How Bar Packages Work at an Indian Wedding Venue

This article explains how bar packages work at an Indian wedding venue. Because most Indian weddings have between 15%-25% of the guests who will not drink alcohol, venues have created a consumption bar option. A consumption bar means you pay for each drink consumed vs. paying a per person fee for unlimited alcohol. Think of it like ordering a la carte instead of going for the buffet.

For Indian weddings it is usually more cost effective to go a la carte vs. the buffet. Why? Because, given the average cost of bar packages at most venues where Indian weddings take place EVERY PERSON at your reception has to drink at least 5 alcoholic (not soda, tea, coffee, water)…5 alcoholic beverages to make bar packages worth it. 5 alcoholic beverages per person is a lot.

I have this conversation with every couple whom I book their venue; and I encourage you to do your own math because your curiosity will bother you, until you do.

Every couple says, “yeah but my friends will make up for the people that won’t drink”. First of all, it’s not just about the people who won’t drink at all. It’s also important to consider how much people are going to drink.

Your Pammi Aunty might enjoy a glass of wine or two but is she going to have 5, within a six hour time frame?

So here’s what I recommend you do:

  1. First consider your guest list and get a rough estimate of the number of people you know won’t drink at all, since that’s the easiest group to filter out.
  2. Then think about the number of people who you think really will have 5 drinks or more. Be realistic. Is that number larger than the number of people who won’t have at least 5 drinks? Of course you can’t definitively say who will drink how much but consider your own behavior when you’ve gone to weddings, your parents, close family friends – use your experience as a proxy to estimate behavior. Are there more people attending your wedding who will have 5 drinks or more compared to the number of people who won’t?

If you have enough people who will throw down, then by all means, get the package. Unfortunately, venues don’t offer per person packages just for a portion of guests, like paying the package fee for 75% of the guests (believe me I’ve tried). There’s no way for venues to track that.

{How Consumption Bars Work}

You set a limit upfront. So let’s say $7000 (see details below on how to estimate an accurate limit; but in general for a 350 person wedding, I’ve consistently found $7000 to be a pretty good estimate.

As the reception progresses that day, and the bar approaches the limit, someone from the venue will approach you (or whomever you’ve designated) and ask what you want to do:

a. increase the limit
b. convert to a cash bar
c. convert to serve only certain drinks
d. shut down the bar

At the end of the event your account will be charged for the amount consumed. Note that service charges and tax will apply to the final amount.

So how do you estimate an accurate consumption bar limit? 

A. I would start by doing the math on some costly (aka worst case) scenarios. For example:

a. assume every Uncle will have 2-3 hard drinks each
b. assume 50% of all Aunties will have 1 glass of wine + 1 soda + water each
c. assume 50% of all Aunties will have 1 hard drink + 1 soda + 1 water each
d. assume all of your friends will 4 hard drinks + 2 waters each
e. For kids take the number of kids*2 sodas + 1 water each

I suggest this because it’s helpful to see a “worst case scenario” for yourself.

B. You can use these numbers to estimate:

3 star hotels:$7/non-alcoholic & $10/drink, $5 water
4 star hotels: $9/non-alcoholic & $12/drink, $7 water;
5 star hotels: $12/non-alcoholic & $15/drink, $10 water;

OR get the catering menus for every venue you’re considering and look at their pricing. The average drink at the Ritz-Carlton is going to be a lot higher than at a Doubletree.

C. Now create a new column on your spreadsheet with this scenario:

estimate the number of people who won’t drink alcohol at all and replace them with 2 sodas + 1 water each. Automatically your Aunty and Uncle numbers from scenario 1 will decrease.  Next, think about your friends, since they’re the people whom you know best and they’re likely to be the ones drinking the most. In scenario 2, your estimate will be lower but still have buffer.

D. Continue to play with scenarios to estimate how much to put down for the bar.

If you’ve done a good job estimating then you shouldn’t have to increase the limit by too much that day.

{Take Aways}

We hope this guide helped you understand how to setup the bar for an Indian wedding. The US Indian wedding industry is worth $5B and growing. Venues across the country have come to understand how valuable this business is and slowly but surely are changing their policies to accommodate our community’s unique needs. The consumption bar is one reflection of that.

In my work with venues, I continuously advocate for change that is mutually beneficial – as venues increasingly seek Indian wedding business.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! 🙂

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