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How Much Alcohol Should You Buy For Your Wedding?

Planning the bar for your wedding can be tricky.  How do you really know how much people will drink?  Many venues take care of that for you, for a fee of course.  However, if it is up to you to purchase the alcohol for your wedding reception, hopefully the following information will help.

alcohol buying guide image

Click Here to get our PDF Alcohol Buying Guide

A general rule of thumb when purchasing alcohol for an event is that, for an average 4 hour wedding reception, you should have 4 to 5 drinks available per person.  That’s one drink per person, per hour. Average serving sizes are as follows:
-Beer  12 ounces
-Wine  5 ounces
-Liquor  1.5 ounces

When serving just beer and wine, buy beer for about 60% of your guests and wine for 40%.  When serving beer, wine, and mixed drinks, buy beer for about 20% of your guests, wine for 35%, and liquor for 45%.

Beer

A keg is the most economical route to go when purchasing beer assuming that none is wasted.  One keg serves approximately 140 to 165 12-ounce beers, depending on the size.   When purchasing a keg, it’s always a good idea to rent an extra tap, just in case the one that comes with the keg does not work properly.  To add a little personality to the bar, you may want to consider serving one of your favorite types of beer.  However, if it is a brand with which people are not very familiar, consider serving a more popular brand as well to appeal to the tastes of all of your guests.

Wine

A traditional .75 liter bottle of wine holds approximately 5 servings.  The larger, “magnum” bottles hold 10 servings and are typically less expensive per ounce than the traditional size.  The most popular wines that people serve at weddings are Chardonnay and Merlot.  Some also add a third option and serve White Zinfandel too.  However, just like with the beer, feel free to let your personality show through with your choices.

Liquor

The typical mixed drink menu consists of Scotch, Bourbon, Vodka, & Rum.  Some people choose to add Gin and Tequila also.  Alongside the liquor, you will need to purchase mixers.  Plan on buying at least 3 containers of mixers for each bottle of liquor.  Common mixers are Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or 7up, Orange Juice, Cranberry Juice, Tonic, Club Soda, and Margarita Mix.  Many brides these days are skipping the full bar and just serving a signature drink.  Not only will this save you money but it adds an extra personal touch to the day.  Your bar tender or caterer may even have ideas for signature drinks that match your colors or theme.  They may also offer bar services to help reduce the hassle that comes with purchasing and transporting the alcohol and mixers.

Returns & Discounts

When buying in bulk for an event, you may want to consider calling around to see if local liquor stores offer discounts.  Frugal Freddie’s on Covington Pike offers discounts for buying cases.  They also will allow you to return for credit unused bottles of liquor and wine that are in good condition.

Do you have any ideas for a signature drink or any tips on planning a bar for a wedding?  I’d love to hear them!

-Ryan Draper, Operations Manager, Draper’s Catering of Memphis