How to Calculate Alcohol Needs for Your Wedding

Many costs can be fixed for a wedding. However, you also need to know how to calculate alcohol needs for your wedding. Read our guide to learn how.

By Jennifer Prince

Calculate Alcohol Needs for Your Wedding
Photo by Bryan Sargent Photography

The First Look ✨

  • The type of bar, consumption of your guests, and timing of your wedding all factor into how much you will need.
  • There are a few simple rules to follow, such as calculating one drink per guest per hour of your reception.
  • Determining the types of alcohol, glass size, and when you will serve alcohol goes a long way in deciding your need.

It’s safe to say that alcohol doesn’t mix well with certain things, such as driving or doing math. However, when it comes to your wedding, you can’t avoid doing a bit of work on your calculator. So, dust off those high school math skills, and get ready to figure out how much alcohol you’ll need. Your teacher would be proud and most certainly advise you that math and cocktails are well paired. However, drinking and driving are, of course, not.

Questions to Determine the Amount of Alcohol You Need

Zola: How to Calculate Alcohol Needs for Your Wedding Photo Credit // Artistic Imagez

When Will Alcohol Be Served?

Some couples greet their guests with a spritzer, schedule a cocktail hour, offer a toast, and then have an open bar. Others simply provide a toast and cash bar at their wedding reception. Knowing when alcohol service begins and ends can help you determine how much—and what kind—you’ll need.

How Do Your Guests Like Their Drinks?

Taking note of who will attend and what their preferences are is helpful. If your loved ones are non-drinkers or only drink beer, you can have a pared-down alcohol list. Maybe if you have wedding guests that love wine, you can offer a sparkling wine or a red wine at the wedding bar. However, you may have guests who are connoisseurs with expensive tastes or heavy drinkers. In that case, you may need to offer higher quality drinks and more of them.

How Long Is Your Reception?

A wedding with a cocktail hour and three-hour long reception will need more alcohol than a simple two-hour-long dinner. Determining how long you will serve drinks is a significant factor in calculating how much you’ll require.

What Time Is Your Wedding?

Alcohol needs for a brunch wedding differ from that of an evening wedding that could go late into the night. Mimosas and bloody Marys are perfect, scalable drinks for a daytime event.

However, cocktails and higher proof beverages are a better fit for a nighttime affair. Even the season can come into play. For example, folks may consume more decadent drinks in the winter and lighter ones in the summer heat.

Which Type of Bar Are You Having?

  • Dry Wedding: With a dry wedding, your alcohol cost is nonexistent. However, you may want to splurge on a nice, specialty alcohol-free drink for your toast.
  • Cash Bar: Alcohol is served at a cash bar wedding. Although guests are less likely to splurge and get multiple drinks if they’re footing the bill themselves.
  • Limited Open Bar: An open bar means that the host is footing the bill. However, with a limited bar, the options are scaled back to selections such as beer and wine only.
  • Open Bar: An open bar wedding is the exact opposite of a dry wedding, and guests can access drinks without cost. Your alcohol needs will be greatest with this type of bar service.

What Types of Alcohol Will do You Serve?

Choosing the type of bar will also help predict your alcohol needs. The more variety you offer, the more bottles you’ll have to purchase. A wide selection could result in partially open bottles of vodka and that random smoked bourbon that wasn’t received well.

Limiting your choices can help you hone in on what is essential. If your hard liquor is mixed into cocktails, go for good drinks instead of splurging on the expensive stuff.

How Large Are Your Glasses?

Zola: How to Calculate Alcohol Needs for Your Wedding Photo Credit // Bryan Sargent Photography

If you want to finagle a bit, go for smaller glasses. Doing so will lessen the number of times that people head to the bar for drinks. Consequently, it will also cut down on drink waste.

How to Calculate Alcohol Needs for Your Wedding

Of course, the best thing to do is talk to whoever is providing your bar service. Your caterer, venue, or bartender will be able to guide you along the way with what you need. However, there are a few simple calculations you can do on your own to determine the quantity.

Most likely, bar services offer wedding alcohol packages to guide you. A professional can also help you figure out the average cost of alcohol for a wedding of 150 guests.

Use a Simple Wedding Alcohol Calculator

The typical school of thought is to plan one drink per hour per guest. Say you want to calculate how much alcohol for a wedding of 150 for a two-hour reception. That would equal 300 drinks throughout your event. Of course, this number is just an average. You will have some guests who drink one and others who drink three.

Break Your Quantity Down into Types of Alcohol

Knowing the types of beverages your guests prefer is truly helpful when determining quantity. However, the general rule of thumb is to break down the types of alcohol into percentages.

For a full open bar, estimate the quantity to be 50 percent wine, 30 percent liquor, and 20 percent beer consumption. If you’re only serving beer and wine, it’s common to calculate the percentages to be 75 percent wine and 25 percent beer.

Know the Servings Per Bottle and Per Case

Here are common measurements for what each bottle will approximately serve.

  • Wine: Five servings per bottle and 12 bottles per case; also 60 servings per case
  • Beer: One serving per bottle and 24 bottles per case; also 165 servings per keg
  • Champagne Toast: Eight servings
  • Hard Liquor: Makes 18 mixed cocktails

Determine Your Hard Liquor Needs

A fully stocked bar will include a few types of hard liquor, but that’s not all. Don’t forget about extras, such as sour mix, juices, and soda. Garnishes will also need to be factored in. However, here are a few types that you should consider for your bar.

  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Rum

Finally, Do the Math

Yes, there is quite a bit of math involved, but that’s ok. When determining how much alcohol for a wedding of 150 guests, calculations are relatively simple. They aren’t nearly as scary as algebra or geometry. For 150 guests at a two-hour reception with a full open bar, you will need 300 servings of alcohol. Here’s an example of how to break it down.

  • Wine: Fifty percent, which is 150 servings. At 60 servings per case, that would be two-and-one half cases of wine. Of course, there are several varieties of wine, such as red, white, and rose. Therefore determine your needs based on preference and what foods you will serve.
  • Hard Liquor: Thirty percent, which is 90 servings. At 18 servings per bottle, that is five bottles. How you break it down is up to you. Having one bottle of each of the five suggested liquors may not be enough. Therefore you may need to double up.
  • Beer: Twenty percent, which is 60 servings. Since a case serves 24, you will need three cases and have some to spare. A keg may be a bit too much for a guest list of 150.

By revisiting your high school math skills, you can easily calculate alcohol needs for your wedding. You may not have been old enough to drink back then; however, with a bit of multiplication and division, you can quickly figure it out now.

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