Drinks can be a bit tricky, because it's too easy to fall into the expectation that you must please everyone. You certainly don't have to, but you can try to please the most people, which often means offering up a mix.
That mix of drinks should be whatever you are comfortable offering. We supplied the soft drinks for our wedding reception, which meant that we were able to appeal to a variety of soda drinkers (Pepsi and Coke alike). My comfort level tends to extend to providing what I know - I'm not a mixologist, so that typically means I like to offer a mix of soft drinks, maybe punch, water, wine, and beer.
But how much? Well, I like this post at A Practical Wedding which lays out an approximation for how much alcohol you would provide at a wedding. The recommendation within is to plan for one drink per person per hour, which seems to be pretty standard. At a party I've found this rule to be pretty much the same, so I plan accordingly. For how much, I would use the recommendation in the APW post, but for what? Well, I have a few recommendations:
- I consider soda and water to be necessities. If your group is small and you know pretty much nobody is going to drink, consider just offering soda (two liter bottles are fine, just make sure you have plenty of ice and cups), water, and maybe iced tea if you are tea drinkers (we offer sweet tea). You can ask your guests to BYOB for alcoholic drinks if they want to imbibe.
- If you want to offer alcohol, beer and wine are safe bets. I like to offer a white and a red (or one or the other depending on your group. Most of my friends are white-wine drinkers so that's what we go with). For beer, you want to choose something familiar in addition to something fun. If your group likes Miller or Coors that's totally fine. You can add your favorite craft beer to the mix, too.
- Into mixed drinks? Have a well-stocked fabulous bar cart? Go for it! Make sure garnishes are available (and if possible, pre-sliced and ready to go). Alternately, have a group that loves a specific cocktail? Make a pitcher so it's ready to go when the party starts.
- Go BYOB. This is definitely an option, depending on the party you're throwing. If you go this route, try to have at least one other option available, just in case. Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, Sprite and Coke, tea and water - something you like to drink in case it goes untouched - for anyone who may not bring their own, or who wants another option.
Above all: choose what you are comfortable with. If you aren't comfortable serving or offering alcohol: don't. It's OK and nobody will think less of you for not offering. You can let folks bring their own, and you can offer help calling cabs if needed, as well. It's cliche, but drink responsibly, serve responsibly, and don't go outside of what you're comfortable doing!
Next week I'll be wrapping up this series with a post about decor! Stay tuned!