Bar Consumption Basics


Naturally, the amount that the “average” guest can drink per hour varies. Some planners say that in the first reception hour, guests will drink 2-3 drinks, whilst other planners suggest that an estimate of one drink per hour will suffice. Most planners though, will agree that the first two hours of the reception mark the highest point of bar consumption.

Truth is, consumption is often dependant on the type of wedding you are having and the time of day your reception will be – for example, brunch weddings generally have   lighter alcohol consumption versus late evening receptions.

Here’s a guide for figuring out what your guests are likely to drink:

1. Sort your guest list into percentages of male and female (exclude pregnant women and any guests younger than the alcohol drinking age.). A larger amount of female guests usually means your wine and cocktail consumption will be higher. More males and you would need more beer and hard liquor.

2. Analyze any groups you may have – e.g. “guests who will only drink hard liquor” and “guests who will only drink beer” and so on.

3. Do some math – for example, if you’re having a 5 hour reception and 25 of your guests are red wine drinkers, you can estimate that they will consume 125 glasses of red wine ( 25 x 5). In turn, this means you will need 25 bottles of red wine (125 glasses/5 drinks per bottle).

If your venue will be handling your bar requirements, they will probably give you one of two choices:

  • Flat fee per guest – naturally, this is a fixed price “per head.” Be sure to ask whether this cost includes add-ons such as: tax, gratuity, corkage and labour.
  • Open bar on consumption – the venue will provide the bar service at a “capped” amount, for example up to $8,000. Once consumption goes beyond that, you will have the option to either stop the bar service or continue service at an extra fee.

Couples who are on a tight budget  have several options:

1. Non-alcoholic bar

2. Limited bar of wine, beer, soft drinks and juices.

3. Limiting pre-dinner drinks to a signature drink or cocktail (in both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions). Punch-type offerings work well to start off the reception. Good ideas are sangria or a champagne punch. After dinner, you can then have the full bar opened.

A quick guide for 100 guests!
You will need:

  • 4 bottles of scotch
  • Between 2-4 cases of white or red wine (i.e. 24-48 bottles), depending on which is the more popular choice for your guests. One bottle of wine will usually serve 5 people.
  • 3 cases (36 bottles) of champagne. One bottle will typically fill 6 champagne flutes, using about 4 ounces per person.
  • 3 bottles of mixers per bottle of hard liquor.  Mixers can range from:  coconut water,sodas, tonic water, tomato juice or selection of juices.
  • Be sure to have water available and if you can, coffee or tea for after dinner.