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Open Bar Cost

How Much Does an Open Bar Cost?

low costLow: Beer & Wine $11-$33 per personaverage costMedium: Mixed Drinks $15-$90 per personhigh costHigh: Premium Liquor $18-$95 per person
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  Typical costs:
  • The average cost for bartender service at a wedding reception is $2,800, according to the Bridal Association of America[1] . The average number of guests is 170, making it $16.50 per guest.
  • Most caterers advertise an open bar as unlimited mixed drinks, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. From a sample of wedding sites across the U.S., open bar costs typically range from $15 to $90 per person for a four-hour reception. In most cases you can upgrade to premium liquors for $3 or $4 more per person.
  • Serving beer and wine only will save you some money with most caterers, typically costing $11 to $33 per person for four hours.
  • Open bar costs may double or triple in big cities and resort areas.
  • Some customers save money by providing their own wine and asking friends and family to run the bar. Super Weddings[2] suggests 2 glasses per guest with dinner. With some wines under $5 per bottle, costs start at $2 per guest, and can easily climb to $20 per guest, depending on your selection.
  • When providing your own domestic and imported beers, estimate $2 to $5 per person for each hour of the reception. Costs for creating mixed drinks varies widely, depending on the types and quality of liquors provided.
Related articles: Wedding Caterer, Champagne Toast, Espresso Cart Rental, Wedding Reception Venue

What should be included:
  • An open bar serving mixed drinks, wine and beer may include: vodka, gin, scotch, light rum, bourbon, Seagram's 7, tequila, white and red wines, champagne, domestic and imported beers, soft drinks, water and juice.
  • At least one bartender should be available for every 100 guests.
  • Cups and napkins should be provided, as well as setup and cleanup services after the reception.
Additional costs:
  • Caterers often charge a setup cost of $30 to $200 per bartender working the event. Sometimes this amount is included in the per-guest fee.
  • Many caterers require you to pay an hourly fee for the bartender, around $25. Alternately, this may be included in the setup fee.
  • Unless gratuity is included in your total fees, plan to tip 10% to 20% of the total alcohol bill to the head bartender, to be split between all bar staff. Additionally, some bartenders will set out a tip jar, where guests may choose to tip $1 per drink.
  • If providing your own wine, many caterers charge a per-bottle corking fee in the $1 to $15 range. For each six-pack of beer that you provide, bartenders may charge $1 to $5 in service fees.
  • Expect to add $2 extra per person to substitute glassware for plastic cups.
  • Ask about limiting your bar to certain liquors or a signature cocktail, which may cut costs.
Shopping for an open bar:
  • When shopping for a caterer, ask if an open bar is included in the quoted price. Ask if providing your own alcohol is allowable.
  • Bartenders should be covered with liability insurance[3] . Ask to see proof of coverage before signing a contract.
  • The Knot lists tips for stocking your own open bar[4] , including quantities.
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Check Out All Costs for Weddings How Much Does a Wedding Dress Cost? How Much Do Wedding Invitations Cost? How Much Does a Wedding Reception Venue Cost?

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