Budgeting for an Open Bar

Open Bar

Weddings are a time for fun and celebration…with a few cocktails in hand of course.  If you choose to have an open bar at your reception, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your budget. 


The first step is to consider your numbers. Rest assured that some guests will opt for non-alcoholic choices, and some will only have one glass with dinner.  The tricky part is approximating for the crowd that likes to throw back a few and liven up the party.  A safe formula is to assume 3 drinks per guest and recognize that some will have more than others. 


Knowing your crowd will make it easier when considering how to stock your bar.  For example, if you have many guests who prefer beer, splurge on an extra keg and ease off the liquor. Reception halls that frequently serve alcohol should already be stocked with a variety of choices, which will alleviate this added pressure for you.  But, if you are responsible for preparing your bar, begin with an equal amount of choices and make substitutions where you see fit.   

Closing Time

Just because you have an open bar, does not mean it has to stay open all night.  Some brides will decide to leave an open bar until a certain time.  If the amount of alcohol consumed starts to get out of control, you can modestly close the bar at your choosing.  Some venues will allow you to set a certain dollar amount and quit serving when the tab reaches this number. You can even re-open the bar with drinks for purchase if your guests want to keep things going. Remember, leaving a bar open for any amount of time is very generous and you should not feel guilty if you need to close it down. It is recommended that you assign a trusted companion to make this decision on your behalf, so you can focus on celebrating instead.

Extra Fees

Don’t be surprised when you receive your final bill and there are bartender and restocking fees included.  You may be charged and additional service fee per hour, or just one combined fee for the evening.  Discuss these details in advance and include the numbers in your budget before you are shocked by any charges you didn’t anticipate.

Although an open bar is the most expensive option, it is certainly a crowd pleaser!