What quantity of alcohol should you buy for your wedding?

If you’re having a marquee wedding, or using a venue that allows you to provide your own alcohol then I have no doubt you’re beginning to wake up at night wondering just how much booze should you buy. Have no fear, through my 11 years as a wedding planner I’ve worked out quantities for many a client so I hope the following is useful for you. This article is assuming you’re having a drink reception of 1 ½ hours, a formal sit down dinner and evening reception of 4 hours.

How many glasses in….?

Lets start with some basic maths, namely how many glasses can you get from the most common drinks.

  • 1 bottle of 75cl wine              = 6 x 125ml glasses or 3 x 250ml
  • 1 bottle of champagne           = 6 x flute glasses
  • 11 gallon keg                           = 88 pints
  • 4.4 gallon                                = 35 pints
  • 1 litre bottle of spirit             = 40 x 25ml measures
  • 1 litre pimms                           = 20 x 50ml measures (mix with 100ml lemonade)
  • 2 litre lemonade                      = 20 x 100ml measures (ideal for pimms)

A wine glass should only be filled half or two-thirds full, leaving space to swirl the wine and release the bouquet. Drinks Direct 


Drink Reception

For 1-½ hours allow 3 drinks per guest, don’t forget to allow some non-alcoholic options for the drivers. If your venue are providing the drink don’t forget to check how many, 1 drink per guest is just not going to be enough.

In my opinion it is better to have staff serve the welcome drinks, this is much faster then guests helping themselves from self-pour stations or going to the bar. Many weddings in the UK opt for a champagne/prosecco cocktail or pimms.


Classic Pimms

Mix 1 part PIMM’S* No.1
with 3 parts chilled lemonade;
add some mint, cucumber, orange 
and strawberry

–       See more at: http://www.anyoneforpimms.com/recipes/#recipe

–       1 x 50ml pimms mixed with 100ml of lemonade

Peach Bellini Cocktail

The original recipe uses sparkling wine so my advice is to do the same and save the champagne for the toasts instead. There are many variations of recipes out there, some using fresh peaches pureed, some using tinned peaches (Jamie Oliver) but this one is using white peach puree. If using flute glasses you’ll get about 7 glasses from a bottle.

–       100 ml sparkling wine/prosecco

–       33 ml white peach puree

This famous cocktail was invented at Harry’s Bar, Venice, in 1934. The combination of peach juice and fizz is almost acceptable at breakfast.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine

You get 6 flute glasses per bottle on average (unless you are buying magnums – not ideal incidentally as hard for waitresses to pour from)

I estimate that ½ your guests will drink Bellini or Pimms & ½ champagne, i.e. most girls will go for the Bellini. Some guests will be non-drinkers, a good soft alternative to serve is elderflower, pink lemonade or apple juice perhaps. Orange juice can be a tad too acidic so I tend to avoid this at weddings.

The decision on whether to serve lager during this time is a personal one, I try to advise not to serve larger purely from an aesthetic point of view. Champagne or cocktails just look prettier! It all depends if you think the male guests can wait for their lager fix until the bar opens?

The Meal

Champagne/Prosecco Toasts

Champagne or prosecco for the toasts – normally served in flute glasses, remember you get 6 flute glasses per bottle on average.

Table Wine

Preferences for red and white wines are usually quite evenly split. You get approx. 6 small glasses per bottle. It is normal to have ½ bottle of wine per person.


If using bottled water, assume guests will want 1 x 250ml glass each. Thus 1 bottle will serve about 3 guests. Have a mix between still and sparkling.

Your Evening Bar

Ok for the evening lets estimate the bar will be open for 4 hours. Remember people won’t be drinking the whole time as they will be dancing, eating, chatting etc.

It can be hard knowing quantities as it really depends what your guests are like and what they normally like to drink. Also some guests with children might leave early. At some weddings guests are happy with just beer and wine, at others they want a full selection of spirits. There is no clear answer in working out quantity for an evening bar but this is what I normally do.

Firstly lets make an assumption that each guest will have 6-8 drinks during the 4 hours. Of course I have to cover myself as some will drink less and some no doubt will drink considerably more!

Beer & Wine Only – assuming 100 guests

If you are serving just beer and wine, plus soft drinks then I do a simple calculation of how many men vs how many women. It might be sexist but I simply assume the men will drink the beer and the women the wine, yes I know many men will drink wine but this is purely for my own calculations!

50 x 6 glasses of wine           =          50 bottles, have a mix between red/white/rose

25 x 6 bottles of lager            =          150 bottles of beer

25 x 6 pints of lager               =          2 x 11 gallon (88 pints) of ale/beer/cider

Full Bar Selection – assuming 100 guests

The difficulty with a full bar is you have to over order, it is impossible to know if your guests will be drinking vodka or whiskey. And woe betide you if you don’t have gin and Aunty Helen wants one!


  • Vodka                        6 litres
  • Gin                             5 litres
  • Whiskey                    2 litres
  • Scotch                        2 litres
  • Real ale                      1 keg (88 pints)
  • Lager                          150 bottles
  • Cola                            10 x 2 litre bottles
  • Diet-cola                    10 x 2 litre bottles
  • Lemonade                  10 x 2 litre bottles
  • Tonic                            1 case
  • Apple/Orange Juice 15 cartons of each

I hope this has been helpful for your wedding planning and I’d love to hear what drink did you buy and of course what quantity?

Wedding planner based in Essex, organising events since 2002. Co Author Wedding Planning for Dummies

Photo Credit

Mark Bothwell & Nick Kontou



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