How To Correctly Serve Drinks At Your Wedding Reception

wedding signature drinksWhile it may not be on your list of priorities at the start of your wedding planning journey, our combined years of experience have taught us that deciding how to serve up the drinks is one area where couples usually get a little stuck.

In this post we’re going to purely focus on the wedding reception, however you can often adapt the same rule to your pre wedding functions if need be.

Welcome drinks
We think it’s always nice to serve up a welcome drink to your guests no matter what time of the day. You can opt for some prosecco or champagne or a fancier cocktail to match any event theme. There always needs to be a non-alcoholic version; a simple orange or mocktail will work well for this. 

Either get your waiters to float around the room with large trays or set up a trestle table with the drinks laid out and ready. If you have an exceptionally large crowd, you may even look to use both options.

No alcohol versus alcohol
We’re not going to lie, a reception is basically a party and hence your guests will probably be expecting some sort of alcoholic beverage on the night. However, if you as a couple and family have a strong dislike for alcohol then don’t feel pressurised into offering something you’re not comfortable with. At the end of the day it’s your event and you’re well within your rights to do what you like.

If you simply want to offer soft drinks and keep a cash bar open and available for any guests who would like to purchase their own alcoholic drinks – this is totally acceptable.

Cash bar
If you want to reduce your own drinks’ cost then you have the option of providing some alcoholic beverages yourself and letting the venue/bar provide the rest. Couples considering this option will usually provide a selection of soft drinks, beers and wine and then get the guests to purchase any additional spirits.

If you’re having a mix of paid and complimentary drinks then it’s certainly worth having a personalised menu at the bar so people can clearly see what they need to pay for (we have a recommended stationery supplier who can provide these).

The signature cocktail
A nice little touch for your event is to add one or two signature cocktails and perhaps a mocktail alternative for your guests. Give it a funky name, perhaps one that matches your theme and watch it go down a treat. Your signature drink(s) should be complimentary, so even if you’re having a cash bar for everything else, it will work as a great free alcoholic option.

Drinks on the table
As your guests walk into your venue you’ll want them to be wowed by the décor, which means not cluttering your table with multiple plastic bottles. While it is an essential to keep some water on the table (stick with jugs or glass bottled water), the remainder of your drinks can actually be brought out just ahead of your food service.

If you don’t want any plastic bottles on the table at any point during the evening, then serve the remainder of your drinks in jugs – just don’t pour them out too early or they will end up going flat. A good alternative might be to serve any additional drinks in Kilner clip-top bottles.

Table waiter service
Now this is a rather costly option, but will prevent any extra clutter on your dinner table. You can actually provide a drinks menu on the table and get your waiter to take each individual guest’s drink order. This option will also mean less queues at the bar and will leave your guests feeling pampered. It’s a win-win.

Limit bar hours
There will be periods throughout the evening where you may want to consider keeping the bar closed;
When the bride and groom are about to make their entrance
When the speeches are taking place
When the cake cutting is about to happen

Aside from that, don’t worry too much about monitoring the bar (unless it’s getting ridiculously rowdy but then again, that’s what your wedding planner is for).

Quantities to purchase
If you want to go down the route of providing all the alcohol yourself, then here are a few guides on what and how much to buy:

If you’re having a champagne welcome drink then you may get around 4-6 glasses out of every bottle, however if you’re using champagne for a toast, then the glasses may not need to be as full and therefore you should get around 8 glasses out of every bottle.

Red wine tends to be consumed more than white wine during an evening reception and on average you should get around 5 glasses out of one bottle.

You’ll usually get around 18 servings out of every 750ml liquor bottle. Just think about what sort of guests you have attending and what they are most likely to consume. Also, if you are using certain liquors for your signature cocktails then you will need to purchase more quantities.

For every 1 bottle of spirit, you’ll want to buy three bottles of mixers. These can include anything from soda water, tonic water and cola, to cranberry juice, lemonade and ginger ale.

A 1.75L bottle of Coca-Cola for example will serves around 7-8 glasses, which will probably be sufficient for one round table. You will obviously need to stock up on a few extras depending on cocktails and other mixers you may have.

On average you’ll be looking at around 1 pound of ice per person and don’t forget any fancy garnishes!
If you have any other specific drinks-related questions then please send us an email to

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