Wedding reception math: How to know how much you need of everything

(ARA) – Acting as your own planner can help save money on your wedding reception. From ordering wedding napkins and favors to deciding how much cake and drinks to have on hand, you can keep a handle on costs by self-managing as many reception-related tasks as possible.

But how do you know how much to buy? Buy too little of any important item and you could run out, leaving guests hungry, thirsty and disappointed. Buy too much and you’ll waste money and be faced with the challenge of getting rid of leftovers.

The reception experts at My Wedding Reception Ideas.com, a leading online resource for brides seeking unique wedding favors, wedding decorations and wedding supplies, offer these tips for calculating how much you’ll need of key reception items:

Beverages

With all the dancing and celebrating they’ll be doing, your guests are sure to work up a thirst. It’s important to calculate the right amount of beverages to buy so you don’t run out. A good rule of thumb is to plan for one drink per person, per hour. You may need more or less depending upon the make-up of your crowd. Lots of kids? You’ll probably need less alcohol and more soft drinks. Plenty of adults who love a good party? You may need to adjust the amount of alcohol accordingly. Here are some averages to give you a starting point:

* Beer – Three to four beers per person.
* Champagne – Two glasses per person (mostly for the toasts).
* Wine – Three quarters of a bottle per person. One bottle of wine or champagne yields about six to seven glasses.
* Soft drinks – Three to four servings per person. A 2-liter bottle holds seven to nine drink servings.

It’s always good to err on the side of caution and order more than you think you will need – about a third more is standard. Check with your distributor before you order; some will allow you to return unopened bottles.

Food

If you’ll serve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before the reception, limit this time to an hour or 90 minutes – you don’t want guests filling up before the main event. Estimate three hors d’oeuvres per person, per hour – roughly five per person for the entire time. If your reception will be a cocktail/hors d’oeuvres event without a sit-down dinner, increase your calculations to 12 pieces per guest. If you’re serving a sit-down dinner, one plate per person per course should be your starting point. You may choose to ask the kitchen/caterer to have some extras on hand in case anyone requests seconds or some last-minute guests arrive.

For the wedding cake, simply tell your baker how many guests will attend and they can recommend the size cake you’ll need. It’s good to estimate more servings than invited guests as some may want seconds or bring last-minute additions to the party. If you’ll serve desserts other than cake, estimate one to two servings per guest.

Napkins

Personalized or plain, linen or three-ply, wedding napkins are a wedding reception must-have item. It’s hard to imagine going overboard and having too many napkins, but it could happen – and if it does you may find yourself using those napkins at your first anniversary celebration. To ensure your napkin buying is on target with your needs, follow these guidelines:

* Two to three cocktail napkins per guest for the bar area.
* One cocktail-sized napkin per guest for the cake table.
* One and a half dinner or luncheon napkins per guest at the meal table if you won’t be using linen napkins. For example, if you’ll have 100 guests, plan for 150 dinner napkins.

Finally, favors

This one may seem obvious – one favor per guest. In reality, however, you need to allow for breakage (What if someone drops a box of favors on the way into the reception hall and several shatter?) and guests who may ask to take an extra favor home for a relative or friend who wasn’t able to attend. Increasing your favor purchase by just 10 percent won’t cost that much more, but could allow you to send guests home with an extra favor or two.

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