Estimating Drinks Per Person For A Wedding Reception

Wedding Alcohol Question:

We are serving beer and wine only at our reception and I must let the caterer know how much we want of each. My question is how to figure this number? 60 % of the # invited is 90 people. I need to get this right because I want to have plenty, but we do not get credit for the unopened bottles.

Wedding Expert Answer:

Let me preface my recommendation by saying that we can never 100% fully know how much beer and wine our guests will drink. We can only estimate.

You can estimate that each guess will consume about 3 – 5 drinks an hour. Guests consume more white wine then red, and domestic beer is less costly than imported. Where wine and beer are both served, the tendency seems to be to drink more wine. One case of wine serves roughly 100 people, and beer is one for every person.

Thank you for the feedback. However, this estimate seems to be very high. For example, I would never drink 6-10 glasses of wine in 2 hours.

My Big Day Expert Answer:

You asked for an estimate and the formula is just that. Whether or not you follow it is up to you. It may not be in your nature to drink that much, but the guests who do drink, will drink, and more so when the alcohol is available freely.

Couples make the mistake of looking at this formula in terms of “I can’t believe anyone would drink 6 – 10 drinks in two hours”. But what they fail to see (mainly by lack of experience) is that guests don’t always drink all of their glasses of wine, bottles of beer or glasses of mixed drinks before they get another one. Often, our drinking guests will sample what ever is available at the bar, with no thought to the fact that you or I might are paying for that glass, bottle or mixed drink.
Rebecca Black,

Etiquette By Rebecca:

So true. However, you may also want to discuss this with your caterer or read what they suggest as well. There are roughly 5 glasses of wine per bottle, 12 bottles per case, that is 60 glasses of wine per case. Plus, many caterers plan on 1 bottle of wine per drinker, which is 5 glasses of wine. If there is a server for the alcohol, you could get a keg, which would be plenty of beer.

How to Calculate Alcohol for a Wedding

Figuring out how much alcohol is needed for a wedding is no small chore. Getting wrong can have dire consequences for guests trying to get their party spirits going. At the same time, buying too much can put a big dent in the budget.

  1. Determine the number of people. How many people are expected to attend the wedding reception before embarking on any calculations. Include the bridal party in the final count, but omit any wedding guests under the age of 21, the legal drinking age in the United States, and any guests who you know do not drink alcohol.
  2. Understand Your Guests. In a demographically diverse group, expect roughly 50% beer consumers, 30% wine drinkers and 20% who prefer cocktails. If your guests are predominantly young men, expect a higher beer consumption. A predominantly female audience may consume more wine and wine coolers.
  3. Finalize the Plan. You need to know how long the pre-dinner cocktail hour will be and post-dinner dancing. What drinks do you plan to serve at each section during the event. Some people prefer an open bar serving beer, wine and spirits throughout the entire reception, while others may choose to limit the types of drinks served. It is acceptable to limit pre-dinner cocktails to wine, champagne, punch or a special signature drink chosen by the bride and groom. While this may not change the amount of alcohol you must buy, it is crucial in determining how much of each type of beverage you must purchase. It is very common to serve only wine and champagne during the meal, with a full bar open for the post-dinner festivities.
  4. One Drink Per Person Per Hour. If you expect your wedding reception to last for four hours and you have invited 100 guests, estimate a total of 400 drinks.
  5. Split Beer, Wine & Spirits. If you expect your guests to consume 400 drinks at the wedding reception in total, that translates to 200 beers, 120 glasses of wine and 80 cocktails using the standard 50/30/20 ratio.
  6. Count Champagne Seperately. Calculate necessary champagne for toasting separately, using one 4 oz. glass per person. Many of the guests who are otherwise beer, wine or cocktail drinkers will sip the champagne during the toast to be polite, but will probably not consume the entire glass.
  7. Standard Drinks Calculations. Use standard per-drink consumption measures to determine the amount of alcohol you will need for your reception: 1 to 2 oz. of alcohol for each cocktail, 4 oz. for each glass of wine and 8 to 12 oz. for each beer, depending on the size of the glass, bottle or can.

Calculating Each Drink At a Wedding

  1. Calculate Beer. For a total of 200 servings of beer, purchase a half keg for beer on tap or 33 cases of 12-pack bottles or cans.
  2. Calculate Wine. Base the calculations for wine on one 750 ml bottle providing roughly five glasses of wine. For 120 glasses of wine, purchase 24 bottles, which is the equivalent of two cases.
  3. Calculate Spirits. pirits based on 1.5 oz. per drink to ensure a sufficient supply. Although a standard cocktail contains 1 oz. of alcohol, spillage and incorrect measurements may happen unless you have professionals tending bar. Since a standard 750 ml bottle will make 18 cocktails, you will need the equivalent of 4.5 bottles of liquor.
  4. Calculate Champagne. Should be based on six glasses per bottle. For 100 flutes of champagne, purchase 17 750 ml bottles.

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