How to Stock a Bar for a Wedding of 200 Guests

How to Stock a Bar for a Wedding of 200 Guests

Imagine you’re having a wedding of 200 guests, and your venue allows you to stock the bar yourselves …and now you have some questions about how exactly to do it! If this is you, welcome to my world of wedding drink calculations! I hope I can help you figure it out.

Here’s what you need to stock a full open bar for a wedding of 200 guests and approximately how much it’s going to cost:

  • 140 bottles of wine = $1,400
  • 350 bottles of beer = $1,750
  • 30 bottles of liquor (750 ml) = $900
  • 40 bottles of champagne for toast (optional) = $600
  • Total before taxes and fees = $4,650
  • Taxes (15%) = $697.50
  • Service fees (15%) = $697.50
  • TOTAL PRICE = $6,045

*Drink number calculations are based on the recommendations from Woman Getting Married (Source) based on a 5-hour reception, at 7 drinks per guest.

These estimates are made assuming that wine is $10/bottle, beer is $5/each, liquor is $30/bottle, and champagne is $15/bottle. But of course it can be much more expensive depending on the brands you buy and where you buy it; or much cheaper, especially if you’re sourcing it yourself wholesale or from a liquor store where you know the prices well.

There are many factors that could affect these serving numbers and prices, and make them higher or lower, including where you live; whether or not you plan on hiring bartenders; whether or not the bar is already stocked with the proper equipment, ice, mixers, and garnishes, or if you have to purchase it in addition to the alcohol; the type of alcohol you buy; etc.

These numbers are meant to act as a guideline and not necessarily as pure gospel for your 200-guest wedding bar. Please read on to learn more about the nitty gritty details and to set up your wedding bar just right.

You might also be interested in my article on the costs of wedding open bars, which breaks down some of the nuances of open bars even further.

PRO TIP: This whole topic is much disputed among wedding planners and is very dependent on your particular wedding crowd and how much they’ll drink and what they’ll drink, which is impossible to predict perfectly. I suggest buying alcohol from somewhere that is okay with you returning unopened bottles. That way, you can always over-order safely and get your money back afterward.


What to Consider When Stocking a Wedding Bar for 200 Guests

There are a few thing to keep in mind as you’re stocking your bar for your wedding. It’s important to ask yourself these questions before finalizing your budget, making any purchases, or signing any contracts:

1. What kind of alcohol do your guests mostly drink?

Before spending too much money on wine or beer or tequila, do you have an idea of what your wedding crowd usually drinks? A quick way to find out this info if you haven’t already sent out your invitations is to ask!

This is made really easy if you’re doing electronic wedding website invitations (such as through withjoy.com) because you can just include a question that says “What kind of drink will get you on the dance floor?” or something similar.

This is a good idea so you don’t end up with 20 bottles of red wine, but run out of gin before the end of the night.

2. Do you already have all of the “additional items” for your bar?

Remember to stock items in addition to the alcohol that are important for your bar. Ask your venue if they’re providing any of these items or if it’s up to you. A fully-stocked bar should have plenty of:

  • Glasses or cups
  • Corkscrews
  • Bottle openers
  • Shakers
  • Ice
  • Ice tongs or scoop
  • Coolers
  • Ice buckets
  • Garnishes
  • Rags
  • Cocktail napkins

3. Are you planning on hiring your own bartenders?

You should have one bartender per 50 guests, so 4 bartenders in the case of 200 guests. And with this large number of guests, it’s important that you spread multiple bars, at least two, around your venue space in order to avoid long lines.

You’ll have to consider how high the service fees are and what is included in them. How many hours of service? Is set-up and clean-up included or is that extra? What is the percentage of taxes and service fees you’ll have to pay? Ask before putting down any cash.

4. Is a limited bar an option for your 200 guests?

Have you considered not having an open bar? An open bar for 200 guests can get pricey. If you’re okay with a limited bar of just beer and wine (and maybe champagne for a toast), you could save yourself some money.

Another option would be to do beer, wine, and a signature drink instead of unlimited hard alcohol drinks.

According to approximations I’ve researched in the past, a limited bar of beer and wine (plus juice and soda) at $15 per person would cost an estimated $3,000 total (before taxes and service fees). Again, this is just a guideline, but you can see how you might save a bunch of money having a limited bar.

Approximations from an event drink calculator for a 6-hour reception estimates the following number of drinks to buy for a limited bar for 200 guests that is 70% wine and 30% beer:

Bottles or cans of beer (12 oz): 420
Bottles of wine (750 ml): 196

As you can see, the best we can do as we plan our wedding open bars is to take into consideration (as best we can) the preferences of our guests, our own budgets, the guidelines we are recommended by various wedding planners and event drink calculators, and then make sure we overstock our bars with the option of getting our money back on the unopened bottles afterward.


Venue-Dependent Pricing to Keep in Mind

If you’re allowed to stock your own bar, this won’t matter so much. But if your venue is charging you to stock the bar for you, make sure you know how they’re going to do it.

Venues price their open bars differently and depending on how they do it, and the make-up of your guests (as far as drinking habits go), you could end up paying more money than you’d like.

Some venues charge by consumption, which means that you pay the price of exactly what each guest ordering throughout the night, just like a normal bar tab at a bar.

On the other hand, some venues charge a flat rate, no matter how much your guests drink. Flat rates are usually one price per guest (such as $20 per guest for the night) or one price per guest per hour of your event, and each hour can be priced differently. For example, a venue might charge you $15 per guest for the first hour and then $10 per guest for each additional hour.

Related Questions

  1. What is the average cost of alcohol for a wedding of 200 guests?
    The popular wedding site Zola estimates that couples spend “upwards of $8,000” on alcohol for a 200-person wedding (Source). Remember that the fancier the brands are that you stock, the higher the price will be. However, it is very possible to bring this price down with cheaper, wholesale booze and even creative unconventional options like having a keg.
  2. Should I just have a cash bar at my 200-person wedding?
    Know that, unfortunately, many guests will complain (either to your face or behind your back), but it’s your wedding after all. If you simply can’t afford it, then do what you need to do and just let your guests know in advance so that they can be prepared to bring enough cash with them.

Brittany

Brittany is a writer, teacher, and a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.