Buying alcohol for a small party or gathering is one thing, but having to estimate how much roughly a hundred people are going to drink is another. So if you’re wondering how to tackle the whole “How much alcohol should we buy?” dilemma, we’re providing a few tips and tricks to serve as a guideline when it comes to getting your wedding booze.
Before we set any direction or guideline, the first thing you have to understand is your guests. You know your guests better than anyone else, and you’ll be the best person to make a decision on providing them with the drinks they like to drink. Do the majority of your guests drink wine? Or are they more beer drinkers? Do they prefer whiskey, rum, tequila, or vodka? If you’re not sure, it never hurts to ring up a few of them and ask.
If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, here’s one you can follow. For the first hour, each of your guests will typically drink anywhere between two to three drinks. Then for the succeeding hours, a good estimate is probably one drink per hour. Calculate how many hours your reception will last, how many people are going to drink (kids are obviously a no-no, and there might be some seniors who won’t drink either), and work from there.
Your alcohol categories will basically be divided into three groups: wine, beer, and liquor. And in terms of percentages, a typical guide would be to follow the 50%-30%-20% rule. Example: 50% wine, 30% liquor, and 20% beer. Feel free to adjust the percentages or categories to suit your guests’ preferences.
Let’s say your reception lasts six hours and you have 120 guests. Out of the total number of guests, approximately 100 of those guests will be drinking. Let’s also follow the 50% wine, 30% liquor, and 20% beer rule. So if you do the math (see our little infographic above), you’ll need about 800 servings of alcohol for the reception.
Now that we’ve settled on 800 servings, let’s do the percentages:
One bottle of wine serves approximately 6 servings, while one bottle of liquor serves approximately 16 servings (if mixed), and one case of beer has 24 bottles. So given our number of servings needed, here’s the breakdown of the actual bottle and case count needed.
While there are some vendors (e.g. your caterer, bartender, mixologist, etc.) who can easily fix and guide you on how much alcohol you should buy, it’s also worthy to note that you can also save on cost by buying the booze yourself. You can buy from groceries, wholesalers, or if you have friends who have suppliers, it doesn’t hurt to ask for their prices either.
Another thing you can do to save on cost is to serve non-alcoholic drinks and maybe a few signature cocktail drinks during the cocktail hour, just so your guests have something to refresh them while waiting for the reception to begin. Then once the reception starts, bring out the wine and beer early (as they tend to make people more full), and save the liquor for later in the reception.
Remember: At the end of the day, your alcohol count really depends on your guests’ preferences and your gauge for how much they drink. If you’re inviting some heavy drinking family members, you might want to your count adjust accordingly. If you’re afraid that you might run out of alcohol, it never hurts to buy a couple more bottles and cases, just to be safe. At the end of the day, go with your gut feel. Alcohol is only a small part of the wedding festivities. Your marriage is the more important part.