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How Many Drinking Glasses Do I Need For My Event?

Event catering requires a meticulous approach and making sure you’re heading to site with everything you need is a must. Events can range in size and nature but one thing remains essential throughout, and that’s good organisation.

How Many Drinking Glasses Do I Need For My Event?

Published : Wednesday 12th December 2018


Our experience tells us that it’s not the number of guests that affects the success of the event but rather what the organisers have planned for them to do. How the event is structured from start to finish will impact on the way you prepare for it and of course the equipment you’ll need.

Whether it’s a wedding, party, funeral, or charity ball, you’ll have a timetable to adhere to, a venue that demands things from you, and of course guests who all want different things at different times, despite what it says on the agenda.

Being prepared and planning for most eventualities is key to your success. One of the key areas for this is the glassware. We’re often asked for advice on how event planners can get the drinks right. How do they know how many glasses are needed? It seems there’s some confusion about the quantity and which style of glass you might need so we thought we’d try and help.

How many guests do you have?

The obvious place to start is with a head count. How many people are you catering for? That will determine much of the equation that you need to work with. You might think that you simply need to simply multiply the number of glasses you need by the head count, but there’s a little more to it than that.

Nevertheless, establishing the head count is where you start. So, how many people are you catering for? Write that number down and move onto the next question. With many events the numbers aren’t finalised until a few days beforehand. Even then you’ll probably lose a few on the day with illness or unplanned absences. We’d advise you to err on the side of caution and not assume you’ll have drop-outs on the day.

What does the day look like?

What is the event? This can make a big difference to the glasses you need and the quantity you need, too. Let’s say it’s a wedding. Traditional weddings will fall into a structure so we’ll look at that in this example to show you what you need to consider.

Reception drinks – What’s the first drink for the guests? Fizz on arrival? Cocktails? Open bar? This will have an impact on your glass hire. Most will opt for a fizz reception and a soft drink alternative. Some may want a mixture of fizz and juice, which can be put into the fizz glasses.

You can pretty much bank on needing a champagne flute per head plus some spares. We’d recommend that for 100 people you order between 108-144 glasses. (Glasses come in dozens.)

Another thing to think about is the length of the reception. A brief 30-45 minute reception with a top-up from the bottle means you’ll need almost one glass per person, but lengthen that to a two hour reception and you’ll probably need a couple of glasses per head.

The guests will mill about and put their glasses down (photos are a real hinderance to your glasses and guests pop them down and miss-place them!) so you’ll need to replace them during the reception, as washing up won’t be an option.

If you’re not offering a top up but supplying new trays of drinks then you’ll certainly need more. For a few hours reception with trays of drinks you’re best to aim for three glasses per person. The most sensible way to manage your glasses is to arrange to pour a top up into the existing guest glasses.

Then you must consider the soft drinks. The length of the reception and the heat on the day will have a huge bearing here. If the reception goes on for any reason then the guests will tend to move towards the soft drinks more than they would for a short greeting so factor this in. If there’s no accommodation on site and people are driving they’ll likely drink less than if you’re in a hotel.

With a hot day, it’s not unusual for guests to have a soft drink each and then some so consider ordering 124 hiball glasses for your reception drinks for 100.

You’ll also need to think about reception drinks like Pimm’s or other cocktail options. Will you need jugs to create and pour the drinks? Ice buckets to garnish them? Trays? Get your list of drink options and multiply the number of people like this:


Short reception with a top up – just enough.
Longer reception – aim for two per head.

Hi balls:

Short reception, half the number of guests (providing you don’t have a large number of children).
Long reception, one glass per head. For a hot day, double it! And make sure you provide water, too.

Laying the tables

Moving inside the venue or marquee you’ll need to lay up the tables. Depending on the approach of the event, most will opt for red and white wine glasses on the table. This is simple to factor into your hire; you’ll need one white and one red for each guest with maybe a dozen spares in case of accidents.

Guests will only need a glass each if they’re being topped up or the wine is left on the table for them to help themselves. This is the simplest option for catering and running the drinks at the event and most guests will be fine with this.

We recommend you have a red and white wine glass and guests will often switch from white to red and vice versa depending on the starter and main. If you know for sure that they won’t then you could take fewer glasses with you, but that’s often a risk you might regret.

You’ll also need water glasses on the tables. One per head here is fine; just work out whether you’re serving mineral water or tap water as you’ll need jugs (one or two per table) and perhaps ice for the latter.

Champagne toast?

An area that’s easy to forget is the toast at an event like a wedding. You’ll need to know when the toast is, and whether there’s a special drink for it. Will it come after the meal, before or after the dessert, or after the cheese board? Many bride and grooms will opt for a toast with some Champagne or Prosecco so you’ll need extra flutes for that. One per head is fine for this (with a couple of spare in case of breakages) so just factor it into your calculations.

Port for the cheese?

If you’re serving cheese boards, are the guests offering port? You might want to ask them and offer port glasses to go with the cheese table or offer them to guests. Not everyone will have port in our experience but it’s worth having at least 50-70% of the headcount covered if port is to be served.

The turnaround

At most weddings, the room will be turned around after the official proceedings, which means a refresh of the tables. This can mean clearing all the glasses and giving all the guests a fresh drink. It doesn’t have to, and if you’re in charge of turning the room around then you can control this, but if you’re moving the guests from daytime to evening and there’s an obvious clear up and chance to change from tall wine glasses to your more standard then you’ll need to hire enough of those.

If you’re going to completely refresh the room after the speeches etc. then you’ll need to work on the transition from day to evening and the bar glasses then come into play…

Evening guests

The most obvious effect on your drinks service and catering is an influx of new guests. Are there going to be any extra invitees? They’ll all need glasses and then if you’ve turned the room around and refreshed it, then so will all the day guests.

If you’ve gone from 100 during the day to 150 in the evening then you’re best to aim for the following as a guide:

  • Wine glasses 300-350
  • Beer/pint glasses 100 -150 (unless there’s a strong beer crowd planned or real ale ordered. For example: if you have three real ale barrels then you have at least 216 pints which will most likely need fresh glasses)
  • Short glasses – 100 -150 (depending on the drinks available)
  • Hi balls – 150 – 200 or possibly more if you think the dancefloor will be a hot affair!
  • Jugs and ice buckets for the bar
  • Evening guest reception drinks? Some weddings will have a drink for the new guests too. If you need another 50 flutes or wine glasses then add these in, too.


The only other situations you need to try and plan for are curveball moments. Are the clients having a vodka luge? A chocolate fountain? A slushy machine? Do they have the glasses for this or do they expect you to cover it? The last thing you need when you’re in a marquee in a field is to see all your evening hi-balls disappearing to a corner of the marquee leaving you short for later.

Just ask. You’ll be thankful you did!

Look at the day as a whole and ask the right questions…

Catering for an event like a wedding requires good planning and glass hire is a key component.

Ask these key questions to help you calculate what types of glass you need and how many of them you’ll need:​

  • What type of event is it?
  • What style of glasses do you need? Standard (Savoie) or something more classy like Primeur?
  • Will you be topping up the reception drink (from the bottle or jug) or will you be serving fresh glasses each time? (You’ll need more glasses if you are.)
  • Will you be serving red white or rosé (or all three) at the table? How many wine glasses will you need per place setting?
  • Will you have a bar? What bar drinks will you serve from there and what glasses do they need?
  • Are you having a toast in a champagne flute or another traditional drink during the event that requires a special glass?
  • Will you need extra glasses for the evening event if it’s a wedding?
  • Don’t forget the soft drinks – they need glasses too.
  • Will there be water on the tables? You might need water jugs for those.
  • What time of year is it? (Will it be long and hot?) (If it’s Christmas will they want mulled wine?)
  • Will you need port or brandy glasses?
  • Will there be beer on tap, or bottled beer?
  • Are there guests who might want to do shots?
  • How long is the evening event?
  • Are there any features like a vodka ice sculpture, chocolate fountain, etc.

There’s a lot to think of, isn’t there?

The best way to start is to play out or draw out the event on paper and work through the event and each and every possibility and hire glasses for those situations.

To help you start, here are the main areas of glass hire on our site:



Bar Glasses & Speciality Glasses

Bar/Service Equipment


How to order:

  • Select the style you need and the number of glasses you’d like
  • Add them to your quote
  • Submit your quote and we’ll be in touch to discuss it with you.
  • Don’t worry about a thing. We can change anything you added and add more if you need it.
  • We’ve been highly trained by our customers to ask the right questions so we can give you the exceptional service that our reputation is based on.

You really don’t need to be running out of glassware in an unfamiliar marquee or venue, and washing up is rarely an option in these cases.

Our advice, on the whole, is to err on the side of caution and take a few more than you think you’ll need.

Need more help? Just ask!

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