Wedding Alcohol Calculator: How Much Alcohol to Buy for Your Wedding

wedding alcohol calculator

Photo by Apaige Photography

Figuring out how much booze you need for an open bar wedding is so confusing, there’s actually wedding alcohol calculator apps and diagrams and spreadsheets that have been created to try and help you out. Unfortunately we find most of them a bit more confusing than they have to be, so we’re going to try and break it down for us as easily as possible without making a powerpoint for you! LOL.

OK. So here’s the most BASIC wedding alcohol calculator information you need to know, based on the number of guests you’re having. But first, below is a cheat sheet in case you really, really don’t feel like reading how to figure it out! LOL.

Open Bar for 100 GUESTS:

  • 70 bottles of wine
  • 175 bottles of beer
  • 15 bottles of liquor (750 ml)
  • 20 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

150 GUESTS:

  • 105 bottles of wine
  • 266 bottles of beer
  • 22 bottles of liquor (750 ml)
  • 30 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

200 GUESTS:

  • 140 bottles of wine
  • 350 bottles of beer
  • 30 bottles of liquor (750 ml)
  • 40 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

How did we come up with that? The math breaks down like this:

Step 1. Figure Out How Long Your Wedding Reception/Cocktail Hour Will Be

Assume guests will have 2 drinks in the first hour of the open bar, and 1 additional drink each following hour. The total length of a wedding reception will vary (you can read more about how long a wedding reception should be here) but assume for general purposes it will be 5 hours (1 hour for your cocktail hour, and 4 hours for dinner/dancing).

So for a 5 hour cocktail hour/reception, that’s 6 drinks total per guest, which is what a lot of websites will recommend. However we always like to err on the side of caution when it comes to an open bar and not running out, so we actually recommend adding one drink to that calculation, bringing it to 7 drinks per guest for a 5-hour event.

It’s not that people will consume 7 drinks/person, and of course not everybody will drink 2 or even 1, BUT you have to take into account how many times servers might pick up a half-full drink, or somebody misplaces theirs while dancing. It happens, and if you’re DIY’ing your own wedding bar with no extra inventory (like most wedding caterers have on hand), why take the chance? Extra bottles of wine that go unused after the wedding can make for great hostess or holiday gifts, and you won’t be freaking out thinking that you didn’t order enough alcohol.

Step 2. Calculate How Many Drinks Come in a Bottle You’re Serving

  • 5 glasses of wine in a 750 ml wine bottle (including champagne)
  • 12 drinks in a 750 ml spirit bottle
  • And of course a bottle of beer is one serving.

I found this to be one of the most helpful, clear guides online to how many servings a bottle of alcohol in various sizes can pour.

Step 3: Decide What You Want Your Alcohol Mix to Be

Note: For purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you’re having a full open bar (if you’re not, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, below).

While sites like Total Wine encourage you to use a ratio of 50% wine drinkers, 30% beer, and 20% spirit drinkers, we think it’s safer to say 50% of guests want wine, 25% beer, and 25% want the hard stuff, though keep in mind you know your crowd better than anybody. For instance, at my wedding we had a lot of wine and spirit drinkers, so I would have made it 60% wine, 30% alcohol, 10% beer.

So using ALL those calculations, here’s how you would figure out just how much you need in total, assuming the percentages and everything else above for a 100 person wedding:

For 100 guests:

Wine:

(50% of guests)=50

x

(Number of Drinks Needed According to Total Hours) = 7

=350

/

(Number of glasses per bottle of wine) = 5

=70 bottles of wine needed

Beer:

(25% of guests) = 25

X

(Number of Drinks Needed According to Total Hours) = 7

=175 bottles of beer needed

Spirits:

(25% of guests) = 25

X

(Number of Drinks Needed According to Total Hours) = 7

=175

/

(Number of servings per 750ml bottle of liquor)= 12

=14.5 (round up to 15) bottles of liquor needed

OPTIONAL….

Champagne Toast:

(100% of guests) = 100

/

(Number of glasses per bottle of champagne) = 5

=20 bottles of champagne needed

TOTAL:

So to recap, for 100 guests you would need:

  • 70 bottles of wine
  • 175 bottles of beer
  • 15 bottles of liquor (750 ml)
  • 20 bottles of champagne for toast (optional)

Only Having Beer and Wine?

Of course if you’re only having beer and wine, the percentages you’ll need for each would just go up accordingly. So you would most likely assume a 60% wine and 40% beer mix, making your numbers look like:

  • 84 bottles of wine
  • 280 bottles of beer

While the wedding alcohol calculator numbers above are rough estimates, I again encourage you to take into consideration your crowd. Are they big drinkers? Pad each of those numbers by a few bottles. Do a handful of guests you know of DEFINITELY not drink? Take it down a notch or two. Also talk to your alcohol/wine store you are purchasing from and get their opinion. This wedding alcohol calculator is by no means set in stone, these numbers are just meant to provide a guide for you so you know where to start.

SEE MORE: This is What a $50,000 Wedding Looks Like

Ready to buy? If you’re using the wedding alcohol calculator formula we’ve come up with, above, the shopping list for it is below.

Step 4: Compile Your Shopping List

Spirits

OK. So here’s where I think the hardest part comes in for all wedding alcohol calculators. How much to get of each spirit? For a basic full bar you’ll want to have vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey. From there consider adding a bottle or two of bourbon, scotch, brandy, and any other speciality spirits you love.

Here’s a well-rounded list you can go off of when deciding the vodka to whisky amount you’ll need, assuming you buy 15 bottles of liquor for 100 people. And again, if you have a speciality liquor you like consider adding that to this list as well.

  • 6 vodka
  • 4 whisky
  • 2 gin
  • 2 tequila
  • 1 rum

Wine

For wine you’ll want to do a mix of each, leaning towards more red wine if you’re throwing an evening wedding. Wine Folly has an easy-to-understand ratio of what types of wine to get for a wedding or other party, below:

Fall, Winter and Spring weddings: People tend to drink more red wine at indoor weddings in the fall, spring and winter. Consider a mix of about 50% of red wine for this type of wedding.

Summer and Outdoor weddings: Outdoor weddings on hot days will have people drinking more white wine. Consider a mix of 30% each of all 3 styles of wine. You might also think about serving rosé, especially if you’re serving fish or seafood.

So if you’re buying 70 bottles of wine, your shopping list for an evening wedding inside might look like:

  • 35 red
  • 23 white
  • 12 sparkling (not including extra bottles if you’re having a toast)

SEE MORE: Wedding Budget: Where to Save and Where to Splurge 

Beer

A mix of 3 types of beer is perfect. I would do one pilsner, one lager, and one IPA (and try to make at least one of those mainstream enough for your Uncle Joe to enjoy, like a Miller Lite).

Mixers

You’ll want to have a variety of mixers available (and of course if you’re making speciality cocktails you’ll want to be sure to get everything you need that’s specific to those), as well as garnishes. One thing to note is that if you are hiring a bartender service (most venues require you have a licensed bartender) it’s often easier to let them supply the basic mixers and garnishes along with things like glassware and napkins.

In terms of mixers, plan on having the following for 100 guests:

  • 10 Liters Club Soda or Seltzer
  • 6 Liters  Ginger Ale
  • 8 Liters  Cola
  • 8 Liters Diet Cola
  • 8 Liters Lemon-Lime Soda
  • 6 Liters Tonic
  • 3 Quarts each of any juice you want (plan on at least having orange, cranberry, and grapefruit)
  • 2 bottles each of sour mix, grenadine, simple syrup, and bitters.
  • 1 bottle each of dry and sweet vermouth

Garnishes

  • 1/2 lemon/lime per guest (pre-sliced)
  • 2 olives and cherries per guest

Phew. OK this article is WAY longer than we expected, and I’m sure there’s so much more we can include for future articles as well. In the meantime, are you having an open, DIY wedding bar? If so tell us how much you’re getting for it, below, and what wedding alcohol calculator you used and loved.

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