You know what question I get asked most often after a newlywed couple has finished their ceremony and sat down for the first time in a few hours?
“Can I get a drink?”
Yuuup, I feel the same way and, let me tell ya, so do your guests.
Alcohol is one of the most important aspects of your wedding day. Oh, you thought it was getting married to the love of your life? Not so much. These days many couples are buying the alcohol for their wedding themselves instead of going through their caterer or a liquor supplier. This can be a big money saver. It can also be confusing if you have never supplied alcohol for 100 people for 5 hours. Outside of a frat house, most people do not do this on a regular basis. A wedding is also a very different setting from said frat house in which case you buy a couple of kegs, stash some plastic handles in your room for just your favorite 70 guests, and call it a day. Weddings do not really work this way (although I’m sure not many people would be opposed to that). How do they work, you ask? Let me explain.
Who are these people?
First, you have to realize that not all weddings are created equal. In this case, I am referring to the amount and type of alcohol guests will drink. I am going to outline some general rules but please take into consideration what alcoholic preferences your guests have, the age breakdown of your guests, and any other
weird interesting habits your guests may have.
Full bar v. Wine and Beer?
Now that you have gone through your guest list and realized that you have just a few functioning alcoholics on that list, you can decide if you want to have a full bar or wine and beer only. Either of these options is 100% acceptable. Do not let Cousin Bob tell you that serving wine and beer only is a disgrace – just take the whiskey out of his hand and throw it in his face (then cross him off your guest list). I have been a guest at and worked at many a wine and beer occasion and have not heard a single complaint or seen anyone not having a good time due to the lack of vodka.
Another option is to have wine and beer along with one or two signature drinks or big batch cocktails. This is a good compromise between a full bar and wine and beer only.
What and how much
If you are going the full bar route, this does not mean that you must have every alcohol on hand. It means that you need some basic necessities and if Cousin Bob wants specialty aged whiskey you tell him to go get it at the bar next door and stay there for the remainder of the evening. Here are the liquors and beers required for an (almost) full bar:
Wine: 50% overall
Liquor: 30% overall
(optional: Rum and Tequila)
Beer: 20% overall
Again, take your guests into consideration. If your family is really big on tequila, then ditch the gin and load up on the agave juice. I left percentages out of the individual items because these can be very subjective. If you are having a mid-day wedding in July, you will probably want more white wine than red wine. If your family signature drink is whiskey neat, more whiskey than vodka. You get the idea.
Moving on to a wine and beer only situation:
Percentages are all well and good but I’m sure you still want to know how many cases of wine does 70% equal. Here are some typical serving sizes:
1 case = 12 bottles
1 bottle = 5 servings
1 case of wine = 60 drinks
1 bottle (750ml, otherwise known as a fifth) = 17 drinks
1 case = 24 bottles
1 bottle = 1 serving
1 case = 24 drinks
1 keg = 165 drinks
1 pony keg = 82 drinks
Break It Down
The typical rule of thumb for weddings is to account for 1 drink per guest per hour. I know what you’re thinking “Giiiiirl, my friends drink way more than that!” I’m sure this is true but this rule takes into account that while the best man might crush 4 beers during cocktail hour, grandma will most likely be sipping some soda water (or the other way around, party on grandma!).
This would mean that for 100 guests for 5 hours of drinking time you would need…..500 drinks! Here it is with the break downs:
Wine: 250 Servings = 50 bottles = 5 cases
Liquor: 150 Servings = 9 bottles
Beer: 100 Servings = 100 bottles = 5 cases
Wine and Beer:
Wine: 350 Servings = 70 bottles = 6 cases
Beer: 150 Servings = 150 bottles = 7 cases
As you can math, I am rounding up here so that we are erring on the side of caution. More is better than less.
Hopefully, I have drilled it into your head that this is a general idea of what kind and how much liquor to by and by no means a set in stone ruling. Please adjust as you see fit and ignore if you are inclined to do so.
Remember that places like BevMo have great sales throughout the year. Wine and liquor will stay good forever, so feel free to stalk up on them when a kickass sale is going on.
Smaller retailers may be willing to offer you a discount or a free delivery if you let them know how much alcohol you are planning on buying. It never hurts to ask!
If you are buying your own liquor, take logistics into account. How will you be transporting the liquor to your venuse? Will it have enough time to chill? Etc.
ICE ICE BABY. Yes, I said it. If you are providing your own alcohol, you will most likely also be providing your own ice. With wine and beer only, you only have to worry about enough ice to keep everything cold but with a full bar you need to think of the ice that will be put into cocktails. The rule of thumb for ice is 2-3 pounds per guest. As is not the case with alcohol, ice is much cheaper when bought directly from an ice supplier and they also deliver.
Last but not least, round up. You’d rather have left over alcohol than not enough. And you know what’s great about left over alcohol? It will do the trick whether it’s the day of your wedding or 3 months later when it finally dawns on you that you are now in this marriage thing forever.