Working It Out: How Much Party Food You Need - Ellie's Party Supply

Working It Out: How Much Party Food You Need

Whether you are planning a party for six or sixty, you don’t want to be the host that runs out of food for your guests! 

Planning for the holidays or birthday parties, it can be stressful! Between family gatherings and buying gifts, there’s a lot of planning. Hosting a party of your own shouldn’t be a daunting task, though! 

First, make a plan. With a bit of planning, this will be key to get your hosting off to a good start. Make a list, figure out the details (including decorations), and check it twice.

Second, work that plan. Now that you are organized, you will be able to work out just how much party food (and drinks) you will need to prepare to have a successful and fun party! 

If you're unsure about where to get started, let us help you with a list of ideas to start your checklist. 

How to Calculate How Much You Need

While there’s no perfect formula, in the event you have no-shows or a few friends bring guests, here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

This website has a great tool to help you guesstimate the amount of food with your total number of guests and whether or not you want leftovers! 

Other things to take into consideration are the season, age range, and the time of day! 

Drinks (non-alcoholic)

Whether you are hosting a children’s birthday party or a family BBQ, drinks will be needed. You don’t want anyone, child or adult, to go thirsty! 

Drinks are a bit easier than food. If you happen to have leftovers, then they can either go in your fridge or into storage until the next party.

For any party, average one to two 8 oz. drinks per hour. Including juice, water, and soft drinks. 

For adults, including a mix of non-alcoholic beverages is a happy medium for all. Add sweet tea to your options or even a crafty mocktail!

Quick Tip: Don’t forget about the ice! Whether it be to keep the beverages cool or to add to the drinks, average about one pound per person!

It’s all in the details! Hosting a baby shower? Tie your beverage area into the theme of your choice with a fun balloon garland! 

Alcoholic Beverages

From hosting a small dinner party to a large birthday celebration, alcohol will probably be on your checklist. Calculation is key here, so everyone can be responsible and not over-served.

For alcohol, calculate one beverage per guest per hour. For wine, one bottle for every two guests (depending on how well you know your guests). 

If beer is on the menu, calculate about one bottle every half hour. Be sure to pick up some brews that you enjoy, in the event there are leftovers. 

For cocktails, one 750 ML bottle will make about 16 drinks. With a quart of mixer for every three guests, this should get you and your guests through the day/evening. 


Hosting a cocktail party would be incomplete without appetizers. Having a little something to munch on is key in coordinating with the drink in hand. 

Depending on if you are hosting a meal after, you should calculate that each guest will have anywhere between four to six bites, per hour. Predict which appetizers will be most popular and round up your estimates!

Quick Tip: Stock up on pretzels and nuts for a quick bite to tide over your guests! 

Hosting a party that only has appetizers and snacks? Create a moody ambiance with a boho garland, you will definitely be the hostess with the mostess!


In lieu of appetizers that are bite size before a bigger dinner, a large option of snacks might be perfect for your next event! 

Hosting a football watch party? Instead of trying to accommodate everyone’s food preference, layout options of veggies, pretzels,  mini-deli wraps, chips and dip, and don’t forget about the sweets! 

Depending on the variety of choice, have 1-2 cups of chips per person. Add two ounces of vegetables per person. And ⅓ cup of dip per person. 

Main Dishes

Delight your guests with a festive dinner table and a full belly. Plan on serving 6-8 ounces of protein per guest. Usually you will have an additional two side dishes. Those should be about ½ to 1 cup per guest.

Serving potluck or buffet style might be a little harder to gauge, but it would be better to be over than under. Assume that your guests will choose a little of each option, making each dish a little smaller. 

Quick Tip: Don’t forget about the condiments! It’s best to have a backup of all condiments, like butter for the rolls and sauces for your main event courses!


The best part about any celebration is a selection of sweet and savory desserts. You want everyone to feel satisfied and not overly stuffed at the end of your party.

Some people just show up for the desserts. And I don’t blame them! If you are serving miniature desserts, plan on two per person. If having a large cake, delegate one 4-ounce slice per person. 

When guests are ready to mosey into dessert, have an inviting table ready for them! A festive backdrop with all of the necessary plates and utensils! 

No matter the celebration, we hope the food and drink is in abundance for all to have a good time! 


Hosting a celebration should be enjoyable, not stressful. We hope this list has helped you work out the details on how much party food you need! 

It may be impossible to be exact, however, the more you host, the better you will get with your calculations! Preparation is key!

Also, we have plenty of great party decorations available at elliesparty, to make hosting a little bit easier for your next event. Sign up to get 15% off your first order!

Happy planning!

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