How Much Does an Open Bar Cost at a Wedding (Detailed Figures)

When it comes to weddings, every detail counts. From curating your guest list to the choice of flowers to the selection of the reception, and yes, the drinks that will be in a constant rotation that day. About the last part, you may be wondering if you’d need an open bar at your event or not. 

The average cost of an open bar at a wedding is around $3,000 for 100 guests. When you factor in taxes and licenses, you will be paying slightly above $3,500. 

An open bar adds a touch of luxury to any wedding celebration. It’s a casual spot where guests can toast to the newlyweds, unwind, and let loose on the dance floor. One of the vital considerations for this is the cost of setting up one. Does it fit into your wedding expenses? Do you have to break the bank for it?

This article explores all the essential considerations that you need to keep in mind with open bars. We will explore the factors that influence the cost of setting one up and other vital information. 

In A Hurry? Open Bar Pricing Based On Number of Guests

For 1 – 50 guests$1.300 for alcoholic drinks
For 51 – 100 guests$1,900 for alcholic drinks
For 100 – 130 guests $3000 for alcoholic drinks
Partically open bar$15 – $20 per person
Complete open bar with limited options of premium drinks $20 – $30 per person
Premium open bar with a wide range of premium drinks and cocktails$35 to $40 per person

Factors Influencing the Cost of an Open Bar

The cost of an open bar is significantly affected by several factors. They include the following: 

  • Number of guests. The number of your guest list attending your event influences your wedding expenses. For instance, more guests typically mean higher alcohol consumption, which increases your bill.
  • Type of alcohol served. The selection of beverages served at the open bar will also impact its costs. Premium drinks, fine wines, and cocktails tend to be more expensive compared to the standard ones.
  • Duration of the event. The length of your wedding reception during which the open bar will be available impacts its costs. Longer events require more beverages, leading to higher costs. 
  • Bartending service. Having a professional bartender or mixologist at your wedding reception can add more costs. 
  • Additional bar features. Additional bar features, such as wedding theme bar setup and special drink menus, can add to the costs of an open bar. 
  • Special requests. If your guests have specific requests like custom cocktails, special drinks and garnishes, it will significantly impact the costs of an open bar. 

Carefully reviewing these factors will allow you to estimate and manage the cost of an open bar within your wedding expenses. It is essential to give your guests a memorable experience while staying within your budget.

How to Determine Your Open Bar Budget

Determining your open bar budget for your wedding requires taking the following steps: 

Calculate per-person cost

Calculating the per-person costs for your open bar is vital in budgeting for your event. It helps you estimate how much you will need to disburse in your budget for each guest’s beverage.

You need to establish a total amount you’d be willing to spend on drinks for your wedding. Then, you can estimate the total number of guests that will be coming to your wedding reception.

Lastly, you can calculate the average cost per drink. This part is very easy. The average per-person pricing will be your open bar budget divided by the number of guests. 

For instance, if you budget $2,000 for drinks for a guest list of 60, the cost per head will be $33.33 (2,000/60).

Ask your catering services

If you’re working with a catering service to plan your wedding, you need to ask the following relevant questions. It would ensure that your open bar needs align with your budget. These questions include: 

  • What type of beverage packages do you offer?
  • What is the cost structure for the open bar?
  • Can you provide a sample drink menu?
  • Are there any restrictions on beverage selection or brands?
  • Can you accommodate special requests or signature cocktails?
  • Can you provide bartenders?
  • What is your policy on leftover alcohol?
  • What is the booking and payment process?

Asking these questions will enable you to estimate how much you’d have to fork out for an open bar. 

As mentioned earlier, the cost of an average open bar for a wedding with 100 guests is $3,000. This amount are subject to change as your guest list increase or decrease. 

Take a look at the following table below: 

These figures can allow you to estimate just how much you’re going to spend on your open bar. 

What is the Difference Between an Open Bar, Cash Bar, and Partially Open Bar?

You’ve probably made the mistake of roping an open bar, a partially open bar, and a cash bar as the same thing. But the reality of it all is that they aren’t. In fact, there are clear distinctions in how they are being run. 

Let’s break it down: 

  • Open bar. In this setup, you, as the host, cover the entire cost of providing drinks to your guest. Your guest list, no matter how small or many they are, can request and consume drinks freely from the bar menu during the wedding reception. 
  • Cash bar. In this kind of setup, your guests are responsible for paying for their alcohol consumption. They can either pay in cash or with their credit cards. The variety of premium drinks served may be limited compared to an open bar. This per-person pricing will allow guests to control their wedding budget seamlessly. 
  • Partially open bar. This is a mix between an open and cash bar, where you cover a portion of the drink costs while guests take care of the rest. In this setup, you may offer drink tickets to your guests to choose specific beverages for free. Thus, your guests may have to pay for cocktails or premium drinks. 

Basically, the difference between them is who gets to take care of the costs. 

How much alcohol is needed for a wedding?

The amount of alcohol needed for any wedding is based on factors such as guest preferences, duration of the event, and the number of guests. Then again, it is essential to consult with a bartender to get a more accurate estimate for your wedding. 

Pros and Cons of Having an Open Bar

Setting up an open bar at your wedding reception comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s check them out.

Pros of Having an Open Bar

The positive aspects of having an open bar include the following: 

  • Enhanced guest experience. An open bar provides your guest list with a wide variety of beverage options from the bar menu. This allows them to enjoy their favorite drinks without having to pay for it. 
  • Convenience. Another plus side to this is that guests do not have to worry about the drink experience. 
  • Memorable celebrations. Open bars are fun to have as they enhance the celebrations and leave a positive impression on your guests. 

Are cash bars at weddings tacky?

Cash bars aren’t exactly tacky. In some cultures and regions, cash bars are acceptable and common. In others, they may be perceived as less hospitable. You should consider the expectations of your guests and your budget when deciding whether you should have an open bar or not. 
If you cannot foot the bills of an open bar, you can issue out drink tickets to your guests to control the cost. 

Cons of Having an Open Bar

Some of the financial drawbacks to having an open bar include the following: 

  • Costs. Providing a wide range of premium drinks can be an expensive venture, especially if you’re going to invite many guests to your reception. 
  • Budget strain. Open bars can cause a strain on your financial planning, limiting spending on other aspects of the wedding, such as catering, venue costs, and décor.
  • Unforeseen complications. Some of your guests may overindulge in alcohol, potentially leading to inappropriate behavior. 

Tips to Save Money on an Open Bar

You should plan your wedding within your budget to ensure it all works smoothly. You should implement the following recommendations: 

  • Bring your own alcohol. In some venues, your guests may be allowed to bring their own alcohol, which will significantly lower costs. 
  • Limit the drink selection. Offer a limited selection of drinks with a few premium drinks to reduce the costs. You should consider serving beer, wine, and cocktails instead of liquors and spirits.
  • Limit the service hours. Shorten the duration of the open bar service to a specific portion of your event, such as the first few hours of the reception or cocktail hour.
  • Set a drink ticket. Instead of adopting an open bar, issue a drink ticket to your guests. The tickets will be redeemed for drinks, and once the tickets have been utilized, your guest will pay for additional drinks.

Implementing these tips will allow you to save money on your open bar while offering an enjoyable experience for all.


Navigating the realm of an open bar at your wedding involves careful planning, thoughtful budgeting, and consideration of your guests’ expectations. Calculating the right amount of alcohol requires a close look at the specifics of your wedding, and consulting with professionals can provide valuable insights.

You don’t have to break the bank to pull off a memorable wedding reception. All you need to do is strike the perfect balance between hospitality and budget-consciousness. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get those wedding plans rolling!

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