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CostHelper > Recreation & Activities  > Cocktail Party

Cocktail Party Cost


How Much Does a Cocktail Party Cost?

 
low costAlcoholic Beverages: $4-$22 Per Personaverage costAppetizers: $15-$35 Per Personhigh costVenue Rental: $50-$2,500
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A cocktail reception, also called a cocktail party, is a formal-attire event at which guests are served drinks and hors d'oeuvres instead of a full dinner.

Typical costs:

  • Common costs for a cocktail reception include catering, bartending, invitations and venue rental. The typical cost for a two-hour cocktail party ranges from $25-$230 per person. On the higher end, hosts may choose a high-end venue, premium hors d'oeuvres and a full bar.
  • Caterers specializing in cocktail receptions let the host choose hot and cold appetizers for about $15 to $35 per person. For example, The Blue Mesa Grill in the Dallas area offers cocktail party appetizers from $10 per person (three items) to $19 per person (nine items).
  • When alcohol is not included in the catering fee, bartenders can be hired to serve drinks for an hourly rate (alcohol not included) or a per-person rate (drinks included). The typical range is $4- $22 per person for each hour of the event, with options ranging from beer or wine only to a full bar. For a 2-hour party, Cork Catering[1] in Illinois charges $7.50 per guest for beer or wine only and $14.50 per guest for a premium bar serving most types of mixed drinks. For detailed open bar pricing, see How Much Does an Open Bar Cost.
  • Cocktail party invitations are typically printed on quality cardstock to match the formal event, and costs typically cost $1-$3 each. The Graphic Cocktails Invitation[2] is custom printed and costs $55 for 25 invitations, at a cost of $2.20 each.
  • Renting a cocktail reception venue, such as a restaurant or a catering hall, typically costs $50-$2,500 depending on seating allowance and amenities. Restaurants, hotels or clubs may offer all-inclusive cocktail receptions by providing all services on site. For example, The Thorndale Inn[3] outside Philadelphia hosts 2-hour cocktail parties including an open bar and unlimited appetizers for $38 per person. This type of party is suitable for a minimum of 40 guests, and venue rental is included for the length of the party. The cost does not typically include invitations.
Related articles: Event Planner, Public Address System

What should be included:
  • A caterer should include the agreed-upon number of appetizers, typically 4 to 8. Food should be served buffet-style or carried on trays to be passed out by the catering staff. The catering staff should arrive in uniform and with all servingware.
  • Bartenders should serve mixed drinks, beer, wine and a non-alcoholic beverage in any combination chosen by the host, as long as the selection is made in advance.
  • A cocktail reception venue should provide tables, but may not provide chairs for all guests; it is common to stroll around the room. The Wedding Channel[4] lists items that should be included in a catering contract.
Additional costs:
  • Expect a 25% deposit to reserve a caterer or bartender for a cocktail party.
  • Additional or premium hors d'oeuvres may cost $2-$10 per selection. At St. John Catering[5] in the U.S. Virgin Islands, an appetizer selection costs $5 per person, with a three appetizer minimum. Bar setup typically costs $25-$350, with the highest prices reserved for a full-bar setup with liquor, mixers and fruit garnishes. For receptions of 40 guests or more, The Avenue Grill in Denver charges $25 to set up a beer and wine bar only or $100 for a full martini bar with fruit mix-ins. Additional fees apply to all alcohol, ranging from $3 for a domestic beer to $36 for a bottle of champagne. For an event with 125-250 people, Sean Martini's Bartending Service in northwest Indiana will provide two bartenders, 1 bar helper, a portable bar with caddy, menu, wine storage, utensils, large tub for chilling drinks for $350. In this case, the party host is responsible for providing all alcohol and mixers. Always ask if alcohol is included in the rate and get a quote for each option (full open bar, beer only or wine only).
  • Gratuity for caterers and bartenders costs an extra 15% to 20%.
  • Table linen rental may cost an extra $6 to $10 per tablecloth.
Discounts:
  • Limiting the number of appetizers and drink options at a cocktail party will typically save the host money. Jack's Firehouse[6] in Philadelphia offers limited budget cocktail parties with 4 appetizers, house beer and wine for $25 per person. This is a $10 savings off the cost of the same party with 5 appetizers.
Shopping for a cocktail party:
  • If shopping for alcohol, The Bar Mix Master[7] recommends buying enough for each guests to have 1 or 2 drinks for each hour of the cocktail party.
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External Resources:
  1.  www.corkcatering.com/pdf/CocktailPartyMenu.pdf
  2.  www.thestationerystudio.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/catalog.viewProduct/productID/22248/ca...
  3.  www.thorndaleinn.com/banquets-weddings/weddingreceptions/wedding-reception-cocktail-par...
  4.  weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-planning-ideas/wedding-reception-ideas/qa/what-shou...
  5.  www.stjohncatering.com/passed-apps.html
  6.  www.jacksfirehouse.com/Portals/0/docs/Jack%27s_Cocktail_Part_2008.pdf
  7.  www.barmixmaster.com/2006/05/planning-cocktail-party.html
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