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How Much Should We Expect Our Guests To Drink?

Dear Olivia,

My fiancé and I do not drink very often or very much. We would love some advice on how much alcohol we can expect our guests to drink at our wedding and how much we should plan for? We are also on a tight budget, so we are trying to be conservative. We will be stocking our own bar and we are expecting 100 adults. Can you please help? - Jenna


For a wedding, one thing you really shouldn’t cut out completely is the bar. People usually need a little bit of liquid courage (some need a lot!) to get up on the dance floor, and having a good selection of beverages is often the way to get the party started! If you're really trying to be conservative for your overall budget, consider serving just beer, wine and perhaps Champagne. 

If you're having an evening wedding, guests will expect there to be alcohol. To plan for how much, a good rule of thumb is to figure that each adult guest will have about one drink per hour of your reception (some will have more, some will have less). If you are serving cocktails, plan on having enough for at least two cocktails per person (some guests may only have wine and some guests may have up to four cocktails).

While stocking your own bar, here's the breakdown of how many drinks you can get per bottle:

1 750ml bottle of wine = five glasses

1 750ml bottle of champagne = between five and eight glasses

1 750ml bottle of liquor = 18 servings (1.5 oz servings)

1 case = 12 bottles

1 bottle of beer = one serving

For a full bar, it would be safe to plan on 20% liquor, 15% beer and 65% wine. If you're just serving beer and wine, plan to have 20% beer and 80% wine. 

Below is a breakdown for how much alcohol to buy for your wedding. For 100 guests, and on average a five-hour reception (cocktail hour plus dinner/dance reception), serving beer and wine only:

  • 100 (guests) x 5 (hours) = 500 drinks
  • 500 x 20% = 100 beers, or 8.5 twelve-packs – plan to buy at least 9
  • 500 x 80% = 400 glasses of wine/5 = 80 bottles of wine/12 = 6.6 cases = Round up to 7 cases. Plan to buy 2.5 red, 2 white, 2.5 champagne.

To decide which type of wine to serve, you and your fiancé should enjoy a day of wine tasting and select a few of your favorites.  Or you can always visit stores like BevMo, Costco or Trader Joes where they have great wine sales. 

If you want to offer a full bar, at its most basic, it will include two beers (one light, one dark), red wine, white wine, Champagne, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum and basic mixers (and ice!). Mixers include club soda, ginger ale, cola, diet cola, lemon-lime soda, cranberry juice, orange juice and margarita mix. Plan to have at least 6-8 liters of each mixer and about 250 lbs of ice. 

It's always better to err on the higher side when purchasing your alcohol. Trust me, you'd rather have leftover alcohol than run out during your reception! You can always give it away or save it for another time. Stick with the formula above and your guests will dance the night away and share an unforgettable day with you! (Your heavier drinkers MAY not remember everything though!)

Wishing you a wonderful wedding day!

Love, laughter and happiness,



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