The booze bill calculation

Last updated 09:35 16/08/2012

Trying to anticipate how much booze your guests are likely to drink at your wedding has to be one of the most fraught calculations around.

Every wedding site has a recommendation and none of them really seem to stack up.

(This is a perfect example, what the...)

There are also tools like this, which seem a bit off to me - but maybe because I'm part of the Kiwi drinking culture?

If you are going to have a knees-up and you know your guests like a wee drink or two, one of the worst outcomes is that you run out mid-way through the night.

Yes, yes I know. It is possible to have a good time without alcohol and it's not the be-all and end-all but it's still a bit stink and not desirable for most.

Not knowing where to start, my only married bridesmaid pulled out the pencil and paper and revealed her highly complex formula for how they worked it out at their wedding. (Note: This obviously only works at weddings whereby you're supplying the alcohol yourself, but it's still a good theory to work out your potential bill if the venue or someone else is supplying it.) booze

First you need your guest list. From that list, remove anyone who is not really a drinker (under-agers, pregnant folk, teetotallers, etc). Of the drinkers, work out what *kind* of drinkers they are: e.g. heavy (will drink anything and everything in sight), moderate (will drink one type of drink for most of the night), light (will drink to toasts).

Not all wedding guest lists are created equal but certain conclusions can be made (such as both my and Future Husband's professions are known to attract people who like a drop or two) so therefore you'll know if you have a "drinking" crowd or not.

So we based our figures on this: around eight beers per drinking male, and around seven glasses of wine per woman. Yes, that may sound like a lot, but remember that's over (approx) 10 hours and also doesn't take into account women who will drink beer and men who will drink wine, so it kind of evens out.

Then we've factored in spirits. Our theory with this is: FH and I prefer to drink spirits and therefore we want to do that (it's our wedding, yada yada. Truth be told, I imagine the day working out like my 21st birthday, where I didn't have a chance to drink that much because I was too busy getting around and talking to everyone!). Also, if we buy too many bottles of spirits, they won't go to waste and we'll just absorb them over Christmas, New Year and probably the years to come after that. It's better to have too much than too little. It's not a target to try to reach; it's just about being prepared.

Also: bubbles! This was a crucial thing my bridesmaid mentioned about her big day. They ran out! Luckily, mother-of-the-bride had stashed extra bottles in a car so they cracked into them because all of the toasts (and there are a lot of toasts) saw them chomp through the bubbles.

I guess the theory is knowing your crowd: if they're big rum drinkers, then they'd like rum. If they're mainly beer drinkers, give 'em beer. If they're not big drinkers - lucky you, the bill will be a lot cheaper. But it's not about the money spent or the beer consumed - it is, of course, the memories (or those which are left!).

Every wedding day is different but this advice that was passed on to me has become a good point to sort out where to start with alcohol.

So, cheers! *clink*

How did you or are you planning alcohol supply for your wedding? Where do you start on figuring out how much drink you need to cover your guests?

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67 comments
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neil   #1   09:53 am Aug 16 2012

B.Y.O.

Sam   #2   09:53 am Aug 16 2012

Why not simply have a teetotal wedding?

Alternatively, do what we did - buy wine from a supermarket in the year approaching the wedding. Once that was gone, it was teetotal as our venue had no liquor licence (being as how it was a private house!).

We had 24 bottles of wine and 12 bottles of chapagne between 30, plus 2 bottles of port to go with the cheese later for those that like that.

We had 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of port left over next day.

alex   #3   09:54 am Aug 16 2012

It is A LOT cheaper when you can supply your own alcohol... If you are having your ceremony at an established venue ask them for advice too, as they deal with it weekly!! We only supplied beer, wine and bubbles. We went through the guest list like you suggested and estimated who drank what. There were two red wine drinkers so didn't have to splurge on that and the venue suggested to get mainly sav. blanc for wine as only a few people drink chardonnay these days... Unless you know your guests are different. In the end it is obviously better to over estimate and deal with left overs... We did a dozen beer per drinking male and 1-2 bottles of wine per drinking female... Had some left overs...

Also if you are supplying your own you can take advantage of supermarket sales... We added a or two of wine to our shop each week for a bit too to he spread the cost.

You are right in assuming the bride doesn't get a chance to drink... The most I drank was during the toasts! Too busy talking to everyone!

JEM10   #4   09:57 am Aug 16 2012

We had a small wedding (48 guests) and because we knew them all well we were able to estimate what everyone would drink in an evening. The only thing we failed on was the bubbles - all those blokes who never drink wine and especially not bubbles, drank it at the start of the night and we ran out pretty quick. To be honest, I don't think anyone was phased when we ran out of anything - they just moved onto the next thing.

Feb Wedding   #5   10:03 am Aug 16 2012

We are supplying our own alcohol for our wedding next year.. We pretty much did the same as what you have done by writing up a list and then seeing what everyone drinks.. We have had to include q bit of spirits in our wedding though (cultural reasons) so the total cost is quite a bit but its only one day and the left overs will be something we can enjoy over the months following the special day!! The way we thought about it was that I would rather have to much than not enough. Whebever there are specials on wine at the supermarket (in the brand we are having) we just buy a case and we will buy the beer at Christmas (since it can expire and we dont want our guests drinking expired beer!!

Tricky Nicky   #6   10:07 am Aug 16 2012

I can't remember what formula we used but we ended up with a bit more booze than we needed. However it was a really hot day the day of our wedding and our guests drank a lot more bubbly than we had anticipated. Luckily our venue had their own bubbles to bring out once our BYO bubbles had run out.

So it's a good idea to keep in mind, the time of the year you are getting married will influence what your guests drink.

m0rph3us   #7   10:10 am Aug 16 2012

I have a good friend who works at Lion Nathan. Lucky for me!

Jess   #8   10:17 am Aug 16 2012

While many sites say that it is improper to have a cash bar, we will be having one. Our family are generally understanding about the fact we are on a tight budget, and most that I have spoken to about this actually seem to expect a cash bar! It seems to be more common now for cash bars, and for other things like requesting for cash wedding gifts (asked politely), even though it is considered rude by many people. However, we will be providing most of the wine/bubbly and non alcoholic drinks for the tables. Those that run out/want something different can pay for it themselves.

Chris   #9   10:20 am Aug 16 2012

Has anyone got suggestions on how much per head to put on an open bar ('open', but limited to wine, beer and soft drinks) and when to open it? Our ceremony and reception are at the same place. We are thinking of having just bubbly/juice/soft drinks straight after the ceremony for an hour or maybe two then opening the bar before dinner and leaving it open until our tab runs out, which will then go to a cash bar. I'm worried it will run out too early in the night though! Any advice/ previous experiences anyone can pass on? :)

El Jorge   #10   10:23 am Aug 16 2012

I was in the liquor industry for years and the winning formula was 1/2 doz beer PLUS 1/2 bottle of wine per person. None of my customers ever ran out or had a major surplus.

The wine ratio was 20% bubbles, 30% red and 50% white. Too easy!


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