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Stocking the Bar at Your Reception

Weddings are famous for toasts and the raising of glasses -- a few drinks of bubbly are essential for most couples and guests. But where does all that liquor come from? Setting up the bar takes planning, and we're here to show you your options.


Drink Up

How much liquor will you need for 100 guests? Talk to your bartender; in the meantime, here are some averages:



  • Beer: 5 to 6 cases
  • Whiskey: 1 liter
  • Bourbon: 1 liter
  • Gin: 2 to 3 liters
  • Scotch: 2 liters
  • Light rum: 1 liter
  • Vodka: 5 liters
  • Tequila: 1 liter
  • Champagne: 1 to 1 1/2 cases
  • Red wine: 2 cases
  • White wine: 3 1/2 cases
  • Dry vermouth: 1 bottle
  • Sweet vermouth: 1 bottle

Knot Note:

Ask if your beverage catering service will take back any unused alcohol.



The Open Bar

An open bar is the most gracious approach -- no guest should pay for anything at the wedding -- but it's also the most expensive. Guests can order any drink on the planet, and you'll have to pick up the hefty tab when the party's done. Because there’s no limit, people may drink like guppies. Know anyone who tends to imbibe too much? Tell the bartender in advance.



The Limited Bar

You offer a selection of drinks -- beer, wine, and mixed vodka drinks, for example -- and set specific consumption times, such as the cocktail hour, the toasts, and an hour after dinner. Consider hiring waiters to pass drinks on trays rather than letting guests go up to the bar. You'll have to pay for the waiters, but you'll probably save money on alcohol, and fewer guests will go overboard. If you limit the amount of time the bar is open, make sure the waiters circulate during dinner to refill glasses of water and soda.



The Cash Bar

Don't have a cash bar without a great reason (there really isn't one). After all, you don't invite people to your house for dinner and then charge them for the butter. Trust us on this one. It's not a good cost-cutting solution and is way too controversial.



A Dry House

If you, your families, and most of your guests don't drink alcohol, skip it. Serve sparkling water, soda, and nonalcoholic mixed drinks instead. If you want some bubbly for toasting, go for some token champagne or sparkling cider.


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