Calculating How Much Alcohol to Serve at Your Wedding

A server at a wedding passing around cocktails on a tray.

Figuring out how much alcohol to buy and serve at your wedding can be challenging. Many brides and grooms don’t even know where to start when it comes to this topic, and it may end up being quite a guessing game if you’re not clued into different methods of how to figure this one out. Luckily for anyone purchasing alcohol for their reception, we have some great tips and tricks for ensuring you buy the perfect amount to serve your guests.

Decide What Kind of Bar You’re Offering

A bartender mixing cocktails at a wedding reception.

As the fist step of figuring out how much alcohol to get, you’ll want to decide what type of bar you’re offering your guests. There are several different types of bars you can go with. First, an open bar is the least restrictive and means that guests are free to order pretty much any drink of their choosing. Next, a limited bar typically includes a variety of beer, wine, and a signature cocktail. That means guests don’t have a choice of any liquor or mixed drink they want. A cash bar denotes that guests have to pay for their drinks. Most brides and grooms opt not to use this method as it can be seen as impolite. Finally, a non-alcoholic bar is pretty self-explanatory: it means there won’t be alcohol served and your guests will stick to soft drinks and any “mocktails” you may want to serve.

No matter which type of bar you’re going with, you’ll simply need to decide on it before you move forward figuring out how much alcohol to purchase for your wedding.

Know Your Crowd

The next step in figuring out how much alcohol to purchase is to know the crowd that makes up your guest list. Take inventory of how many people attending your wedding actually drink. For instance, if there are a lot of underage individuals attending your wedding, you won’t need to account for them in purchasing liquor. If you’re inviting a lot of individuals that you know don’t drink, this is a factor to consider when deciding on final numbers.

You’ll also want to consider what you know about what your guests like to drink. If you know a lot of your friends enjoy beer but not wine, take that into consideration. You know your friends and family and their habits best, so use this information to your advantage when it comes to planning out how much alcohol to purchase.

Know the Rule of Thumb

A wedding guest sitting at the bar with a cocktail.

There are general rules of thumbs for what you can expect an average drinking wedding guest to consume at your wedding. Research shows that most guests consume two to three beverages each during the first hour of your reception and then one drink per hour after that. Obviously, some guests consume more than this and others consume less, but this can be used as a general guideline.

Use an Alcohol Calculating Tool

A wedding alcohol calculator is a handy tool that you can use to get some rough numbers what to buy and how much. This tool takes a lot of factors into account and can provide you with a good estimate of what to purchase, but remember it’s not foolproof and you know your guests best. Use your best judgement and use the numbers this calculator gives you as strictly a guide.

Don’t Forget Mixers

You don’t want to forget the ever-important mixers if you’ll be serving a variety of hard alcohol at your wedding. This includes things like soda, seltzer or club soda, limes and lime juice, tonic water, juice, and triple sec. These are very important to have a stock of to properly allow the bar staff to make drinks, so don’t forget to include these items in your plans!

These tips make guessing the right amount of alcohol to stock your wedding bar less of a stress and a much simpler equation!

Find Amazing Vendors