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How to Stock Your Micro-Wedding Bar

by Hannah Huber
micro-wedding bar

Whether it’s a small dinner party or a gathering of up to 50 people, micro-weddings are becoming the middle-ground as COVID-19 continues to alter wedding plans. These nuptials often take place outside of a traditional venue, so couples are strapped with ordering everything from flowers to food. Without the support of a venue, couples have trouble reconciling how to stock their bars. With low guest counts, calculating how many bottles to buy and what to serve can quickly become a mathematical enigma. 

If you’re serving a full bar or just wine and beer, you can adjust the formulas below to fit your wedding size. Statistically, 50% of wedding guests will drink wine throughout the evening, and the remaining 50% is split between liquor beverages and beer. Every wedding crowd is different, so the below formulas on how to stock your micro-wedding bar are made to be flexible.

For the Wine

Vino will make up the majority of your bar. The reason? Familiarity. While some people might be willing to try something new, most wine drinkers will stick to red or white, no matter the label. Speaking of varieties, we recommend splitting your bottles between red (40%), white (40%), and sparkling (20%). The formula below will be your best friend when calculating how many bottles you’ll need.

The Formula 

(Number of Guests X Reception Hours) / 2 (50% of Guests) / 6 (Glasses of Wine per Bottle) = Bottles of Wine Needed

Using the above, if you have a guest list of 50 and your reception lasts for four hours, assuming an average of one glass/per person/per hour, you’ll get a number of 100. Divide that by six, and voila! The magic number is 17 bottles of wine, but you should round up if the total results in a decimal. To figure out how many cases of wine you’ll need, divide that final number by 12 (the number of wine bottles in a case), and there you have it. A wedding of 50 people will need 1.5 cases of wine. 

This formula is created to fit any party situation. If you’re planning on only having wine at your wedding, remove the “/ 2” from the formula, representative of 50% of guests. If the majority of invitees are wine drinkers, consider bumping the percentage up to 75% of guests by changing the “/ 2” to “/ 1.5.”

Now let’s talk about the budget. Check with your local wine store to see if it offers a discount on wine by the case, usually ranging anywhere from 10% to 15% off the retail price. If you have a wholesale warehouse membership, even better. You can save big on brand name bottles like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Joel Gott Cabernet, and Mionetto Prosecco.

The Beer

As mentioned previously, if you’re doing a full bar, account for 25% of your guests drinking beer throughout the night. If you’re only serving wine and beer, bump that number up slightly to 35%. Here’s what your formula will look like:

The Formula 

(Number of Guests X Reception Hours) / 4 (25% of Guests) = Beers Needed

Based on a 50-person wedding, this will come out to 50 bottles/cans, or two cases of beer. If you’re interested in saving a little cash, visit your local brewery and ask for any discounted cases. Breweries are eager to get rid of out of season stock to make room for the subsequent seasonal product. For example, if you’re getting married in August, most breweries are ready to sell their fall product and, therefore, discount their summer blend to make room. 

The Liquor

Liquor is tricky when it comes to a small wedding. While you might be tempted to have every liquor under the sun available to your guests, you’ll inevitably be left a slew of half-full bottles and mixers. Our advice? Create a large-format wedding cocktail as your liquor option. Do you and your partner always order the same drink? Share it with your friends and family. 

The formula for this comes in two parts. First, determine how many actual drinks you’ll need with the formula below, based on 25% of guests.

The Formula 

(Number of Guests X Reception Hours) / 4 (25% of Guests) = Glasses Needed

Now for the brain teaser. Most mixed drinks require 1.5 ounces of liquor per drink. Using the formula above, multiply the result by 1.5 to see how many ounces of liquor you’ll need. For example, based on a 50-person wedding and a four-hour reception, you’ll need 50 glasses and, therefore, 75 ounces of liquor. Most regular-sized alcohol bottles are 750 ml or around 25 ounces, so you’ll need three bottles of liquor to make the appropriate amount of cocktails for guests.

To save a few bucks on your liquor run, opt for a larger format bottle. Typically, the next size up is only a few dollars more than the regular-sized bottle but carries up to 50% more liquid per bottle.

The Champagne Toast

If you plan on having a champagne toast, use the equation below to calculate how much bubbly you’ll need in addition to the wine for the reception.

The Formula 

(Number of Guests X .5) / 12 = Bottles of Sparkling Wine Needed for Toasting

Because toasts are typically poured at a half glass per person, only a few bottles are needed for a micro-wedding. Using the formula above, two to three bottles of bubbly is appropriate for a 50-person toast.

If you’re looking at the above feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Venues have perfected the art of bar stocking for decades, and you might have to do it in just a few weeks! Take a breath, pull out your calculator, and give it your best shot. Remember, these formulas are flexible. If you have a guest list full of beer drinkers, go heavy on the beer! Every invite list is different, and no one knows your loved ones better than you. If all else fails, use the table below for guidance, based on a four-hour reception and rounded up.

Number of GuestsBottles of Wine (50%)Bottles of Beer (25%)Glasses of Cocktail (25%)Champagne Toast
104 Bottles10 Beers10 Glasses1 Bottles
206 Bottles20 Beers20 Glasses1 Bottles
3010 Bottles30 Beers30 Glasses2 Bottles
4014 Bottles40 Beers40 Glasses2 Bottles
5017 Bottles50 Beers50 Glasses2-3 Bottles

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