How Much for How Many? Helpful Tips for Planning Your Wedding Reception

wedding reception tables

Planning your wedding reception can be a difficult task. How many guests will you have? How much food and drinks should be served? How many napkins should you order? So many questions to be answered as you plan this oh so important aspect of your wedding. Here you'll find some helpful tips and guidelines on quantities for napkins, drinks, appetizers, cake and more. Hopefully these recommendations will help your planning run a little smoother!

Napkins Whether personalized or plain, linen or 3 ply, wedding napkins are an important part of your wedding reception. It is recommended that there be 2-3 cocktail napkins per guest for the bar area. Cocktail sized napkins are also appropriate for the cake table. Here it is acceptable to have 1 napkin per guest since most will only eat one piece of cake. So a total of  3-4 cocktail napkins are needed. If you aren't using cloth napkins at your meal tables, plan for 1.5 dinner or luncheon napkins per person. So if you have 100 guests, plan for 150 dinner napkins.

Drinks A good rule of thumb to plan for drinks and alcohol at your reception is to plan for 1 drink per person per hour. This may take some calculations and it is also important to take into account if your guests are a heavy drinking crowd or not for this will affect the quantities of the following drink estimations. Here are a few average drink amounts per guest during a wedding reception.
Beer: 3-4 per person
Champagne: 2 glasses per person (mostly for the toasts)
Wine: 3/4 of a bottle per person (1 bottle of wine or champagne holds around 6-7 glasses)
Lemonade/Pop: (non-alcoholic drinks) 3-4 servings (a 2 liter bottle holds 7-9 drink servings)  
When ordering your alcohol for your reception it is good to order more than you think you will use, some recommendations suggest ordering 1/3 more than you think. Before ordering, check with your distributer, some will allow you to return unopened bottles after your event.

Appetizers If you are having cocktails and hor d'oeurves served before your reception meal it is suggested that this time be 1 hour or 1 1/2 hours long at the most. For this time is is suggested to serve 3 hor d'oeurves per person per hour. Or roughly 5 per person for the entire time. If you are planning an Hor d'oeurves and cocktail only reception with no dinner to follow, it is recommended to serve 12 pieces per guest with a variety of hot and cold appetizers.

Wedding Cake or desserts are certainly one of the highlights to your reception. If you are serving desserts other than cake, it is suggested to plan for 1-2 servings per guest. Regarding your wedding cake, all you need to do is tell your baker how many guests will be attending and they can recommend to you what size cake you will need. It is good to estimate more servings than guests invited for you may have some last minute guests or some may want seconds!

The above tips and estimations are only recommendations. Your caterer or event hall will also be able to help you with quantities and accurate guidelines as well. Another great rule of thumb for your reception is that it is always better to have too much than not enough! Nobody likes a hungry reception guest!

Image Credits: Reception tables from Meeting House Grand Ballroom

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