Like figuring out how many slices you can get out of your wedding cake, planning the bar for your wedding reception can be frustrating! Many venues take care of figuring out how many drinks will be needed to keep the party going, but maybe you fell in love with an off-site location and find yourself needing to hire a freelance bartender, and who’da thunk Aunt Lucy could knock back four glasses of champagne by herself before reaching for your signature cocktail?
Huffington Post notes that if you’re hosting your wedding in a hotel or banquet hall, liquor is usually provided; in your contract, expect to be quoted either a per-person fee or a total price for alcohol. The same is true with established independent caterers, but if the caterer does not have a liquor license, he or she will coordinate purchasing the alcohol from a vendor and quote you a price per bottle. If there are bottles left over, you’ll be able to keep them, so you’ll only be paying for what was actually consumed!
If your facility allows it, consider supplying the alcohol yourselves as it can be a huge money saver. This does mean, however, that you’ll have to order and arrange for delivery and cart away the unused bottles after the party, and you may be subjected to a corkage fee, which is a flat fee charged by the caterer per bottle opened.
For brides ordering the wedding bar themselves, Draper’s Catering of Memphis notes that a great general rule of thumb when preparing your wedding bar is to remember that, for a 4-hour reception, you should bank on having 4-5 drinks per person available. Average sizes are: 12oz beer, 5oz wine, 1.5oz hard liquor. Serving just wine and beer? Use a 60/40 ratio of beer to wine. When serving beer, wine, and mixed drinks, buy beer for 20% of your guests, wine for 35%, and liquor for 45%.
While it is not a requirement to offer a full bar (or any alcohol at all!), if you choose to do so, at it’s most basic, a full bar includes at least two types of beer (one light, one dark), red wine, white wine, champagne, whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, tequila, and basic mixers. If offering just beer and wine, remember that too many choices can be overwhelming to guests! Most caterers recommend offering two whites, two reds, and one sparkling – along with a mix of popular beers.
Keep in mind that the time of year you say “I do” makes a difference! In general, white wine is more popular, but red wine is vastly more popular during winter weddings; that popularity fades, however, during humid summer months to give way to greater beer consumption.
Already cringing at the thought of people taking their obligatory sip of champagne during the toast and then abandoning the glass for the mixed drink they really wanted? Tell your waitstaff to only pour 1/3 to 1/2 full glasses, which will allow you to calculate eight glasses per bottle instead of five for buying purposes!
Still feeling unsure? Use BevMo’s drink calculator!
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