Cheers! How to estimate bar costs for your wedding reception

cocktails at lake tahoe wedding

lake tahoe weddingHow much is the bar going to cost at your wedding reception? Huge question with each wedding so we have included a very general formula, but his only works if you’re at a wedding venue where you are allowed to bring in your own alcohol. If so, how much do you bring?  How do you calculate when guests may have more than one drink? How much glassware do you need?

We get these questions a lot at Lake Front wedding, and there is no one answer for all of our couples. The biggest determining factor is budget, and below you’ll find several options from fully hosted bar to a signature cocktail table.

Hosted bar at your Lake Tahoe wedding reception

Three options from one of our Lake Tahoe caterers to try and give you an idea of bar costs at your wedding reception.

Option #1:

No Host Bar – Hosting Keg Beer, House Wines & Champagne, & Non-alcoholic beverages

Our Estimate = $25.00 per person on average

 Option #2

Open Hosted Bar for cocktail hour only & hosting Keg Beer, House Wines & Champagne & Non-alcoholic beverages throughout reception

Our Estimate = $30.00 per person on average

Option #3

Open Hosted – no restrictions

Our Estimate = $35.00 per person on average

some couples opt for an open bar, where guests have access to unlimited drinks throughout the entire reception. While this is certainly the most gracious approach, it’s also the most expensive and could end up costing as much as 10 to 20% of your total budget. An alternative is the “limited,” or “soft,” bar, where you offer a careful selection of drinks (say, wine, beer and vodka cocktails) at the bar during specific times (throughout the cocktail hour and right after dinner), then have waiters serve wine or beer during the meal.

On a tight budget? Don’t even think about having a cash bar. Guests should never be expected to pay for their own drinks. Instead, consider skipping the hard stuff, which is pricey, and serve less- costly wine and beer only. Or, opt to offer your site’s “well” brands of liquor, which are less expensive than premium brands; the same goes for house wines and champagne. Also, discourage the wait staff from refilling wine glasses at dinner with- out first asking guests if they want more.

wedding dayIf you do a Champagne toast, everyone will have to have a “glass in hand” so figure the cost of glassware for each person into your budget.

We think planning on three drinks per person is a good formula, since some will drink more, and some less.

Setting up your own bar

Did you choose a venue where you can set up your own bar?  If so, you’ll save a lot of money, but remember the above charges include a bartender, so you’ll have to plan on someone for this position unless you just set up a “serve yourself” table. There are great options on Pinterest (our fave) as well.

According to Bridal Guide, here is  an estimate of what you’ll need for 100 guests:

  • 10 bottles of vodka
  • 6 bottles each of gin and rum
  • 4 bottles of scotch
  • 2 bottles each of whiskey, bourbon, tequila and Triple Sec
  • 2 bottles of vermouth.
  • Have on hand 2 cases of beer, 3 to 4 cases (36 to 48 bottles) of white wine and 2 to 3 cases (24 to 36 bottles) of red wine.
  • Three cases (36 bottles) of champagne should be enough.

Also, be sure to arrange to have plenty of soft drinks and water (bottled and tap) on hand.

cocktails at lake tahoe weddingSignature Wedding Drink

What we think is one of the best, and most affordable (AND FUN) option is to have a signature drink.  Prepare the drink mix ahead of time, pour over ice into cute glasses such as Mason jars, and voila! No need to try and figure out how much of each type of alcohol to buy, and who wants to drink what. Here is a recipe we found on The Knot that sounds tasty:

  • 2 oz. cranberry juice
  • oz. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. peach schnapps
  • 1/2 oz. creme de cassis
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • orange slice, 1 maraschino cherry, cocktail umbrella, for garnish

Find out how you can create the wedding of your dreams with Lake Front Wedding

Call our talented wedding planners and they will help you create your personalized destination wedding. Follow this easy steps:

1. Call 1-888-Wed-Tahoe for more information. Our wedding consultants are the experts and will find a way for you to get married at your favorite Lake Tahoe wedding venue, even in summer!
2. Be sure to follow us on PinterestFacebook and Instagram to see more wedding venues, trends and all things Lake Tahoe!
3. Contact us by email or stop by our office at the Heavenly Village in South Lake Tahoe.