Ask LH: How Much Booze Do I Need For My Wedding?

Ask LH: How Much Booze Do I Need For My Wedding?

Hi Lifehacker. I’m trying to organise beverage catering for my wedding. I’m doing it on a consumption basis, but I don’t know what alcohol to request or the quantity to order. Could you please suggest the number of beer choices, number of wine options, and what variety of liquor to have at the reception dinner? Thanks, Bridal Beverages

Wedding bubbly picture from Shutterstock

Dear BB,

Congrats on your impending nuptials! The answer to this question depends on a range of factors, including the drinking habits of your guests (do they like to party hard?), the size of your reception (how many people are you inviting?) and the estimated length of the wedding (do you expect it to go past midnight?)

As a general rule of thumb, you should allow two-to-three drinks per guest for the first hour and one-to-two drinks for each additional hour. Some people will want to drink more than this and others will drink less, so it should all work out reasonably well if you follow the above formula.

In terms of individual choices, I’d keep the selection down to two or three beer varieties, one red and one white, plus something a bit fancier for the bridal party’s table.

It’s definitely advisable to stick to red/white wine and beer; especially if you’re trying to keep costs down. Adding spirits to the mix will result in less alcohol to go around and also increases the likelihood of ugly, drunken behavior from certain guests (you know the ones we’re talking about).

If the reception’s venue has its own bar facility, you can naturally invite guests to buy their own drinks if they want something stiffer — this is standard practice at weddings and isn’t likely to be frowned upon. Again, this also decreases the odds of people getting blind drunk as they’ll be paying out of their own pocket.

If you’re looking to order online, the Dan Murphy Event Planner can help you choose the correct quantity of drinks — it has options for the number of guests, the event duration and the style of drinks you want to serve. Buying online will net you more liquor for less money, but you’ll need to check with the venue’s owners first (basically, anywhere that sells its own alcohol is not going to allow it.)

When working out your alcohol budget, also make sure to include some bubbly for after the ceremony — apart from being a wedding tradition, this will ensure that your guests are reasonably entertained while you take photos and the like.

As always, we’re also keen to hear any tips from readers who have recently tied the knot. How much alcohol did you serve and what kind of variety did you offer? Let BB know in the comments section below.


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  • Got married last year and agree with everything above.

    Just a note on beers. Choose 3 but make one a light beer. You won’t need as many of them (about half what you have of full strength) but you always find someone in the crowd that drinks the stuff.

  • Don’t forget to include an option for non-drinkers and designated drivers. A couple of bottles of soft drink and flavored mineral water should suffice.

  • We had about 80 at ours and $2k on the bar. We also had x2 each red and white on per table. Oddly enough hardly anyone touched the red (and it was good stuff). So we ended up with about 20 bottles to get through ourselves.
    Luckily we had a few friends in the wine business so we saved a bundle on alcohol. That and the now new brother in-law owns a butchery, so saved mad amounts on meat too, and by saved I meant we got it free :).

    That being said, the cohort attending weren’t really huge drinkers. Plus we had a morning/lunch wedding. The fact a few people traveled a long way really appreciated this, so they could put their hair down in the afternoon at their own expense and without the regiment of wedding folly.

    Also for the entire day I drank literally a necks worth of beer. Was so nervous almost anything was going to make me throw up.

  • I’d add champagne into that mix. I cater for large media events regularly and we go sparkling, white (sometimes more than one), red, beer, light beer, and sometimes cider. Plus something non alcoholic, which is rarely touched 😉

  • Can’t believe no-one mentioned food.

    Receptions can quickly turn to chaos if there isn’t enough food at the right times. You need to have finger food being offered alongside drinks.

  • We’re facing this ourselves right now, so here’s our approach.

    1. Nothing worse than running out … so over rather than underestimate
    2. Buy the stuff up front rather than have an open bar on an hourly rate … so anything leftover can be taken home or given to guests
    3. One bubbly for the toast, 2 whites, 2 reds, 1 beer and then loads of soft drink (we’re expecting more people will drink wine vs beer and have a few pregnant guests)
    4. allow some of your budget for glass hire … and expect some breakages
    5. agree with above regarding no spirits … risks getting very expensive and very messy

  • Great choice guys after the release of today’s report…surely you must of known it was coming out?? According to the report, 2/3 of below 30s expect to get drunk. What you seem to be saying is that you want all your guests to be drunk?? No more than 3 standard drinks for the entire event should be the cultural norm. A drink for the toast, one with dinner and one for after dinner.

  • Misleading title. I thought it meant how much do I need for my wedding as in how much will I need to go through with it.

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