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How many drinks do I need for my wedding reception? | Cambridge Wedding Caterer

If there were a top three of questions that come up the most from our couples, “how many drinks do I need for my Wedding?” would be in it for sure!

And it’s a fair question. How often do people need to plan and arrange an events worth of drinks for all their friends and family? The answer, is not that often. We find couples worrying if they will have too much or too little drinks on hand and all the associated stresses that come with arranging your own reception drinks. Luckily our team of event and catering managers are on hand to help.

Wedding Drinks reception
Image by Peter Oliver Photography

When do I need to provide my guests drinks?

Arrival Drinks- Drinks to welcome guests to your venue, especially if it’s going to be a warm day or they will be travelling a distance to get there are a great idea. Guests can mingle and relax after their journey and get into the celebratory mood ahead of the ceremony. We would suggest 1 drink per person is sufficient for arrival drinks, as well as a refreshing water station. As a point of note, if you are having a legal ceremony with a registrar in the UK, guests will not be allowed to bring alcohol into the ceremony room from an hour before the start of the wedding ceremony. But it’s a great opportunity to utilise additional spaces such as gardens or courtyards at your venue.

Drinks reception- If you are thinking of providing your own drinks allow 2 drinks per guest for the first hour of the drinks reception, and from there 1 drink per hour until the start of the wedding breakfast. As a rule the first drink often doesn’t touch the sides, especially in a hot summers day so plan for at least 2 drinks a head to be sure.

Wedding Reception
Image by Rosie May Kelly

The Wedding Breakfast- During the wedding breakfast provide still water, a sparkling water option is can also be a nice addition. A good guide when deciding wine quantities is to allow ½ a bottle per guest. So if you are welcoming 100 adult guests and serving both red and white wine then 50 bottles of each for the wedding breakfast. For couples also serving a rose option then split it respectively. We also would say that you as a couple know your guests best and also your menu, if you have a large family that enjoy red wine over white, or you’re are serving a beef or game menu then you may wish to have a higher proportion of red than white. For a peak summer wedding with the lighter menu go for a higher split of white to red.

Toasts- It’s tradition then serve a glass of fizz for speeches and raise a toast to the happy couple. We are also seeing more non-traditional options rising in popularity. Prefer tequila? Go for a tequila toast. Have a flair for making your own sloe gin? Why not have mini glass bottles of your signature gin at each guests place setting. Which ever option you go for, factor 1 drink per person for an initial toast and if your speeches are split throughout the meal then you may wish to allow 50% extra for top ups before each round of speeches.

After-dinner drinks- A great opportunity to get guests up and circulating again after the wedding breakfast is to offer an after-dinner cocktail bar or station. This can be especially helpful if your venue need to turn the room around, or break down tables for the evening section of the day as it encourages guests to venture away from the tables.

Wedding Reception
Image by Rosie May Kelly

What Drinks Should I serve at my wedding reception?

With regards to drinks reception drinks offerings, the sky is the limit! We’ve written a shortlist of both traditional crowd pleasing options and some of our teams personal favourites for some inspiration. Champagne or Prosecco- You can’t go too far wrong with an elegant flute of bubbles to toast a beautiful wedding ceremony. Pimm’s- British Summer staple drink that is always received well by guests and looks lovely and colourful in Kilner jars or pitchers on a drinks station.

Beer or cider- Serve bottled options from rustic troughs filled with ice, you can even style them up with additional crates and create whole styled area. For weddings where a lot of guests will be likely to choose these drinks there are lots of keg options available out there. Check with your local brewery as to what they can offer.

Signature cocktails- Personalised cocktail options can be a really fun reflection of you as a couple and offer a natural variety in choices for guests. Go for your personal favourites, put a fun twist on your names or you new shared last name, think about places where you met or your honeymoon location, the options are endless. Guests will love having the choice of something personalised to the couple and it will also add to the wedding day experience. Fruity and fresh cocktails such as a mojito or Aperol spritz work great in a drinks reception, or go for something a little stronger like an espresso martini or dessert cocktail to get the party started after dinner.

Image by Elizabeth Jane Photography

Things to remember when planning your wedding drinks

Soft drink options- Every wedding will have guests that either choose not to drink or can’t, so it’s important to make them feel included and catered for. Including a non-alcoholic option at your drinks reception is essential, caters for any children also in attendance, and you are likely to find if you are blessed with great weather more guests are going to be looking for those hydrating options too!

Ice- No matter what drinks options you are serving you are going to need ice somewhere. Check with your venue or caterer if they can arrange to supply this. And remember if you are having shaken cocktails or troughs of bottled drinks you are going to need extra.

Glassware- Depending on your suppliers and venue you may need to source your own glassware. We would recommend checking with your caterers first and if they are unable to provide the glassware you can hire it in. Things to consider are drinks varieties, do you have enough of each kind of glassware in comparison to what you are serving? And do the hire company wash the glasses, or do you need to wash them prior to return?

Sale or Return- Is fantastic for couples worried about having a surplus at the end of the wedding. Some drinks retailers will allow you to return unopened bottles or boxes for a refund, but be sure to check the exact details before ordering and make your bar staff or caterer aware so they can keep boxes whole for you until needed.

Keg supplies- Going for a keg of beer or ale? Make sure your supplier can provide you with all the necessary tools to tap and rest the barrel.

Waste- A final and often forgotten consideration is waste. What happens to all the empty bottles and boxes when the party is over? Some venues will provide waste disposal included in the hire, for those that do not we suggest hiring a small waste skip from a local company who will return to collect after the event and deal with everything for you.

Wedding cocktails
Image by Nataly J Photography

To chat with one of our team about how we can help with your event or wedding email us at


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