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How Much Alcohol Do You Need for Your Wedding? Wedding Alcohol Calculator

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Supplying alcohol for your wedding reception can easily bust your budget. Use our wedding alcohol calculator to determine how much alcohol to have at your wedding in three simple steps.

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Alcohol can feel like a bewildering topic while planning your wedding because the stream of questions you need to answer can feel endless. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, we want this part of your wedding planning process to feel simple and – dare we say – easy! Not to mention, savvy and affordable. Below, we’ll guide you through a wedding alcohol calculator to determine how much booze you’ll need in just three steps.

STEP ONE: Choose Your Bar

Before you can determine what types of alcohol you will serve at your wedding and how much to have on hand, you first need to determine the type of bar that will suit your wedding and your budget best. Here are the most common types of wedding bars:

Full Bar:

A full bar means you will have nearly every type of alcohol on hand. From beer to wine, liquor to garnishes, your bartenders will be able to create any type of drink your guests can imagine. This type of bar is the most luxurious and indulgent – your guests will truly feel pampered! However, it’s also (almost always) completely unnecessary even though it’s a wonderful gesture.

Limited Bar:

A limited bar is one where you will serve select varieties of wine and beer. It also signals that you plan to add a signature cocktail (or two), champagne for toasts, and perhaps a small selection of liquors. The idea here is that a limited bar allows you to streamline the choices and only highlight the most common options guests are likely to expect and/or hope to enjoy at your wedding.

Wine and Beer Bar:

This is exactly what the name suggests – a bar stocked solely with wine and beer. It does the trick– in fact, one of our top wedding budget tips is to serve only wine and beer for your wedding reception!

Cash Bar:

A cash-only bar will allow you to save the most money because guests will be paying for their own drinks. Your out-of-pocket expense (in most cases) will be limited to employing staff to serve drinks. In terms of what’s on hand, a cash-only bar typically follows the guidelines of a full bar – everything is available.


STEP TWO: Choose Your Alcohol Varieties

Once you have chosen the type of bar you will have at your wedding, your next step is to choose the variety of alcohol you will have on hand. In some cases, the type of bar you have chosen may decide the type of alcohol you will need (we’re looking at you, wine and beer bar!) But, in other cases, that decision will still be left up to you.

A few general rules of thumb to keep in mind:

Know Your Crowd:

You have likely attended gatherings and other events with the friends and family members you’re inviting to your wedding. So, spend some time thinking about general preferences. If your group is lukewarm about alcohol as a whole, there’s no need to splurge on top shelf brands they won’t notice or care to enjoy. On the flip side, if you know your family loves to enjoy a much-loved cocktail with a history, stock the ingredients to make it happen.

Variety is Key:

Even if you’re planning to serve wine and beer, variety is still important. You won’t want to have one type of wine and one type of beer on hand. Although you won’t be able to meet every whim, you do still want to provide guests with options.

Limit Mixers:

We’ll get into this more below when we share about signature cocktails, but consider keeping recipes simple. The fewer ingredients needed, the easier it is to make. Plus, with fewer ingredients and ease, cocktails are faster to create!

Limit Champagne and Signature Cocktails:

If you’re planning to serve champagne or signature cocktails, a great way to keep both in the budget-friendly zone is to limit when they are served. Consider offering signature cocktails during cocktail hour, then switch over to beer and wine during the reception. In terms of champagne, offer it as an option during toasts and speeches, but don’t have it stocked behind the bar.


STEP THREE: Calculate How Much to Purchase

Once you have decided on your wedding bar and alcohol variety, you’re ready for the final step – calculating how much to purchase! This is typically the part of the alcohol planning process that throws couples for a loop, but the math behind it is much easier than you think. Here’s the basic wedding alcohol calculator equation:

Guest Count x Length of Reception = # of Drinks

So…

150 Guests x 5-Hour Reception = 750 Drinks

The equation is estimating that each guest will enjoy 1 drink/hour. The great thing about the equation is the fact that it’s estimating! You can increase or decrease that number because you know your crowd (see: step two).

Once you know how many drinks you will need, you will then decide how to divide that number between the types of alcohol you will have available. Here are two general ways to determine each percentage, according to Martha Stewart Weddings:

1. Wine + Beer: 75% Wine, 25% Beer

2. Wine + Beer + Liquor: 50% Wine, 20% Beer, 30% Liquor


Wine + Beer Wedding Bar: Calculate How Much to Buy

Considering the first equation where 150 guests are attending a 5-hour reception with a wine and beer bar

  • Roughly 563 drinks will be wine
  • 188 drinks will be beer

Keep in mind:

  • There are five servings of wine in each bottle.
  • There is one serving of beer in each can or bottle.

Let’s keep going:

  • 563 glasses of wine = 113 bottles of wine
  • 188 beers = 188 bottles or cans

Two more facts to keep in mind:

  1. Wine is sold by the case, and there are 12 bottles/case.
  2. A case of beer includes 24 bottles or cans.

To wrap up how many cases of wine and beer to purchase in order to have at least 113 bottles of wine and 188 bottles of beer, you will need:

  1. 10 cases of wine, divided between varieties of red and white.
  2. 8 cases of beer.

Wine + Beer + Liquor Wedding Bar: Calculate How Much to Buy

We also want to explore the second equation where 150 guests are attending a 5-hour reception with a wine, beer, and liquor bar. In this case, you will need: 

  • 375 glasses of wine
  • 150 bottles of beer
  • 225 servings of liquor 

In this case, keep in mind: 

  • There are five servings of wine in each bottle.
  • There is one serving of beer in each can or bottle.
  • The number of servings in each bottle of liquor will vary, but a 750ml bottle will yield 16 servings. 

Let’s keep going:

  • 375 glasses of wine = 75 bottles of wine
  • 150 beers = 150 bottles or cans
  • 225 servings of liquor = 15 750ml bottles

Two more facts to keep in mind:

  1. Wine is sold by the case, and there are 12 bottles/case.
  2. A case of beer includes 24 bottles or cans.
  3. Again, the size of a liquor bottle will vary but many are 750ml. 

To wrap up how many cases of wine and beer to purchase in order to have at least 75 bottles of wine, 150 bottles of beer, and 225 servings of liquor you will need:

  1. 7 cases of wine, divided between varieties of red and white.
  2. 7 cases of beer.
  3. 15 750ml bottles of liquor 

Just like the wine and beer bar example, we’re rounding up the number of cases and bottles needed in order to make sure there’s slightly too much rather than not enough!


Wedding Alcohol Calculators

To make your alcohol calculating process even easier, check out these handy wedding alcohol calculators:

Once you figure out how much you’ll need, you’ll need to decide where to buy your wedding booze. Check out this next article to find the most affordable wine, beer, and liquor for your DIY wedding bar.

Do you have additional questions about how much alcohol to purchase for your wedding? Join us in the community to share more tips for budget-friendly wedding booze.


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