Wedding Alcohol: Calculator and How Much to Buy


All Photos Courtesy of BevMo

Wedding Alcohol: Calculator and How Much to Buy

Offering good food and drinks is usually a top priority for wedded couples. Wedding alcohol is more challenging than the food menu because it can be difficult to estimate alcohol costs. Let’s demystify this part of the reception budget.

If you’ll provide alcohol to your guests, here are the most common fee options:

  1. Per Person. Your venue, or caterer, charges a “per person” fee for unlimited alcohol consumption.

  2. Per Consumption. Your venue or caterer charges per drink ordered. Beer and wine are often cheaper per drink than hard liquor or mixed drinks.

  3. DIY Bar. You buy the alcohol and may hire bartenders to serve it.

Because “per person” is a set fee, you’ll know your total alcohol cost once you give your final guest count to your venue or caterer. That’s easy. It’s “per consumption” and “DIY bar” that are trickier. But before you calculate how much alcohol to buy or budget for, determine what kind of a bar menu you’ll offer.

How Much Alcohol to Buy for a Wedding

Whether you’re stocking the bar at your wedding or needing to figure out estimated costs because you’re paying “per consumption,” what percentage of your guests do you think will drink hard liquor?

If you’re totally in the dark and want to offer hard alcohol, retailers such as Total Wine & More and BevMo! suggest 70-80% of wedding guests will drink beer and wine, while 20-30% will drink spirits. So, what type of hard alcohol to get for 20-30% of your guests?

Because a venue or caterer will usually charge per consumption or per person, you may as well offer a full open bar with whatever hard alcohol they’re willing to provide. It won’t cost you more to offer a full selection (but do keep in mind, a full selection may lead to more drinking and therefore, a higher overall bar tab).

However, if you’re doing a DIY bar, you’ll probably want to limit the selection of spirits because you have to buy all the alcohol. Want a few good ideas? For a summer wedding, margaritas would be delicious with Tex-Mex appetizers and a BBQ meal. Tequila is the primary alcohol. Or if your friends love martinis, offer a few flavors--Cosmopolitan, Lemon Drop, and Appletini--that are all vodka based. That’s a fun option for a holiday or formal evening wedding.

How Much Wine for a Wedding

On a tight budget? Or concerned about certain friends or family members who may drink too much? It’s not necessary to offer hard spirits. Providing beer and wine is fine, especially because according to the aforementioned alcohol retailers, 70-80% of guests prefer beer and wine anyway.

Both BevMo! and Total Wine & More suggest for a beer and wine-only menu, about 60% of guests will drink wine and 40% will drink beer.

For your wine menu, offer one sparkling wine, one white wine and one red wine. Ask your caterer which white and red wines go best with your meal but if in doubt, a Chardonnay white wine and Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot red wine are popular choices.

How Much Beer for a Wedding

As mentioned above, approximately 40% of your guests might drink beer. But beer drinkers can be pickier to please than wine drinkers. If in doubt, offer at least one well-known domestic brand and one well-known imported brand to keep the masses happy.

However, if your friends are obsessed with craft beer, wow them with an obscure collection along with a few favorites. Or if you and your spouse went to different state colleges, create a friendly competition with regional brews from your college hometowns.

Now that you’ve figured out your bar menu, a wedding alcohol calculator can estimate how much guests will drink and what that’ll cost you.

Wedding Alcohol Calculator

According to both BevMo! and Total Wine & More, for each adult guest plan on two drinks the first hour and one drink for each additional hour.

For a quick calculation, try either of these:

Wedding alcohol calculators are helpful but if the results seem way off then adjust as needed.

Keep in mind, you know your guests best when it comes to choosing whether to go with wine, beer, and/or hard alcohol at your wedding reception. Then your venue or caterer can suggest a bar menu that’ll pair perfectly with your food menu.

What kind and how much alcohol will you offer at your wedding? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook. Cheers!

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