The Bar Situation – Full Price or Open?

The Bar Situation – Full Price or Open?

From Matt Fossey Entertainment

The Bar Situation - Full Price or Open?

The Reception is where family and friends cut loose. But when it comes to the bar, how loose do you want things to get? Or better yet, how much are you willing to pay? We’ve got a step by step guide to help you decide “Should I choose a Full-Price Bar, Open Bar, or somewhere in-between?” If you need bartending services for your event, make sure to check out our good friends at BottomZ Up Events


  1. What Drink Options Do I Have? 


These are the most common options that venues offer:

  • Open Bar – You pay for every drink, all night. You can supply the alcohol or have the venue handle it
  • Cost Recovery Bar – You supply-and-price the liquor at typically $2 to $3 each to recover the cost of the alcohol and service fees
  • Subsidized Bar – The venue supplies the liquor and you pay a portion of each drink, guests cover the rest
  • Capped Bar – The bar is free up until a certain price point, full price afterwards
  • Hourly Bar – The bar is free up until a certain time, full price afterwards
  • Full Price Bar – Guests pay for each drink themselves



2. How many guests and how much will they drink?


Building a budget is often the make or break of this decision.

Multiply your of-age guest count by how many drinks on average they’ll consume. 

Example, 125 Guests x 5 drinks = 625 drinks.

If you’re hosting your reception at an average hotel or restaurant, you could pay up to 7 or 8 dollars a drink, meaning you’d be on the hook for at least $5,000 for an open bar plus corkage and gratuities.

Is that something you’re comfortable budgeting for?


3.  The Venue’s Options


Every venue is a little different, but most halls and event spaces offer all of the options from our first list.

However, they all usually come with additional fees including corkage, the special event license, and hiring bartenders. This adds expense to an open-bar or cost-recovery bar.


4. How much time do you have?


If you choose to bring your own liquor in order save on costs, you’ll spend time shopping for alcohol, dropping it off, and bringing back any unopened cases or bottles. It can be added stress or coordinating you’d rather avoid.


5. The Atmosphere


A full price bar is known to slow down a reception and clear things out earlier. If this is your intended plan, great! 

If you want to cater to a more raucous crowd, a subsidized or cost-recovery bar is often more than generous enough to get the party started without the need for an entirely open-bar.


6. Remember, It’s YOUR Wedding


Whether you want to go all out and treat your guests to an open bar, or keep things simple and let the venue handle the whole thing, or any of the options in-between – it’s most important that you manage your budget and host the wedding YOU want. Remember, communication with your venue and wedding planner is key. They’ll have all advice you need and present you with the best options for your reception! We hope we can help with The Bar Situation – Full Price or Open? Check our blog for more tips and tricks.

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