As you begin planning your wedding, you will quickly realize how bombarded you are with options for just about EVERYTHING. Couples often report that of those options, the most confusing (and potentially pricey) is the question of what to do about the bar. Beverages are a large part of any party, whether you have an open bar with alcohol or a non-alcoholic event. Some venues will allow you to book a bar package (a flat rate for an open bar for a period of time) while others insist on a consumption-based approach (total drinks consumed counted at the end of the event).  I have some tips for you on how to estimate your consumption.

How to accurately estimate your bar consumption
Here’s how to accurately estimate your bar consumption and cost per person for alcohol at your wedding:


Cocktail Hour

For a (1) hour cocktail reception, estimate (2) drinks per person. For a (2) hour cocktail reception, estimate (3) drinks per person and so on. The idea here is that each person will go through roughly 2 drinks within the first hour then start to slow down a little. Frankly, when cocktails last more than an hour your guests will be hungry, drunk and sore on their feet by the time dinner is served. So keep it to one hour max and everyone will be happy.

Reception, Dinner & Dancing

Estimate one (1) drink per person for every hour the reception lasts. This is pretty straightforward. Whether or not you have wine on the table (unless that’s the only alcohol you’re serving) it’s the same idea, one (1) drink every hour.


Cocktails for one hour (2 drinks/person) + Reception for five hours (5 drinks/person) = 7 drinks per person. Then take this number and multiply it by the most expensive beverage in the bar package you’ve chosen. 7 drinks x $8 Margarita = $56 per person in bar consumption.
Yes, this number may feel high, but in my experience coordinating weddings over the years, it balances out most of the time between younger guests who drink lots more and older guests who drink less or switch to water later in the evening. This also accounts for guests who start drinking a beverage, place it down half full and then head to the bar for another drink since they’re not paying.


Ask your Catering Manager if it’s possible to give you a heads up when it seems you are getting close to your budgeted amount for bar consumption. This way you can say yes or no to keeping the bar open. Cheers!

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