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How Much Alcohol to Buy for A Wedding: Wedding Planning 101

How Much Alcohol to Buy for A Wedding: Wedding Planning 101

wedding couple and their friends clinking their glasses

After the ceremony comes the most memorable part of the wedding: the reception! Receptions are usually fun and full of merriment – which is why for a lot of wedding receptions, alcohol is a must. Reception planning can be relatively simple especially if you’re already talking to caterers for the menu, but it can get quite complicated when the subject of alcohol is broached. If you’re wondering how much alcohol to buy for a wedding, then you aren’t alone.

Since all guest’s drinking habits and preferences differ, it can be difficult to gauge exactly how much alcohol you need at your reception. Luckily, there are a ton of wedding experts and former grooms and brides who can share their tips and experiences to help you out!

Read more to finally get the answer to this tricky question and avoid any alcohol emergencies on your special day!

Do You Actually Need Alcohol?

First things first: check your wedding checklist! It might be tempting to scrimp or splurge on alcohol for your wedding reception, but before you make any decisions, it’s always best to look through your budget first. Alcohol is a usual part of any celebration, and it is especially important to think about when you have a list of guests who are all of legal drinking age.

That being said, do you actually need alcohol at your wedding?

bartender pouring wine

For a typical Filipino wedding reception, the usual answer is yes. Aside from watching you and your beloved tie the knot, most of your wedding guests will be excited for two things: the chance to socialize and the chance to dash to the bar. Of course, it’s not an either/or situation! After all, socializing and drinking do go hand in hand.

Most of your guests expect some alcohol to be served at the wedding reception. If you’re particularly worried about how much liquor, wine, or beer to buy for your wedding, then the best way to estimate that is by looking at your guest list. Just looking at the names will give you an idea of what and how much alcohol you’ll need.

Of course, since your wedding is yours, it can be tempting to go for a no-alcohol celebration (also known as a “dry wedding”) instead. This might be particularly appealing to non-drinking couples, but that means giving your guests a heads up. After all, you want your guests to have fun too!

bride with the groom holding two wine glasses

How Much Alcohol to Buy for Your Wedding?

The total amount of alcohol to buy for your wedding will really depend on how long your guest list is and how much they drink too. Similarly, the kind of alcohol you buy will vary. However, if you’re looking for a standard or baseline chart, here’s what most wedding planners and mixologists recommend:

For 50 Guests:
Wine: 20-40 bottles of wine, which include a red, white, and sparkling option
Beer: 30-90 bottles of beer
Liquor: 10-15 bottles, plus the necessary mixers if you’re serving mixed drinks and cocktails

For 100 Guests:
Wine: 50-60 bottles of wine
Beer: 50-79 bottles of beer
Liquor: 20 bottles, plus the necessary mixers if you’re serving mixed drinks and cocktails

For 200 Guests:
Wine: 90-110 bottles of wine
Beer: 80-100 bottles of beer
Liquor: 40-45 bottles

It’s important to note that this is completely subject to change based on your preferences and habits. For example, if you know your guests enjoy beer, you can definitely buy more beer instead of wine, champagne, or hard liquor. At the end of the day, these are just suggestions and the final decision will still come from you!

pouring champagne in glasses

How Do You Estimate Alcohol for a Wedding?

The last thing you want to happen during your reception is to have an alcohol shortage. After all, you want to keep the drinks and merriment flowing! To do that, you’re going to need an ample amount of alcohol and drinks ready.

Estimating alcohol for a wedding can be difficult, because unlike food, alcohol isn’t straight up measured in servings or quantity. Plus, you have to think about your guests’ drinking habits and preferences which may change halfway through the night. So, what’s an accurate way to estimate how much alcohol to buy for your wedding?

Here are two ways you can estimate the amount of liquor you need:

guest list and a laptop at the side

Scan through the guest list

This is one of the more flexible ways to estimate how much alcohol you’ll need for a wedding. Before you settle on a fixed amount of alcohol, take a look at your guest list first. Group your guests into two major groups first: drinkers and non-drinkers. Drinkers should be anyone of legal drinking age regardless of whether they drink heavily or not at all, while non-drinkers are essentially people who can’t drink (so minors and people who can’t drink because of dietary or health restrictions go here).

From your list, you’ll have a ballpark estimate of how many people will drink. You can further categorize these drinkers into light or occasional drinkers, average drinkers, and heavy drinkers. It’s this categorization that will give you a better idea of how much liquor to buy for your wedding reception.

Light Drinkers: Light or occasional drinkers are those who consume alcohol slowly or not too frequently. These guests will average at about 1 to 2 drinks, with 3 being the highest number they go.

Average Drinkers: These drinkers are the ones that may consume alcohol differently each time, but in general an average alcohol drinker might consume around 3 to 4 drinks. Some may go up to 5, but for the most part they tend to cap off after the fourth drink.

Heavy Drinkers: Heavy drinkers are the ones that will constantly refill their glasses. If you have guests who consume 5 or more drinks regularly, then list them down as heavy drinkers.

Based on this categorization, you can adjust your alcohol budget accordingly. This method works especially well if you are having an intimate wedding or if you know your guest really well. Take note of what the general preference is among your guests, but be sure to put a limit on the hard liquor consumption if your guests are particularly rowdy. No one wants to have overly embarrassing wedding stories or alcohol poisoning from too much drinking!

 storage containing different types of alcohol

Go the Generic Route

If you’re not particularly privy to your guests’ drinking habits, then sticking to what most wedding experts and bartenders say is the way to go. Going the “generic” route is a quick way to estimate the alcohol needed for your wedding, without having to sift through the individuals on your guest list. All you have to really take into consideration is the number of guests you have.

If you’re going by what most wedding experts recommend, there are two things that you need to keep in mind:

The 50-30-20 Ratio

When you have a wedding, the alcohol you buy is generally divided into three categories: wine, beer, and hard liquor. How much and what kind of alcohol you buy for your wedding is generally dependent on your guests, but if you’re at a loss, you can always follow this rule of thumb instead.

50% of the alcohol should be wine, whether it be red, white, or sparkling (or a combination of all three!). This is what most wedding guests will have usually, so it makes sense to stock up on it. When in doubt, it’s best to ask the caterers what kind of wine will go best with the menu.

30% of your alcohol should be liquor. This means good quality whiskey, gin, bourbon, or whatever drink you and your guests prefer. While you probably won’t see your guests downing tequila shots, hard liquor is good to have in abundance if you’re serving cocktails and mixed drinks. Of course, some guests might ask for a couple of shots too, so having a few at the ready certainly won’t hurt.

Finally, 20% of your wedding alcohol should be for beer. This is probably the preferred drink for a lot of the average to heavy drinkers, so make sure to get good quality beer at your reception. A delicious craft beer or probably a classic favorite is always a good choice.

wine bottles and wine glasses on a table

The first two hours

When it comes to drinking, the first two hours are probably when your guests will consume their fill. A rough estimate is that wedding guests consume about 2 to 3 drinks during the first hour or so, and then one additional drink per successive hour. If you have a five-hour reception, you’re going to need about 6 to 7 drinks per drinking guest.

Of course, the exact answer to the question of how much alcohol you should buy for a wedding will differ per couple and their set of guests. This method doesn’t particularly take into consideration whether your guests are heavy drinkers or not, but it’s always better to have an excess rather than a shortage of alcohol.

calculator and a pen on top of a small red notebook

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Calculating Your Alcohol Budget

If you have a rough estimate of the alcohol needed for your wedding, the next thing you would think about is your alcohol budget. Depending on the configuration you have for your reception, your alcohol budget might inflate or deflate a bit (but not too much!). However, there are some ways to lessen the cost.

Here are some ways to keep your alcohol budget in check:

bottle of wine and two glasses inside a bucket

Familiarize Yourself With the Alcohol Fees

When it comes to alcohol, there are three common fee options that vendors, caterers, or venues might give you:

Per Head Fees: This is probably the simplest fee. Your venue or bartender charges a fee per guest – meaning your guests have an open bar so long as supplies last.

Per Consumption Fees: Using a consumption fee means paying for each drink consumed. That means the bartender charges per drink guests order. This can give you quite a whiplash, especially if your guests order too much hard liquor or mixed drinks.

DIY Open Bar: This is probably one of the cheaper options if you have an accurate estimate of how much alcohol to buy for your wedding. With a DIY bar, you can hire bartenders to whip up drinks for your guests, but you will supply the alcohol and mixers needed. In a set up like this, you’ll probably just pay the bartender’s fees rather than the drinks.

wedding couple holding each other

Consider Having a Morning Wedding

Morning weddings aren’t the most common, but they’re definitely one of the cheaper options if you’re looking to cut back on wedding expenses. This is especially true for alcohol expenses! Brunch cocktails usually have juice and other non-alcoholic stretchers mixed in. This means you won’t have to spend so much on alcohol and people are less likely to become drunk—making it a good budget tip for morning weddings. After all, no one wants to be sloshed before 2 PM…which is probably just around the time your reception is ending!

Don’t Serve the Most Expensive Drinks

Sure, champagne is nice…but it’s also expensive. While it might sound nice to theoretically have all your guests sip a bottle of champagne, keep in mind that one bottle is only good for five people on average. If you have a guest list of 100 people, that’s instantly 20 bottles…for just one glass each! Consider serving less expensive, yet equally tasteful drinks instead of going for the grandest alcohol around.

wine bottles in a wine rack

Buying Alcohol for A Wedding: Is It Cheaper to Buy Alcohol Myself?

One of the biggest questions when it comes to wedding planning is whether you can DIY something. The same can be said for buying alcohol for your wedding. Since alcohol isn’t the cheapest expense, you might be looking at the DIY option for alcohol: buying it yourself in bulk!

Similar to a lot of things here in the Philippines, buying alcohol and mixers in bulk is definitely cheaper. If your caterer or wedding venue allows you to supply the alcohol you need at your wedding, then you might want to take that option. It’s also a great way to customize your drinks menu. Since you’re providing the liquor, you can limit or request for options so long as the bartender can mix them.

The biggest drawback to buying alcohol in bulk for a wedding is that there is a chance you might run short on alcohol – but that’s only if you don’t estimate the amount of alcohol you need for the wedding reception and find where you can buy alcohol in bulk for weddings and similar events. However, if you have a good handle on the amount of wine, beer, and liquor you need for your wedding, then you are more likely going to save up by buying the alcohol for your wedding.

person raising a glass

Raise a Glass!

Figuring out how much alcohol to buy for a wedding you need for your wedding can be stressful, but that doesn’t mean it should unnecessarily take out the fun of planning your wedding. After all, booze and cocktails might be fun, but it’s your love that the people really came for.

With this quick guide on how much alcohol to buy for your wedding, you can get a rough estimate of the amount of alcohol you need to keep your guests satiated and happy. With that said, don’t forget to take a sip of wine, beer, or your drink of choice on your special day too. After all, everybody’s raising their glasses for you – and so should you!

Joey Cole
Author: Joey Cole

Joey Cole is a digital content writer from Laguna. When she's not looking at her task list, she's probably obsessing over another anime show, looking at pictures of food, or adventuring all over Faerun with her online DND friends.

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