Hosting an Open Bar

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There are two ways to have bar service at your wedding ; either an Open Bar or a Cash Bar.  Today we are going to talk about hosting an Open Bar since our ranch does not have a liquor license and can only offer the Open Bar.

To clarify the difference between a cash bar vs. an open bar : Cash Baris when the host of the event would either pay for every drink their guest drank or the guest themselves must pay for each drink.  These two options are done when a venue has a liquor license and are not allowed to let their guest bring in their own alcohol.  This does differ in each state so you would need to check your local laws.

The other option is to host an Open Bar, this is where the host may bring in their own alcohol and serve it to their guest at no charge.  This is what is required at the Ellis Ranch but you should check with state laws or ask the venue.

Hosting an Open Bar is by far more affordable in the long run since the host of the wedding or event aren’t having to pay a per bottle and /or per drink charge.

The one thing no one likes to think about when hosting a wedding is the liability the couple, family and venue has.  This is always a topic we go over with every couple.   As the host you are responsible for your actions and the actions of your guest.  We recommend every couple to check with their own insurance company to see what liability coverage they have or may need.

Check with your venue to see what regulations they may have set.  Example we do not allow any shots.  Hope this blog helps you with planning our wedding or next event.  If you are an Ellis Ranch bride or considering the Ellis Ranch to host your wedding and have some questions please direct all questions to Shawn and Kim 970-593-9570 or

You should let your guest know in your wedding invitation that you will be hosting an open bar and also add it to your wedding web site if you have one.  That way the guest will know they do not have to spend any more money.

We have been asked how much training does the staff have.  That would be different for every venue.  Those who only host a cash bar will have more training then a venue those who only host an open bar.  Both types of bars the bartenders will check all drivers license for proper age and when someone is getting drunk to have them back off.  The Ellis Ranch bartenders always recommends they call a cab or they ask who their designated driver will be.  If you are hosting an open bar the choices are generally limited to fewer choices for the guest.  You have to remember even if you are hosting an open bar at a private party the venue and hosts have to follow liquor laws.

If at all possible in your budget you should have taxi phone numbers ready or hire a shuttle or limo to drive those who might drink too much.

Shawn and Kim, our managers at the ranch have compiled this the list below to help with organizing your Open Bar.  It is a guideline and has some helpful hints.

BEER Kegs & Bottles:

½ Barrel = 165 servings

¼ Barrel = 80 servings

Kegs are much cheaper, but not all brands are available and no returns are allowed on un-used beer!

Helpful Hints

Most events we have, it is about 50/50 on Kegs VS Bottles, depending on your preference and amount of guests.  Expect about 75% of your group to drink 2 to 3 beers each.  Keep it simple and don’t forget that non-alcoholic beer for that person that doesn’t drink.  Remember you should always have bottled water, and soda available.


WINE & CHAMPAGNE Sizes & Servings

750ml = 5 servings

1.5 Liter = 11 servings

5 Liter Box – 32 servings

750ml (toast) = 8 – 3oz. servings

The larger you go on the serving size, the more cost effective it gets. 1.5 And larger sizes are great if you are just offering wine offered at the bar.

Helpful Hints

Most important, drink what you like!!

Keep it simple, usually one red, one white and maybe a blush.  Again expect 75% of your group to drink 1 to 2 glasses of wine.  When choosing Champagne, try to go with something that will appease the masses.  Sweeter is usually better in this case.

LIQUOR Sizes & Servings

750ml = 17 mixed drinks

1 Liter = 21 mixed drinks

1.75 Liter = 38 mixed drinks

Both 750ml and Liters are popular sizes.

1.75L will save you money but are hard to serve from and you tend to have left over alcohol (which can be good at times).  Just depends on your preference!

Helpful Hints

One thing to remember – Offering hard liquor tends to take away from you beer drinkers so keep this in mind.  Again keep it simple if possible.  Expect 50% of your group to drink 1 to 2 mixed drinks.  Most events bring Rum, Whiskey, Gin, and Vodka.

Margarita Machine Mixes

Strawberry Margarita: 2-1.75 Liter Tequila

Lime/Mango Margarita: Either 2-1.75 Liter Tequila or 1-1.75 Liter Tequila & 1-1.75 Liter Triple Sec

Strawberry Daiquiri/Pina Colada/Mai Tai: 2-1.75 Liter Rum (clear)

Sangria: 5-1.5 Liters White Wine (Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay)

Supplies to remember to pick up

Mixers – 16 oz. cups for beer or mixed drinks – 9 oz. cups for wine

 Napkins – Bottled Water – Soda

20 lb. bags of Ice may be purchased from the bartenders at $4.00 each.

Something to remember

You are responsible for the well being of your guests and when you serve hard liquor to your family and friends they tend to get more intoxicated!!

Their safety may be in jeopardy if they drink & drive!

Call 970-556-8227 for Transporter (They will pick them up)

Ellis Ranch Event Center & Wedding Park

2331 Ellis Ranch Lane Loveland, Co. 80538