Being a Certified Professional Wedding Planner for almost 30 years, I’m trying to put my knowledge and best practices in place for my daughter’s wedding coming up in February 2012. It’s so hard to find the “best” deal for your wedding. Comparing apples to apples can be very tricky as every venue has a different idea for a “wedding package”.
The bar seems to be the most crucial budgeted area of a couple’s wedding reception. I know that I want a budgeted price so that there are no surprises at the end of the night. As a wedding planner, I always fear having to call the EMT Squad when people say “most of our family doesn’t drink. We’ll HOST the bar for the evening. No we won’t do the hourly rate, it won’t be that much!” and then I have to present an $8,000 bar bill. In 30 years I have yet to see a bride and groom, (or their parents for that matter), estimate correctly for a bar that they feel “won’t be that much”. Put free drinks in front of guests and watch how their attitude changes about how much and IF they drink. J
A bar package, in my opinion, is always the most cost effective way to plan for a great evening without any surprises. Some venues offer hourly rates, which is what I prefer. Some offer bottle rates – remember, there are 23-25 drinks in a bottle of liquor so, at $6-$9 a drink x 24 a hotel or venue would charge between $144 and $216 a bottle. What I am trying to say, is don’t be surprised at bottle pricing costs. Most venues charge if a bottle is opened and many do not let you take the left-over alcohol as the venue must have a “carry-out” liquor license to allow guests to take alcohol away from the bar.
I feel like an hourly rate bar package allows everyone to drink whatever they want and as much as they like at one flat fee (unless they are abusing the open bar at which time the bartender will refuse to serve them). Usually the first hour is higher than the remaining hours because everyone has 2-3 drinks in that first hour while they are waiting for the bride and groom and family to have the photo session. One misconception is that it is cheaper to do wine and beer only. There are approximately 5 glasses of wine in a bottle but 23-25 drinks in a bottle of liquor. Some people also believe that the alcohol consumption will be less and people less inebriated with only wine and beer. All of my training attests that it makes no difference if it’s cocktails or just wine and beer. I would discuss and have it written in the contract that no straight shots of liquor should be offered at the bar. Straight shots are a sure way to have the bar and your guests get out of hand. I also would make it clear that if the host is obligated to pay the gratuity or service fee on the alcohol that the bartenders DO NOT HAVE TIP JARS sitting on the bar for the guests to put cash tips into. If I, as a guest, want to tip the bartender for taking good care of me, that’s my prerogative. To have a “cash” tip jar to encourage guests to put in money is unethical if an automatic tip is added onto the host’s bill. I would also make the venue note that in the contract. I would go so far as to have it written that the bar bill will not be paid if any bartender has a cash tip jar on the “hosted” bar.
The only other bar tip I can offer is that many people remember when you could carry in your own beer/wine/champagne/alcohol and pay a corkage fee. The state of Ohio has disallowed that practice. (It probably has something to do with the state not receiving the alcohol and beverage tax on alcohol that was served with only a corkage fee.) If a venue has a liquor license, it is illegal and the venue can lose their license if they allow any alcohol to be carried in or out of the venue.
These are my bar tips for wedding or social functions. I hope it has helped you in some way to decide on the right questions to ask when talking about bar service.