Tuesday Tips: Supplying BYO drinks

There is no doubt that being able to supply your own beverages at an event or wedding can save a lot of money in the budget. We have put together some top tips for you to consider so you and your guests don’t go thirsty!

The Beverage Menu

At a wedding or event you are aiming to deliver a wonderful experience to the masses rather than a select one or two, so when choosing your beverages it is best to choose products that are either familiar with your crowd, or easy drinking in a social situation. For example Pinot Noir is a great function wine as it is light enough to match a range of foods and palates, oppose to serving a robust Cabernet Sauvignon that is better suited served with a main meal rather than canapés on a hot summer’s afternoon.

Ultimately your budget, your audience and personal tastes will play part in dictating the varietals and brands you end up purchasing.

Limit your selection

The more selection you have the more beverages you will need to order (and the more it will cost you) to ensure that you have the correct quantity to last the event and not risk running out. Since it is very hard to predict what your guests will drink our recommendation is to limit your selection to one sparkling wine, one still white wine, one red wine, two beers, and a mid to low strength beer or cider, as a starting point. If you know your guests are particularly fond of Rose for example, you could consider a Sparkling Rose to cover your bases, switch your Sparkling for Rose, or order a mixture of both.

Many events only serve sparkling wine at the beginning of the function or in the case of a wedding, after the ceremony and for the toasts, so it isn’t of huge concern if sparkling wine is limited or runs out partway through the event.

How much should you order?

The style of event and the guests attending the event are two of the biggest predictors in establishing the quantities you’ll be required to purchase. For example at a two hour business networking function guests are likely to drink on average 1 to 1.5 drinks per person, on the other hand thirsty guests at an eight hour wedding could drink in excess of eight drinks per person.

Of course these are averages as you’ll have some people that drink nothing and some people that drink a lot. The general rule of thumb for an evening function would be to allow two drinks in the first hour and one drink per hour following.

Once you know how many drinks people are likely to consume you need to decide the quantity of each item to order. You will need to consider the ratio of male to female, ratio of drinkers to non-drinkers, and the ratio of  beer, wine, and cider, etc. drinkers depending on your selection. Considering these statistics will help you come up with the best guesstimate for your order.

After many years of experience we now have wedding and event beverage ordering down to a fine art using our own special calculation tool. If you would like some advice specific to your event or wedding, please get in touch.

If you’re ordering a descent quantity of beverage through a wholesaler or supermarket ask if they have a sale or return policy as this allows you to order with a small buffer in case your estimate is slightly off. Establishments that have this policy will generally let you return up to 20% of your order provided the product can be returned to the shelf for future sale. This means that boxes of beer cannot have been opened, however they may allow for cases of wine to be open as these can be sold as individual items. Check the conditions of the sale or return policy prior to purchasing to ensure it meets your needs.

If you choose to purchase from a supermarket when products are on special, check the expiry date on the products before you purchase them so nothing is expired before your wedding or event date.

Offer low and non-alcoholic alternatives

Part of being a responsible host means ensuring you have low and non-alcoholic beverages including water on offer for your guests.

We would generally suggest providing a mid to low strength beer, either as part of the two beers you have selected or you could offer it as a third option. Cider is a great beverage to run as a mid strength beverage as guests find most ciders enjoyable regardless of the alcohol volume.

As society changes and the quantity you can drink before driving reduces we will continue to see an upward trend in the service of mid and low alcohol beverages.

Don’t forget the glassware

You need order the correct type of glassware (and enough of it) for your drink selection to be served in.

For any event that starts with drinks and canapés and then moves to a more formal dinner you will need to consider many glasses a guest may use throughout the event. For example, a guest starts with a glass of bubbles on arrival, then switches to a beer and chooses to have a glass, before sitting down for dinner and having a white wine with the starter and a red wine with the main, and then when the dancing starts chooses another wine but requires a new glass as the dining table has been cleared. You can see how quickly the glassware order adds up when you look at it like this.

How much glassware you order will also be impacted by the glass washing facilities at the venue. If there are no washing up facilities you may need to order up to 20% more glassware to ensure your event needs a covered.

If you’re hiring from an equipment hire company or the glassware is provided as part of your liquor wholesaler agreement check in advance if the glassware can be returned dirty or if it needs to be returned rinsed then allow for this when you’re planning your service team. While there may be a further charge for returning the glass wear dirty, it could still be cheaper than paying for a staff member to rinse all the glassware and check the lipstick is removed.

Ice, Ice baby (and refrigeration)

Ideally you want to chill all of your beverages down in the refrigerator or chiller trailer 24 hours before your event.

You can hire a chiller trailer from many local liquor wholesalers; sometimes they will even include it complementary if your beverage spend is of a certain dollar value, or you can arrange one through a local hire company.

Regardless if you are using a refrigerator or working out of a chiller trailer, it is important to pack the beverages in the order in which they will be used for example, if straight after a wedding ceremony guests are being served sparkling wine and beer the product should be stacked closest to the door, whereas the table wine for the reception could be stacked nearer the back…trust us your service team will thank you for considering this!

You will want lots of ice on hand not only for serving in drinks but for filling drinks tubs if you’re displaying any of the beverages or working in an outside bar environment. For ice that is solely to be used for keeping drinks cool you may like to consider purchasing salt ice rather than standard ice as it keeps the drinks cooler for longer, doesn’t melt as quickly, and is generally a little cheaper than standard ice.

Reduce your event footprint

Set up a recycling station for your empty beverage bottles right at the start of the event. We pack all the empties back into the boxes they came out of and separate any corks or caps or other waste so that when everything is removed at the end of the event the bottles and corks (if there are any!) can be recycled, garnishes can be composted, and we are only adding the smallest amount of consumable product to landfill, if any!


If you are planning to sell alcohol at an event or have a ticketed event, for example an awards dinner, you will be required to have some form of liquor license. Most often you will need to apply for a special license through your local council. Any event that holds a license to serve alcohol will be required to have a licensed manager on duty. Many caterers can provide a licensed bar team and we often take our Collective Concepts service team out to work at various weddings and events for our clients.

A good service team will not only ensure that your guests have a wonderful experience and that host responsibility is maintained, they will work methodically and professionally to keep on top of beverage levels to you don’t run out, rinse and wash glassware as required, ensure that the recycling system is managed throughout the event, and most importantly ensure everything is cleaned up and packed away at the end of service.

Service teams will often come equipped with drink display buckets, ice bins, openers and tongs, trays and other service equipment, so you have one less thing to arrange.

Remember to order the various accompaniments that your drink selection may require. For example if you’re serving Corona you may like to have lemon or lime wedges available, or if you are serving water in drink dispensers it is nice to flavour these up with various fruit combinations such as strawberry and mint or cucumber and lime.

Of course you may also need to consider other service items such as straws. If you are thinking about the environment during your event there are many compostable paper straw options on the market or you could look to use metal straws for a more sophisticated look.

As always, if we can give you any advice specific to your upcoming wedding or event please get in touch to book a complementary consultation.

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