How To Buy Booze For Your Wedding

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You’ve probably never used an alcohol calculator before. Because buying booze for a small gathering is one thing, but what about for a hundred people, one of whom is your Nana? No? Well, here’s everything you need to know about how to buy alcohol for your wedding. (Note: remember to buy ice).

Before we dive in, let’s preface this information with a note that only you know your crowd. If half your guests don’t drink, adjust accordingly. If your loved ones drink beer, but hate wine, well, don’t have a wine-only reception. Also, take your region of the country (or hell, your country) into account. At the end of the day, you know best what your loved ones expect and what you care about. This is a guide to best practices and general wisdom, it’s an alcohol calculator with all the nuanced information you need. Adapt as you see fit.Liquor bottles at a wedding

There are three basic types of wedding bars: beer and wine only, full bar, and the something-in-between I’ll call modified full bar. If you are set on doing a true full bar, I do not recommend going our DIY route. No alcohol calculator is gonna work for a bar that involves 20 kids of booze. Work with a professional bartending service and your venue, unless you want to blow most of your budget on half the stock at your local liquor store. This tutorial is all about the modified full bar and the beer and wine only bar.

Related: Create Your Wedding Seating Chart (With Minimal Tears)

How Do I Buy ALCOHOL For My Wedding? (And How Much?)

On the West Coast, a beer and wine only wedding is usually completely acceptable, especially if you also decide to offer a big batch cocktail or two, a few craft beers, or a selection of wines. On the East Coast, however, the expectation is generally that there will be a full bar, or at least a modified full bar. Here at APW, we’re big fans of the “do what works for you” school of thought, though, so take that generalization with a salted rim. So if you’re wondering how to figure out how much alcohol you should have at your wedding… here are the steps:

Stock Your Bar

You don’t need every mixer under the sun, or every booze known to man. Here’s what you want to make sure you have:

Graphic on building a modified full bar for a wedding

When picking alcohol to stock your bar, know your crowd. If your family is definitely going to want to hit the tequila, make sure you have tequila, plenty of limes, and salt on hand. A serious crowd of whiskey drinkers? Great, make sure to have more of that. And then, of course, you’ll need beer and wine for both a modified full bar or for a beer and wine only bar.

Modified Full Bar

Booze: Whiskey, gin, and vodka
Optional Booze: Rum and tequila
Mixers: Juice (usually orange or cranberry), soda (at least a cola), tonic water, and club soda
Garnishes: Lemons and limes

Beer and Wine Bar (And modified FULL bar)

Beer: It’s nice to select at least two types of beer (one dark or strong, one light) to provide options. You will also need to consider bottles versus a keg. Bottles can be more expensive, and some people feel the beer doesn’t taste as fresh. However, kegs require a tap system (either a pony keg or tap), which you’ll need to rent from the liquor store where you bought the keg. Also, keg leftovers are much harder to deal with and don’t keep for more than a day or two.

Wine: You’ll need at least one red wine and one white, but you don’t need more than one varietal (or blend) of each, unless you want to have them.

Bubbles (Optional): Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, and sparkling wine from other non-Champagne regions are delicious, and they are almost always a better deal than French Champagne. If you’re going to serve bubbles as a toasting-only option, you want about 4–5 ounces per person, per toast. Also, you don’t have to do a bubbly toast, if you don’t want to. People can cheers with anything, and your marriage will still be official. Promise.

Use a Wedding Alcohol Calculator To Know What You Need

Graphic with wedding alcohol calculator chartsKNOW YOUR CROWD

Do these wedding alcohol calculator ratios look off to you? Is your entire extended family comprised of people who exclusively drink beer, forever and always? Adjust for that! These ratios are a starting point, and won’t work for every group gathering. Here’s an example from Lucy’s wedding.

Our friends and family are almost entirely beer or hard liquor drinkers. So for fifty people for two nights of drinking, we bought two kegs of beer, ten-ish bottles of liquor (not including liquor bought and brought by friends and family), and maybe three cases of wine. We had a case of leftover wine from the wedding on Sunday morning. The beer and liquor? Polished off by about 10PM on the second evening, a couple hours after our “official” wedding end time.

lock in your wedding time

Generally, people will probably drink a little less at day time weddings, so round down your numbers. Get one case less than the wedding alcohol calculator says to.

decide if you want a self-serve bar

If your bar is self-serve, be prepared for people to pour large servings. Ditto if your bartender isn’t a pro. Wine glasses can run anywhere from eight to thirteen ounces on average (the estimate of four glasses per bottle in the infographic equals about six ounces per serving). Drinking out of Mason jars? They’re huge and will definitely encourage larger servings.

remember your time and location

Think about where you’ll be, when, and what the weather will be like when you are figuring out how much to get of each kind of alcohol. Think about what you would like to drink, and remember to consider your audience. During the summer, people will drink more white wine and bubbly, but in cold weather, more red. Getting married in wine country? People will probably want to drink more wine than beer or cocktails.

discuss Signature Cocktails

If you are doing a signature cocktail, subtract one hour from your calculations. During cocktail hour, assume everyone’s drink will be the signature one, and make sure there’s enough for everyone to have it. Then, proceed with the numbers above. This works with either type of bar. If you’re offering only a signature cocktail (in addition to wine and beer) during your cocktail hour, consider having two signature drinks: one made with brown liquor and one with clear. People can be very particular about these things.

get liability insurance (if you need it)

If you’re providing your own alcohol, you’re likely not going to be covered by your caterer’s liquor liability policy. No one likes to think or talk about the potential for alcohol-related incidents, especially not at a wedding. However, if you’re serving people drinks and something awful happens, sadly, you could be on the line. If someone crashes a car, falls off a balcony, or damages the property, or if that underage third cousin sneaks some drinks and gets sick, etc., the hosts could be held liable. It’s terrible to think about it, but even worse to get sued. If the couple or parents are homeowners, they can usually put a rider on their homeowner’s policy for the event. Otherwise, there are tons of insurance companies that specialize in event insurance. (And an APW note: plenty of people… cough… on staff… have served booze at their wedding without insurance. But we’re not saying it’s the best practice.)

know your dram laws and state liquor laws

State liquor laws are archaic, and sometimes very strange. For example, it’s illegal to return alcohol in California (I found this out the hard/awesome way and have the cases of bubbly to prove it), and in some states you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays. Dram Laws also vary by state and determine who can be held liable in case of an accident. Because we can’t possibly predict what problems you can run into in each state, here is a website where you can check your state’s Dram Laws and make sure you have the necessary information.

What type of wedding alcohol calculator did you use? Did you get it right, run out, or have many cases of booze left over?

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  • NrgGrl

    Thank you so much for this! It’s amazingly useful and has relieved a lot of my anxiety. Allow me to hyperbolize for a minute: I love you forever. This is the best wedding website on the internet.

  • Jess

    another know your crowd sort of thing: we had a cocktail list at our wedding, so even people who we in-person observed drinking wine and beer at other weddings near ours were more into cocktails since there was a cute little menu and option.


    we went through way more booze than people probably actually drank cause glasses were cleared so frequently. I know that’s a common problem at weddings in general, but since ours was cocktail style with no assigned seats, drinks go lost way more often.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Is that how people get to an average of 6 drinks per person? I’ve never had more than 3 drinks in one day. My husband’s only had 6 drinks in one day on his 21-30 birthdays. Likewise, I don’t think my friends are light drinkers, but the only time I’ve seen 6 drinks in one day was 21st birthday parties – and that’s just the guys. Very hard drinking among my girl friends stopped at 5 drinks in an evening.

      I get “know your crowd,” I’d just like insight into these other crowds.

      • Jess

        no, people we’re easily drinking that many drinks. PLUS the ones they were losing. i probably had…..5, maybe 6 over the course of our reception and never really felt drunk even with all the eating and dancing.

        that said, i live in brooklyn and work in advertising and design. i’ve noticed that causes higher…tolerances. :)

      • Sarah

        I know with my wedding crowd (mostly city-dwelling professional 20somethings) everyone will have AT LEAST one drink per hour. At least. That’s like, bare minimum. This probably includes myself and my fiance. I would probably *expect* that I’ll have like 8 (ish) alcoholic beverages over the course of our wedding day (morning mimosas, and then cocktail hour, then four hour reception). AND I probably won’t be drunk from that. Is that bad or unusual??? I don’t normally drink like that, day to day, but on special occasions? Hell yes.

        • Sarah E

          Same. Heavy-drinking crowd here. As our reception will only be cocktails and dessert, I expect free-reign on the drinks because it will be party time the whole time. Plus, I know I’ll be drinking mimosas in the morning, and probably a drink with dinner. Both my college friends and my partner’s old work friends are heavy drinkers for any Saturday night, and a large part of our families are heavy celebratory drinkers (so Sat nights are probably generally calm, but family holidays can get rowdy)

        • Mezza

          Yep, this! My friends (and I) are very pro-alcohol and have high tolerances. Though I did find that I never actually finished a drink at my wedding reception because they kept getting cleared away. My brother-in-law took it upon himself to make sure new ones always appeared before I noticed. :)

          • Meg Keene

            Just keep in mind, older members of the crowd won’t drink this way (SADLY). I mean, we love booze over here, but in our 30s, eight drinks at a… event ever… isn’t going to happen. So know your crowd, but also be realistic. (Though leftovers are always a cool thing.)

          • Mezza

            No, I know. There were plenty of folks at our wedding who didn’t drink at all (daytime, etc). I wasn’t really advocating for more booze, just throwing in my vote as one with friends who drink a lot.

          • TeaforTwo

            Yes! We assumed one drink per hour, but then a few people couldn’t make it, and there was a huge blizzard so I think drivers were being even more careful than usual, and I forgot that 10% of our guests were under the age of 5 and…

            When we got back from our honeymoon, there was a case each of leftover champagne, red and white. AFTER our crew of wedding helpers helped themselves. We were married six months ago, and have we ever enjoyed having a case of good champagne around. Or at least we did, for the first 3.5 months.

        • Sarah

          Oh yeah, and because of this, I’ll probably end up calculating about 2 drinks per person for the first hour (cocktail hour) then one drink per person for the remaining 4 hours. And like, maybe modifying that by age group to get a better estimate. Thoughts?

          • Lauren from NH

            I feel like part of the challenge will be evaluating whether people are going to go wine or beer when they like both. Heck I like both and kind of just pick based on my mood. The pie charts seem to imply a lot of people swing in the wine direction for weddings because of the fancy feeling (maybe I am making this up). Anyone else experience this conundrum?

          • Sarah

            Yeah that would be another conundrum for me too. I feel like my friends go with beer, mainly, when we go out, but what would they do in a slightly fancier setting? And what if we provide fancy beer, like Dogfish Head or something? And what about signature cocktails (there’s a place we can buy premixed barrels of signature cocktails, which I love the sound of)? My dad has been a caterer in the past, so I’ll probably defer to his judgment on most of this…

          • Caroline

            Yeah, I’m definitely with you. I can safely assume the midwesterners will drink beer. But the beer or wine folks? It’s hard to say. The fancy factor suggests they would lean towards wine, but the homebrew suggests they might lean towards beer. It’s hard to say. I think we’re basically planning to go overkill: buy wine like 75% of people will drink wine, brew beer like 70% of people will drink beer. It costs very little to brew beer, so it’s not a big deal.

          • Ashley

            As a socially awkward person, I tend to reach for the wine at weddings because of the higher alcohol content! I need that social lubricant, and I’ve never been able to drink beer quickly enough to get more than a slight buzz. Not sure if that applies to many people, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

          • Maeve

            We have the same problem… How are you storing/serving the beer? We’re thinking of buying 10 corny kegs + build a jockey box with 3 taps, but that’s pricey. So the beer itself is cheap but the storage is expensive – buying all the kit is going to make it more expensive than buying bottles of craft beer (though we figure it’s worth it because we’ll end up with enough corny kegs to last a lifetime). I’d really love to hear what you’re planning on doing!

          • Caroline

            Hey Maeve,
            We’re planning to bottle. We’ve been brewing for years and always bottle condition, and our friends know to keep old beer bottles for us, so I don’t think we’ll have to buy many. ( but you can score a lot quickly by just asking people to keep them for you).
            If we decide we need more beer than our 10 gallons,, we may borrow a keg and tap from a friend in our homebrew club or the club itself, and get a cheap kegful from some brewery connections. (My fiancé is president of our local homebrew club, so that’s helpful).

            How big a wedding are you planning? 10 corny kegs sounds like a lot, even for a heavy drinking crowd.

          • Maeve

            Hi Caroline,
            We’re planning for 100-120 people at the reception, but this is in Ireland where “a drink” is 20 fl oz (not 12 fl oz), and the party goes on all day/night, so I can imagine getting through the better part of 10 kegs… And because homebrewing is a big part of our life these days, we’re hoping to push beer over wine for anyone who would ever consider drinking beer.

            Lucky you on the bottle collecting – only some of our friends remember to save the bottles for us when we give them away!

            I hope your wedding goes great and the beer goes down well!

          • Caroline

            Yeah, I could see how you need a ton of beer then. We’re having 70 moderate drinkers for a daytime only wedding, so we need less beer. Good luck with your wedding and beer too!

          • Meg Keene

            I swear to you, unless you crowd is ALL 20 somethings, a drink an hour does actually average out.

          • When I got married, our wedding was attended by about 70% hard-partying 20somethings, with the rest a split between light-drinking family and likes-to-celebrate (aka drink a lot at parties) family. There was a LOT of beer and wine drinking and drunken-ness going on, and it did still average out to about a drink an hour per person, if that helps.

        • Meg Keene

          I mean, I would actually be dead if I drank like that. But the point is, it tends to average. All of your guests are not 20 somethings, and non-20somethings have biologically lost the ability to drink like that. True story, it’s sad.

          • Sarah

            Haha. You’re probably right. My fiance (27) has already stopped drinking like that. He gets the worst hangovers I’ve ever witnessed when he does.

          • Meg Keene

            It’s the saddest thing about getting over. Well, that and your boobs.

            I mean, at 34, that’s just not even a possible thing. At 60, you’d literally have to be a functional alcoholic to drink like that. THAT SAID. If the whole older crowd is functional alcoholics (or say, lives in the UK ;) plan accordingly.

          • Sarah

            Man, the drinks are just so tasty though! That will be sad.

            My side has more older people than fiance’s side because I’m inviting a lot of whole families. Neither of us have large families so its just one set of grandparent’s each, and one set of aunt’s each. His side is mostly college friends (theater school! You know how they are). I would say we have like 75% under 30s, and 25% above, by a rough estimate. Hopefully it will still even out.

          • Kelsey

            I’ve never had boobs so not being able to drink like that anymore really was the saddest.

          • JSwen

            Or if the crowd is from Wisconsin…

          • Kayjayoh

            Also, if the crowd is from Wisconsin, adjust your wine to beer ratio. I think we are doing 40% wine 40% beer and 20% batch cocktails. (I’ll find out in a couple of weeks how well that works.)

          • JSwen

            Oooh please report back! (And have lots of fun!)

          • Alyssa M

            God, I’m 25 and I get terrible hangovers if I drink like that… three drinks in 3 hours and I’d be TRASHED though…

        • EveRaphael

          Don’t feel bad, this whole thread is making me feel like Australia is a land of alcoholics. We’re provinding 9 drinks per person for our wedding…based on advice from all our friends and family who have organised weddings. I mean…even the people who ‘don’t really drink’ will probably have 3 or 4 glasses at a wedding.

          • KH_Tas

            Yeah, huge amounts of alcohol is promoted here. I’m a never-drinker, which makes some parties a bit odd

      • Amy March

        I typically stop at. 3 drinks. But at weddings all bets are off. Certainly one an hour if not more. Which is how I wound up hooking up with that notreallysingle groomsman that one time.

  • Meg

    this is really cool. A bartender is included with our venue but this is just really useful for party planning!

  • Lawyerette510

    Also a note about knowing your crowd, we had a Sunday night welcome party and a ceremony on Monday, but it was semi-destination (about half our guests flew out, and everyone drove at least 2 hours from the Bay). Everyone stayed walking distance, so even though it was a Sunday and Monday, a good deal was consumed because it felt like a weekend away. I was actually surprised by how much was consumed on Monday night given people were driving back to the bay to catch flights the next morning. We ended up at about 1 drink per person per hour for both events, for a group of around 50 adults. (But note, we knew only 40-45 of them would be drinking, and we still calculated for 50 and ended up ok, because we expected 15 or so guests would be drinking heavily and make up for those not drinking).

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Information on how to plan for light drinkers would have been very helpful. We estimated only half our guests drink alcohol, or drink more than half a glass, and then bought specialty sodas to make up the difference, but we found 1) people drink soda faster than alcohol; 2) even people who usually drink alcohol will go for not-alcohol if there’s something special or unusual about that option. We ran out of most of the sodas, which maybe means we planned just right or maybe means we didn’t get enough. But it all felt like a shot in the dark at the time.

    • YOQ

      Hey, APW, this would be a really helpful post–how to estimate quantities of NON-alcoholic beverages (because even with a full bar, people will sometimes drink stuff without alcohol). Like beer/wine/liquor, quantities will vary based on time of year, time of day, time of week, etc. (and, of course, on the crowd)–but some guidelines would be really great! (She types, contemplating the prospect of buying 25 2-liter bottles of pop in the next couple weeks….)

      • Sarah E

        Yes, definitely. How to estimate the water/lemonade needed for the sober aunts, grandmas, and kiddos in our crowd will be an issue.

      • emilyg25

        Ditto that this would be helpful. We way over-bought on non-alcoholic stuff because I just couldn’t find a calculator for it.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I know at least one APW-sponsor caterer recommends cans over 2L bottles for soda. The cans are easier to chill and easier for non-professionals to manage. We had mostly cans and single-serving bottles, because we had specialty sodas, but bigger bottles of apple cider and sparkling water.

  • Sarah E

    This is a tangential comment, but as I was deleting things from my Pinterest board last night, I got lost down the rabbithole of I have not shopped around at all for wedding decor/supplies yet, but the quantities of things for sale was pretty awesome. Mason jars galore, as well as one-use items like card boxes and cake cutters. I was fascinated with what people spend money on. So if you’re looking for lots of glasses or cute beverage dispensers, it might be worth a look.

    • Lauren from NH

      Yup found that today too lol.

    • Megan

      I clicked on this and the domain is for sale. Did you post the right link? Weird!

  • Sara P.

    A note on insurance– my venue required me to have it (city park/building), but it was a whopping $75 for all liability, including liquor liability. Also, remember: even if your guests don’t sue you, if a tipsy guest causes damage to your venue, they might hold you liable (if you provided the booze). Also, for whatever reason having an open bar cost less to insure than having a cash bar.

    • Sarah

      Where did your purchase insurance from? I need host liability and liquor liability according to my venue. Thanks!

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Places to look:
        Recommendation from your venue
        Recommendation from your existing insurer (auto, renter’s, home, etc.)
        K&K (I used to work for them. I don’t know about how their rates compare, but when planning my own wedding, getting coverage from them online seemed really easy – and I wasn’t using any special insider process. Ultimately, my parents just got an endorsement to their existing homeowner’s/umbrella policies, though)

        • Sarah

          Thanks! I think I want to get on this sooner rather than later, because I hear the event insurance can cover mishaps that happen during planning (like god forbid we cancel the wedding, or like our venue burns down or something).

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Different policies cover different things. K&K and my parents’ homeowner’s insurer don’t offer cancellation insurance, for example. APW might need an explanation of “wedding insurance.” Really quick…
            First-party coverage: This covers payments you make or will have to make. It might book a more-expensive florist last-minute if your florist’s shop burns down, or pay you back your deposits if you have to cancel.
            Third-party coverage: This covers payments to others, like to the venue if you or your guest or your caterer burns it down; or to the stranger who’s injured by one of your guests on their way home after being over-served. Venues are usually just interested in third-party coverage, ’cause, duh, they want to make sure they’ll get paid if you mess up their place and they can also be on the hook to that stranger. They don’t care about your or other vendors’ cancellations.

            Third-party coverage is generally pretty cheap, because no one’s trying to burn down a venue or get in car crashes. First-party coverage is more expensive (up to 15% of your vendor contracts) because it involves moral hazards – With cancellation insurance, you lose the “skin in the game” your deposits are supposed to represent.

          • Sarah

            Oh! This is SUCH good information. Thank you!!!

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Oh! ‘Cause I’ve seen even professionals get confused…There’s no “second party coverage” in insurance. The “second party” is the insurance company.

          • JSwen

            Event insurance is different than wedding insurance – it doesn’t cover cancellations or changes of plans. It just covers liability of damage or injury at your event.

          • KH_Tas

            I think we have event insurance but not wedding insurance then. Thanks for the info :)

      • Kelsey

        We used, recommended by our venue. I think it was $120…

    • ElisabethJoanne

      In general, the law holds people selling something to higher standards than people giving something away. For example, a store needs to be more careful of trip hazards than a private home hosting a dinner party. Of course, you’re not turning a profit on your cash bar, but the law also has trouble distinguishing breaking even providing a service v. actual for-profit.

  • Kelly

    your timing is PERFECT- this was a serious conversation last night, ten days away from the wedding. Brides, is anyone else from Wisconsin?? I’m assuming that there will be lots of beer being consumed, but no idea how to skew our ratios.

    • K

      WI bride and bartender for maaaany weddings here: i would go heavy on the whiskey and make sure to have brandy and some old fashioned mix- simply because that is pretty exclusively a WI drink that people expect to have for a special occasion. I’ve noticed that whatever the first few people get tends to stick as the most common drink for the night, but that doesn’t help you much beforehand :/

      • Kelly

        Right now, for 90 adults, I have:
        245 servings of beer (spotted cow, capitol amber, bud light)
        250 servings of wine (except probably much more, because Dad’s really into the wine and it won’t go to waste)
        100 brandy old-fashioneds (his drink)
        70 whiskey gingers (my drink)

        Our wedding is probably 65% Wisconsin folks. Maybe more old fashioneds? Less beer?

        • JSwen

          I would call it a day – that looks like a good spread and at the end of the night, most people will be fine with at least one of those beers. God, I miss capitol amber.

        • Jules

          Whoa!! I would guess that 7.4 drinks per person is probably plenty. Volume aside, I agree with @jswen:disqus, you have good variety and plenty of volume. Not *everyone* will partake in each of those, and there’s nearly enough for one of each kind per person.

          If you want to cut something, in fact, you can probably get away with less beer, period. That depends on your crowd and your setting though. (Would need larger percentage of beer for barn wedding in July with a bunch of Texans versus ballroom wedding in Manhattan.)

          • Kelly

            Agreed- it is probably way too much! Everything will keep for future events except for the beer, which I might just chalk up to a loss rather than cancel one of the 1/4 barrels and lose the variety (and have to re-do bar signs). Sigh.

          • Jules

            It’s so hard to predict for these things. Personally, I would SO be having an old fashioned or whiskey ginger, but I wouldn’t be upset if you run out after everyone’s gotten their first (two?) drink(s) and I have to switch to beer or wine. Not upset at all.

    • Leigh W.

      Same here! For a wedding of 160 we are planning on one keg each of a lighter beer (Karben4 UnderCover) and a heavier (Staghorn the New Glarus Oktoberfest, late September wedding, honeymoon to Munich visiting Oktoberfest for 2 days). Our venue has a back up Spotted Cow keg as well. I have no idea how much wine to plan on… We are beer people, so I was going to guess about 50% beer maybe 60? I would love to know what you are planning.

      • Kelly

        I haven’t tried Karben4’s beers yet, but I hear they are great!

      • Leigh W.

        Oh we are only doing beer and wine which is important in the calculation. Sorry!

      • Kelly

        Also “backup Spotted Cow keg” sounds like heaven, all the time.

      • K

        As stereotypical as this, I would calculate beer/wine primarily around gender lines (meaning most men will drink beer and women will drink wine), though obviously that’s not completely true. I think that In a given night, wine drinkers will drink less wine than beer drinkers will drink beer (per serving), but many people will also have wine with dinner. Long story short, I would suggest getting enough wine for about an equal number of servings as what you have for beer…Does that make sense?

        • Kelly

          I’ll agree— at weddings most of our lady friends drink wine, most of our guys friends drink beer or sometimes mixed drinks. Thanks!

          • Leigh W.

            Kelly, that’s great! About 50/50 seems to make sense. Wisconsin does love its beer, and damn it’d be foolish not to! There’s so much good stuff. If you get a chance, do give Karben4 a try. It’s seriously my fiance and my favorite brewery in the Madison area.

      • Kelly

        Leigh my breakdown is on the reply below yours. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • Katarina

      What a great question! I’m marrying a Wisconsinite and we’re trying to figure out how much to balance between his family of only beer drinkers and my family of rum all the time drinkers.

      Also trying to figure out a way to get a bunch of Capitol Amber to Wisconsin.

    • JSwen

      Yes, my family is from Wisconsin. We are going to get 50/50 beer/wine and only offer liquor to the immediate family who we know doesn’t drink wine or beer (ie my future father-in-law). 1.5 drinks/0.8people/hour because it’s an evening wedding and we expect 80% to drink.

      Because really, you know that Wisconsinites will drink whatever is there. And they might bring a flask of brandy as well. ;)

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  • emilyg25

    Another note on insurance: Check your state’s social host liability laws. We live in PA and the law states that party hosts are only liable for minors who drink. Any adults who drink are liable for their own actions. Obviously, I’m not a lawyer or insurance agent, so you need to make your own decision. But based on our state’s laws, we decided not to buy any insurance for our self-serve, DIY bar.

  • enfp

    We were JUST wondering what liquor we should get for our DIY bar (we’re paying a bartender but stocking it ourselves). Maybe this will convince my future spouse that “the people” want vodka (even if we don’t really drink it). All of these alcohol posts have been SO helpful, thanks APW! Also, I support the call for a post on how to estimate non-alcoholic drinks. Our wedding is on the 21st so if anyone has any tips for estimating this, I’m all ears!

  • vegankitchendiaries

    Canadian APW’ers… Where’s a good place to **bulk buy** attractive soda? (Jones, Faygo, Koala, Clearly Canadian, Jarritos or anything else bottled)

    • Mezza

      WHOA. You guys still have Clearly Canadian?? It hasn’t been in the US for years! Now I want to go on a quest when I’m in Toronto later this month.

      • laddibugg

        looks like they are searching for funding…

        • vegankitchendiaries

          Haha, indeed. I was kind of joking about Clearly Canadian but, yeah, GREAT MEMORIES!!!

        • vegankitchendiaries

          That’s so funny! This website actually takes orders! But at thirty bucks for 12 bottles, it’s a bit steep for this Canuck…

          • laddibugg

            yeah! I had forgotten about Clearly Canadian until you mentioned it, and then I realized I hadn’t seen it…so I Googled it to where it might be sold.
            I might have ordered if it was $2.00 bottle, but $2.50 is a bit much

    • planningforfun

      We had to cobble together from a few places, but our liquor store was able to bulk special order the things I couldn’t find anywhere else (I really wanted glass bottles of coke and diet coke). Other good sources were Costco/ Sams club and honestly my local grocery store where I just waited for the things I wanted to go on sale.

  • Katie

    Does anyone have an opinion on how much ice is needed for each type of bar set-up? We’re doing a beer/wine self serve bar, and I have NO IDEA. We’ll be about an hour from the closest store, so I really really don’t want to run out.

    • Rowany

      we did a beer/wine self-serve bar, with beer kegs and wine bottles in separate keg buckets. It was 3-4 bags of ice per bucket if I remember, but refilled 2-3 a day. Double check gas stations nearby, they likely stock ice.

    • Carolyn

      Ditto Katie, closest store is about 40 min away, and we need to pre-order – and my wedding is in 3 weeks! Help!
      We’re doing self-serve beer & wine, by filling a row boat with ice (along with a few back-up coolers). Any suggestions as to how much we’ll need?

  • april

    Another suggestion – go to a large-ish liquor store that has experience dealing with events. The one we used was amazing. They talked with us about budget, let us sample a ton of wine, helped us estimate how much of everything we’d need (we just did beer, wine, cava, and a whiskey cocktail), delivered everything free of charge, and let us return leftovers!

  • Audrey

    I wish I had seen this before my wedding! We got tons of beer and a reasonable amount of wine, since both of our families are somewhat beer drinkers. Come the wedding, EVERYONE was into the wine (and we had just enough) and we had tons of beer leftovers. I would have realized that if 75/25 is normal then 50/50 would have been better for the event.

    • JSwen

      We’re going to do 50/50 for that reason. Everyone in my family is a beer drinker but that said, they might fancy it up a notch to wine for the occasion. ;)

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  • Ashley

    We’re planning on beer, wine & frozen margaritas from a margarita machine. I’m not sure if I should use the typical beer/wine/liquor breakdowns when taking the margarita machine into consideration, or if more people than usual will choose the frozen drinks. Any insights?

  • macrain

    We are going to try as best we can to get the right amount of booze, with the understanding that we can’t predict to a T what people will be drinking. At my sister’s wedding, one woman got a vodka with cranberry juice, many other women saw it and followed suit, and pretty soon the bar was out of vodka. You can’t predict something like that, but the point is- what’s the worst that could happen? A guest wants vodka and ends up with whiskey? There could be worse things. You plan the best you can, and if you run out of something, well- your guests can pick something else from the bar and be just as happy.
    Which is not to say I don’t find this tutorial useful- I will be using the shit out of this tutorial. Just saying that if your accuracy is a little off, it will probably be just fine.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      This illustrates the other side of the “know your crowd” coin, which is, “know yourself.” For some people, running out of vodka is the stuff wedding nightmares are made of. For others, it’s serving cold food. For others, it’s a dress ruined right before the ceremony. Depending on your nightmare, your stress tolerance, and your budget, it might be worth it for some people to buy “too much vodka.”

  • RJ

    To add another data point: I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to a New Zealand wedding that had hard liquor or cocktails – only beer, red wine and one or two kinds of white wine (people tend to go sauvignon blanc + a chardonnay) and a red. And bubbles for the toast.

  • RJ

    Also – people respond to incentives/ and nudges. How you lay things out matters.

    E.g.i if you make a big non-alcoholic cocktail and put it at the front – and people will want it, particularly if they see other people having them. THe Nudge unit in UK use the acronym “EAST” – Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely.

    I used this approach in catering. People respond to the plate size (big platter they take more, small bowl, less). spoon size (big ladle vs dessert spoon for dip, or teaspoon) and the order you lay things out on the buffet. (Take more of what’s first).

  • Ariel

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

  • snowmentality

    Just to note, “East Coast” in this post refers to “DC and points north.” South of DC, social norms are different. Here in North Carolina, we had only beer and wine at our wedding and no one was taken aback. I’ve also attended more than one dry wedding, and not just Southern Baptist weddings — people might comment on it, in a “Oh huh, guess there’s no booze, oh well” way, but it’s not seen as a gross violation of social obligations. Obviously, social norms shouldn’t necessarily decide things for you anyway, but they do vary a lot throughout the country, and in more ways than just West Coast vs. Northeast. Wedding norms in general — not just booze — seem to be one of the few things that are still very strongly regional. It’s fascinating to me.

    • Alyssa M

      Yeeeah, the South is always a unique landscape… and I love how we just fly over the fly over states with that lol. Though I’ve found that the midwest tends to be rather conservative with it’s booze… so I’m doubting anybody expects a full bar there either.

    • macrain

      Totally! We live in NYC and are getting married in North Carolina, and our guests are from all over. It’s been a little hard to explain to people, like our DOC and venue coordinator, that no, really we actually DON’T want (fill wedding tradition southerners can’t believe you could do without).

      That said, I also love the South and will proudly be keeping a healthy stock of custom wedding koozies at the bar for people to use with their beers. :)

  • KahloBridesmaid

    Please post the food truck wedding How To as soon as possible – I sent in a message a while ago requesting one, and I’m sure your article will be amazing after reading this one!

  • Gillian Graham

    Any thoughts on how things might be different for a winter wedding? I’m getting married in early January, and thinking that maybe people will drink differently. Like, I don’t see a lot of people going for gin or tequila drinks, and maybe not as much light beer. Am I overthinking this? We’re buying our own alcohol (beer, wine, hard alcohol and mixers) and hiring a bartender.

    • Summer drinking

      I can say that getting married in August meant people drank a higher % of white wine and light beer.

  • Sar

    This is very helpful. Any thoughts on what percentage of guests want coffee or tea after dinner?

  • Sarah R

    Wanted to share, don’t necessarily assume equal parts of red and white wine. We went equal because we were getting married in early May and it could have been a bit chilly or really hot. It ended up on the warmer side, so we were left with a lot of extra red wine and only a little bit of extra white.

    • Lily

      We did 2 cases red wine and 4 cases white/sparkling. The wedding was on a 100-degree day. My husband really pushed back on the red-white ratio because he prefers red, but in the end we had a full case of red left over (and about another full case of white/sparkling).

      Edited to add: I don’t know how the wine factored as a percentage of the total drinks consumed as our reception was at a restaurant and I haven’t seen the final invoice yet.

  • Kat

    any thoughts on an estimate of the number of lemons and limes we should have on hand?

  • ART

    We’re doing beer, wine, champagne, and two pre-mixed cocktails in glass dispensers. We’re only making one batch each of the cocktails, and our dispensers are 2.4 gal each I think, so I calculated how many 8oz drinks that was (our cups are 9oz) and backed that out of the total drinks-for-the-night number, then did 75/25 wine/beer of what was left. We’ll run out of the cocktails (I hope, anyway, unless people don’t like them!) but then there will be a wine/beer bar left for the rest of the night. So that’s one way to count in mixed drinks.

  • mackenzie

    We had a DIT full bar (but only for 30 people). I got on some weird kick that I didn’t want any high fructose corn syrup at the wedding, so it took me some time to source the right mixers. Non-HFCS sodas are getting easier to find. Tonic water, though, not so much (unless you go “artisanal”. Who would have thought that tonic water contained high fructose corn syrup? Not me. Anyway, the Whole Foods house brand (365?) is pretty cheap, and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. I’m probably the only bride who ever made a stink about this, but there you go. #themoreyouknow.

  • revooca

    Follow up question: what’s the best/cheapest way to keep cold drinks cold if you don’t have access to a refrigerator or your event is outdoors? It seems like you’d need a lot of coolers…

    • Sar

      What we’re doing (our wedding hasn’t happened yet, so whether or not it’s the best way remains to be seen) is renting stainless steel tubs from the same company that’s providing dishware, chairs, etc. and filling them with ice. You can also do this with cheap plastic tubs if you don’t have the luxury of renting.

  • Stefan Salvatore

    Really informative information! You have right a great blog about the alcohol for wedding ceremony.. And the pictures you have send in this makes your article more readable and easy to understand.
    Wedding in Hawaii

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