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While not typically high on the priority list when you start out with your planning, beverages can account for up to 20% of your overall wedding budget. Thirsty guests will not be happy guests. Equally, you’ll want to avoid anyone rolling around drunk! The bar bill is traditionally the responsibility of the groom and his family but these days the costs are rarely divided up according to these old-fashioned ideas. Since you are unlikely to have ever planned a wedding before you might not know where to start when it comes it what to order and how much of it. We’re going to talk you through it.


The term “pre-drinks” is confusing in itself as these are the drinks served after the ceremony during which time the bride and groom are occupied with the photo shoot. It’s actually short for “pre-dinner drinks”. It is not recommended to serve beverages prior to the ceremony other than perhaps bottled water. Guests should get seated timeously and preferably without glassware in their hands.

At the conclusion of the ceremony it is traditional and hospitable to provide your friends and family with a drink to celebrate. It’s a good idea to offer both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic option. To determine quantities, think about which of your guests are likely to opt for alcohol and which won’t. Decide a rough split such as 70/30. We recommend working on an average of 1 to 2 drinks per person maximum. For example, if you have 100 guests and you want to provide 1.5 drinks per person (some guests have one drink and others two) and you estimate that 30 of them will prefer no alcohol: first multiply your guests by 1.5 (100 x 1.5 = 150) then apply the ratio to this total (70/30). On this basis you would order 45 servings of your non-alcoholic option and 105 servings of your alcoholic option.

Table wine and bubbly

It’s generally accepted that you’ll provide wine with dinner for your guests. If most of your tables are seating ten guests we recommend ordering between two and four bottles of wine per table (half red and half white). Consider which of your guests are wine drinkers and bear in mind that a bottle will serve four to five glasses. Ensure your venue only offers one bottle of each type of wine at a time to avoid wastage.

Most couples will also want sparkling wine for toasts. One bottle fills five champagne flutes but some guests may only indulge in half a glass. You can therefore decide if you’d like one or two bottles per table.

Don’t forget about your non-drinking guests. These include children, pregnant ladies and people who choose not to drink for religious, health or other reasons. Perhaps offer a sparkling grape juice or if having two bottles of bubbly per table, swap one of these out for a non-alcoholic version. You may like to serve fruit juice. If so, one litre per five guests is optimal. Finally, water is a necessity. In these drought-stricken times tap water is no longer an option so remember to order at least one large bottle of still mineral water per table.


Most weddings will include a bar service of some description. The most popular is a cash bar where your guests pay for all of their own drinks. In this case the only thing you’ll need to budget for is the bar facility fee which many venues charge.

If you’re feeling generous you can arrange a full open bar. This is where guests order whatever they like to drink and you pick up the bill. At Hudson’s venue, we’ll ask you to specify an initial value limit in this instance. Think about how many drinks each guest is likely to consume during the course of the evening and the average price of these drinks. Multiply the average drink cost by the number of drinks you estimate each guest will drink and finally multiply this figure by your number of guests.

The last option is a restricted open bar. There are different restrictions you can apply such as “local brands only” meaning no premium or imported spirits are permitted on the tab, “no shooters” or “no shooters or spirits” in which case you’ll pay for beer, cider, wine and cool drinks but no hard tack. Don’t forget to specify if you want to exclude certain products like craft beer or energy drinks which can quickly push up the total.

If you go for an open bar of any description you can choose to simply close the tab once it reaches a certain amount. You can also set the time from which it is available if you’re worried it will be exhausted too quickly.

If the alcohol is going to be flowing spare a thought for how your guests are going to get home. Try to ensure that this is handled responsibly.


Hudson’s venue offers full flexibility when it comes to choosing your bar and beverage selection. Schedule a viewing to find out more.

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