How much does an open bar cost at a wedding?
Ashburn, VA

How much does an open bar cost at a wedding?

Ashburn, VA

How much does an open bar cost at a wedding?

$10 – $20cost per person (beer and wine)
$15 – $40cost per person (full bar & liquor)
$1,500 – $8,000average total cost (100 – 200 guests)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$10 – $20 cost per person (beer and wine)

$15 – $40 cost per person (full bar & liquor)

$1,500 – $8,000 average total cost (100 – 200 guests)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Tamatha Hazen
Written by
Tamatha Hazen
Edited by
Kristen Cramer
Fact-checked by
Tom Grupa

Open bar wedding cost

An open bar at a wedding costs $1,500 to $8,000 on average for 100 to 200 guests. Open bar wedding costs are $10 to $20 per person for beer and wine or $15 to $40 per person for a full liquor bar. Open bar prices depend on the number of guests, alcohol selection, and duration.

Open bar wedding cost
Guests Beer and wine bar cost Full open bar cost
50 $500 – $1,000 $750 – $2,000
100 $1,000 – $2,000 $1,500 – $4,000
150 $1,500 – $3,000 $2,250 – $6,000
200 $2,000 – $4,000 $3,000 – $8,000
250 $2,500 – $5,000 $3,750 – $10,000
300 $3,000 – $6,000 $4,500 – $12,000

Get free estimates from bartenders for hire near you.

Average cost of alcohol for a wedding

The following table shows the average cost of alcohol for an open bar wedding.

Average open bar wedding cost - chart
Average open bar wedding cost - chart
Average cost of alcohol for a wedding
National average cost $5,000
Minimum cost $500
Maximum cost $15,000
Average cost range $1,500 to $8,000

*Cost data is from research and project costs reported by Fash members.

Average cost of an open bar at a wedding

The average open bar wedding costs $1,500 to $8,000 or $10 to $40 per guest, depending on the number of guests and whether the service includes liquor and mixed drinks or only beer and wine.

Beer and wine vs. liquor open bar cost per person

The average open bar costs are $10 to $20 per person for beer and wine or $15 to $40 per person for a full liquor bar. Serving top-shelf liquors adds an extra $5 to $10 per guest.

Beer and wine vs. liquor open bar cost per person
Bar service Cost per person Average cost (100 to 150 guests) Description
Premium full bar $20 – $50 $2,000 – $7,500 Top-shelf liquors, beer, wine, and cocktails
Full bar $15 – $40 $1,500 – $6,000 Well liquors, beer, and wine
Soft bar $13 – $30 $1,300 – $4,500 Beer, wine, and two signature cocktails
Limited bar $10 – $20 $1,000 – $3,000 Beer and wine only
Single drink bar $1 – $5 $100 – $750 Champagne toast only

Limited bar cost billed by consumption

A consumption bar charges for each drink served and is more expensive than paying per person. Setting a maximum spend keeps the bar costs within budget. However, guests may be confused when the free bar closes early or becomes a cash bar mid-reception.

Cash bar for wedding cost

A cash bar passes the cost of drinks to the guests, allowing the wedding hosts to splurge on other things like flowers or food. However, payment transactions create longer lines at the bar and may lead to guests leaving early.

BYO alcohol wedding cost

A buy-your-own alcohol wedding costs $5 to $20 per guest. BYO bars often include higher retail prices for alcohol and additional corking fees of $2 to $12 per bottle of wine and $1 to $5 per six-pack of beer you supply.

Tips to make a BYO alcohol wedding work:

  • Ask your vendor if outside alcohol is allowed before making any purchases.

  • Buy the alcohol from a store that allows returns of unopened bottles.

  • Factor in additional costs for ice, mixers, sodas, and fruit garnishes.

  • Obtain a liquor license if your venue doesn't have one.

  • Purchase a liquor liability insurance policy for your protection.

Open bar cost factors

The cost of an open bar depends on the number of guests, alcohol selections, duration, timing, and bartender fees.

Other factors affecting the cost of an open bar include:

  • Liquor preference – Well liquors for mixed drinks or serving signature drinks are cheaper. Stocking the bar with premium liquors or top-shelf spirits costs more.

  • Venue and location – High-end resorts and venues in big cities may charge double or triple the price of casual wedding reception halls in smaller towns.

  • Timing – Guests drink less alcohol on weekdays and afternoons and more alcohol during weekend and evening receptions.

  • Duration – A standard wedding event is 5 hours, including one cocktail hour and a 4-hour reception. The longer the bar is open, the higher the cost.

  • Bartender fees – Experienced, licensed bartenders cost more than untrained servers to pour beer and wine.

  • Setup and breakdown hours – Add 1 to 2 hours for setup and 1 hour or more for breakdown, depending on the event size and alcohol served.

  • Customized bar setups – Customized bars with LED lighting, built-in cutting boards, and back shelving for liquor cost extra.

  • Champagne toast – A single champagne toast costs $1 to $5 per person.

  • Glassware – Add an extra $2 to $5 per person for glassware in place of plastic cups.

Open bar wedding with table of alcohol
Open bar wedding with table of alcohol

Wedding bartender charges

Each wedding bartender costs $240 to $400 for the whole event. A full liquor or signature cocktail bar requires one bartender for every 50 guests to serve efficiently. Pouring beer and wine takes less time and requires one bartender for every 75 guests.

Budget for these extra expenses:

  • 10% to 20% gratuity for the bar staff if a service fee is not included

  • 30% to 50% increase for holiday pay

  • Overtime pay rate of 1.5 to 2.5 times the regular hourly rateto extend the bar hours

Venue and catering alcohol packages

Many wedding venues and catering services offer alcohol packages at an additional cost. Alcohol catering prices vary by vendor. Some venues restrict alcohol on the premises, so check with your venue manager before contracting with an outside bar vendor.

  • A wedding venue costs $3,000 to $14,000 on average.

  • Wedding catering costs $20 to $110 per guest, depending on the menu and number of guests.

Margarita machine rental cost

A margarita machine rental costs $120 to $180, plus the cost of mix and alcohol. Pre-mixed margarita or daiquiri concentrates cost $20 to $25 per batch. Discounts for renting multiple machines are common. Margarita machines are best suited for casual weddings rather than formal events.

Other wedding beverages and drinks prices

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Most caterers or bar vendors include non-alcoholic beverages in the wedding package price. Selections typically include soda, bottled and sparkling water, iced tea, lemonade, and fruit juices. Ask if your bartender can create a "mocktail" version of the signature cocktail for non-drinkers.

Wedding open bar FAQs

What is an open bar?

An open bar is when the wedding hosts cover the bar bill and guests are not required to pay for their drinks, eliminating cash transactions at the bar.

What should be included in the open bar service?

In addition to alcohol, mixers, water, and soda for non-drinkers, an open bar should provide the following items:

  • Glassware or cups

  • Corkscrews and bottle openers

  • Shakers

  • Ice buckets with plenty of ice

  • Ice tongs or scoop

  • Fresh garnishes (limes, lemons, olives)

  • Cocktail napkins

  • Bar rags

  • Trash bags and recycling bins for cleanup

What is the cheapest way to serve alcohol at a wedding?

The cheapest way to serve alcohol at a wedding is with a cash or limited bar. However, many guests consider a cash bar tacky or poor taste. Some more acceptable ways to save money are to:

  • Negotiate a per-guest price instead of a per-drink consumption price.

  • Limit liquor to the cocktail hour and serve beer and wine during the reception.

  • Skip the champagne toast, or cut costs by only filling the flutes halfway.

  • Serve a signature cocktail or two rather than a full liquor bar.

  • Serve well or call drinks instead of premium, top-shelf liquors.

  • Provide drink tickets limiting guests to 2 or 3 complimentary drinks.

How much alcohol is needed for a wedding?

As a general rule, guests consume at least one drink per hour. Typically 50% of guests drink wine, 25% drink beer, and 25% drink hard liquor in the following serving sizes:

Wedding alcohol servings
Alcohol Standard servings
Beer 1 bottle or pour of beer per serving
Champagne 5 full or 10 half-glasses per bottle
Liquor 12 servings per 750ml bottle
Wine 5 glasses per bottle

Based on these servings, the minimum alcohol needed for 100 guests is:

  • 50 bottles of wine

  • 125 bottles or pours of draft beer

  • 11 bottles of liquor (750ml)

  • 10 to 20 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

If your event is longer than 5 hours or your guests are heavy drinkers, increase the amount of alcohol.

What are the pros and cons of an open bar?

Open bar pros and cons
Pros Cons
  • Guests enjoy the free alcohol
  • Shorter lines at the bar when no money is exchanged
  • Guests do not need to carry cash or a credit card
  • High cost
  • Guests may overindulge, leading to unruly or poor behavior
  • Safety after the reception is a concern

Do you put "open bar" on wedding invitations?

Do not mention the open bar on the formal wedding invitation. Instead, spread by word of mouth or on a printed insert included with the invitation. Add a short message detailing the type of bar available to guests, with a description of the signature cocktail if desired.

Finding and hiring a wedding alcohol service

Before hiring a wedding bartender, be sure to:

  • Confirm if the venue has employed bartenders as part of the booking.

  • Ask for referrals from friends, your wedding planner, or other recent brides.

  • Search online for a professional bartender with wedding or catered event experience.

  • Read their reviews on Fash and Google.

  • Get at least two or three quotes with equivalent alcohol service to compare.

  • Go with the most skilled professional that works within your budget.

  • Do not fully pay in advance. Instead, negotiate a deposit and pay the final bill after the event.

Questions to ask

  • What is your open-bar flat rate price? What spirits does that include?

  • Do you have a pre-planned number of drinks per guest factored into your package rate?

  • Does your estimate exclude non-drinking guests from the price?

  • Can I supply my own alcohol? If so, will it reduce your quoted price?

  • Is gratuity built into your pricing or in addition to it?

  • Does your estimate include hours for setup and breakdown?

  • Do you carry adequate liquor liability insurance?