Alcohol and Beverage Calculator for a Wedding

How many drinks should I buy for an open bar at an event?

In addition to the venue, DJ or band, and food, the drink service is often one of the most important elements at a wedding reception.  While not all weddings will have an open bar, all couples planning a traditional wedding should know what will be the best option for providing drinks to their guests.  Other sites may make it seem like there is a simple formula to calculate how many drinks you will need for a wedding but it’s a little more complicated than that.   The overall size of your wedding, number of adults, hours of open bar, how many types of alcohol will be available, what types of beverages are offered, and more will factor in to how many drinks of each type of beverage will be consumed.
Our conditional formula accounts not only for how much alcohol to buy for each type, it also considers for how much water and soft drinks such as soda, sweet teas, and juices to purchase as well.  We also allow couples to add a buffer, or modifier, to purchase more or less than our suggestion to give a little cushion in case of overconsumption by guests.  For example, our Alcohol and Beverage Calculator may suggest to purchase 20 bottles of liquor.  After adding a 10% buffer in case guests are extra thirsty at the reception, the calculator will increase the estimate to 22 bottles of liquor.  The buffer modifier will also boost the estimates for water, soft drinks, beer, wine, hard liquor mixers, and Champagne.  This allows a couple a little room for buying error.  The buffer allows you to conservatively make sure that there are more than enough drinks to go around.  As a bonus, you can always return the leftover unopened containers for some money back if you overbought.      

Couples should check with venue management.  Lots of venues will allow you to provide your own alcohol and beverages to stock an open bar.  Sometimes a vendor, caterer, or bar service provider may offer an accommodating bar rental package with accessories.  With that option you wouldn’t have to purchase drinks through the vendor for an open bar but they may require that you hire a bartender and charge other additional fees.  Depending on the specific details of your unique wedding reception needs, it will often be a cheaper alternative than hiring a bartender to run a conventional unlimited full open bar in which the vendor provides all of the drinks.

How does our drink calculator for a wedding work?

Our accurate formulas are responsive to the different drink options a couple selects, how long the events lasts, how long the bar is open, and how many guests will be at the reception.  We are able to provide the most accurate estimate for purchasing drinks for a bar because it is based on decades of historical wedding data and drinking patterns.  The Alcohol and Beverage Calculator considers not only a Champagne toast, beer, hard liquor, white wine, red wine, and beer, it also includes water, soft drinks, liquor mixers such as sour mix, juices, soda, and tonics.  This allows you to prepare for full open bars, limited bars, and even non-alcoholic bars. 

The calculations are designed to more than cover drink consumption for average weddings.  We know how awful it is to run out of alcohol and beverages before an event ends so we also provide the optional buffer to account for above average drinkers and a safety net.  You may notice that white wine and red wine estimates are calculated the same.  The logic behind this is that the average American consumes about the same amount of white wine as red wine in general and at weddings.  If you know that your guests have a dominate preference, feel free to purchase more of one over the other.  Since beverages are sold in different containers, our estimates are calculated in a couple of different ways: 

  • Beer is estimated in 12 ounce bottles and full kegs
  • Wine is estimated by the bottle or by the case
  • Hard liquor is displayed in both 750 ml and 1.75 liter bottles
  • Mixers for cocktails are shown by the bottle
  • Champagne is displayed by the bottle
  • Water is measured in bottles and gallons
  • Soft drinks are estimated by the 12 ounce can or 2-liter bottle

  • To see the best estimate of how may drinks you will need for your event, check out our alcohol and beverage calculator above.

    Browse some of our other articles with helpful wedding ideas:

    Getting Married in Sintra, Portugal

    What Percentage of Guests Attend Destination Weddings

    Getting Married in Lake Como, Italy

    Wedding Guest Count Estimate Calculator

    How to Create, Organize, and Narrow Down a Wedding Guest List