Your Budget Guide to Wedding Day Drinks

Your Budget Guide to Wedding Day Drinks

You can’t have a wedding without serving drinks – but how do you predict the quantities you need and still stay within your budget?  Running dry is the nightmare scenario.  But you don’t want to leave yourselves with a financial hangover either.  Follow these tips and you’ll be fine. 

Whose round is it? 

Asking your guests to buy all their own drinks is a total no-no!  But this leaves you with three options.   

Champagne Wedding party reception

1. Open Bar 

The drinks are free all day and all night.  It’s simple because there’s no money changing hands and no issues with getting the appropriate licence.  But it is the most expensive way to do it. 

2. Cash Bar 

It’s usually expected that you’ll provide pre-meal drinks, champagne for toasts and wine with the meal.  Beyond that you ask guests to buy their own drinks from the bar.  This keeps your costs down but some guests may feel you’re being a little cheap. Warn guests in advance if this is your decision.  As well as the economy aspect you are less likely to have guests overindulging and misbehaving! 

3. Limited Bar 

You pay for all of the drinks but restrict the choices.  For instance, champagne for the toasts, beer and wine throughout and a signature cocktail or two.  Or have a fully stocked bar with a pre-paid tab provided by the bride and groom.   Once that limit has been reached guests are asked to pay – a kind of “happy hour” approach.   

Don’t forget corkage 

If you book a wedding venue or hire a caterer they will supply all the drinks.  But there may be an option to buy the drinks from another supplier and ask the venue or caterer to serve them.  This might appear a less expensive option, but beware – they will charge what’s known as “corkage”.  This is a service charge for opening and serving any bottles of wine, sparkling wine, champagne and even spirits that are bought externally by you.  This may be as little as $5 - $7 a bottle but could be a lot more!  You need to do the math and decide whether sourcing your own drinks is worth the effort. 

Wedding drinks guide budget wine

Calculating quantities 

If you are paying for some or all of the drinks then it’s essential you accurately assess how much you are going to need.  Start with the number of guests.  Then make a guesstimate of how many are heavy drinkers, how many are light drinkers and how many are teetotal.   

You then need to know how many glasses you get from different bottles and kegs: 

1 bottle of 75cl wine              = 6 x 125ml glasses or 3 x 250ml 

1 bottle of champagne           = 6 x flute glasses 

50 litre keg                             = 105 US pints or 84 UK pints 

Quarter barrel keg                  = 62 US pints or 49 UK 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) 

When making your final calculations it probably helps to divide the day up into sections.   


for a drinks reception lasting 1.5 hours allow three drinks per guest.  Use the table above and get your calculator out!  


You’ll need Champagne or Prosecco for the toasts, 6 flutes to a bottle.  With the wine assume a 50/50 split between red and white.  You get approximately 6 small glasses per bottle and the average guest will drink half a bottle.  1 bottle of water will serve about 3 guests.   

Evening bar 

Your bar will be serving drinks for four hours but guests will not be drinking constantly (some will be dancing, eating or leaving early with kids or elderly relatives).  Roughly estimate the numbers who will be on beer, wine or spirits and assume an average of 6-8 drinks per guests.   

If you have 100 guests and plan to just serve beer and wine then these quantities are to be expected: 

50 x 6 glasses of wine                           =          50 bottles (mix of red/white/rose) 

25 x 6 bottles of lager/beer/cider           =          150 bottles of beer 

25 x 6 pints of lager/beer/cider               =          50 litre keg plus a quarter barrel keg  

If you provide other drinks as well a full bar selection you’ll need something like this for 100 guests. 

Vodka                        6 litres 

Gin                             5 litres 

Whiskey                    2 litres 

Scotch                        2 litres 

Real ale                      50 litre keg (105 US pints or 84 UK 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 

Ready to order now? 

Drinking and weddings go together like rum & coke.  But organising that side of your big day can be quite a headache.  Hopefully this post will answer some of your main questions! 


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