No wedding is complete without a good drink to toast to the happy couple. From reception to dinner and the evening party – you’ll need some good drinks to lubricate the guests. You’ll need drinks to welcome, wine wash down the food, and then some to add some extra dancing moves to the dancefloor!
A good wedding needs a good drink, so let’s take a look at the drinks and what you need to shop for or order from your catering team.
You’ll have three areas to consider here:
Wedding reception drinks
For your first drink, usually on arrival at the venue, it makes sense to get a drink that’s often partnered with a celebration. So… bring out the bubbles!
Prosecco or Champagne?
Many weddings now opt for Prosecco over Champagne because of the cost but also because prosecco is very on-trend and a lighter drink that many prefer over the more expensive French drink.
Champagne can be the perfect start though if you’re aiming for a stylish welcome for your guests. That said, there are plenty of really good champagne ‘look-alikes’ that you could consider/try first.
One of our friend’s in the industry - James Richards of Vin Neuf Independent Wine Merchants suggests the following:
- Cremant – sparkling wine made in the same way as Champagne, just not in the region of Champagne. These wines are very pleasant – both on the tongue and the bank balance! Wines from the Limoux region and the Jura make particularly good examples of Cremant, (Domaine Laurens) ‘traditional method’ sparkling wines.
- Cava – Spain’s answer to Champagne is a great drop depending on the brand/grower you choose.
- Prosecco – clearly a fashionable winner at the moment and Italy’s big export looks set to be popular for some time.
- Lambrusco – far from the terrible 80s version, many Lambruscos offer a clear and dry taste instead of the overly sweet versions from yesteryear.
How much fizz do you need?
Generally speaking, you should aim for half a bottle per person. This will give you more than enough to go around for a good reception. If you’re planning on having your reception for a couple of hours, you may need to up that number slightly. But please do feed your guests something at the same time too or they’ll all be drunk for dinner! You can find a full drinks guide here.
Anyone for Pimms?
Pimms is a really cost-effective choice and one that still adds some real theatre and flavour to a reception. The downside is that a good Pimms has fruit so is more fiddly to prepare and the wasps in the summer love that.
Then once reception is over, it’s time for dinner. Table wine is the obvious choice here and generally speaking you’ll need red and white. A good way to choose would be to pair your wine with your food.
Wine was invented to go with food, after all. Once you have selected your food menu do talk to either a local independent wine merchants (if and where possible) or the Sommelier or head of F&B at the site.
Here’s a quick guide on choosing your table wine for your wedding
- Chicken - A red or a white that's on the medium to lighter side is a safe bet. Chenin Blanc from South Africa or Loire Valley.
- Fish - Greek /Spanish wines or other lighter, mineral-y whites go well with seafood.
- Beef - A strong grenache or pinot noir (both reds) complements beef.
- Pork - Go for a bolder white with pork, like a white Burgundy, Chenin Blanc from Loire valley or southern French alternative.
We generally suggest trying to choose lighter alcohol wines and beers circa 12.5- 13% vol. for wines rather than a possibly heavy Argentinian Malbec of 14% +. That said, even these styles are now changing and offering lighter style examples.
How much table wine will you need?
Just like the reception drinks, half a bottle a head is a good guide here, too. Depending on the way you want your event to run, a simple plonking of wine bottles on the tables as the guests sit down will cater for most of the tables (two red and two white on a table of 10-12).
Don’t forget to include water on the tables and don’t risk the ‘tap water’ if you’re in a marquee as this’ll often come from the hosepipe and isn’t good for you. If you’re getting married on a warm day, up the water order - fast - and include some ice.
Now then… this is a big question, too.
Firstly, does it need to be Champagne, or can it be a fizz alternative as above?
Secondly, do you need a specific drink at all? Why not toast with what’s on the table?
Just like the wedding cake, the toast is another expense that you might not need to make. We always hear about flat fizz being cleared at the end of the meal and wine left over, too. Leave them to drink the table dry at the toast when they hunt to ‘charge their glasses’?
We’ll leave you to decide.
How much will I need?
Aim for one small glass and you’ll get seven glasses from one bottle. Divide your guest number by seven and add one for luck and you have your order or fizz for the toast, should you choose to have a specific drink for it.
Free bar or paid?
The next area to consider is the after-dinner party. The first dance, the music and the dancing will all need lubricating. This is all budget dependent, but here are a few ideas/tips for you:
Keep it simple and avoid spirits. A free or paid bar is easier with beer, wine, and soft drinks.
If you have a paid bar, the caterer will need an events licence to serve them and take money.
A free bar can use up all the un-drunk table wine.
A barrel of beer is often a good idea at the time, but you’ll need to drink all 70ish pints in a few days so consider bottles that you can return/drink in a few weeks instead.
Free bar? Keep it simple and cost-effective. The less expensive wines and beers that go on offer in the local supermarket are a great shout here if you’re running it yourself or having a catering team to serve for you.
A free bar isn’t always as expensive as it sounds. Buy the drink at wholesale on sale or return and get the guests to serve themselves and you have a cheaper option. A free bar at a hotel will be bar prices per drink and a different game altogether.
If you’re getting a bar company in or asking the caterers to do it for you, work out the pricing for the staff and equipment and add that to your budget.
The bar is a big part of the evening for many events and having a cool set-up with bartenders could be costly, but might make all the difference to the look and feel of the event.
How many glasses will I need? If you need to hire glasses for your wedding, then you can find out exactly how many glasses you’ll need right here.
Aside from the usual drinks like champagne, wine, and beer though, many couples opt for cocktails, even at the reception. Cocktails have come back into favour and, just like Prosecco, they’re often more popular with guests, and more cost-effective for the hosts, so they really are a win/win.
Need more inspiration?
Head over to our wedding drinks Pinterest board below.
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We’ve seen our fair share of weddings and this gives us the insight and expertise to ask the right questions to give you exactly what you need for your big day.
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