How to Plan for Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding Reception

Written by patricia telesco
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How to Plan for Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding Reception
Cheers! (four wine glasses with white wine image by Arkady Ten from

When you are planning a wedding one of the things that could stump you is how to plan for serving alcohol at your wedding reception. You're not alone. It's not just the question of what to serve, but also how much alcohol should be on hand (especially when many guests will be driving). It can also get really expensive, particularly with an open-bar-type reception. Fortunately there are simple ways to resolve this.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Budget for the alcohol
  • Types of alcohol desired
  • Calculator

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  1. 1

    Call and confirm that alcohol can be served if you're having your reception at a hall. Also check to see if the hall has any specifications about service. For example, some require the use of their own bartender, and some halls only allow beer and wine.

  2. 2

    Choose your beers and/or wines. If the hall specifies "beer and wine only," then at least part of your planning is done for you. All that remains is the variety of beer and wine. For a variety of palates have a light beer, dark beer, red wine, white wine, champagne (for toasting) and a rose. That should please nearly everyone. If you have the option of broadening choices, then think about the things most of your guests might enjoy. Keep your budget in mind. Liqueur costs can become astronomical very quickly.

  3. 3

    Plan an open bar paying attention to the math. Open bars have an appeal, but they can be expensive. Consider that most adults will have about four mixed drinks in this setting (approximately one drink per hour). You can get 25 drinks from a fifth-sized bottle. So if you have 200 adult guests and only offer mixed drinks about 30 mixed bottles will do the trick (figuring that some guests will not imbibe).

    Wine drinkers typically consume one bottle each. There are about six glasses of champagne in one bottle. For beer you'll get about 260 glasses (227gr. each) from a half keg. Remember that not all stores allow you to return unused alcohol, so make your calculations carefully.

  4. 4

    Opt to limit drinking. In this approach you could put a set number of wine bottles on each table for guests to share, or you could have servers go around the room with an offering of drinks (when the drinks run out, they stop service). Your caterer may be able to help with either choice.

Tips and warnings

  • Shop around for bargains. Many liquor stores will offer bulk discounts.
  • Ask your caterer for suggestions on the alcohol (particularly wine) that best pairs with your food offerings.
  • Provide non-alcoholic alternatives for designated drivers and non-drinkers.
  • Have a professional licensed bartender (one for every 50 guests); have them check ID.
  • Hosts can be legally liable for serving alcohol to underaged individuals, or if a guest gets in an accident due to drinking and driving. Consider having some designated friends or family who can watch for anyone who may be putting themselves in danger.

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