How much booze?

Finding the right level of alcohol

By Natalie Tsang
July 23, 2011

Wine Glass
Alcohol is costly, and there are several factors to consider when ordering it for your reception. You know how many people are attending your wedding, but how many will actually drink? Some caterers suggest one drink per guest per hour, but those numbers might not be right for you. Here are some options that will help you decide how much—or how little—to order.

1. Non-alcoholic wedding

If the majority of your party does not drink, then including alcohol is a costly and ultimately wasteful tradition to follow. Don’t feel like you’re no fun if the wine does not run like water. There are plenty of other options like sparkling cider or virgin cocktails, and other pluses include no drunken toasts, and money that can be saved or used for better dessert.

2. Just the toast

A glass of bubbly can add a celebratory touch, while several kegs of beer can drown it. Whether you splurge on expensive champagne or choose a delicious, local sparkling wine, a single toast can be a magical moment. If you’re having a wedding brunch where alcohol consumption is low anyway, a free round of mimosas will be well appreciated.


A caterer or reception facility will charge you a lot more for alcohol than if you went to a discount store and bought it yourself. Negotiate with your caterer or venue early on for this option. Ask friends or scour the internet to know how much alcohol to buy and the best places to get it.

4. Cash bar or limited open bar

Your bar can provide non-alcoholic beverages, but charge for beer, wine or mixed drinks. Or you can have an open bar for an hour during the reception and switch over to a cash bar once the meal begins. Save cash by hiring your own bartender.