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Beer & Wine
Providing beer and wine exclusively at your wedding is a-okay! You might find yourself on a tighter bar budget, or you could be concerned that friends and family might hit that open bar a little too hard if liquor was available. On average, 70-80% of guests prefer beer and wine anyway. Retailers suggest for a beer and wine-only menu, about 60% of guests will drink wine, and 40% will drink beer.
For the wine menu, you can match styles that go well with your catering menu, or you can select some fan favorites. Make it easy on yourself and your guests and limit the choices to a red, a white, a rose if you wish, and sparkling wine (especially if you are doing a champagne wall or champagne toast). Chardonnay’s & Cabernets are always crowd-pleasing.
For the beer, you’ll want to stick to one well-known domestic brand such as Bud Light, Coors Light, or Michelob Ultra and one well-known imported brand such as Dos XX, Stella Artois, or Corona. You then can offer a few other craft beers but don’t go too overboard (consider a wheat/fruit beer, IPA, Amber, etc.). Craft beers are excellent if you want to showcase something local for your out-of-town guests or bring something from your hometown to celebrate your wedding day with.
If you are on a tight budget or just love the taste of tapped beer, kegs are always a great choice (especially for domestic brands). However, if you decide to get some kegs for your big day, you’ll need to assign someone to pick those up for you on the day of (as you won’t want to have those sitting around too long before tapped and served).
Wedding Alcohol Calculator
Once you’ve figured out what will be on your bar menu, it’s time to figure out the math (ugh, the dreaded part!) to figure out how much guests will drink and what the cost will be to serve all these people. Luckily, there are a few online links that you can refer to!
Evite's Drink Calculator
BevMo's Drink Calculator
Drink calculators are helpful, but if the amounts they recommend seem way off, then adjust as needed.
For each adult guest, plan on two drinks for the first hour and one drink for each additional hour. So, for example, if your ceremony is at 5:30 pm, cocktail hour is 6:00 pm-7:00 pm, dinner is from 7:00 pm-8:00 pm, and the bar closes at 10:00 pm, you’ll want to plan on five drinks per person (two for cocktail hour, plus three hours of reception time).
1 beer = 1 drink
1 bottle of wine = 5 glasses of wine
1 bottle of champagne = 6 - 8 glasses of champagne
1 bottle of liquor (750mL) = 16 drinks (assuming 1.5 oz of liquor/drink)
Tips & Tricks
Keep it Simple
Don’t go overboard with choices - make it simple and easy for the bartenders and your guests (the bar line will also go quicker). Limit the selections to two or three wines, three or four beers, and three or four liquors.
Say "No" to Shots!
Most venues or bartending services will do this for you already (so you can blame it on them). But the last thing you want on your wedding day is to have your guests acting out of control. So forcing liquor to be served with mixers is a good choice for all parties involved.
As Bobby Boucher in the 1998 classic film "Waterboy" would say, "now that's what I call high-quality H2O". Whether you, the venue or bartenders are providing water, make sure there's enough for all your guests for the duration of your reception. Water will help those who decide to take advantage of that open bar, but water is also beneficial for those guests who have traveled a distance to make it.
Ask Yourself Who, What, When, Where, How
Turn to the Experts
Some liquor stores offer a delivery service. Taking advantage of this service and having them deliver straight to your venue could be a great time saver and headache releaser. Also, don't be shy to ask the liquor store for their advice or expertise. They are willing to help calculate your menu for you, and some places will even offer a discount for buying items in bulk.
You don't have to leave the creativity at the bar - let the menu and bar items reflect you as a couple and your wedding vibe. You can create customized beer koozies, garnish drinks with edible flowers, enhance a flavor profile that's important to you. Show off a champaign wall as guests enter the cocktail hour, print creative bar signs, purchase personalized bar napkins, offer beer from the college town the two of you met in, serve the drinks in vintage glassware; the possibilities are endless.