Season or Time of year
Time of day
Activity level....a dancing fool needs to re-hydrate!
The first must have drink is water!
Punch versus soda? Either / or ......but not both. From my experience if you have both, the majority of the guests will grab a soda and you could be left with copious amounts of punch base. If you want to trim the budget punch is a good option.
The key to a good punch for a reception is to have one that is not too sweet. Angel Punch is one of the favorites of my clients....there was never any left over. It is refreshing without being overly sweet. Did you know that if a punch is too sweet it will not quench the thirst, but will have the opposite effect and make you thirstier?
Soda - The next question is individual cans or liter bottles? My clients usually opted to purchase cans, for several reasons. A large assortment of soda flavors can be offered, it is easier to put the cans in a large container and add ice to chill, you don't need to rent or purchase additional glasses, or calculate how much additional ice you will need to put in the glasses. At the end of the evening there are no open liter bottles of soda that have to be dumped down the drain. There might be a few stray cans with a little remaining soda to be emptied at the end of the evening...which are much easier to deal with. If there are leftover cans of soda sitting in the ice...drain any water out of the tub, (keep the ice) put any leftover food on top and place in a vehicle to be taken back to the house. Many times there was enough ice in the tub to keep everything cold until late the next morning, which is good because everyone is going to be tired when they get home. Note: soda is not always cheaper at the box stores. Watch your local paper for sales on soda....you will save a substantial amount of money. Plus you can pick up a variety of flavors over a period of time.
Keg, Bottles of Cans?
This can be the area where a DIY reception differs from a catered reception in a hotel banquet hall and several factors come into play.
1 large bottle each Tequila, Gin
1 bottle Vermouth
1/2 bottle each Rum, Scotch, Vodka, Whiskey
2 bottles each Red, Blush and White Wine
36 cans Lite Beer
18 cans Beer
3 cans Non-alcoholic beer
12 cans each Cola and Diet Cola
6 cans 7-Up
3 cans 7-Up Diet
3 liters Club Soda, Ginger Ale
6 liters Tonic, Bloody Mary Mix
1 Gallon Orange Juice
1 Quart Cranberry and Grapefruit Juice
3 Quarts Margarita Mix
And notice that this does not include champagne.
If you decide to have a bar but don't want to include all the various varieties of alcohol or soft drinks, just increase the quantity of those you are serving.
Rule of thumb for computing quantities of various drinks...
Beer - 2 beers per hour per beer drinking guest
Wine - 2 glasses of wine per hour per wine drinking guest
Soda - 2 sodas per hour per soda drinking guest
Water - 1 bottle per guest
Drinks for Children
Offer juice boxes for the children. They are usually running around so much that the cans of sodas will get warm before they are finished and will be left sitting on the table.
Other budget helpers. Check party supply stores for drink stirrers. If you are using disposables plan your drink menus so glasses can be purchased in bulk.