A while back, I promised a reader that I'd do a breakdown of how much alcohol we ordered, and how much we had left over. And I like to keep my promises, so, here we go!
BiE and Econo Boy's Alcohol Breakdown
Estimated number of guests: 150
Actual final guest count: 137
Bar time: 4.25 hours (as specified in our contract with the venue)
What we ordered:
* 12 cases of wine (6 red, 6 white)
* 2 cases of sparkling wine
* 10 cases of beer (Blue Moon and Fat Tire)
* 2 bottles of gin (1.75 L)
* 2 bottles of vodka (1.75 L)
* 2 bottles of bourbon (1 L)
What we had left:
* 4 unopened cases of wine (1 red, 3 white) plus about two mixed cases of unopened bottles, mostly red.
* 8 bottles of sparkling wine
* 3 unopened cases of beer, plus two more nearly-full partial cases
* 1 nearly-full bottle of gin
* 2 nearly-full bottles of vodka (I couldn't believe this one! They must have poured maybe 5 vodka drinks total.)
* 1 half-full bottle of bourbon
Clearly, we over-ordered!
Fortunately, we recovered a full 25% of our total liquor costs with returns to the store. But we still have quite a bit of leftover alcohol sitting in our parents' basements in CO. Some of that is because we had planned for more guests. A lot of the leftovers are almost certainly due to the stunted cocktail hour -- far fewer drinks were poured after the ceremony because of the rain and the need to strike the outdoor bar and move it inside. I also think we would have had a lot less leftover Cava if it had been poured prior to the toasts.
I was, however, very surprised at how much hard alcohol we had left over. I thought it would be gone by the end of the cocktail hour, but not so. And obviously vodka wasn't a big hit with our crowd, while bourbon was. (I went to college in the South, where whiskey and Coke is often the drink of choice, so I think this was specific to our guests -- I don't know if I'd suggest making a point of serving bourbon at most weddings, but for ours, I was glad we decided to offer it!)
So if someone asked me how much alcohol they should buy for their wedding, here's what I'd suggest for approximately 140 guests with 4.25 hours of bar time:
* 10 cases of wine (5 red, 5 white)
* 2 cases of sparkling wine
* 8 cases of beer (2 kinds)
* 2 bottles of gin (1L)
* 2 bottles of vodka, rum, bourbon, or other favorite liquor (1L)
We would still have had leftovers with the amounts listed above, but I think with a full cocktail hour, most of this would probably get consumed!
Remember, this is not a universal checklist -- how much you'll need depends a lot on your guests. Ours was not a terribly hard-drinking crowd (I'd estimate maybe 1 drink per hour per person), and went for the wine and beer much more than they did for the hard liquor (with the exception of the bourbon). If your family eschews wine but loves rum and coke, or you think that my 1 drink/hour estimate is too high or too low for your crowd, adjust accordingly.
One final note: bringing our own alcohol saved us a *lot* of money. The markups on alcohol at restaurants, country clubs, and hotels are significant. Many venues that make you buy their alcohol will try to tell you that you won't save that much money by going with a BYOB venue because you'll over-order and be stuck paying for alcohol nobody drank, but as someone who did have a lot of leftovers, I'm here to tell you that we still saved a bundle. Two friends of ours who got married at a country club last year confided that they spent nearly twice as much as we had on their bar, and they had half as many guests! Per person, they spent roughly four times what we spent on alcohol. So while BYOB is a bit of a hassle logistically, financially speaking, it may be worth it. Just make sure your liquor store accepts returns of unopened cases!