Did you know that nearly 75% of couples get an open bar for their weddings, you may think, ‘Hell yes! Open bar! Why wouldn’t we?’ but then, comes the dreaded thought ‘Oh no, how much is that going to cost?’
Weddings are expensive enough as it is, add an open bar to that equation and your big day can become even more of a big check. So, before you leap into bidding for an open bar, lets do the math, so you at least know what you are getting yourself into.
Typically, a price for an open bar at your wedding will be around $20 per person, which is not too bad, until you realize that the average number of guests at a wedding is around 126.
Which makes that $20, turn into $2,520 before taxes and other feed. But the total bill, around this rate, with taxes and fees included is around $3,276. Ouch!
While everyone loves an open bar at a wedding, or in fact any open bar, it is one steep price to be paying.
You might still want an open bar, but that price tag is putting you off the idea, and we don’t blame you for that. You can be sneaky though, there are plenty of ways to do it so that it is not as expensive as this, you just need to be crafty, do some planning and asking around.
You can do it in plenty of different ways. Furthermore, you can DIY your open bar, you can cut costs on some booze, sneak your way around those additional fees that would otherwise catch you out.
We will take some time with you today, to talk to you about all these open bar wedding hacks so that you can make sure your big day, is your special day, without more financial worries than you probably already have.
Cash Bar VS Open Bar
Let's weigh up your options here, if you can't afford an open bar at all you can always just go for a cash bar.
Most people wouldn’t go this way, we all know how much everyone loves an open bar, but if you’re already digging deep and the thought of the cost of an open bar is giving you nightmares that make you want to crawl up the walls, you do what you have to.
In some places cash bars are more common than open bars at weddings, so don’t worry about it, plenty of places use cash bars.
In fact, in Canada cash bars are more common, in the US open bars are, while in the UK less than a third have open bars, in Canada and the UK it is mainly down to the alcohol costs. However, just know if you do choose a cash bar, you aren’t alone in that decision.
Limited Bar VS Full-Bar
If you want an open bar, you do have two choices though, you can go full bar, or limited bar.
If you choose a limited bar, you can save money by only serving beer or wine, and avoiding the hard liquors. Limited bars can still go down really well at a wedding and can be well worth it, in comparison to a fully-cash bar.
You could have a limited bar, offering limited bar choices and a house wine, with juice and soda at an average price of $15- $20 per individual.
You could get a full bar with limited beer choices and a house wine with sodas and juice which would average at a price of $20-$35 per individual.
Or, you could go full bar, including premium branded liquor with domestic and imported beer choices, as well as a house wine, which would average at a price of $35- $40 per individual.
Prices will always vary too, depending on your venue, location, state and city. For example, alcohol will always be more expensive in New York City than it will be in a cozy rural location in Minnesota.
Venue Dependent Factors
You can look at averages until the cows come home, but any open bar will differ depending on where it is.
So, you really need to have a look at how this is all done at your specific venue, or prospective venues before you make any hard decisions. If you do not, you may end up going way over budget, just to end up getting the open bar that you wanted.
There are a few ways that a venue could go about charging you. There is consumption, flat rate, or a cap rate. For consumption, it basically means you are charged for exactly how much your guests drink.
A flat rate is where they just give you a solid price to pay regardless of how much your guests drink. You can also get a capped rate, so you will be given a rate of say $2,000 and that is your cap, after you exceed that cost, the guests have to start paying themselves.
Many people enjoy going with a flat rate. This can go good or bad. If you have a load of guests who would drink a lot, you can get a decent cap and end up paying less than you would have to at a consumption rate.
However, if you have guests that do not drink that much then it could end up going the other way, and you’d end up having to pay more than you would at the consumption rate.
In order to calculate a consumption rate, check with the venue, as for a calculation of say 2.5 drinks per person at $6 a drink, for example. Then calculate the guest number at this rate, if you were to have 126 guests, then this rate before taxes and fees would be just below $1,900.
If you wanted to calculate a flat rate, be aware it will vary depending on the venue. You should check with the venue to figure what they charge for each tier of alcohol for a limited and an open bar.
Some venues will charge a singular flat rate per person for the entire night, i.e. $25 per person, regardless. In that instance all guests will be included in this whether they are drinkers or not, pregnant or not, and so on.
Some venues may charge a flat rate per person for an hour. So in these venues you could expect to pay perhaps $4 per hour, per person for the duration of your event.
On the other hand another venue may decide to charge you $24 per person until a particular time and then only $5 for each additional hour after that time.
There are many options and every venue is different. You can get expensive venues that will charge around $35 per person for the first hour and then $15 per person for each additional hour.
Which would equate to $95 just for one person for an entire wedding reception, if you had 126 quests, this would mean a cost of $11,970 just for alcohol. The thought of that alone is enough to make anyone tear up.
Surprise Costs You Didn’t Expect
When you are planning your wedding, you try to add up all the numbers and carefully calculate and budget everything you can think of.
Sadly though, it can be really easy to forget something. One of those things, is when it comes to an open bar. It is not unheard of to completely forget about the taxes on top, and the tips and service charge for the bartenders.
If you forget to add in these costs you may be hit with a surprise extra couple of hundred dollars on the bill that makes you scream.
Remember that taxes can be anywhere from 15%- 20% depending on where you live, and tips will also be in this ballpark too. So to consider the math of it all, if you have $20 per person, and 126 guests, then you would need to anticipate another $756 to your overall costs, this would cover 15% taxes and gratuity. This would result in a total of $3,276. If the taxes and gratuity were at 20% then the grand total would be $4,536.
Also take into account that some venues and caterers may add would also include set-up costs which can be anywhere from $20 to $300, a corking fee for wines, which can be up to $15.
And an hourly bartender fee, which can range $20 to $35. This can differ depending on how many bartenders you need, you should on average have 1 bartender per 50 guests.
Always ask about these additional fees, and if there may be any others. Make sure you have everything in writing and everything planned out so that you know exactly how much you are paying for what before you agree to anything.
In some cases, your venue may allow you to bring your own alcohol, if this is the case, you need to make sure you have enough for every guest all night.
Try to buy from a seller that will let you return whatever is not drunk, and you can really cut down the costs this way.
If you have an open bar for 100 guests then we would recommend.
- 70 bottles of wine.
- 175 bottles of beer.
- 15 bottles of 750ml liquor.
- 20 bottles of champagne for a toast.
If you have an open bar for 150 guests then we would recommend.
- 105 bottles of wine.
- 266 bottles of beer.
- 22 bottles of 750 ml liquor.
- 30 bottles of champagne for a toast.
The other option is to ask every single person what they like and how much they usually drink and get that, but who has the time for that when they’re planning a wedding!
When you go for an open bar, whatever fees you go buy for this, the venue should provide you with a certain collection of items.
Ensure that these items are included in the fees for your open bar before you agree.
- Glasses and cups (no one wants to see Aunt Meryl chugging down her bottle of rosé because no one gave her a glass.)
- Bottle Openers
- Ice Buckets
- Ice Tongs/ Scoop
Finally, before you go and book in your bar for your wedding reception, we have some handy tips for you that will help you drop the costs if the prices make your bank account shriek.
There is always a way to save money, even when it comes to your wedding.
Top Tip No.1
You can ask if you can bring your own booze. Some venues will allow you to bring your own alcohol.
If this is the case though you may need to get an alcohol permit, and make sure to ask the venue about this. You can get cheaper alcohols, or go to a wholesaler, or even opt for a keg!
Top Tip No.2
If you can bring your own alcohol, you can buy bottom shelf wine and replace labels with custom wedding labels, this way no one thinks you're cheap, and it’ll look cute too!
Top Tip No.3
Have a limited bar with drink tickets. This way people who don’t drink can give their tickets to those who do.