Consumption Bar or Bar Package at Indian Wedding Venues? Your Friends Do NOT Make Up for All the People That Aren’t Going To Drink: A Walk-Through the Numbers.

When you’re planning an Indian wedding, most couples come across the decision of whether to do a consumption bar or buy the venue’s bar packages. A consumption bar is exactly what it sounds like – you pay for every drink consumed. The bar packages are fixed prices and are purchased per person. 

{How To Decide on a Bar Package vs. a Consumption Bar}

Most Indian weddings opt for a consumption bar because with bar packages you’re paying for every single adult regardless of whether they are going to consume alcohol or not. For Indian weddings where there’s usually a high percentage of people that do not consume alcohol at all, that can mean a lot of wasted money that could go towards so many other things for your wedding. 

A bar package is a combo of different beverages: wine, vodka, beer, whiskey plus sodas, and water. Every venue has at least two different packages to choose from, containing different brands, which is reflected in the package price. 

A consumption bar is where the venue charges you for every drink consumed.

Some brides and grooms are initially wary of the consumption option for a couple of reasons:

  1. if the per drink price at a venue is high
  2. worry that guests take only a few sips of a drink, forgetfully put it down somewhere and then go get another.

These are valid concerns. And the way to think through this and determine what you should do, is to run some numbers.

{The Bottom line: The Ideal Scenario Is A Hosted + Consumption Bar Combo}

The ideal scenario is to have the first 1-2 hours on a hosted package and then switch to a consumption bar, and I’ll explain why. Think about a wedding reception. The first 1-1.5 hours is cocktail hour and everyone is there. It’s also the time where people may be drinking more as it’s early in the evening and they’re socializing.

Once the reception starts, the bars are closed and don’t reopen until dinner is served. What happens after dinner? Many people leave. Usually the only people left are family and friends of the couple. That’s the time to switch to a consumption bar.

Not all venues offer this up front but you can ask for it.

{Step 1: “Biggest Dent To Your Wallet”}

“The Biggest Dent To Your Wallet”: this is calculated by taking the bar package price * the number of adults you expect at your reception. I call this the “biggest dent” scenario because it’s the most you’ll spend on the bar.

So let’s say the highest valued bar package at a high end resort is $70 (totally realistic) per adult and you’re having 350 adult guests. That comes out to $70*350 = $24,500. That’s a lot of money.

Now let’s look at the per drink prices:

A glass of wine for a premium brand, at a high end resort costs $15. 
A glass of Johnnie Walker Black at a high end resort costs $15.
A glass of soda at a high end resort costs $5.
A glass of mineral water at a high end resort costs $5.

$15 is the highest individual drink cost in this example – which is, again, totally realistic. 

So if you look at $70 per person for a package, that means every single adult would have to drink 5 glasses of premium wine or 5 Johnnie Walker Blacks in the timespan of your cocktail hour and reception, to make getting the bar package economical.

Every.Single.Adult.Guest. Is That Going to Happen?

{Your Friends Will NOT Make Up The Difference}

And for those that say that, “yeah but our friends will make up for the people that don’t drink” Again, don’t assume, do the math. The groom(s) will have what, 30-50 homies at the most? And the bride(s) the same? And they’re the only ones that will really throw down hardcore at your wedding, probably? And out of the groom’s homies at MOST ten or so will actually get $70 smashed. Same for the bride’s friends.

So we’re talking about at MOST 20 or so friends that will really drink $70 worth of alcohol. They probably will not makeup for all the other guests that are going to have 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks and 1 or 2 non-alcoholic beverages. But again, every venue is different, and every package is different so do your due diligence. 

{Step 2: Unrealistic Consumption Bar Scenarios}

The next thing to do is run scenarios based on a consumption bar. So let’s look at an accurate example:

Johnnie Walker Black is $15 per drink at a high end resort. 

Let’s assume every Uncle at your wedding drinks 1 Johnnie Walker Black per hour. So that’s 2 during cocktail hour and 2 from dinner to midnight. So that comes to $60 per person. And let’s assume 50% of the guests are Uncles or other people drinking 4 Johnnie Walker’s in the 6 hour time span of your cocktail hour to the end of the reception.  

Is this realistic? Sure, for some Uncles and others it is but is it for the majority? The majority is what’s key here, as you’re trying to decide whether a bar package or a consumption bar is the right choice for you. 

{Step 3: Realistic Consumption Bar Scenarios}

Next work through some realistic scenarios i.e.

  • 2 glasses of wine + 1 soda for 75% of guests
  • 2 hard drinks + 2 sodas for 50% of guests
  • 2 beers + 2 sodas for a percentage of guests
  • 2 sodas + 2 waters for a percentage of guests
  • 1 wine + 2 sodas for a percentage of guests

You should get the idea. Now you can start running through realistic numbers and compare these scenarios to getting a bar package.

Will some people be frivolous with drinks? Frivolous meaning, put down their drink that they’ve only had half of, walk away and then go get a new drink. Yes that will happen. But most people won’t because during the cocktail hour and reception., people are busy socializing. It’s annoying to have to go back-and-forth and wait at the bar for a drink. 

{Bartender to Guest Ratio}

Think back to all the weddings you’ve been to and sometimes how long you’ve had to wait to get a drink. FYI: most venues assign 1 bartender for every 100 guests.

{Realistic Costs of Drinks at Venues}

This is how much individual drinks cost at at a high end resort venue:

premium wine: $15 per glass
beer: $8 per beer
soda: $5 per glass
mineral water: $5 per glass
vodka: ranges $13-$15 per glass

These are realistic numbers so you can run your own numbers. BUT we always recommend going through the numbers as per the venues’ actual bar packages.

{Important Logistics Regarding When Alcohol
Is Actually Consumed During The Reception
}

Bar Package Number of Hours: The venue’s bar packages can be for cocktail hour and the reception or just the reception. Most packages have an amount of time associated with them ranging from 1-4 hours. As stated above, it may make sense to have a bar package for cocktail hour and switch to a consumption bar for the reception. 

Many people slow down the drinking during the reception because they are driving.


How Many Hours Is The Bar Actually Open?: Most venues sell their reception space in a 6 hour block – including cocktail hour. A common scenario is cocktail hour from 6pm-7pm and the reception from 7pm-midnight. And last call would be around 11:30pm.

Remember that at most Indian wedding receptions the flow is that the bars are open during cocktail hour and shut down when the ballroom opens and stay closed for the duration of the program. Then the bars re-open once dinner service starts. And stay open until last call. 

So:

6pm-7pm cocktail hour = bar is open
7pm-9pm reception program = bar is closed
9pm-11:30pm dancing = bar is open

{So The Real Questions Are…}

  1.  Is every adult guest going to consume $70 worth of alcohol in 3.5 hours?
  2. Will the people who will drink make up for the people who didn’t drink alcohol at all? 

Working through this, is really really really important as it has a big impact on your costs.   

{Take Aways}

I encourage every couple to question their assumptions when it comes to the bar at their wedding. Practically every couple we talk to says the same things, “well our friends will make up for the people who don’t drink”. And I always always say, just do the math. Let hard facts drive your decisions.


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