Food and Drink: Calculating the “Drink” Part of the Equation

Trying to figure out if your caterer is giving you the shaft on the open bar for your wedding (you know NOT to have a cash bar, right? TELL ME that you know cash bars are THE tackiest thing you can do – you’re hosting a party and then making your guests pay for their own refreshment? Tacksville.)? I know that, unless you’re a pro in the restaurant biz, understanding serving sizes and amounts per bottle can be confusing (and sometimes – pretty pricy if you don’t know what you’re getting into).

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Image Courtesy of: Elizabeth Anne Designs 

Here’s some helpful tips and suggested serving sizes to help figure out what you’re looking at budget-wise:

  • On average estimate that guests will drink 2 drinks (or servings) of a non-alcoholic beverage in the first hour and then 1 for every hour after. And keep in mind that people tend to drink more when the weather is warm. Always, always have some form of a non-alcoholic beverage available. Something along the lines of juice, water, lemonade, tea, or soda will be most appreciated by your non-imbibing guests.
  • If your wedding includes alcoholic drinks then allow 1½ ounces of alcohol for each beverage (or approximately 16 drinks per 750-milliliter bottle [or a fifth] of liquor). Also, be sure to plan for a quart of mixer (carbonated water/tonic water/ginger ale) for every 3 people.
  • If your wedding is serving wine then plan on 1 750-milliliter bottle for every 2 people (If wine will be served only during a meal then that works out to 1 bottle for every 3-4 guests). A large 1.5-liter bottle of wine serves 4 guests (or, if served only during the meal it would be 6-8 guests).
  • If serving beer at your wedding estimate about 12 ounces per person for every half hour to hour. Keep in mind that it is most cost effective to buy (and serve from) a keg if there is a large guest list (hide it behind the bar and use nice glasses).
  • If you’re interested in doing a champagne toast then keep this in mind, most people get full glasses of champagne for the toast – but only drink a few sips of it before discarding the rest at their table. Save yourself some dough by using inexpensive bubbly or filling glasses only halfway.

And remember to ALWAYS calculate an extra 10% of everything on top of your set menu to cover potential big drinkers, frat boys, and extra guests.

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Image Courtesy of: Martha Stewart Weddings

Do these estimates look right to you (I’d LOVE to hear from some pros!)? Have any of you successfully negotiated with your caterers? How were you able to score your deal? Chime in!