ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!

5th July 2020

ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married...and then after the ceremony comes the party! And every party needs a bar. Not just any bar, an incredibly well-stocked bar that keeps revellers refreshed and on the dance floor, all night long.

So what is the best way to stock a bar for a wedding? And how best can you cater to different numbers of guests? Because there’s a fine line between not having enough to drink and so much booze left over you’re drinking your wedding wine every night for the first year of your marriage.

You’ve probably hosted a dinner party before or organised a birthday party, but nothing comes close to organising your wedding. From budgeting to selecting the right booze for your bar, there is a lot to think about when it comes to watering your wedding guests, and fear not, everyone struggles to get it right.

How do you know how much booze you’ll need for a party of 50, 75, 100 or even 150 if you’ve never had to throw one for such large numbers before?

So, without further ado...

Know Your Numbers

Every wedding is unique to the bride and groom, but to make sure it goes off without a hitch (or just one), you need to know your budget. How much can you afford to spend, not just on buying alcohol online, but on the whole shebang?

Fun fact for you - your reception will typically eat up 50% of your wedding budget; that includes the venue, the bar, all the food, even the furniture hire. So, know your numbers, and you can estimate early on, how much you can afford to spend on booze.

And don’t forget to take into account corkage if your venue applies it.

Will We Have A Cash Bar or A Free Bar?

Knowing what you know then, you have a decision to make - do you go for a free bar, or a cash bar, i.e. will you provide your guests with all the booze they could possibly want for the entire day, from the first glass of fizz when they arrive at the reception to their very last glass as they bid you adieu (and everything in between)? Or will you provide the basic booze and if they want to drink more, they have to pay for it.

There is no right or wrong answer here.

If you’re tight on cash then the obvious answer is to cut the free bar and focus your funds elsewhere.

If you’re running a cash bar, just remember to include that information in your invitation pack you send to guests, so they aren’t caught unawares on the day itself. They’ll need to bring money with them if they want to drink!

How Much Alcohol Do You Need For A Wedding?

ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!A good rule of thumb is 1 drink per guest per hour.

Some people will drink more, some will drink less, some not at all. This rule will ensure you don’t run out, nor will you end up with lots left over.

As conservative as it might sound, keep in mind that for every Jack the Lad who hits the keg hard, there’s always going to be an aged Aunt who sips her one glass of wine like a budgie with burned lips. 

Average number of servings per bottle:

  • 1 bottle of wine = 4 servings
  • 750ml bottle of spirits = 39 servings
  • 1 bottle of beer = 1 serving
  • ½ barrel beer - 160 servings
  • 1 bottle of sparkling wine = 8 toasting servings

With these serving numbers in mind, for a theoretical wedding reception with 100 guests lasting 5 hours (500 x 5), you’ll need 500 drinks.

What Kind Of Bar Should We Have?

ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!BEER AND WINE BAR

If you’re running a bar serving only beer and wine go for a ratio of 70% beer to 30% wine.

For the above hypothetical wedding you’ll therefore need:

  • 350 beers (1 barrel of beer).
  • 150 glasses of wine (38 bottles of wine, split between red and white).
  • Don’t forget fizz for the toasts - 100 glasses (13 bottles). 


If you’re running a full bar, you’ll want a ratio of 33% wine, 33% beer, 33% spirits.

For the above hypothetical wedding you’ll need:

  • 170 beers (½ barrel of beer).
  • 150 glasses of wine (38 bottles of wine, split between red and white).
  • 150 mixed drinks (4 x 75cl bottles of spirits) - plus mixers.

What Kinds Of Alcohol To Serve At A Wedding?

ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!Once you know roughly how much alcohol you need, now comes the fun part - choosing what alcoholic beverages you want to serve on your big day.

  • You’ll want champagne or prosecco for toasts. If you’re also planning on serving it as guests arrive, don’t forget to factor that in too.
  • You’ll want to serve at least one variety of red wine as well as one of white during the meal. You don’t need to offer more, people aren’t coming for a wine tasting, they’re there to celebrate your love.
  • Not everyone drinks wine, so purchasing a few kegs of your favourite lager or ale, or at least enough bottles or cans to see you through the evening is advised.
  • What drinks are you giving to your guests on arrival? If it’s summer, how about a choice of alcoholic drinks including:
    • a glass of fizz.
    • orange juice or elderflower cordial for non-drinkers.
    • a fruity cocktail as an alternative to bubbles, something like a Pimm's cup always goes down well.
  • And speaking of cocktails, how about running a cocktail bar after the wedding breakfast? You don’t have to stock your bar fully, but what about serving your two favourite cocktails, or having a mixologist create a signature cocktail just for you two and then serving that in the evening?
  • Stocking your bar with perennial spirit favourites such as gin, vodka, whisky and rum, will always be well received. But remember, your guests probably won’t want to drink shots, so don’t forget the mixers. Juices such as orange juice or cranberry juice make great mixers for vodka, as do coke and lemonade, plus don’t forget the tonic water for gin, and how about ginger ale for whisky.
  • If you’re going down the cocktail route, you’ll need certain garnishes - from maraschino cherries in your Amaretto Sour, to lime wedges for your Tequila Sunrise and lemon slices for your Gin and Tonic.

And Finally...

ADVICE - How To Stock A Wedding Reception Bar For Minimum Waste And Maximum Enjoyment!Do you need to create a tool kit for the bartender too? If so, they’ll need:

  • A bottle opener
  • A corkscrew
  • Ice bucket and tongs
  • Cocktail shaker
  • Muddling sticks, straws and stirrers

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