At nearly every wedding I have been to there has been a gap between the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception. This is the time when the Bridal party and family go off and get their photos done. This can be anywhere between 90 mins and 2 hours.

So, with that kind of time in mind, it’s always nice to organise something to keep your guests occupied – and what better way to do this then provide some drinks and nibbles.

Organising drinks and nibbles can be as simple as engaging a caterer and providing them with numbers and allowing them to do everything, but sometimes this may not be what you and your partner want.

Having been involved with several weddings where the after-ceremony drinks and nibbles were DIY, I thought I would share some of the things I have learnt to make it easier for you to provide the type of event you want.

If you are the bride and want to do preliminary organising, that is fine, but on the day make sure you have someone lined up to take responsibility for the organisation and execution of this section of the day – this will be your designated person.

Set up
Make sure you have discussed your proposal with the venue and been given permission to set up for DIY drinks and nibbles. You will need to check whether this part of the day is included in the price of the venue hire or whether you will need to pay any additional fees.
Speak to your venue and make sure that your designated person has access to the venue to complete setup before guests start to arrive. An introduction via email is a good way to manage this.

When guests are given a champagne or beer they will instantly relax, start introducing each other and striking up conversations, so it is a lovely way for your guests to commence the celebration part of the day.

Here are a few things you need to consider.

Selection of Drinks.
Know your demographic: generally, most groups will consist of 50% beer and 30% wine or bubbles and 20% non-drinkers. If you have a lot of young men in the group up the beer supply; if predominately young women up the bubbles.
Between the bride and groom and their parents you should have a fair idea of who drinks what. Don’t forget to consider if there might be some in the group that would prefer a cup of tea or coffee instead, in particular grandparents or older relatives, and accommodate them by providing this option.

How much per head.
Generally, for a 90 min to 2-hour time-frame you would be looking at least 2-3 drinks per person. You can access one of the many drinks calculators around to determine the number of bottles you need to purchase for the number of guests you’re having. Be aware some of these are on alcohol retailer sites and they have a vested interest in you over catering.

What is your budget for this part of the wedding?
A minimum selection would be beer, champagne, soft drink and water. From here you could add white and red wine but steer clear of any kind of spirits or cocktails as these are expensive and require more equipment.

Best to keep it simple if you have someone volunteering to take responsibility for organising this part of the day.

It is always a good idea to limit drinks if going on to a reception from the ceremony. You don’t want the group intoxicated before they have had a chance to enjoy the reception that you have spent so long planning.

A few more things to consider.

Refreshment before the ceremony – Have people travelled far to get to the ceremony? Is it a hot day? Perhaps offering a non-alcoholic refreshment as they arrive would be a nice touch. Set up a table and put up a drink dispenser or just provide some bottled water.

What time of the day is it? Guest will consume fewer beverages at a morning wedding as opposed to a late afternoon wedding.

What is the weather like? Guests will drink more on a hot day and the temperature will also affect the type of drinks consumed more white wine and bubbly on a warmer day and more red wine on cold day.

Is it going to be self-serve?
Guests will have that extra drink or pour larger glasses of wine if it is self-serve, so take this into consideration when working out how many bottles you will need.

How long since their last meal?
If it has been several hours, chances are people will be thirsty and you may have to consider a higher rate of drinks per person.

Do you want your guest to drink out of plastic or glass?
If glass, then you will need to organise or hire enough glasses for at least the wine and champagne drinkers. Beer drinks are usually OK drinking out of the bottle.

Obviously, with glass, they will need to be washed up at some point, whereas plastic can just be disposed of. Wasteful but convenient.

Check with the venue regarding the use of glass, they may have issues with the potential of glass breakage and the problems this can cause.


Gathering around a food table or having food passed around is always a bit of an ice-breaker for a group of guests. It could be in the form of a casual grazing table or some hired staff (or members of the family) passing around canapés on trays.

Generally, for after-ceremony drinks and nibbles of a duration of 90 min to 2 hrs expect to serve 3 to four different varieties of canapes and 3-4 pieces per person.

For a self-serving grazing table, you would be looking at 4-5 pieces per person (i.e. 4-5 biscuits and pieces of cheese and accompaniment’s).

These quantities will surely tease the taste buds but won’t be enough to spoil the appetite of your wedding guests before going on to the reception.

Again, there are numerous variables that will influence your selection and amount of food to serve:

Do you have access to kitchen facilities at the venue? if not then all the food will need to be
pre-prepared and served cold?

Time of day and the length of time from last meal – If your ceremony is in the morning you will need less, whilst in the afternoon people tend to eat more.

Never under-estimate how hungry your guests will be, especially if they have travelled to get to the ceremony or it is late in the day.

Duration of the event – a long ceremony and photo shoot means your guests will need more food.

Demographics – If you have more men, then order more food; If you have more women, order less food.

• If you are offering tea and coffee as part of the drinks selection, consider providing some sweet treats as well, like a simple selection of artisan biscuits or a few macaroons.

Try to cater to a range of tastes including vegetarians. Not everyone loves cheese or seafood, so make sure there are options.

• Make sure you ask your guests for dietary requirements when sending out invitations, or if this is over complicating things, provide allergy free food options such as dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and egg-free foods.

A simple platter of beautifully cut fruit can cater to those wanting a sweet treat, or who are vegetarians or have allergies.

Image sourced from Pinterest.

Try and keep it simple.

One of the things people remember most at a wedding is the food – so make sure you dedicate as much time to the food as you do to other parts of your wedding in building a wholistic experience for your guests.

Run sheet, checklist and Map.
It’s a good idea to let your designated person/caterer know exactly what you want to happen, when and where.

Give them a run sheet so they know when you expect guests to be ready for the drinks and food and a checklist so they can mark things off as they are getting prepared and setting up. A map of where you want things to go at the venue, including preferred entrance, access to power and water(if needed) tables etc, can just take all the stress and hassle out of the day.

What they will need.
Tables. Are these at the venue? If so, where will they be, or do they need to bring them in? If yes, where are they coming from, how will they get them there?

Tablecloths. Do you want them? Where are they coming from? You will need to know the size and number of tables.

Napkins. These will be necessary if you’re serving food – paper or cloth? Who is providing them, where will they be?

Glassware /plasticware. Decide on which and then organise where they are coming from and what needs to happen to them after the event.

Plates, utensils (cheese knives etc) if needed.

Chairs. Often not needed as you want guests to mingle but if you have some more mature guests a few chairs are always a good idea as standing for an hour or so could be difficult for them.
Are they going to be provided by the venue or do they need to be brought in and set up?
Again, where are they coming from what needs to happen to them after the event?

It’s best to organise the logistics of your event ahead of the wedding so you can have a stress-free day. But don’t let it overwhelm you! A few simple questions to your contact person at the venue will help make sure that everything comes together on the day.

My Checklist of things needed on the day.
For drinks.
It is a good idea to make sure all the drinks are already cold before reaching the venue.
– Selection of drinks. The full list is good.
– Esky and or drinks containers to put drinks in.
– Glassware/ plasticware to drink from.
– Ice.
– bottle opener.
– Bins/boxes for recycling or garbage bags for disposal of rubbish.
– If providing Tea and coffee – Urn or jug, tea, coffee, milk, sugar, cups and teaspoons

For food.
– Selection of food – The full list is good.
– If doing canapes – trays or platters.
– For grazing table-boards, knives, serving dishes and other props.
– Individual plates and napkins.
– Garbage bags for the disposal of rubbish.

Organising after ceremony drinks and nibbles might sound like a bit of a task at this stage. But it is absolutely one of the elements of your wedding day that your guests will both appreciate and remember, so make it as much a part of the experience of your special day as any other. It’s also a great opportunity for you to let someone special be involved in your wedding, so put that responsibility with someone you trust so this part of your wedding can go off without a hitch.

Good luck.