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The Hidden Wedding Cost of Corkage Fees

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What are corkage fees? Find out more about this surprising added cost so you don’t bust your wedding alcohol budget!


When you’re digging into your wedding budget, you will likely focus on the professionals and details you know best (think: venue, catering, photographer, florist). But hidden amongst the services and items we all know well are a host of hidden wedding fees. So that they’re not so unknown, we dove into 12 of the most common fees that might snag your wedding budget. We still think one, in particular, deserves its own post—corkage fees.

Below, we’re explaining the definition of a corkage fee. You’ll learn when it’s charged, how you may avoid it, and how much it could add to your total bill. 

What is a corkage fee? 

At its most basic, a corkage fee is a charge deemed necessary by a catering or bartending company that will take the lead to open and serve bottles of wine. The fee essentially covers the cost for the team to chill (if needed), uncork, pour, and serve glasses to wedding guests in stemware rented by the catering company.  

When are corkage fees charged?

No matter if you decide to offer beer and wine or a totally open bar during your reception, you will have several options for supplying the alcohol you would like your team to offer to your guests. One option is for your venue or catering company to supply the alcohol. Typically when this route is chosen, you will be presented with a flat fee for your bar. On the flip side, another option is to pay for your alcohol-based on consumption. If you choose to do this, a corkage fee will likely apply. 

Paying for alcohol based on consumption means you will only pay for the alcohol that is either completely consumed by your guests or opened and unable to be returned. Further, if you choose this option you’re also more likely to be working with one vendor to supply your alcohol and a second vendor who will serve it. Because the vendor who is serving the alcohol is not profiting off of the consumption, they look to corkage fees as a way to make back some of the money they are “losing”. 

Lastly, as stated in the first point, wine, in particular, requires additional steps and supplies in order to serve it properly. Corkage fees cover the cost of both. 

Can corkage fees be avoided? 

Although they may ultimately say no, especially if your cost is based on consumption, it’s still a question worth asking your venue or catering company. But, the best way to avoid corkage fees altogether is to opt-in to your venue or catering company’s suggestion that they supply all alcohol. Keep in mind, even if you have to pay corkage fees for wine, your total cost for alcohol and corkage may still be less than the cost of purchasing alcohol through your venue or catering company.

How much is a corkage fee? 

The total cost of corkage fees is a bit like the Wild, Wild West — there really isn’t a consensus. States and counties don’t always regulate the fee, which means it’s largely left up to venues and catering companies to decide how much to charge. Currently, The Knot reports the fee can be $1.50-$3 per bottle opened, while The New York Times mentions it can be $7-$10 per person in cities like Chicago. 

To break this down with our alcohol calculation in mind, a 4-hour reception for 150 guests with a wine and beer bar will require eight cases of wine (each case has 12 bottles). If all 96 bottles are opened (it’s unlikely), your corkage fee based on The Knot’s highest $3 per bottle figure will be just under $300 ($288 to be exact). If you wanted to use the highest $10 per guest figure mentioned by The New York Times, your corkage fee would be $1,500. As a general rule, estimating a bit higher is always safer because saving money is always better than owing more!

What are your questions about corkage fees? Are you curious about any other hidden wedding fees? We’re happy to help more in our community!

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What are corkage fees? Find out this surprising added cost so you don't bust your wedding alcohol budget!
What are corkage fees? Find out this surprising added cost so you don't bust your wedding alcohol budget!
What are corkage fees? Find out this surprising added cost so you don't bust your wedding alcohol budget!


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