Figuring How Much Beer and Wine for Your Wedding

This question was posted on the Two Hearts Weddings and Events Fan Page and I thought it was an excellent subject to cover on the blog. Warning though, you may want to grab your favorite beverage and take a comfy seat… it’s a bit on the lengthy side.

Question – “My soon-to-be sister in law is planning to have around 150 guests at an August outdoor wedding. How many cases of wine should she get and what types would you recommend? They are also having beer at the 3 hour reception. Thanks in advance!”

If you have the opportunity to purchase the alcohol for your wedding reception, this can be of great savings for you, but there are some headaches that come with figuring out what all you will need and how much to purchase.

I wish I could say there is a foolproof method for figuring out how to stock your bar, but outside of clicking your heels together three times, there isn’t one. There are, however, many online methods and calculators available, but none of them seem to overlap with consistent information. You can also ask your local suppliers for advice on this subject but you’ll most likely get different conclusions from each of them. For this post, I’m going to concentrate on beer and wine only. Liquor is a different formula altogether and, in my opinion, deserves it’s own writeup. The best you can do is make your best guestimate and here’s how…

Go through your guest list (I mean person by person). By each one of them, mark which of them normally drinks beer, wine, or no alcohol at all. For many of these folks, you can probably even note if you’ve witnessed them drinking regular or light beer of specific brands and if they prefer red over white wine. This might take a little homework and/or investigation on your part, but the time you spend on this will be a big savings in the end.

For this example, say I’ve gone through my list of 150 attendees and determined that 90 (60%) are beer drinkers, 45 (30%) are wine drinkers, and 15 (10%) are non-drinkers. To figure beer and wine consumption for a 3 to 4 hour reception, here’s a good guideline…

Beer – figure 4 to 6 beers total for each of your beer drinkers.
Wine – figure 3 to 5 glasses of wine for each of your wine drinkers.

It’s always better to err on the higher side of the estimate because guests tend to put down half-consumed beverages to talk, dance, hug, or whatever… forget where they put their glass, and then return to the bar for another drink. Wasteful, I know, but unless you want to assign each guest their very own beverage concierge, just consider it part of the party. Back to the numbers game…

Our Example Totals
90 beer drinkers @ 5 beers each  = 450 beers
450 beers / 12 per case = 37.5 cases (round to 38) or…
450 beers / 120 glasses per keg = 3.75 kegs (round up to four)

45 wine drinkers @ 4 glasses each = 180 glasses
180 glasses / 5 glasses (generally) per bottle = 36 bottles
36 bottles / 12 bottles per case = 3 cases

If you don’t want to spend the time going through the list and identifying who likes to drink what, this is a good, but general, online-calculator where you figure what percentage of your guests you think will drink alcohol, then select the time and what you are serving, to get the number of servings. It’s not as accurate as the method above but it’s better than nothing.

Choosing Your Beers

Without going into the whole macro vs. micro (local) brewery distinctions, there are two classifications of beers… lagers and ales. Lagers tend to be paler, drier and less alcoholic than ales and are the most commonly brewed beers in the world. Tried and true favorites from the lager group are brands such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Yuengling for a darker-colored lager. If you are looking to add an import, Heinekin and Becks are both good choices.

Ales are generally higher in alcohol, more robust and complex than lagers. A great main-stream choice for ales is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

I love this quote from Christina Perozzi’s blog, Beer For Chicks“Chicks who have been more exposed to wine than beer can understand it this way. Ales are the red wine of beer. Like red wine, they ferment warm and have rich flavors and characteristics. Lagers, on the other hand, are more like white wine. They ferment at lower temperatures and have cleaner, more delicate flavors.”

One last thing to keep in mind for beers… if you are fortunate to be getting married in an area where micro breweries are present, look at adding one or two to the mix. But be careful, many times those wild and wacky beers are outside of your guests’ comfort zones, so you could find yourself with a lot of leftover inventory.

Choosing Your Wines

There are many factors to take into account when choosing the perfect wine pairing for your wedding. Things such as time of day, time of year, food you are pairing it with, and your budget are the basic considerations. For the wine enthusiasts though, there’s also various guests preferences, proper serving temperatures, and specific glasses that are a must with each wine. I would just stick with the basics though.

I ran across this information from Ken’s Wine Guide that is very good at explaining what wines to serve at what time of year along with some good suggestions…

“Is your reception scheduled for the middle of summer or the dead of winter? The season could make a difference in what wine you decide to serve your guests – are you trying to warm them up or cool them off? If you are hosting an outdoor reception and the weather is expected to be warm, plan accordingly and serve a refreshing, lighter wine like a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, rather than a heavy Chardonnay. For red wine drinkers, you might offer a Grand Cru Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. You might even consider a dry rosé.

In the cold winter months, red wines may be more popular than some of the refreshing whites served in the hot summer months. Winter is a good time to consider the Cabs, Merlots, or Shiraz.”

Tips:

Not sure what brand names to purchase? Scout out your local wine shops for upcoming wine tastings and specials. You may find something new and exciting for your reception.

Wholesalers such as Costco and Sam’s Club have some really great buys on wine and beer. But, where ever you end up purchasing your alcohol from, check to see if they allow for the return of unopened bottles and/or cases for a refund.

Be sure to serve plenty of water, alcohol dehydrates, and consider soft drinks and/or ice tea for your non-alcoholic drinkers.

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