How to Calculate Beverages for a Wedding

Aisle Planner How to Calculate Beverages for a Wedding
Photo courtesy Jen Wojcik Photography

With signature drinks and craft cocktails just about taking over the world, sometimes stocking the bar ends up on your to-do list. And while caterers or bar service providers usually offer assistance with beverage calculations, if your clients are providing their own beverages, you can expect to be asked how much of everything needs to be purchased. So today, we wanted to give you the information you need to know how to calculate beverages for a wedding and assist your clients with pulling together a shopping list.

Know the Math

Ok, we know you didn’t become a wedding planner because you loved doing math but hey, your algebra teacher did tell you this would come in handy someday, right? So:

If you are planning a wedding for 150 guests who are consuming drinks at a rate of 1 1/2 drinks per hour for 5 hours of service and you have a fully stocked bar with a total of 9 different liquors, how many…

Just kidding! The formula you should use to calculate the total number of drinks to be served at a wedding is:

 Number of Guests  x  1.5  x  Hours of Service = Total Number of Drinks

Don’t feel like breaking out college-ruled paper and a pencil? BevMo has a great beverage calculator here.

Know What You Need

After you have calculated the total number of beverages you are going need, it’s time to decide what you are going to serve. And regardless of whether your client’s budget accommodates well or top-shelf bottles, one of the most important factors in hosting a successful bar is knowing what (and how much) the guests like to drink! Are they heavy drinkers? Do they love wine? Are they going to drink Moscow Mules until they are sideways?

So as you sit down to figure out how many bottles of what you need, it is also helpful to know how many servings of alcohol per bottle you get. The breakdown of servings per bottle for the big players is:

  • 4 servings per bottle of wine
  • 165 servings per keg of beer
  • 18 servings per bottle of liquor

Pro Tip: For the champagne toast, budget 1 bottle for every 8 guests and ask the catering staff to pour 1/3 to 1/2 glasses since most guests will take an obligatory sip and return to whatever it is that they are drinking.

Make adjustments to your shopping list to ensure that the bar doesn’t run out of the drink of the night but here are the main alcohols you need to have on hand to stock a basic full bar: gin, vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey, beer, wine, and champagne.

And because your aren’t planning on serving the guests straight shots all night, here is a list of mixers that you’ll need to stock up on as well.

Mixer List for a Full Bar

Know The Variables

Ok, sorry for another math term but there are a few more things to consider before you go out there are start making purchases. There are a lot of variables that can affect your final calculations, so we wanted to give you some food for thought:

  • People will pour heavily at self service bars. If you are hosting one, plan to order more to make sure you are covered
  • People tend to drink less the earlier the wedding is as well as on weekdays and Sundays
  • Consider the weather. If it’s especially hot out, you can be pretty sure that people are going to wants lots of cool drinks (and lots of water for that matter!)
  • Know the return policies of the stores you are purchasing from just in case you have a client that is on a tight budget and wants to return any unopened bottles
  • And lastly, ALWAYS BUY EXTRA ICE.

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