How Much Alcohol Should You Buy for Your Wedding?

Posted by Helena Hambrecht on

You’re planning your wedding; how exciting! You can’t wait to share your happiness with all your loved ones.

It’s time to figure out where you’re going to have your wedding and how much alcohol you’re going to have. These two factors of wedding planning are often tied together. Depending on the venue, you may not be able to bring your own alcohol, or they could offer an amazing bar plan.

It can get overwhelming to think about the catering, the venue, and how much alcohol to supply to your guests. We can offer a few suggestions to help you get things figured out.

What To Think About When Getting Alcohol for Your Wedding

There are many different factors to consider when deciding how much alcohol should be at your wedding. It’s best to discuss these factors with your partner and write everything down. That way, you have everything in front of you and out of your head.

What Is Your Budget?

Money is probably the most important aspect to think about. What is your budget? What have you already spent? Do you have an idea of how much you want to spend on alcohol?

There are many different styles of wedding alcohol calculators that can help you figure out basic estimates. You can then have that estimated budget in your mind as you discuss venues and catering with your partner.

How Many Guests Will You Have?

This may be obvious, but how many guests are you going to have? Are they alcohol lovers? What alcohol do they like?

Make sure you only count the guests that are of drinking age. That way, you can either exclude them from any packages you buy or adjust the amount of alcohol you buy.

It’s good to be aware that guests will leave drinks half empty as they dance or talk. They’ll probably forget where their drink is and then get a brand new one because they can’t find their current glass.

Plan for guests to have anywhere between three to five drinks, depending on how long your reception is. `

Make sure there is something for the under 21 guests to drink other than water. Mocktails or soda are great alternatives.

What Kind of Bar Do You Want?

The amount of alcohol you’ll need will depend on the type of bar you want. There are a few different types of bars you can have at your wedding.

Open Bar

An open bar means that the drinks are free for guests, and you and your partner are paying the bill. You pay the bill ahead of time.

People often expect an open bar at weddings, though hosts have been using other options lately.

Limited Bar

This type of bar is when you choose what kind of alcohol is served ahead of time. This means you can offer wine, beer, and a cocktail or two instead of a full shelf.

Limited bars can be open or cash, but even a limited open bar will save you a little bit of money compared to a full open bar.

That one uncle you never see won’t be able to order top-shelf liquor with your money because you decided what to serve ahead of time.

Cash Bar

Cash bars are controversial. This style of bar is when guests have to pay for their own drinks. They’ve been rising in popularity because weddings are expensive.

Some people find them tacky because you are inviting people and then making them pay. However, if you’re going to go into debt if you have an open bar, it’s not worth it. Hopefully, your circle of friends and family will understand.

Mesh Bar Styles

You can actually combine styles of bars you have at your reception. For example, you can have an open bar for the first few hours and then have it be limited or cash.

You can also close the bar early or during the meal. You have plenty of options, so you don’t go over budget.

How Long Is Your Wedding?

Another aspect to consider is how long is your wedding? Wedding receptions tend to be around five to six hours. Is yours going to be more or less?

How long your wedding is will affect how much alcohol you’ll need.

When Is Your Wedding?

When your wedding is may affect how much alcohol you need. People tend to drink more during the warmer months versus the colder months.

What Style Is Your Wedding?

Depending on the style of your wedding, some alcohol may be better suited than others.

General Suggestions Based on Numbers

Experts have suggestions for how much alcohol you should have depending on the number of guests. These are general suggestions, and you’ll have to adjust them to fit your needs.

100 guests

  • 100 bottles or cans of beer
  • 50 bottles of wine
  • 15 bottles of champagne (mostly for toasting)
  • 15 bottles of liquor

200 guests

  • 200 bottles or cans of beer
  • 100 bottles of wine
  • 30 bottles of champagne
  • 30 bottles of liquor

300 Guests

  • 300 bottles or cans of beer
  • 150 bottles of wine
  • 45 bottles of champagne
  • 45 bottles of liquor

What Kind of Alcohol Should You Get?

The liquors you choose don’t all have to be top-shelf. It's ok to restrict it to a few different types. If you’d rather, you can have beer and wine only.

You can split the bar between beer, wine, and cocktails. You can also add a non-alcoholic option as well.

We mention wine and beer so much because 85% of weddings serve a form of beer and 70% of weddings serve some form of wine. Does this mean you have to serve beer and wine?

No! You can serve whisky, liquor, apéritifs, or any type of alcohol you want. It’s your wedding, so you get to choose what kind of bar you have at the reception.

Should You Have a Signature Cocktail?

That’s entirely up to you! If you and your partner like to drink, then a special cocktail makes sense.

Is there one that you both like to drink? Did you have one on your first date?

If there is a cocktail that has significance to your relationship, then the addition of that cocktail to the bar will be adorable. You can even tell its story to your guests.

If there isn’t a special cocktail that represents your relationship, you can always have one that matches the theme of your wedding. It could match with the name, taste, or how it looks.

There’s also nothing wrong with having more than one cocktail.

Should You Buy Your Own Alcohol or Purchase From a Venue?

This is a good question. Both options have their pros and cons. You should ask every venue you're interested in if you can even bring in your own alcohol.

There could be some legal or licensing issues depending on where you live. If your dream venue won’t let you, that kind of answers the question for you.

Pros of Buying Your Own Alcohol

  • You have control over the brands and style of alcohol
  • You save money because you have more control
  • Could buy in bulk and get discount or buy bottles on sale
  • Potentially could return unused alcohol
  • Can keep unopened alcohol for yourself

Cons of Getting Your Own Alcohol

  • Have to hire your own bartender
  • Have to keep track of your stock
  • Have to do the math yourself
  • There’s a lot of coordination that’s needed
  • You may have to provide garnishes and ice

If you choose to go through your venue, you could ask if there is a consumption package. A consumption package is when you’re charged for any drinks consumed.

This is a great option if your guest list is full of light to moderate drinkers. It’s a terrible idea if your guests love to drink. You don’t want to be surprised with a bill that’s way over what you guessed.

Weddings Are Supposed To Be a Source of Joy

With all the chaos that planning a wedding can be, make sure your big day is full of joy. Make sure you feel comfortable with what you’re spending, that you’ve communicated with bartenders and the venue, and that you know what kind of bar you want.

It’s a lot of work, we know, but it will be so worth it in the end.

Sources:

25 Wedding Drink Ideas For Your Signature Cocktail | The Knot

How Much Alcohol Do You Need for Your Wedding? | Brides

Summer Drinking: How Much Is Too Much? | Flushing Hospital