 signature drinks that are pre mixed during the cocktail hour. That way we can slow how much folks drink later in the evening. Jose cuervo mixes with alcohol cost about $10 ea so, we're gonna buy different flavors, put ice in pitcher dispensers that we already own, and have them set out... that should come to no more than $50-$100. So if we do that would bring us to ~$1100, $1300 if we tip and account for sales tax.

Let me know what you think. Will this be enough alcohol or am I tripping? We figure most people will drink within the 4-5 hrs then we'll close the bar an hour early at 10pm or 11pm so folks can sober up by midnight.


  • D
    Super July 2020
    D ·
    • Flag
    I think you are right on target. I would consider buying a little more beer maybe. If you don't think it's too tacky you can get 150 cans for the same amount budgeted. Even if you only have 20 or 25 beer drinkers 100 bottles may not last 4 or 5 hours.
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  • Sarah
    VIP September 2019
    Sarah ·
    • Flag
    The only concern I’d have with this plan is if you’re just buying all different bottles of liquor when they’re on sale. For example, if you are choosing to have vodka, my opinion would be that all the vodka should be the same brand if possible.

    Also, out of a standard bottle of wine, you’ll get 4-5 glasses. That puts you at 400-500 glasses of wine which is only 2-2.5pp. I know when I attend a wedding I usually drink at least 1 drink per hour so if I was a big wine drinker I’d probably have 4-5 glasses over an entire reception.
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  • L
    Lady ·
    • Flag

    I also think you're right on track. I would probably up your beer count though, even if your guests aren't huge beer drinkers. I know a lot of my friends would probably switch to beer later in the night vs. drinking liquor for 6 hours.

    Also, check with your grocery or liquor store and see if you can return any unopened bottles or cases. We were able to do this so purposely bought a little more of everything than we thought we needed and returned anything unused the next day!

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  • Shannon
    Savvy February 2020
    Shannon ·
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    View Quoted Comment

    Yeah I get what you mean. But tbh I dont think anyone will be too picky about the different brands. In my head I envision someone ordering a vodka tonic for example, and the bartender using whatever vodka is still on hand. Plus, from using the Flipp app, I've noticed that certain brands tend to go on sale more often than others (like titos, smirnoff, Jim bean and Crown royal etc.) I have only seen the expensive stuff go on sale a few times. So, If guests come expecting belvedere or ace of spades or something they should understand that it's a wedding, not an expensive wine bar or call bar lol. I'm hoping that theyre just happy we're serving something. But thanks for the input. I'll keep that in mind, especially for the wine options.

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  • Zoe O.
    Devoted November 2019
    Zoe O. ·
    • Flag

    I don't think it's an unrealistic figure. My caterer is doing dinner and open bar for 60 at $1,500.

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  • Tonia
    Expert October 2019
    Tonia ·
    • Flag

    I think your calculations are pretty good. We are doing an open bar for approx 100 including beer, wine, and liquor and I'm estimating about $600-$700. As long as you know your crowd (Light, Medium, Heavy drinkers), you should be fine.

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  • L
    Dedicated March 2020
    Laura ·
    • Flag
    I calculated ~$950 for my alcohol costs but that was for 90. I’m making sure we have roughly 4 drinks per person. I know some people will have like 6 throughout the day. But I know others will have 1 max. My parents also said we should have a mix of “good wine and beer” with the cheap stuff. So after all the good stuff is gone early people won’t mind as much to drink the cheaper stuff later. We are big beer people and my parents are very into wine. But I think you did a good job budgeting out. I always just say to be safe provide 1 drink per hour per guest that could be drinking. Peoples “normal” drinking behavior may be different when they are at a wedding (ie more than normal).
    • Reply
  • Michelle
    Dedicated April 2021
    Michelle ·
    • Flag

    Jealous that your venue allows you to bring in your own bottles. Ours does not and their selection on "hard liquor" is quite limited. I want my guests to have a great experience and I think the bar is going to be ho-hum especially since a lot of our friends brew their own beers. I think you are on target and looks like you've done your research.

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  • Rachel
    Devoted October 2019
    Rachel ·
    • Flag

    I think that's a pretty fair budget to allow for. Plus, it somewhat allows you to limit the amount of intake that your guests will have at the wedding.

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