How much alcohol will I have to buy for my wedding?

One of the biggest benefits of planning a private and personal destination wedding is being able to control costs.  You are not told that the cost is this and there are no options like in some pre-packaged options.  Gone are the days of couples settling for what an all-inclusive offers them.  Today’s Couples are street smart and savvy.  They work hard and want what they want, and there is no reason they shouldn’t have it. 

Let’s break down the costs associated with purchasing your own alcohol, or letting us do it as we are happy too and have some great connections for discounting to save you even more.

The first thing we need to do is figure our what type of a bar you are having.

There are a few different options for you to consider before you make a choice as to what is best for your wedding or event and your guests, let’s break them down here.

The limited bar – This is usually a great way to save on costs and can be a very nice option for almost any function.  Limited bars, consist of usually 2-4 different drink choices only.  They usually include wine, beer, and possibly an offering of some liquor that is local to the destination.  In an offering such as this, you can cut the costs by not having to buy a bottle of every type of alcohol your guests may want, and then have a bunch left over. 

If you are staying in the destination for a while, that isn’t so much of a problem as you can add the extra to your stay inventory and avoid wasting it, but if you are leaving a short time after the event, you may want to use this to avoid spending on something you won’t have time to use.

The full bar – If you are on a bit of a budget, this may not be the best option for you as per the information above, but if cost is no issue and your soul intent is to spoil your guests, we highly recommend having a full bar.  Vodka, Gin, Rum, Rye, Tequila and fruity blender drinks are options with this model, and will have your guests rushing back to the bar.

Champagne toast – Will you be offering a champagne toast after the ceremony or at dinner?  Champagne or, sparkling wine is a nice touch in this scenario but we must be sure to include it.

Signature Drinks – One of the best new trends in the last few years is the signature drink idea.  It is fun to include for cocktail hour or for the entire time of the event.  It can be named and even match your color scheme if desired.  Make sure to choose an alcohol base that is desirable to most of your guests.  Something light like vodka or gin is nice and it mixes well with most juice or sodas.

Now that we have the options down, lets talk about how to figure out how much alcohol you will need to buy.

The best way is to consider the following:  2 drinks per adult for cocktail hour, and then one drink per person, per hour for the remaining time of the wedding.

We know that there will always be those guests that drink less and those that drink more, so this is a good way to average the drinks required for the entire day.


You have 100 guests, but 8 of the guests are minors.  The wedding starts at 5:00pm, with Cocktail hour starting at 6:00pm, and then the bar remains open until 11:00pm that evening.  You will have a champagne toast at dinner, and you are having only beer, wine and rum drinks.

108 – 8 children = 100 guests.

100 guests at 2 drinks for cocktail hour – 100 x 2 = 200 drinks for cocktail hour.

Dinner is at 7:00pm in this scenario, and the bar is open until 11:00pm, which is 4 hours at 1 drink per each of the 100 guests per hour for three hours.

100 x 3 = 300 drinks. 

200 drinks for cocktails + 300 drinks for the reception = 500 drinks for the day.

If you average at $3.00 per drink, the cost of your bar, without soda and juice and ice, is $1500 for the day.  Now that number may seem a bit high but if you consider that if you were to be in a restaurant environment where they price the beverages to include a profit and taxes, you would easily be averaging more than $3.00 a drink.  You would be liking at anywhere from $5.00 per drink, to $7.00 or higher.  In that scenario, at $5.00 per drink your budget would need to be, $2500 just for your bar, so as you can see, purchasing your own bar, and if you even hire a bartender, you will still greatly save money.

In this example, we didn’t include the Champagne.  Typically, people will only have 1 glass of champagne, so you can count on only 100 glasses of champagne.

So now that we know all of that, how much of each type of alcohol do you need to purchase?  This is something that has a few contributing factors, such as your budget, guest preference, but there is a general guide most of us planners use, – 50% wine, 20% beer and 30% liquor.  In this same scenario of 100 guests, the number of servings of each option, for the reception is 200 servings of wine, 80 servings of beer, and 60 servings of liquor.

If you are going to offer your guests either bar option it is nice to add variety.  Be sure you offer both red and white wine, or maybe red, white and blush, since it is so fashionable and trendy.  Also, you may want to offer a couple of brands of beer, including a light option and both an ale and a lager.

Don’t forget to include ice, water, juice, and sodas, as well as plastic or unbreakable cups, if you are partying poolside to avoid cuts if a beverage accidentally falls and the glass shatters. 

For more costs cutting ideas, pick up our book on Amazon, Destination Wedding Planning 101 – Tips and tricks for planning a stress-free destination wedding.

As well, If you want more ideas on destination wedding trends for 2020-2021 you can check out our blog.


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