Other than having a dry reception (no alcohol), your least expensive option will probably be serving beer and wine only. Limiting the selection to beer and wine also makes your job of stocking the bar much easier because you have fewer variables to take into account than if you’re stocking a full bar.
[Picture by La Bella Vita Photography]
Before you head to the liquor store, you’ll want to do some calculations so you know what you’ll need. You can expect each adult guest to consume approximately one drink per hour.If you’re having 100 guests and a five hour reception, you should buy enough for 500 drinks.
100 guests x 5 hours = 500 drinks
You’ll want to allocate 20% of those drinks to beer, and 80% to wine. That means 100 beers and 400 glasses of wine.
500 drinks x 20% beer = 100 servings of beer
500 drinks x 80% wine – 400 glasses of wine
Obviously 1 bottle of beer is one serving, so that makes it easy. Unless you are having a very large wedding, a keg probably isn’t your best option because you won’t be able to return the unused portion for a refund. A keg holds approximately 165 beers, so that’s 50% more than the servings we calculated above, and you’ll be limited to one type of beer. A bottle of wine will yield about 5 servings, so you’ll need about 80 bottles of wine.
100 servings of beer x 1 bottle per serving = 100 bottles of beer
400 glasses of wine / 5 servings per bottle = 80 bottles of wine
At a minimum, you’ll want one light and one dark beer, and one red and one white wine. In general, you can just allocate your varieties evenly. You will normally get the lowest price when you buy cases (12 bottles) rather than individual bottles. For a 5 hour reception for 100 guests, you can expect to buy 5 12-packs each of light and dark beer, and 17 cases each of red and white wine. If your math doesn’t work evenly (like mine didn’t in this case), I recommend rounding up (better to have more than not enough!).
I put together a guide for quick reference (pin it now so you’ll have it when you need it!).
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. If you know the majority of your guests are beer drinkers, you should allocate a higher percentage of drinks to beer and a lower percentage to wine (say 30% beer, 70% wine). Although these calculations aren’t exact, they should provide you with a great starting point. If you have the luxury of returning your unopened bottles, definitely buy extra up front!
(If you need more details or information on stocking your bar, I highly recommend THIS article)