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How Much Food and Drink Should We Order for Our Wedding?

Wedding guests engaged in conversation while having lunch

Tiffany Tullgren

December 6, 2022

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Food is often a crucial aspect of your wedding reception, especially if you’re also serving alcohol. It’s also a wonderful way to share culture and heritage or a theme with those joining you, so when planning a menu for your wedding, take a moment and be thoughtful about what you’re considering serving your guests.
 
Whether hosting a potluck or hiring one of our favorite local caterers, it’s better to order more food than not enough because you want to ensure your guests are satisfied with the reception! Most couples rely on a caterer to order food for their wedding, but their calculations are only as good as your guest count.
 
If you’re the one estimating food amounts, this easy-to-follow guide outlines the ideal food order amount per guest count. Cheers and happy planning!
 
Photo of catering staff serving Mexican food taken by Ashton Imagery

Consider Your Theme

If you’ve chosen a theme for your wedding, you can research which foods you would like to serve and which would go well with the other elements of your event. For example, if your wedding will have a rustic country theme, you might have a catered barbeque to fit this concept.
 
Other couples choose to include some of their favorite foods on the menu, or serve food that reflects their heritage and culture. Logan and Megan, for example, held their reception at the Rough & Ready Vineyards and planned their menu around the groom’s Hispanic heritage.
 

Keep Food Allergies in Mind

Once you have established what type of food you would like to serve, you may consider your guest’s food allergy needs. People can be allergic to all kinds of things, including gluten and nuts, so it can be a good thing to consider these types of allergies when planning your menu.
 
Another option is to make sure that if ingredients have any of the common allergens in them, label them on the service table clearly. Ensure that the wait staff and/or servers are well-versed in which foods contain what. You don’t want your guests to be waiting for an answer as to whether they can take a bite of their food or not!
 

How to Calculate Food and Drink for Your Reception

When it comes to portion sizes at a wedding reception, there is no one answer for every situation. There are many things you’ll need to take into consideration before determining how much food to have on hand for your guests. You’ll need to consider aspects like whether your event is in the daytime or nighttime.
 
Photo of head table at Rough and Ready Vineyards wedding by Darling Photography

If Your Wedding Reception is in the Daytime

Appetizers
If your reception is during the day, you’ll likely be able to serve less food per person, and you can do lighter foods. Often you won’t need to plan on serving an appetizer for a daytime event, but there’s no right or wrong!
 
Consider three to five servings per person per hour when offering appetizers at a daytime reception before a meal. If you’re only offering appetizers, consider six to eight pieces per person per hour. Remember that if you’re serving alcohol, be careful in selecting appetizers. Make sure at least one of your choices includes a little bread or rice.
 
Side dishes
You can plan on offering a smaller portion of the side dishes if you’re planning a big meal with appetizers, a main course, sides, and dessert. With a green salad, rice dish, or pasta side, you can end up with vats of side dishes left over if you don’t plan carefully!
 
You can plan on between three and five ounces of potato or pasta salad, around one to two ounces for a rice dish, and a one or two-ounce portion of green salad with a large meal. Consider offering four to six-ounce portions for the potato, pasta salad, or an additional ounce of rice and green salad side dishes if there are no appetizers.
 
Main dish
When you host your wedding reception during the day, the main dish can be any number of items, from baked, fried, or barbequed meat to sandwiches. If you’re opting for the meatier side of things, you can plan for up to four to six-ounce per person for poultry, fish, or meat and six to eight-ounces for any vegetarian option.
 

If Your Wedding Reception is in the Evening

Appetizers
Many of the same rules apply to a dinner menu as a lunch plan. If you’re offering a big main dish with lots of sides, you can lighten up on the portions for the appetizers, providing four to six pieces per person per hour.
 
If you’re planning on having a happy hour that is more than an hour long, you might offer six to eight pieces per person per hour.
 
Side dishes
You can plan on serving four ounces per person for a vegetable or potato side dish. Two ounces per person is sufficient for rice and other grain side dishes. If you’re serving a green salad, two ounces per person will be plenty with your evening meal.
 
Photo of a dessert table by Katelyn Bradley PhotographyDesserts
When planning the dessert, you’ll want to work closely with your caterer to ensure you get what you envision for your wedding. For example, if you’ve chosen a traditional wedding cake as the dessert, you can plan for one slice per person. If you also have ice cream, you can serve five ounces. But if it’s served with the cake, you can plan on serving three ounces of ice cream on the side.
 
You can typically plan around four-ounce servings to be adequate if you opt for a different kind of dessert.
 

How Many Beverages Should I Have on Hand?

Whether you have a daytime or evening affair, it is most important to make sure that you have enough beverages for your guests.
 
Whether your wedding will be held during the day or evening, there are many options to make sure your guests stay properly hydrated.
 

At a Daytime Wedding

With a daytime wedding in a summer month, you’ll want to be sure to have plenty of water on hand, as the last thing you need is someone passing out due to dehydration! Water can be served in many creative ways now that plain water isn’t the only choice.
 
Infused water is quite popular, and you or your caterer can infuse your water easily by adding slices of cucumber, lemon, lime, or mint. Planning on your guests drinking three glasses of water is a good idea (and feel free to remind them that drinking water is a good idea to stay hydrated).
 
If you want to serve wine during your daytime event, plan on two people to one bottle of wine, depending on your crowd. If your event is longer than two hours, you can prepare an additional half bottle per person after the first two hours.
 
Serving beer is quite common for an outdoor wedding, either by the keg or bottle. If you’re serving by the bottle, you can plan on two per person per hour. If you’ve tapped a keg, you can expect two beers per person per hour. Some will drink more, some less, but you won’t be in danger of running out!
 
You should stock up on soft drinks and juice if some of your wedding guests are kids. At a dry celebration (one that serves no alcohol), you can plan on three beverages per person per hour and a liter of water for every three of your guests.
 
Athena Kalindi Photography took this photo of a bartender at the Rough & Ready VineyardsAt an Evening Wedding
With an evening wedding, you may end up serving quite a bit of alcohol. You can plan on one bottle of wine per two people per hour and two bottles of beer per person per hour.
 
Remember that when calculating how much to order, not everyone in your crowd will drink beer, wine, soda, and water, so be sure to think of how many of your friends and family drink what and order accordingly. If you don’t know the people on your guest list, take your best guess with the suggestions above and guess how much you’ll need for your event.
 
Another great thing to remember is that if the end of your party comes and there is beer left in the keg and/or wine and soda left over, have plans to take them home! Beverages will keep for some time. So even if you overshot your guest list, you would have plenty to share with friends after the celebration!
 
Remember to serve your vendors. Vendors such as your DJ and photographer will be working for you all day. Be kind and include them when calculating the food and beverage amounts for your wedding reception. This ensures they have plenty of energy to keep going and not miss any of your important moments!
 
Now that your mouth is watering, it’s time to plan out that menu and calculate everything. Contact one of our top local caterers to help you curate your dream menu!

Tiffany Tullgren
Written by Tiffany Tullgren

As Venue Manager for the Rough & Ready Vineyards, Tiffany has a genuine love and passion for planning and organizing weddings. She shares, “Being able to create memories that will last a lifetime for you and your guests is so rewarding. I enjoy making your dream wedding day come true!” Tiffany specializes in personalizing wedding services for each client and handling stressful event situations with grace.

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