One of the toughest parts of wedding planning is determining how much alcohol you need for all of your guests. Figuring out how much food, cake, dessert and favors you need is easy – you can essentially allocate one serving per person. But with alcohol, it’s difficult to gauge how much each person is going to drink. There will be some guests that won’t drink any at all, some that will only drink beer, some that will only drink wine, and then there will be some guests that will drink more than their fair share. The time of day and day of week you hold your wedding will affect your decision as well. Before you start to panic, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here’s how to figure out what kinds of beer you should serve at your wedding.
How Much Beer Should I Get?
The general rule of thumb for alcohol at your wedding is to have one drink per adult per reception hour. Depending on your unique guest list, this may be an overestimation or an underestimation, but typically this will result in an excess of alcohol even though it sounds conservative.
Remember that for every college buddy who pounds drinks, there’s at least one aunt or uncle who doesn’t drink at all. If you plan to serve a full bar at your wedding, a good ratio is 1/3 beer, 1/3 wine and 1/3 liquor as well as champagne for toasts.
Given this ratio, you can estimate that 100 guests will need about 30 to 40 beers per hour. If your reception is 3 hours long, then you can estimate that you’ll need about 100 beers to accommodate 100 guests. Of course, if you know that your guests are more beer drinkers than wine or liquor drinkers, you can err on the side of caution and order a bit extra.
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Popular Types of Beer
There are many, many different kinds of beers, from light wheat beers to hoppy IPAs to dark ales. It’s best to limit your beer selection to just 2 or 3 options to maximize efficiency. We suggest choosing beers that you know will please the crowd, and possibly an option that speaks to your personality as a couple. Here’s a brief list of some of the most popular beers to serve at weddings:
Popular Domestic Beers
- Budweiser and Bud Light
- Coors and Coors Light
- Trumer Pilsner
- Miller and Miller Lite
- Blue Moon
- Sam Adams
- Fat Tire
- Shock Top
- Sierra Nevada
- Michelob Ultra
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Popular Imported Beers
- Stella Artois
- Amstel Light
- Dos Equis
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Kegs vs. Bottles vs. Cans
Beer, unlike other types of alcohol, is widely available in different packaging options.
Cases of beer can come in bottles or cans, or you can purchase kegs if you’re planning on consuming it all.
A keg holds about 160 beers, meaning that you should really only provide a keg if you’re only serving beer at your reception and you know that there are some heavy beer drinkers at your wedding. However, you can purchase smaller kegs to accommodate your guest count, especially if you plan to include craft beer from local breweries.
Having a keg at your wedding is a nice way to serve draft beer; some beer aficionados will insist on drinking draft beer thanks to its fresher quality being served on tap. It is also more economical to purchase a keg if you know it’ll get consumed; if there’s any chance that the entire keg won’t get drunk, you shouldn’t get a keg. Remember that at the end of the night, people can bring home leftover cans and bottles but a keg has to be returned to the store.
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Depending on the types of beer you choose, you may have the option of serving cans or bottles.
In terms of flavor, beer that is bottled in green or clear glass has the possibility of being skunky if it was stored improperly in the light. Aluminum cans block light from hitting the beer, keeping it free from skunky flavors.
Cans are also more lightweight and easily recyclable, plus they stack well if you’re interested in serving them in a fun display. Ultimately, the can vs. bottle debate is not a significant one; feel free to choose whichever option you think looks best at your wedding reception.
Seasonal and Flavored Beers
One fun trend is to include a seasonally-appropriate beer for your wedding. For example, a fall wedding can feature pumpkin beers or Oktoberfest ales, while spring and summer weddings can feature citrus-flavored beers and summertime ales. It’s also a good idea to think about your wedding’s setting before selecting the types of beer to serve. If you’re planning to have an outdoor wedding and reception in the summer heat, serving heavy, dark lagers might not be such a good idea. Lighter beers correspond to hotter weather and daytime weddings, while darker beers may be more appropriate and popular during winter weddings or nighttime receptions.
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Serving a special flavored beer at your reception is another fun way to show off your personalities; perhaps you both are huge coffee lovers and want to serve a seasonal coffee stout, or maybe you both love spicy food and want to include a habanero IPA. If you’re both into special flavors, you’ve probably already discovered your favorite flavored beer. Consider including it on your alcohol menu as a signature drink!
Where to Buy Beer at a Bulk Discount
Before you start making a grocery shopping list of all the beers you need to buy, make sure you clear it with your wedding venue and caterer first. Some venues will not allow you to bring in your own alcohol, while some will only allow you to bring a certain type and amount. Further, your caterer might include beverages as part of your package so it’s always good to double check to see if they can take care of things for you.
If you’re in charge of supplying alcohol for your own wedding, it’s a good idea to search for bulk suppliers so that you can get your booze at a discount. Wholesale warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club offer alcohol at a cheaper rate than regular grocery stores and liquor stores. Usually you don’t even need a membership to purchase alcohol at these places, meaning that if you have the time and storage facilities, these are great options.
If your guest list doesn’t seem like the type that will guzzle down beer after beer, there’s plenty of alcoholic beverages that are still light in alcohol content that will please a crowd. Some of our favorite alternatives to beer include Mike’s Hard Lemonade, hard cider, Smirnoff Ice and Bud Light Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita. We also like the concept of a shandy, where you mix beer with lemonade or another light soda or juice. This is a refreshing take on beer with a completely different flavor, making it perfect for a group that wants to drink, but doesn’t like the taste of beer.
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Non-alcoholic beers like O’Douls may be a good option for you if a lot of your wedding guests can’t drink alcohol or will need to drive after the reception. Ginger beer is also a popular non-alcoholic beverage, though there are a few that have alcohol in them so be sure to double check.
Local Ales, Craft Brew and Breweries
We’ve mentioned briefly the fact that craft brew has become more and more popular, so it makes sense to include a local craft beer or two on your alcohol menu, especially if you enjoy indulging in craft beer. It also may be easier to work with a local brewery to get the quantity that you want at an agreeable price versus selecting popular beers that are sold nationwide. Remember when we said that a keg may be too much for a single wedding reception? Local breweries will probably be able to provide you half kegs, quarter kegs or even eighth kegs to fulfill your needs. On top of being conveniently located, supporting local breweries is a great way to keep money in your local community and promote independent local businesses.
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When to Start Serving Beer at Your Wedding
A typical wedding includes a cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception. This is a time for you to take additional photos with your family and wedding party and for your guests to mingle, snack on hors d’oeuvres and start enjoying beverages. It is appropriate to start serving beer during this cocktail reception so that your guests can start relaxing and enjoying themselves before dinner. If you’re worried about guests overindulging before dinner is served, you can provide drinks at the bar during the cocktail hour and then limit alcohol service to two drinks per person during dinner. Work with your venue and wait staff to find a method that you’re comfortable with.
If you want to bring the focus to your beer selection at your wedding, you can incorporate beer-related themes into your wedding day. Beer bottles can be painted or dipped in glitter to create lovely centerpieces and flower vases, while bottle caps you’ve collected over time can be used for place cards, table settings and other décor. You can even incorporate hops into your bridal bouquet! Beer-related items make excellent wedding favors, such as beer koozies and bottles of your homebrew or favorite local beer. Beer steins, pint glasses and chalices can all be engraved or stamped with your names and wedding date to create excellent bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts.
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10 Tips on how to successfuly serve beer at your wedding
- Know Your Guests: Understand the preferences of your guests. If they are more likely to enjoy wine or beer, then stock up more on those. Also consider the demographics; younger crowds might prefer craft beers or cocktails, whereas an older crowd might prefer classic liquors or wines.
- Select a Variety: Offer a range of options to your guests. Include a light and a dark beer, a red and a white wine, and a selection of common spirits such as vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey. A small selection of cocktails could also be included, perhaps tied to the wedding theme or personal tastes of the couple.
- Consider Seasonality: The time of year can also influence what type of alcohol you serve. Lighter beers and crisp wines might be more appropriate for a summer wedding, while darker ales and full-bodied wines could be better for winter.
- Quantity: Estimate the amount of alcohol needed correctly. A general rule of thumb is to plan for one drink per guest per hour of the reception. Remember, it’s better to overestimate than to run out.
- Non-Alcoholic Options: Always have a variety of non-alcoholic options available for those who don’t drink alcohol or are designated drivers.
- Signature Cocktail: A fun way to personalize the bar is by creating a signature cocktail for the wedding, perhaps inspired by the couple’s tastes or how they met.
- Hire Professional Bartenders: Professional bartenders can ensure that drinks are served efficiently, correctly, and safely. They can also help keep track of guests’ consumption and tactfully handle any issues that might arise.
- Limit Open Bar Hours: To manage costs and consumption, consider limiting the hours of an open bar. You might start with a cocktail hour, switch to a cash bar during dinner, and then reopen the open bar for a final hour or two of dancing and celebration.
- Display Drink Menu: It’s a great idea to display the drink menu so guests know what is available. This can also help manage expectations if you are not offering an entirely open bar.
- Responsibility: Ensure guests drink responsibly. Arrange transportation or accommodation for guests if necessary, and instruct bartenders to refuse service to any guest who appears intoxicated. It’s important to remember that while it’s a day of celebration, safety should be a top priority.
Choosing the right kinds of beer for your wedding is a personal choice that you and your partner should make based on your personalities, tastes and guest list. Remember that you should tailor your alcohol list according to your guests’ preferences; if you know that a lot of your guests will stick to wine and champagne, purchase more bottles of wine rather than beer. Keep the timing and season of your wedding in mind when choosing beers; hot outdoor weddings don’t pair well with heavy, dark beers. Finally, we suggest supplying cans or bottles of beer because if there’s any extra after the wedding, you get to take it home!