How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (2022)

In an open bar, the wedding hosts will shoulder all the costs. Open bars started as a trend and are now a necessity in most wedding receptions. Having one at your wedding reception is ideal if you wish to give your guests a more memorable experience.

An open bar costs anywhere from $1,650 to $3,450 ($11 to $23 per head) for 4 hours, assuming you have a total of 150 guests and offer limited drinks. If you wish to provide an assortment of alcoholic beverages (beer, whiskey, gin, tequila, brandy, rum, vodka, etc.), the average starting rate per individual would be between $15 and $90 ($2,250 to $13,500).

There are many pros and cons when opting for an open bar. What the wedding hosts and wedding organizers need to take most into account is the overall budget. The cost of an open bar depends on several factors, such as the selection of alcoholic drinks to be served, the number of guests, and the type of open bar.

Average Cost of an Open Bar at a Wedding

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (1)

Alcoholic beverages are a staple in wedding receptions across many cultures. Consequently, many couples choose open bars despite the relatively high cost to indulge their guests.

As mentioned earlier, several factors contribute to the overall cost of an open bar. Depending on the selection of drinks, the price can be classified into three: low-range, mid-range, and high-cost.

Low-Range Open Bars

The average cost for an open bar is $11 to $23 per head, and that’s only for traditional wedding receptions that last four hours. It’s significant to note that the drink of choice is limited for this category (e.g., wine and beer only). If you have 150 guests, the estimated cost would be around $1,650 to $3,450.

Mid-Range Open Bars

In a mid-range open bar, a better selection of alcoholic beverages (e.g., tequila, whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka, gin, etc.) is provided. The projected cost is between $15 and $90 for each person.

For a total of 150 guests, the cost amounts anywhere from $2,250 to $13,500. You can also provide non-alcoholic beverages if you opt for this type of open bar.

High-Cost Open Bars

If you wish to offer premium liquor like Macallan, Johnnie Walker, and Hennessy to your invitees, an open bar would roughly cost $18 to $95 per individual. Accordingly, the anticipated cost for a total of 150 guests is between $2,700 and $22,500.

(Video) How Much Does An Open Bar Cost At A Wedding?

7 Tight-Budget Tips to Get the Open Bar of Your Choice

1. Decide Who Will Provide the Alcohol

You can choose to buy alcohol in bulk to reduce the overall cost of the open bar. Buying the alcohol (preferably in warehouses where you can get a discount) yourself will enable you to save more money.

After all, bar catering companies typically bill by consumption (an average of $20 to $30 per guest). It’s even better if you can buy alcoholic drinks from a store that has a refund policy for unopened products.

2. Decide on the Selection of Alcohol

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (2)

You need to know the average serving size per bottle to estimate how many of each beverage you need to cater to all the guests. A bottle of wine can fill five glasses, while a bottle of champagne can fill eight. A bottle of liquor can fill 18 glasses, and a bottle of beer is good for one person.

Now that you have an idea of the serving size per bottle, you can rely on the list before for a fair estimate of the number of bottles you need for your wedding reception.

Drink of ChoiceNo. of Bottles for 100 GuestsNo. of Bottles for 150 Guests
Wine70105
Beer175266
Liquor1522
Champagne2030

3. Choose Between Flat-Rate Pricing or Billing by Consumption

For open bars, you can choose a package with flat-rate pricing or opt for pricing by consumption. In the former, there’s a fixed rate for each adult guest for a set time (can be per hour or the whole duration of the wedding reception).

Flat-rate pricing is a better option if you already have a final guest list ready at hand and you’re unfamiliar with their drinking habits. Bar caterers usually quote a price per guest.

On the other hand, in billing by consumption, you get charged based on the number of drinks each guest consumes. This alternative is best if you’re aware that the invitees aren’t particularly heavy drinkers.

4. Determine What Type of Open Bar You Want

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (3)

Beer and Wine Open Bar

There are many types of open bars. One of them is the Beer and Wine Open Bar, which is perfect for daytime weddings. You can also opt to offer unlimited beer and wine because they’re relatively less expensive than liquor.

(Video) BUDGET BRIDES: You ONLY NEED These 5 Things for Your Wedding

Signature Cocktail Open Bar

If you and your partner have a signature drink you both love, you can opt to offer only that drink at the open bar. This option enables you to create a unique theme for your wedding reception. It might also be more budget-friendly because you can estimate the cost right away.

Limited Open Bar

An open bar at a wedding reception that lasts more than the average of four hours can hurt your wallet. A limited open bar is an ideal choice if you’re anticipating that your wedding reception would extend for a longer time.

In a limited open bar, the guests will be served alcoholic beverages for only a fixed period (e.g., first two or three hours of the reception or during the last segment).

5. Consider the Venue

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (4)

The cost of an open bar can vary greatly depending on the venue of your wedding reception. It might double in some cities. If you host your wedding reception in a resort, the cost might even triple.

6. Compare Rates from Different Bar Caterers

The best way to have an open bar on a budget is to compare rates from different bar caterers. The factors that affect the overall cost are the selection of alcoholic beverages, the number of guests, duration of the wedding reception, location of the venue, and the bartender fee.

If you ask a bar catering company to host the open bar, the bartender fee will most likely be included in the package. You must ensure that the bartender has liability insurance. Note that you can hire a bartender if the bar catering company or the venue doesn’t provide one.

7. Coordinate with the Bartender

One trick to make an open bar at a wedding reception more budget-friendly is to ask the bartender to fill only half a glass. The bartender should also know when to stop serving more drinks to guests who are drinking excessively.

Some Open Bar Alternatives

Wine Bottle Per Table

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (5)

You can always opt for other alternatives if an open bar is out of your budget. Instead of an open bar, you can provide a good bottle of wine for each table of 5 or 6. This option will save you a considerable amount of money.

(Video) Wedding Reception! Open Bar Vs Cash Bar Vs Self Stocking | Advice from Vendors

One bottle of wine can fill up to five glasses. Two to three bottles per table with 5 to 6 guests is considered ideal. Below is a list of some fine but inexpensive wines.

Wine Brand Price

McBride Sisters Red Blend $20.99

A to Z Chardonnay $15.99

J Vineyards California Pinot Gris 2019 $15.99

Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco Rosé $11.99

Borsao Tinto Garnacha $8.99

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2018 $7.99

Beringer Founders’ Estate Pinot Noir $6.9

Cash Bar

In a cash bar, your guests can choose from a variety of alcoholic drinks (from cheap to premium), but they must pay for whatever they consume. A cash bar is the best option if you’re on a tight budget. You can consider this type of bar if most of your guests don’t drink alcohol.

(Video) Wedding bar tips if your on a budget

However, it’s significant to note that this is the less hospitable alternative. The guests have spent their time and money to attend the wedding and give you a gift. They might have a less enjoyable time and might perceive the wedding hosts unfavorably if they also need to pay for their drinks.

Self-Service Bar

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (6)

If you have time in your hands for more planning, another cost-effective alternative to an open bar is a self-service bar. In a self-service bar, the party hosts stock their drink of choice and let the guests serve themselves. This is the best option for small and intimate weddings.

Self-service bars became a trend in DIY weddings, and just like anything DIY, self-service bars entail more effort and planning. You must think of where to set up the bar, who will make sure the bar doesn’t run out of drinks, ice, glassware, etc., and what drinks you’ll serve. For the beverages, you can stock up on canned or bottled wines, beers, and cocktails.

Dry Wedding

A dry wedding is the best alternative if alcohol isn’t a significant part of your culture or tradition. Hosting one will significantly reduce the overall cost of your wedding. However, you must ensure to give your guests a heads-up and not forget to mention in your invitation that you’ll be hosting a dry wedding.

Even without alcohol, you can still keep the crowd satisfied by serving fun or delicious drinks, such as fresh fruit shakes, mocktails, or even bubble tea. Aside from the beverages of choice, you must also pay attention to the food selection. You can also plan other activities to ensure that you and all the guests have a fun and memorable celebration.

Other Costs You Need to Consider

How Much Is an Open Bar at a Wedding: 7 Tight-Budget Tips (7)

Liability Insurance

Regardless of the type of bar you choose, it’s advisable to confirm that you’re covered with liability insurance. Most venues and bar caterers are covered with liability insurance, and this extends to you. Remember to consult with the staff of the venue or the bar catering service regarding this matter.

Corkage Fee

If you opt for a self-service bar or any DIY bar, you’ll be asked to pay a corkage fee per drink or per guest served. The charge depends on the rates as stated by the venue staff. It’s best to read the contract thoroughly before agreeing to their conditions.

Physical Bar

Some venues don’t have a physical bar. You can either rent one from a bar catering service or be resourceful and make one yourself.

(Video) Wedding Cost-Cutting Tips from the Budget Savvy Bride | The Dollar Stretcher

Tip for Bartenders

You only need to tip the bartenders if there’s no gratuity or service fee included in the bar package or contract. A tip of 15-20% of the final cost is ideal in such instances. Otherwise, tipping is optional.

Final Thoughts

Full open bars are significantly more expensive than the other types of bars, such as self-service bars or cash bars. Although many couples choose to have an open bar at their wedding reception, yours doesn’t necessarily need one. Still, if you wish to save money and please your wedding guests at the same time, you can consider an in-between option and host a modified open bar.

FAQs

How do you budget for an open bar at a wedding? ›

Alcohol Budget

By using the above rule of thumb of two drinks during the first hour and one drink thereafter per guest, you can assume that the average drink costs you $5. Multiply the cost by the number of guests by the number of hours for your open bar to get the total cost.

How much do you tip bartenders at a wedding open bar? ›

Most event planners agree that $100 per bartender at the wedding is an appropriate tip amount, so remember to have some cash on hand (and factor the cost into your budget). At the end of the day, all open bar etiquette can be summarized in one rule: be polite.

How much should you budget for drinks at a wedding? ›

According to our study, couples who hosted weddings of 50 or fewer people on their guest list spent an average of $1,300 on alcohol, while those with more than 100 guests spent over $3,000 on booze. Of course if your guests tend to be heavy drinkers, you'll spend more than if you've invited a bunch of teetotalers.

Is open bar at a wedding worth it? ›

It's better than cash bars, because no guest wants to pay for drinks, but it also lowers the price per person for an open bar. The opposite of a limited bar is a full bar, which means that guests can order any drink they like at the wedding reception.

How are open bar prices calculated? ›

Open bars are priced either by the hours, the bottle, the drink, or the person. If you're running the event bar, you have to decide which pricing scheme works the best for yourself and the host. By the drink is the most simple option.

Do you tip at an open bar? ›

It is the hosts' job. If you are the host, then you should add a gratuity of about 20% to the total bar bill at the end of the wedding. You should not allow the bartender to put out a tip jar.

How much should I tip at an open bar? ›

He says that bartenders at those less-formal events are likely receiving shift pay for their services, so the tip jar is a way for customers who want to show their appreciation by leaving a gratuity. A dollar per drink is a good rule of thumb for those who choose to tip, Hulayev explains.

How do I get the most out of my open bar? ›

How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck From An Open Bar
  1. Start with Water. Before you start your drinking marathon, make sure you hydrate. ...
  2. Eat. ...
  3. Investigate the Backbar. ...
  4. Double Fist. ...
  5. Keep Your Order Simple. ...
  6. Always Tip (Even if They Say Not To) ...
  7. Drink a Beer Between Cocktails. ...
  8. Save the Straight Spirits for Last.
Feb 7, 2017

Is it rude to not tip wedding vendors? ›

2) It's not required or expected.

It should always be your choice, especially because you have already paid the professional for his or her services. But, offering a gift or tip is always appreciated, especially when your team members have served you incredibly well.

How much does a 100 person wedding cost? ›

Most receptions for 100 people cost between $5,000 - $10,000, with $7,000 being the average cost. Here's a general estimate of what you can expect to pay for food, service/staffing, alcohol, and rentals for a wedding of this size.

How much is alcohol for a 150 person wedding? ›

150 GUESTS:

105 bottles of wine. 266 bottles of beer. 22 bottles of liquor (750 ml) 30 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

How long should you have an open bar at a wedding? ›

You bar should close between 15 and 30 minutes before the end of your reception. Everyone will have plenty of time to finish their last drink and hit the dancefloor for one final song. If you're planning to have a reception continue well into the night, your bar should continue serving.

How much beer do I need for 100 guests? ›

100 (guests) x 5 (hours) = 500 drinks. 500 x 0.33 = 170 beers or 7 cases of beer or one ½ barrel sized keg.

Is it cheaper to buy your own alcohol for a wedding? ›

Setting up a DIY Wedding Bar can save you massively– many event spaces mark up alcohol by 40%! When buying your own wedding alcohol, you'll likely spend less than going through your caterer who charges restaurant markup prices.

Does Open bar mean free? ›

An open bar allows attendees at an event to drink without having to pay. Guests are able to choose any available drink at any time. The person hosting an event often includes this service because of convenience and for the enjoyment of the guests, paying a fee in advance that covers the cost of all the drinks.

What is a limited open bar? ›

A limited bar would have a few alcoholic choices, such as a couple of brands of favorite beer and wine, or an alcoholic punch. Limited bars typically steer clear of hard liquor and stick to lighter alcoholic beverages.

How do you estimate drinks for a wedding? ›

It turns out, there is a magic formula when it comes to calculating the amount of drinks you'll need for your wedding, sort of: Plan for at least one drink per person per hour. (So for a six-hour wedding with 100 guests, you'll need roughly 600 drinks.)

Who typically pays for a wedding? ›

You might be aware that the bride's family is expected to cover the majority of the wedding day costs, while the groom's family pays for a variety of extra activities, like the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon.

Do you tip bartender after every drink? ›

Similarly, bartenders should be tipped $1-$2 per drink or 15%-20% of your total tab. While there's no obligation to leave money in a tip jar, the Emily Post Institute recommends tipping occasionally if your server or barista provides something extra or if you're a regular customer.

Who are you supposed to tip at weddings? ›

You can also opt for cash tips as follows: Catering/Banquet Manager and Head Waiter: $100–$300 each. Head Chef: $50–$100. Wait Staff and Kitchen Staff: $20 each.

Is a dollar a drink a good tip? ›

The $1 for 1 drink rule is totally acceptable—except when you're ordering cocktails. The consensus among most of the bartenders I spoke with is that you should tip $1 per beer, but $2 per cocktail. "A lot of people will go to a bar, and they'll order a round for their friends," a New Orleans bartender said.

How much do you tip a bartender for free drink? ›

Tipping on free drinks

The minimum should be tipping as though you paid for the drink. Better yet, add to your tip what half the drink would have cost—if a bartender gives you a free drink that would've been a $10, tip them an extra $5.

Why do you not tip on alcohol? ›

DON'T: Skip Tipping on Alcohol

There are people who believe you don't need to tip at all on alcohol or that you can tip a smaller percentage. Those people are wrong. Certainly, you could rationalize tipping a smaller percentage on a $2800 bill if your food was $800 and a bottle of wine made up the other $2000.

How much should you tip on alcohol? ›

Assuming you're happy with your service and cocktails, the goal of your tip should be to reach 20% post-tax. With smaller tabs and cheaper drinks, however, you can easily tip $2 per drink.

How do you prepare for an open bar at a wedding? ›

The Etiquette of the Open Bar
  1. Don't complain about lack of choices. Okay, so they don't have your brand of top-shelf vodka. ...
  2. Don't get too crazy with all the free drinks. No one wants to be that wedding guest. ...
  3. Get in line. You see all of those people standing at the bar? ...
  4. Be polite. ...
  5. Tip your bartender.
May 24, 2017

How do you plan an open bar at a wedding? ›

A general rule of thumb is to plan for one serving per guest per hour. Based on a wedding of about 100 guests that runs five hours, you'll need 500 servings of alcohol for an open bar. Your budget will determine what those servings are made up of.

Do you tip the DJ at a wedding? ›

Tips are optional for ceremony or cocktail hour musicians, as well as bands and DJs, but they are suggested, says Norwood. "Anywhere from 15% to 20% on the final contract is a good amount for a single DJ," she says.

Do you tip the photographer at a wedding? ›

If you're happy with the photographer's work, etiquette experts say a 15-20% gratuity is generally appropriate. Regardless of the amount you decide to tip, it is always appreciated and above your responsibilities as a wedding client to tip your wedding photographer.

Do you feed the bartender at a wedding? ›

The Bartender and Wait Staff

Unless it's in the contract, it's not required to feed these people as they work your wedding.

Is it cheaper to buy your own alcohol for a wedding? ›

Setting up a DIY Wedding Bar can save you massively– many event spaces mark up alcohol by 40%! When buying your own wedding alcohol, you'll likely spend less than going through your caterer who charges restaurant markup prices.

How long should you have an open bar at a wedding? ›

You bar should close between 15 and 30 minutes before the end of your reception. Everyone will have plenty of time to finish their last drink and hit the dancefloor for one final song. If you're planning to have a reception continue well into the night, your bar should continue serving.

How do you prepare for an open bar at a wedding? ›

The Etiquette of the Open Bar
  1. Don't complain about lack of choices. Okay, so they don't have your brand of top-shelf vodka. ...
  2. Don't get too crazy with all the free drinks. No one wants to be that wedding guest. ...
  3. Get in line. You see all of those people standing at the bar? ...
  4. Be polite. ...
  5. Tip your bartender.
May 24, 2017

How much does it cost to stock a bar for a wedding? ›

Your costs can vary quite a bit based on the venue and alcohol package you choose. For a full open bar with premium liquors, The Knot puts the average cost at $4,147, while an open bar limited to cheaper spirits averages $2,550.

How do I get a free alcohol wedding? ›

How to Host A Kick-Ass Sober Wedding or Other Celebration
  1. Plan Events and Games. ...
  2. Plan Your Event Early in the Day. ...
  3. Offer Interesting Non-Alcoholic Drinks. ...
  4. Go All Out With Food and Entertainment. ...
  5. Understand What You're In For. ...
  6. Let People Bring Their Own Alcohol (Make it BYO)
Feb 9, 2017

Who typically pays for alcohol at wedding reception? ›

The bride and her family pay for all professional services, including food and decorations. The groom's family pays for the DJ or band and liquor.

How much beer do I need for 100 guests? ›

100 (guests) x 5 (hours) = 500 drinks. 500 x 0.33 = 170 beers or 7 cases of beer or one ½ barrel sized keg.

How much does a 100 person wedding cost? ›

Most receptions for 100 people cost between $5,000 - $10,000, with $7,000 being the average cost. Here's a general estimate of what you can expect to pay for food, service/staffing, alcohol, and rentals for a wedding of this size.

Does Open bar mean free? ›

An open bar allows attendees at an event to drink without having to pay. Guests are able to choose any available drink at any time. The person hosting an event often includes this service because of convenience and for the enjoyment of the guests, paying a fee in advance that covers the cost of all the drinks.

What is a limited open bar? ›

A limited bar would have a few alcoholic choices, such as a couple of brands of favorite beer and wine, or an alcoholic punch. Limited bars typically steer clear of hard liquor and stick to lighter alcoholic beverages.

How much should you tip an open bar? ›

“If you're at a busy bar and the bartenders are composed and relatively quick, don't hesitate to tip at least 15%.” Just don't wave cash in the air and you'll be fine. If you've ever thought, “Hey, I'm not paying for drinks, so I don't have to tip,” you are….. very wrong.

How do I get the most out of my open bar? ›

How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck From An Open Bar
  1. Start with Water. Before you start your drinking marathon, make sure you hydrate. ...
  2. Eat. ...
  3. Investigate the Backbar. ...
  4. Double Fist. ...
  5. Keep Your Order Simple. ...
  6. Always Tip (Even if They Say Not To) ...
  7. Drink a Beer Between Cocktails. ...
  8. Save the Straight Spirits for Last.
Feb 7, 2017

Do you tip your wedding bartender? ›

Bartenders. Bartending services are often included as part of your caterer's package, and gratuity is frequently included in the bill. If it isn't, or if you hired your bartender separately, tip 10–15 percent of the pre-tax bar bill, to be split between the evening's bartenders.

How do I stock a bar for 150 people? ›

150 GUESTS:

266 bottles of beer. 22 bottles of liquor (750 ml) 30 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

How many bartenders do you need for 150 guests? ›

Plan on having one bartender for every 35 guests if you want the bar to run smoothly. So a 150-person wedding will need four or five bartenders.

Videos

1. Cut your Wedding Budget in Half | Frugal Wedding Tips | Wedding Planning 101
(Rhiana Jones - A Frugal Life)
2. OPEN BAR WEDDINGS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
(Perfect Wedding Tips)
3. How to shop for a bar on a BUDGET
(Anders Erickson)
4. how to plan a low-budget wedding + how much our wedding cost
(marah czyk)
5. Cheap Mixed Drinks You Should Always Order At A Bar
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6. PARTY HACKS! HOW TO FEED A CROWD ON A BUDGET | Emily Norris
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