(Closed) Open Bar – Host Bar or Beer & Wine

posted 8 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
573 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

Try to consider how much your family and friends are likely to drink. Our only option through our caterer was a hosted bar. With a mix of family members who don’t drink at all, and my husband’s college friends who each had two beers within seconds of walking in the door, we ended up at the higher end of the bar bill estimate.

If you close the bar during dinner, you should close it for all drinks not just alcohol, because guests will likely see the bar “open” then be disappointed when they can’t get a glass of wine. If you have a group of guests who really like to drink, consider the flat fee option.

Post # 4
4024 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

I think it really depends on your family and how they drink. Closing the bar during dinner would not fly with my family, and truthfully, $1500-$2000 wouldn’t cover our guests drinking needs! Maybe you could host a special cocktail during dinner or something, and pay for that, but then have your guests buy their own drinks. Or just host open bar until dinner, then make it a cash bar?

Post # 5
1001 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

$1500-$2000 definitely won’t cover it.  My rehearsal dinner for 30 people was open bar for 2 hours, and the bill was $1300.  You’re having twice as many people for a longer time.  I’d consider just doing beer, wine, and a champagne toast.  That’s what we did, and it was pretty cheap, considering!  It was $2500 for 165 people, for 6 hours.  We closed the bar for one hour during dinner.

Post # 6
4485 posts
Honey bee

Only you know what your guests drink. Will they drink beer and wine only or are they the type who do not drink beer/wine but prefer other alcohol instead? Quite a few people actually do not drink beer or wine at all. If you know they won’t drink something, don’t serve it. Serve what they will drink.

Post # 7
15 posts
  • Wedding: March 2011

That’s a tough call. Do you think most guests will have at least 4 drinks? How many guests do you have under 21 that you might have to pay the $26 for even though they obviously wont be drinking? The set $26 price is nice because then you can budget ahead of time and wont be surprised later. Another option your venue/caterer might do is have a bar cutoff. For instance, you set your max bar cost and once you hit that amount it becomes an open bar. If it were me i would go with the $26 because I won’t want any surprises with the budget and I think people tend to drink more than normal when its open bar. Also, if the hotel is on location/walking distance/ shuttle service folks will drink more.

I think its ok to close the bar during dinner if necessary but let people know. Maybe put a sign on the bar (“the bar will be closed during the dinner hour”) and have the dj annouce for everyone to get drinks before they sit down for dinner. This way ppl can at least have one drink during dinner. I dont think ppl will be offended or mad as long as they are made aware of the fact. I would definitely prefer an open bar thats closed during dinner than a cash bar. 🙂

Post # 8
34 posts
  • Wedding: October 2010

another option would be to split the hour …close for the first half hour of dinner( most likely everyone won’t need a full hour to eat), then close the bar 30 min before end of evening,with only soda and juice available.That way people won’t be drinking beer or hard liquor right before they drive home.

Post # 9
1940 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

Paying the flat fee of $26 for all your guests (70 – 75) would put you under the $2000 mark.  Keep in mind though that the flat fee may not include gratuity (the gratuity for the bar at my wedding is 20%) and any applicable taxes (it may – you just have to check).


At $7 a drink, if guests drink on average 4 drinks, you will exceed the $26 flat fee.  4 drinks from 6:30 to 11 really isn’t that many (especially if guests set down their drink on the table and it is cleared away and the person goes to get another drink).


If you want to lower the costs, what about just having beer and wine?


Finally, keep in mind that if you tell guests that the bar will be closed for an hour, there will probably be a rush towards the bar before dinner so people can have a drink while they eat.  If you are paying per drink, make sure to take this into account when you think about your families and friends and their drinking habits.

Post # 10
97 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

Will your caterer let you bring alcohol in, and they serve and provide the permit, ice and the mixers?  A lot of caterers let you do this if you ask.  We are having 130 people and doing lemonade during the ceremony, an hour for “cocktail hour” and open bar during dinner from 7-midnight.  We are offering local Chicago beers, wine and two signature drinks IDark and Stormy and Pear Martini) and our total is only $1,050. They also let you return whatever hasn’t been chilled and opened.  We got a quote for doing full bar (instead of just 2 signature drinks for the hard alcohol) and it was only $300 more.

You can also do things like not have waiters serving wine during dinner (have guests go to the bar).  Not everyone drinks wine and may say “sure’ when the waiter comes to their table and it will sit wasted.

If you have a Binny’s or Sam’s Wine and Spirits in your city they even have “Event Coordinators” there that will help you decide the brands/amounts (we went over it with our caterer and they just told us to add one more case of beer per brand).  With no delivery fee!

Anyway…just a cheaper option!  Good luck with your decision!

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