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How much alcohol should I buy?

How much alcohol should I buy?

We’re asked this frequently, so we thought we’d put together a handy guide! We hope you find it useful.

There are many ways to sort the alcohol for your wedding. The most popular, we find, is for the bride and groom to provide reception, table and toast drinks, and for another supplier to provide a cash bar for guests in the evening. This can be anything from a simple cash bar with beer, wines and a few spirits, to a full bar service with optics and cool LED lighting!

This works in both dry hire venues and marquees and is a great solution if you are working on a budget.  Moodies can recommend several local cash bar suppliers – people we’ve worked with, and trusted, for years.

The second most popular alternative is for the bride and groom to provide all the alcohol for their wedding, including the evening. This has the merit of simplicity – take alcohol to venue, let the caterers look after it all, and enjoy your awesome party. You can also have a lot of fun prior to the wedding choosing wines – even taking trips across the Channel!

The third alternative is to arrange a full drinks package with your caterer including reception drinks, table drinks, toast and evening bar. This may cost more in the short-term but it takes all the stress of arranging drinks away from you. You can be completely relaxed, secure in the knowledge that it is all taken care of for you. The downside is that you may lose some flexibility in choice.

So let’s say you are going to buy all the alcohol yourself. How much should you allow per person?

First of all, check whether your caterer or venue serves corkage, or has a list of wines that they want you to buy from.  (Moodies does NOT charge corkage.)

Well, it depends a little on the length of your reception. Moodies recommends allowing half a bottle of sparkling wine per person. That’s three glasses. But if your reception is going to be a short one, say one hour, than two glasses should be enough.

If you would like Pimm’s as your reception drink, then, again, we recommend allowing two glasses for a short reception and three otherwise. As a rough guide, one litre bottle of Pimm’s should make 20 tall glasses. You can however weaken the Pimm’s slightly and make it last a bit longer!

On to table drinks. Again, you should allow half a bottle of wine per person. Red or white? I hear you cry. There’s the rub; it’s difficult to know. More people will probably drink white than red, but it does depend a bit on your meal choices, the time of year and timing of your event, and on your guests. Indoors in winter, and red will probably be more popular. A marquee or garden wedding in summer, and chilled white will be the preferred choice. In general, it’s probably best to assume an even split.

For the champagne toast, you should work on the basis of one bottle = six glasses, and one glass each per guest. Nice and easy.


In the evening – now, this one is difficult to judge. It depends on your guests and what you want to serve. Are you providing a full bar, or a limited wedding bar? In our experience, if you are providing a free bar there is absolutely no need to go for all the bells and whistles and offer twenty different kinds of spirits. Two kinds of beer, red and white wine, some soft drinks, and optionally, three spirits – for example, gin, spiced rum, vodka – will be fine. In terms of quantity, depending on the length of the evening, you should allow 4-6 small bottles of beer per person, and one bottle of wine per person.

A simple marquee bar:

Party in Sussex


All this may sound like a lot of alcohol – but then there is nothing more dismal than running out of booze in the middle of a wedding! It is always better to have too much than too little.

Our top tip here is to buy your alcohol on a sale or return basis. Some companies will even deliver the alcohol to your venue for you, and collect the returns. You won’t be left with silly amounts of booze to finish up, and you will get some money back on the returns. Make sure you know your supplier’s rules; you may not be able to return opened cases, for example.

So, quick recap:

Reception – half bottle per person, 2-3 glasses of Pimm’s
Table wines – half bottle per person, work on even split of red/white but consider your day
Evening – one bottle of wine per person, 4-6 small bottles of beer, 4-5 bottles each of vodka, gin and rum

Don’t forget mixers and soft drinks, too.

Enjoy your celebration!

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