Bar: Open Bar vs. Consumption

Some of the most complicated decisions when planning a wedding have to do with food and beverage. This is especially true when it comes to your bar. Many of our clients struggle with deciding to go with a Consumption Bar or Package Bar. We have found that many of them don’t know the difference. Here is a guide to help them and you:.

A Consumption Bar is when you are charged a price per drink consumed at your event. Each drink has a price and you pay for what you and your guests actually drink. A Package Bar is when you are charged a per person price no matter how much or how little that person drinks. Typically, the Package Bar is a price based on per guest at your event and the total number of hours for your event (ie: $50 per per for 5 hours).

There are a few things to keep in mind when making a decision as to which bar to go with:

  • Your guest list (Will there be an even mix of drinkers and non drinkers? Will there be any children? )
  • Your comfort level with not knowing the bill until the end of the night (Consumption bar the total is only given to you at the end)
  • Guests typically consume an average of 3-4 drinks at a four hour reception

If you have a group of heavy drinkers who will consume more than 4 drinks at the reception, and you don’t want any surprises – the flat rate Package Bar is probably best for you. However, if you have a diverse mix of guests coming to your wedding ( Some wedding guests may have 6-8 drinks that night, but others may have none), so you should consider a Consumption Bar. Also, make sure to tell your venue how many guests under age 21 will be attending the reception to avoid charges for them.

Another way to control bar costs is to offer a limited selection. Some brides choose to serve beer, wine and a signature cocktail vs. a full assortment of top shelf liquor. Also consider closing the bar during dinner – especially if wine is offered with the meal. You may also want to consider closing the bar thirty minutes before the end of the reception or during the transition from cocktail hour to grand entrances.

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