Wedding advice: Tips for planning your wedding bar, and 5 fun cocktail ideas


A Vintage Affair

Let’s be real. This is the part of the wedding that everyone REALLY looks forward to — cocktail hour. And what would a wedding reception be without some boozey mixed drinks. Drinks + dancing + good friends = guaranteed good times. But too much alcohol and your big day is sure to be more Jersey Shore or college frat party than a William and Kate royal affair. So first, let’s get some things cleared up. Like, for starters, how much alcohol do I buy? This is an important question to ask. One thing you definitely don’t want to run out of is drinks. At the same time, though, you’re not trying to be a Vegas nightclub serving bottomless margaritas.

So then, how exactly do you estimate the number of drinks to be consumed? Well, if your venue provides a bar or you opt to hire your own bartending service, then you’re mostly in the clear. Sure, it may cost a little bit more, but you may decide that the ease and convenience more than make up for the extra dollars spent.




The Nest

Here’s some quick and easy tips to get you started. For a Friday or Saturday night wedding, estimate that:

1 bottle of wine = 5 servings

1 case = 12 bottles

750 mL bottle of liquor = 18 servings 

1 bottle = 1 serving of beer 

1 keg = 165 beers 

Now that that’s cleared up, where do we go from here? Ratios.

Full bar = 20% liquor, 15% beer, 65% wine

Beer and wine only = 20% beer, 80% wine 


Sweet Little Photographs

Okay, we’re halfway there. But now we have to start doing the math. So let’s assume one drink per guest per hour of reception. Planning for a Saturday night wedding with 200 guests and a reception that begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 12 a.m., that’s 6 hours of drink consumption. So, for a beer and wine bar:

200 (guests) x 6 (hours) = 1200 drinks 

1200 x 0.2 = 240 beers 

1200 x 0.8 = 960 glasses of wine, / 5 = 192 bottles of wine, / 12 = 16 cases 


Burnetts Boards

Now that the hard part is over, we can get to the fun part. What kind of alcohol should I buy? Typically, a full bar includes the following: two beers (one light, one dark), white wine, red wine, champagne, vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum and assorted mixers. Seem overwhelming? You’re not alone. Most weddings tend to go for a wine and beer only bar. Too much choice can be overwhelming for guests, and wine and beer tend to be the most consumed beverages anyway, so you may as well make things simple for yourself.

If you and your significant other have a favorite drink, then you might want to think about adding a “signature” drink to the menu or a special creation designed especially for your wedding day. If not, think about these considerations for wine and beer buying (P.S. Check out A Practical Wedding for more tips and tricks).


Stephanie Rose Photography

As for beer, stick to popular and crowd favorites (i.e. Corona or Bud Light). Unless you are a beer connoisseur, simple is better. Be sure to choose one light and one dark beer to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. As for wine, you could drive yourself crazy with options. So let’s start with the basics: price. Choose a price range you’re comfortable with, as wine prices can range from 2 buck chuck to hundreds of dollars. Go to a wine store or large grocery store chain (think BevMo) and enlist the help of a dedicated wine buyer. Ask them for their recommendations, and stick to the basics. Again, choose one or two reds and one or two whites. White wines tend to be more popular, so keep that in mind, especially if you;re having a summer or spring or daytime wedding.


Timmester Photography

Now that the business side of things is out of the way, let’s take a look at some fun cocktail recipe ideas! Check out the recipes below for inspiration:

1. Mimosas: Mimosas are a classic and a crowd favorite. They are refreshing, easy to prepare, and perfect for a daytime wedding or day-after brunch.


  • 8 cups chilled champagne
  • 2 cups orange sherbet
  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 8 mint sprigs
  • 2 tangerines or Clementines, sliced

In large pitcher combine champagne and orange sherbet. Spoon mixture into 8 glasses. Spoon 2 tablespoons whipping cream over top of champagne mixture. Garnish with a mint springand tangerine slice. Makes 8 servings.


 Traditional Home

2. Sparkling Ginger, Pear & Cranberry Cocktail: A fresh, fun, palate-cleansing cocktail. Perfect for a rustic, artisanal wedding. Check out the full recipe by clicking on the link below.


  • 2 tablespoons dry cranberries
  • 1 red anjou pear
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup organic pear nectar
  • 32 ounces Moscato d’Asti wine
  • 8 small sprigs of fresh rosemary


The Wedding Chicks

3. Rhubarb Raspberry Fizz: Made from fresh berries, rhubarb and a hint of vanilla bean, this delicious cocktail is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Check out The Sweetest Occassion or Golubka for the recipe!





4. Sparkling Watermelon Sangria: Fresh, light and fruit, this cocktail recipe is perfect for an outdoor summer wedding. Check out the recipe by clicking on the link below!


The Kitchn

5. Blue Raspberry Spiked Lemonade: With a kick of, this cocktail is sure to get your guests buzzing and out on the dance floor dancing the night away. Check out the recipe in the link below!