How to Calculate Alcohol for a Wedding

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Once the bride and groom have said “I do,” wedding guests look forward to an evening of food and drink. Calculating the amount of alcohol needed to ensure a sufficient supply throughout the reception is a challenging proposition. Purchasing too much can put a big dent in the budget, but running out during the festivities may make you look cheap.

Things You'll Need

  • Guest list
  • Wedding reception itinerary
  • Calculator

Finalize the Reception Logistics

  • Determine the number of guests expected. 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 you know do not drink alcohol.

  • Assess the overall demographics of the attendees. 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.

  • Finalize the wedding reception itinerary, particularly the duration of pre-dinner cocktails and post-dinner dancing, and list the type of drinks you will serve during each portion of the reception. Some prefer an open bar 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. This determines how much of each type of beverage you must purchase. It is common to serve wine and champagne during the meal and open a full bar for post-dinner festivities.

Determine Specific Beverage Needs

  • Estimate roughly one drink per person for each hour that you plan on serving drinks at the reception. For a four-hour reception attended by 100 drinking guests, estimate 400 drinks.

  • Use the ratio of beer, wine and spirits to calculate the amount of each type of beverage. Using the standard 50/30/20 ratio, 400 drinks translates to 200 beers,120 glasses of wine and 80 cocktails.

  • Calculate the toasting Champagne separately, using one 4-ounce glass per person. Many of the guests will sip the champagne during the toast to be polite, but will probably not consume the entire glass.

Calculate Total Alcohol Needed

  • Use standard per-drink consumption measures to determine the amount of alcohol you will need for your reception: 1 to 2 ounces of alcohol for each cocktail, 4 ounces for each glass of wine and 8 to 12 ounces for each beer, depending on the size of the glass, bottle or can.

  • Calculate beer needs based on whether you want to serve beer on tap or in bottles or cans. 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.

  • Calculate wine based on one 750-milliliter bottle providing roughly five glasses of wine. For 120 glasses of wine, purchase 24 bottles, which is the equivalent of two cases.

  • Calculate spirits 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.

  • Calculate champagne based on six glasses per bottle. For 100 flutes of champagne, purchase 17 750 ml bottles.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use liquor vendors that have a buy-back policy. As long as you ensure a minimum purchase, they will refund you for any unconsumed cases of alcohol. This ensures you have a sufficient supply without paying for more than is used.
  • Make sure that your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol on the premises, and ask if they charge a per-bottle corkage fee. Knowing all of your costs upfront will save you from any unpleasant surprises when you get back from your honeymoon.
  • Monitor your guests' alcohol consumption to ensure responsible drinking. If any guests have over-imbibed, do not allow them to get behind the wheel of a car.
  • If possible, have food and coffee available for guests during periods where you are serving alcohol.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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