How Are Open Bar Prices Calculated: A Comprehensive Guide

Planning a wedding involves numerous decisions, one of which is whether to offer an open bar. While an open bar can enhance the celebration and guest experience, it’s crucial to understand the associated costs and how they are calculated. This guide delves into the factors influencing open bar pricing and provides valuable insights to help you make informed decisions for your wedding.

Understanding Open Bar Packages

Open bar pricing typically falls into two categories: fixed-rate and per-person.

Fixed-Rate Pricing:

  • This involves a predetermined cost for the entire bar service, regardless of consumption.
  • The price is based on factors like the duration of the service, the number of bartenders required, and the types of alcohol included.
  • Fixed-rate pricing offers predictability and avoids potential cost overruns.

Per-Person Pricing:

  • This approach charges a set amount per guest for access to the open bar.
  • The price is typically based on an estimated consumption per guest and the types of alcohol offered.
  • Per-person pricing can be more cost-effective if guest attendance is lower than anticipated.

Factors Influencing Open Bar Prices

Several factors contribute to the overall cost of an open bar:

1. Types of Alcohol:

  • Premium liquors, high-end wines, and specialty cocktails will significantly increase the price compared to basic beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
  • Consider your guests’ preferences and budget when selecting the alcohol options.

2. Duration of Service:

  • The longer the open bar is available, the higher the cost will be due to increased alcohol consumption and bartending time.
  • Determine the optimal duration for your event and adjust the service accordingly.

3. Number of Guests:

  • The number of guests directly affects the amount of alcohol needed and, consequently, the overall cost.
  • Accurately estimate guest attendance to avoid overspending or running out of alcohol.

4. Location:

  • Venue rental fees, local alcohol regulations, and availability of bartenders can vary depending on the location, impacting the overall cost.
  • Research and compare options in your area to find the most competitive pricing.

5. Gratuity:

  • It’s customary to tip bartenders for their service, typically around 15-20% of the total bar bill.
  • Factor gratuity into your budget to avoid unexpected expenses.

Additional Cost-Saving Tips

  • BYOB: If permitted by the venue, consider bringing your own alcohol to reduce costs.
  • Limited Bar: Offer a selection of beers, wines, and a few signature cocktails instead of a full open bar.
  • Drink Tickets: Implement a system where guests receive a limited number of drink tickets, controlling consumption and costs.
  • Shorter Duration: Limit the open bar to a specific timeframe, such as the cocktail hour or the first few hours of the reception.


Understanding how open bar prices are calculated empowers you to make informed decisions for your wedding. By carefully considering the factors influencing the cost and exploring cost-saving options, you can create an enjoyable and memorable experience for your guests without breaking the bank.

Other Things to Consider

Now that you understand the fundamentals of an open bar, let’s talk about a few crucial points that shouldn’t be overlooked.

How Much Does an Open Bar Cost Per Person?

Depending on your location, the venue, and the alcohol package, the cost per person may change. The typical cost per person ranges from $11 to $45 on average, with $20 to $30 being the average. Look below for a generalized list of possible outcomes. These are the typical prices per person based on the drink package you choose.

  • Full open bar: $35-$45/person
  • Limited open bar: $20-$25/person
  • Beer and wine only: $15-20/person

How to Determine Pricing For Beer, Liquor & Wine [Restaurant Business Plan]


How do you estimate the cost of an open bar?

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.

What is the formula for pricing liquor at a bar?

We know we want a twenty percent pour cost. Now we can calculate the drink price by taking the cost per ounce and dividing it by the pour cost. Therefore, a drink that costs you $1.18 per ounce would sell at the bar for $5.90. This is a pretty simple technique when it comes to liquor served by itself.

How do open bars make money?

In addition, restaurants that have an open bar night typically have cover charges, where patrons pay a fee at the door. For an open bar to be profitable, the amount collected from food purchases and the cover charge must bring in enough cash to pay back the alcohol and supply costs, as well as pay the restaurant staff.

How do I estimate the cost of an open bar?

Well, that’s where our handy Open Bar Cost Estimator comes in. With this intuitive tool, you can estimate the cost of an open bar at your wedding, based on the number of guests, the cost per guest, and the duration of the reception. This allows you to plan your budget more accurately and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

How much does an open bar cost in Los Angeles?

The average starting rate per guest for an open bar in Los Angeles is $20–$30. The more guests at an event, the higher the open bar cost will be. Regardless of whether the host or the bar catering company pruchases the alcohol, the more guests of drinking age invited to the party, the higher the overall bar tab.

How much does an open bar cost for a wedding?

The majority of the catering companies promote open bars as having unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, mixed drinks, wine, and beer. After researching through different wedding sites from the United States we found that the cost of an open bar will be anywhere between $16 and $95 per guest for a four hours reception.

Are open bars expensive?

Open bars can become very costly very quickly, especially if premium spirits are being served. Custom cocktails with a large number of ingredients or a complicated preparation process are likely going to cost more. Look up cocktails that you may want to include and research the standard bar pricing for each.

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