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Pop that bottle of champagne and enjoy the bubbles! Alcohol has found a special place at weddings. From the toasts to the drinks that give the wedding goers the courage to test their dancing shoes, various types of alcohol have been featured in weddings. A wedding bar is a sure way of making your reception a party of a lifetime.

If you are planning your wedding, you are probably debating what kind of bar you’ll have. Will provide an open bar or let your guests foot the bill? How will it look if it is an open bar, and does it fit your budget?

Large oval black bar under sailcloth tent

If you are trying to figure out whether an open bar is the best for your wedding, you are in the right place. At Curated events, we have prepared a guide to everything you need to know about open wedding bars.

Let’s get you started!

What are the Different Wedding Bar Options?

Before we dig into open wedding bars, let’s define your options.

1. Open Bar

Open bar options are the dream of any wedding guest. In this plan, the wedding host foots the bill, and the guests drink to their satisfaction. You’ll have the freedom to choose the alcohol selection.

2. Hosted Bar

A hosted bar resembles an open wedding bar, including the host paying for the alcohol. The only difference is that hosed bars are priced by consumption and not at a fixed rate. You’ll pay for all the alcohol drunk, and the bottles opened.

3. Cash Bar

A cash bar is a wedding bar option where the guest picks up the tab for their drinks. It allows wedding goers to help the host maintain a low budget while enjoying themselves to the fullest. It is a good idea to tell the guests in advance if this is the plan.

4.  Limited Bar

A limited bar resembles an open bar in that the host pays for the drinks. The difference lies in the available selection, where guests can only have a beer, wine, champagne, or a combination of any options.

Is an Open Bar Wedding a Good Idea?

Lemonade jar and glasses for wine martini and alcoholic drinks on wooden table outdoors

Open bars are an easy way of getting your wedding reception going. However, the decision of whether it is a good idea for your wedding remains to be a personal decision. Although, we can’t say we know a wedding guest who wouldn’t cherish an open bar.

Cons and Pros of Hosting an Open Bar Wedding 

Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of having an open bar at your wedding.

Advantages of an Open Bar Wedding

Here are a few benefits of offering your wedding guests an open bar.

1. Your Guests Will Appreciate It

It takes a lot to attend a wedding, especially if it’s out of town. The attendees must use time and money to find accommodation, traveling, and other expenses associated with traveling and attending a wedding.

Treating your wedding guests to an open bar lets them limit their financial baggage. It is also an excellent way to thank your guests for taking the time and spending money to attend your special day.

2. It Makes the Reception More Fun

If you plan on turning your reception into a party, an open bar is a way to go. Alcohol has a way of loosening people for a party vibe, and it is better when no one is thinking about the tab. It’ll have people dancing, singing, and in good spirits.

Be sure many conversations will be sparked at the bar, making the reception more sociable. Just remember to have a few zero-alcohol drinks for your alcohol-free friends. 

3. Smoothes out the After-party

Open bars allow wedding planners to have a fully detailed plan for the day. Knowing how much alcohol you need and paying for it in advance allows everyone to enjoy the wedding stress-free. It eliminates the worry of whether the guests will get enough to drink if they can’t afford it.

Disadvantages of an Open Bar Wedding

While open bars are the surest way of turning a wedding reception into a memorable occasion, they come with baggage. Let’s look at some disadvantages to help you make a more informed decision.

1. It Dents Your Wedding Budget

An open bar order calls on the host to allocate a considerable chunk of their wedding budget. If you want a premium open bar, this can be a problem- your guest may indulge past your budget, putting you in debt. Evaluating your financial muscle before offering an open bar you can’t afford is essential. You don’t want to start your marriage with debt.

2. It Could Lead to Overindulgence and Other Consequences

Free-flowing booze can easily make your guest overindulge. While it leads to a larger bill, your reception could become chaotic. Controlling how much everyone drinks is helpful if you know of any tension between attendees. You don’t want anyone to start drunken drama your special day.

How Much Does an Open Bar Cost?

A man pouring champagne from a bottle into glasses

The amount a wedding host will spend on an open bar depends on various factors. Here are a few factors you need to determine to approximate your open bar budget.

Number of Guests

The number of wedding guests you’ll have determines how much you’ll spend on various things such as the venue, food, and alcohol. An open bar allows people to drink as much as they want, and a higher number of drinkers translates to higher costs. This cost could shoot up extrinsically even if you buy in bulk.

If you are considering per-person pricing, you should get quotes from various venues or bar providers to find one that fits your budget.

The Alcohol Provider

Whatever the types of drinks you want to serve at your wedding, you can get them in various ways. You can buy the booze, have a specialist bartender provide it, or use a caterer’s or your venue’s services.

You’ll find that buying the liquor in bulk by yourself is cheaper, but you must use the time to ensure they are delivered. You’ll also have to ensure you are not violating the venue contract. 

If you choose a provider, expect per-person fees.

Type of Alcohol Being Served

The type of alcohol you serve directly affects the cost of your open bar: the more premium and exquisite the alcohol you serve, the higher the price tag. You’ll also pay for the extra jazz if you choose any customized drink. So be careful when selecting the brands and types of alcohol for your open-bar wedding. It includes choosing specialty drinks, such as cocktails requiring extra ingredients.

Two mixologists creating drinks and cocktails at a wedding reception


Each venue has unique policies that you must follow. Some will allow you to bring your alcohol at a fee, and some require you to use one of their caterers or bars. Whichever option you select, the price will vary.

A venue will usually charge in one of the following ways:

  • By Consumption: In this arrangement, the venue will provide drinks throughout the event and send you a bill at the end. This bill will include all drinks consumed and/or with the bottles opened.
  • Flat rate: This arrangement involves settling on a rate per person before the wedding day. For example, if you agree on $50 per head and expect a party of 100 people, the cost is $5000. This amount remains the same irrespective of how much everyone drinks, making it a more cheap option.

Paying by consumption is more expensive but better if you have non drinkers among your guests. A flat rate is ideal if you want to know your budget upfront.

You should also remember that the charges may include licensing fees, depending on what your contract with the venue says.

Bartender Costs

A good reception includes a bartender in charge of serving the drinks. They ensure everyone gets their preferred drinks, the glasses are always clean, and no one goes past their tolerance. However, the bartender must also get paid.

Wedding slide champagne for bride and groom outdoors

What you pay your wedding bartender depends on the state’s rate and the bartender’s experience. Expect to pay an average of $40 per hour or a flat rate if you don’t intend to use them for long.

What is the Average Open Bar Cost Per Person?

While things like venue, types of drinks, and the number of guests affect the total cost of an open bar, the average cost is around $2,500, with around $500 for taxes and licensing. The cost per person varies between $15 and $45, with an average of $20 and $30 per head.

Remember, the prices per head are subject to factors that affect pricing.

Here are the most expected open bar prices per head:

  • Limited open bar: $20 to $25 per head
  • Full open bar: $35 to $45 per head
  • Beer and wine open bar: $15 to $20 per head

Lots of wine glasses and canepes

Can I Combine an Open Bar with other Options?

Using multiple types of wedding bars can help you make your wedding fun and everyone responsible. For example, you can go for an open bar with a cash bar. You pay for some of the drinks and let the guest pay for the rest.

You can have an open bar in the first few hours of your reception and have guests pay for alcohol later. The most important part is to inform the guests about this arrangement in advance. You don’t want anyone slapped with a bill they don’t expect.

Combining an open and cash bar also helps you limit consumption and avoid overindulgence. Some guests will prefer to stop drinking after the open bar closes.

Details you Should Know from the Caterer or Venue

A successful wedding day comes down to planning and details. The more information you have, the easier it is to develop a workable budget and plan. Consequently, there is information you’ll need to know before you settle on an open bar at your wedding.

  1. The number of drinks the venue or caterer expects guests to consume in an hour
  2. If they offer a consumption limit where the bar is closed after a certain amount
  3. If the venue provides open bar flat rates and what are they
  4. The amount of tax and additional expenses related to an open bar
  5. The discounts they offer on bulk purchases
  6. Offers they have for the alcohol-free guests

How to Minimize your Open Bar Budget

While it is understandable to go all out to celebrate your nuptials, it is important to stick within your budget, however huge you allocate. Here are tips on how to ensure you don’t surpass your budget.

Purchase your drinks. Ask your venue provider whether they allow drinks from the outside. If they do, you can buy alcohol and take advantage of bulk purchases. Most venues raise the price of drinks for profit, making them more expensive. Just remember not to break any of the venue’s policies.

Final Thoughts

The answer to how much an open bar wedding costs depends on numerous variants. You must consider them or find yourself undersupplied or past your budget allocation. These scenarios can quickly turn your wedding into a not-so-fun day.

At Curated events, we are dedicated to giving you a memorable wedding day. We take our experience and keenness to ensure the wedding planning goes smoothly, with little stress, and we also offer wedding equipment to make the venue lively. Contact us, and we’ll take the reins into giving you the best day of your life.