The O-fficial MrsJoseph!
Master September 2010

The Open Bar Question: How much does it REALLY cost?

The O-fficial MrsJoseph!, on June 22, 2010 at 11:06 PM Posted in Planning 1 139
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I'm sitting here, trying to calculate my reception cost. My venue only allows for a consumption bar and I naively budgeted under $1000 for this. I was doing some research today and came across this:

Plan for two to three drinks per person for the first hour of the reception and one drink per person for every additional hour of the reception.

I'm getting (using 150 ppl) at total of 840 drinks of wine, beer, or liquor!

Using $4/glass wine (or $16/bottle) = $3360 ($2688). Liquor at $5/drink = $4200! And I'm sure that they'll want soda @ $1 each which equals another $840

I don't know what to say or do. Is this typical prices for bar bills?? Or someone tell me where my math went wrong.


20 Things You MUST Know If You're Having An Open Bar


  • Brooklynne
    VIP July 2010
    Brooklynne ·

    I would safely say around $3,000 is a typical bill i see here in Central Ohio for a bar like you have described when I have worked various catering events. It really depends on the crowd you will have.

  • The O-fficial MrsJoseph!
    Master September 2010
    The O-fficial MrsJoseph! ·


  • Kiera
    VIP May 2011
    Kiera ·

    I have an open bar for 19 a head. Thats soda, bottle water, champagne, wine, beer and call liquor.

  • Kiera
    VIP May 2011
    Kiera ·

    Remeber that your venue or caterer should have a per person price. Its lower that what you would figure if you were going out in your area per drink. But 4 dollars for a glass of wine is low already. That sound about right. I

  • \m/ ^ ^ \m/
    Super September 2010
    \m/ ^ ^ \m/ ·

    Eck, this mades me thankful that we aren't paying for open bar, we'd go bankrupt. :-X

    I would say maybe limit it to one type of drink & soda?!? I dunno. We have a bar that's everything you can get if you walk into a night club @ the expense of our guests. & the venue is tacking on a quarter per drink so they make some money off of it. I estimate that they'll probably sell approximately 100 bottles of per at $2 a pop = $200, giving them $25 profit since on a normal basis it's $1.75, and mixed drinks will be $4.50 instead of $4.25 & I don't imagine those will sell as much but maybe 50 at most so $225. Just those figures scare me of having to pay the bar bill. Dad said that we prob won't have to worry about our alcohol because members there usually buy the bride & groom rounds. I have invited a few members, so who knows. :-x

  • Brooklynne
    VIP July 2010
    Brooklynne ·

    Sorry!! Where I work it is $50 per hour for a bartender and then we have packages for how long you want the bar.... The 6 hour package I believe is $34.99 per person, under 21 $4.99. And yes, someone is in charge of doing a head count at dinner to verify numbers.

  • emeraldstar
    Dedicated July 2010
    emeraldstar ·

    I mean, with this expense, you might want to skip the open bar all together. maybe make a select liquor or a signature drink.

  • Officially His Mrs P.
    Master October 2010
    Officially His Mrs P. ·

    Girrrrrllllll, my caterer said it'll be $20 pp x 190 = $3800, not including the 20% service charge & 6% sales tax!!!! I'm like WTF??? Yall already charging me those feess on the food!!!

    Needless to say, i aint goin that route....we're goin to Costco in DE (no sales tax) & hopefully $2k should be enough......otherwise they gon be suckin on ice, LMAO!

  • U
    Dedicated August 2010
    Uneiq1 ·

    LOL @ Mrs P. I know that's right. You must not be too far from the line to be going to DE. We have set a $500 limit on the open bar, which covers a drink per person. After that they are on their own. The venue is supplying coffee, water and soda all night.

  • lattabody
    Super June 2013
    lattabody ·

    I think what you found may be about right. My venue also does consumption and the calculation that I was told to use was

    $6.00 per drink per person X 150 guests X 2.5 drinks per person.

  • Not-A-Bridezilla
    Master May 2010
    Not-A-Bridezilla ·

    Yup.. open bar is definitely cheaper... plus you KNOW there are going to be people who drink more than that

  • Nicci
    Master July 2010
    Nicci ·

    Holy lordy! I'm sorry my dear!

  • lattabody
    Super June 2013
    lattabody ·

    @ NAB that is true. I also there will be individuals who will not drink at all. I think having a bit of a cushion will be wise as well....just in case.

  • Jaemi C. fka Jaemi S. :-)
    Master October 2010
    Jaemi C. fka Jaemi S. :-) ·

    My cousin had a Friday night wedding cocktail hour starting at 7:30pm with a open bar with up to a limit of 3k; once it reached that limit it went to a cash bar. The fellas there are big drinkers and were drinking cocktails; not wine and beer and the open bar went until about 10:30 with last call being at 11:45. So if you are thinking people drink less at a lunch wedding, which I have also heard $1000 might be a little under what people might drink, but $4200 might be high.

  • Soon-2-B-MrsBurke
    Super May 2011
    Soon-2-B-MrsBurke ·

    I live in Toronto On and I've seen some high cost for open bars but at some venues not all but a selected few they allow you to bring in your own you just have to pay for the bartender. At my cousins wedding they sent $1500 on booze and had some left over so they returned it the next day. I am also going to the route except I'm having my wedding at a family members home.

  • Chardeen
    Devoted July 2010
    Chardeen ·

    I am also in Canada, Having my wedding in Mississauga.

    I am paying about 20$pp for an open bar but that doesn't include any liquors.

    I have Rum,Gin, Rye, Scotch,Brandy, Wine, beer, soda, juices and anythign that u can mix juice and alcool is included in that.

    For the liquors we would have to pay and additional 2$pp. But we are allowed to get a alcool permit and buy our own liquors and champagne. Coordinator at the hall said it will cost us much less like that, cause with the license you can bring back any unopened bottle of alcool left to get ur money back.

    I did open bar, cause I know I have some drinkers in my family and friends. So I would say based your decision on that.

  • ladylee
    Master June 2010
    ladylee ·

    I would say ask your venue if you could do drink tickets. Allow each guest 2 drinks (or however many you're comfortable paying for) and after that they're on their own.

  • The O-fficial MrsJoseph!
    Master September 2010
    The O-fficial MrsJoseph! ·

    See, this is really hard because my venue does not have a coordinator for weddings - they just tell you the cost. They will let me cut the bar off at a certain dollar amount, but I wanted to allow people to enjoy themselves. I can't bring anything to eat or drink except the cake, so no buying my own liquor. There will be people who won't drink or only drink a little. But then there is everyone else...

    I hate calling my venue because the lady who runs it has a really thick accent and a attitude problem. She's always rushing me off the phone and I can barely understand her sometimes - but the place is beautiful.

  • T
    Super August 2010
    T ·

    Well my venue is charging $4 per person for unlimited pop, juices, and beer. We elected to buy our own alcohol. We went by the list of items we should have so many volkas, gin, dark liquor, and wine (I really dont know the alcohols bc I dont drink but FH knows). Needless to say we spent $600 on our own (sorority sister got great service discount with no tax and $1000 ($4 x 250 guests) for a total of $1600

  • Starsteph84
    Super November 2010
    Starsteph84 ·

    Open Bar is $17 with my caterers so I am definitely buying my own liquor. It sucks that you can't buy your own. I would suggest doing drink tickets or something. That way those who don't use them can give them to the lushes! LOL

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