Liquor guess-timation: How to calculate your wedding alcohol

By on Jan. 30th
Photo by Laura Kozlowski

Photo by Laura Kozlowski

We are planning to have a picnic reception starting around one and ending at about five, with a free bar.

But the question is how much drink do you need?

We will have around 150 guests and be serving beer, cider, wine, and perhaps some other odds and ends as well, like cocktails.

How on earth do you work out how many bottles you'll need to order for your wedding?

Any wisdom appreciated. -npsell

We have collected much wisdom from some of our super-savvy Tribesmaids. From how they got their guests to help make the decision, to what an actual wedding order looks like, a simple-to-understand rule, and even some advice as to what to do with the left-overs — we got 'em to dish their cocktail menu details.

If you're looking for answers to this same drinky dilemma, check out these helpful tips, and feel free to leave your own!


If you look around online the consensus seems to be one-drink-per-hour-per-guest. I think you are wise to limit the options because this makes your sums much easier! Depending on where you live or who your guests are will influence how much of each will be drank. The theory is after you count up your one-drink-per-hour-per-guest (so that would be 600 total drinks) you estimate what percentage of people are going to have each drink.

There are online calculators like this one, but I don't know how accurate they would be (as I say, there will be regional variations).

What I've done is basically split my invite list into "people who will only drink cider," drivers, and cocktail drinkers. People I don't know about I have added in both drinking lists. Then I'm getting enough of each to cover these numbers and a bit extra.

And I'm making sure I buy my booze from somewhere that will allow me to return unopened bottles so I'm happy to buy more than I think I will need. -KnittyKitty

Create a survey

My weird, but totally fun way to figure out how much to buy… Go to Survey Monkey and sign up for a free account. Create a simple survey asking:

  1. What would you like to drink most at our wedding? Red wine, White wine, Champagne, Beer on tap, or Beer from the bottle, hard alcohol?
  2. What's your favorite brand?

And a comment section. Then email the survey to a majority of your guest list if you can, and see what they say. -danimonster

A break down from a liquor store

We went through a few calculators, but the best numbers we got were from the liquor store itself. Plus, if you buy in bulk, you get a discount: most of those in our area seemed to give 10% off the total, but a slightly more expensive store gave 20%, which made them the best deal in the end. We adjusted their quantities a bit — more rum and less vodka, because our friends and families prefer rum-based drinks to vodka-based drinks — but this is our final tally, for about 80 drinking adults, with 750mL bottles:

  • 6 bottles rye
  • 6 bottles rum
  • 6 bottles vodka
  • 2 bottles tequila
  • 2 bottles gin
  • 15 cases beer (15 x 12 bottles = 180 bottles)
  • 16 bottles white wine
  • 24 bottles red wine
  • 16 bottles sparkling wine

The final quote is (CDN) $1440, and the prices are about what we expect to pay for decent quality alcohol on sale, so we're pretty happy with that number. We've erred on the high side for the quantities, because according to liquor laws in our province, for a private event like this, the store has to take back any unopened bottles/cases. -purplebutterfly

Any liquor store owners, wine enthusiasts, or wedding survivors out there have any helpful wedding alcohol suggestions?

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