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In Good Spirits: Getting the Beer, Wine, and More for your Wedding Reception
by: Michael Kabel

The wedding reception is probably the biggest party you'll ever throw. It's probably also the most important. Wedding guests remember the reception just as much as they remember the ceremony. So if you're looking to create something memorable, you'd better be ready to throw quite a bash.

Depending on your family and friends' lifestyle and culture, a big part of the reception will include some form of "tasty beverage": beer, wine, spirits, or a combination of all three. But knowing how much to buy, and how much to pay for it, can really throw a wrench into your reception planning.

Presented below are some ideas on how to "guesstimate" the amount of beverages you'll need to keep your guests happy and having a good time. Remember to upsize accordingly if your friends are a "party hearty" crowd.

White, red, and pink zinfandel wines go a long way.

Wine is the wide common ground between beer and spirits. Guests who usually drink either one will usually compromise and drink wine when the others aren't available.

The middle ground between white and red wines is pink zinfandel. It's not much in the way of sophistication (its best selling varieties come in a box) but it's also a can't-miss favorite among social drinkers, the elderly, and anyone who might enjoy an afternoon wine spritzer.

White wine goes better with chicken and fish, red wine is better served with red meat such as steak. You may choose to offer a white wine at the reception venue’s bar for before and after the meal, and a red wine to enjoy while the guests are eating.

It's not necessary to spend a fortune on an expensive wine from an exclusive vintage. When ordering, confer with your beverage vendor about the sizes of the bottles available and how many servings each bottle contains. Make sure the wine can be delivered the day of the reception.

Beer!

How much beer does your reception need? All jokes aside, it too depends on how many people are coming. Beer is somewhat easier to manage, because you can order by the case and save the leftovers for use another time.

When ordering, try to keep the ratio of beer you order to one and a half cases of regular beer to every one case of light. This gives you some flexibility in providing for guests' expectations but still gives you plenty of each kind. 

Domestic beers are always more popular than imports, and in a pinch no guest will ever turn down free domestic beer.

Plenty of spirits

Spirits are "the hard stuff," and you only need to order a couple of kinds to actually satisfy most guests. A respectable bourbon and a good mid-priced vodka are sufficient, providing you have ample mixers: sodas, tonic water, orange juice, cranberry juice, and water.

The thing with spirits is that they're expensive, and you need to have qualified bartenders mixing the cocktails so you don't wind up with too much or too little liquor by the end of the night. Vodka and liquor are also easy to budget, since the costs increase fairly proportionately to their quality.

At the end of the evening, like beer, you can hand out the leftovers to friends ready to keep partying or save them for yourselves.