How to Plan a Wedding Reception Drink Menu

Wedding guests being served cocktails at a reception.

Whether it’s cash or not, the wedding reception drink menu is something that most guests look forward to, so you should ensure that it’s stocked with everyone’s favorite beverages while also aligning with your wedding theme. After all, anyone can go to a bar and order a drink—the difference with your wedding reception drink menu is that it best reflects you and your partner, as well as meets your budgetary requirements. Need a little help? Read below on our best tips on how to plan a drink menu that’s tasty, trendy, and affordable.

Decide How Much Alcohol You’ll Need

If you’re hiring a caterer or having your venue supply you with a bar, then this is something that will probably be worked out on their end. If you’re throwing a DIY wedding, or at least planning on having a DIY bar, then a general rule of thumb is to plan that one guest will have one drink per hour. Still stumped? Here’s a handy drink calculator that can help you out with the numbers.

Know Which Alcohol to Include

Wedding guests pulling beer out of a chilled tub at an outdoor reception.

Generally, a full bar tends to have at least two different types of beers, one type of white wine, one type of red wine, one champagne or sparkling wine, and basic liquors like vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, and rum. Assorted mixers include types of soda, juices, and water, which can also be offered as non-alcoholic beverages, too.

Stick to a Budget

Now that you know the types of alcohol you’ll be including, it’s important to keep your budget in mind when selecting the liquor that will go behind the bar. This means that you don’t need top-shelf vodka, for example, if your finances don’t allow for it. Champagne can be pricey, but a Prosecco tends to be cheaper. Look for alternatives that are equally tasty on the palate, but not pricey.

Taste Your Wine First

There are wine tastings for a reason. It’s always a good idea to know how your wine will taste before serving it. After all, wine tends to be one of the most popular beverages of the night for guests as it’s usually served with dinner. Now that you know your budget, experiment with different varietals and countries. Also consult with your menu. Heavier reds, like cabernet sauvignon, go better with richer and denser foods like roast beef. A lighter red such as a pinot moir, pairs best with chicken or pasta. The same goes for whites. While you want to enjoy your wine choices, you also want to make sure your guests will enjoy them, too, so don’t veer off to experimental territory. Stick to crowd-pleasers.

Consider Having a Signature Cocktail

Wedding guests holding a red-colored cocktail.

Some couples prefer to have a signature cocktail on the menu. It can be a drink that both you and your partner enjoy, or maybe it has nostalgic value. Some couples even concoct a unique drink that they think is reflective of them. Again, this will require some experimenting and tasting—something that we don’t think you’ll mind doing!

Include a Special Non-Alcoholic Punch

You want to make sure the teetotalers and designated drivers in the group have an alternative to the boring standbys like soda, juice, water, and coffee and tea. Including a fun non-alcoholic punch is a great way to keep them refreshed and feel special.

Pay Attention the Weather

When is your wedding taking place? If you’re having a summer wedding, you’ll want to stock up more on crisper and lighter drinks like white wine, rose wines, and anything that’s chilled. If you’re having a wedding during the colder months, not only should you stock up on richer options like red wines and cognacs and whiskeys, but you might also want to include specialty warm beverages on your menu like a hot toddy or Irish coffee.

With a little planning and a lot of tasting, you and your partner will be able to put together a wedding reception drink that suits everyone’s needs and tastebuds.

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