Don't Buzzkill Your Wedding with Bad Wine

Seven steps to keeping costs down while at the same time serving your guests wine worth drinking.


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Don’t rent the stemware! Rented wine glasses are expensive and often smell of residual detergent. Instead, buy simple wineglasses; most restaurant supply companies offer them, and if you buy in bulk you may get them for less than $2 a glass. Or for an offbeat, fun alternative, consider glass tumblers, available at many big box discount stores. You’ll save even more money. Either way, when the reception is over, you can take them home and you will have a lifetime supply of your wedding glasses.

For white wine values, try Chardonnays from California, Sauvignon Blancs from Chile, Pinot Grigios from Italy and dry Rieslings from Washington. For reds, go with Argentinian Malbecs, Spanish blends from Jumilla, Côtes-du-Rhônes and California Zinfandels. For extra savings, buy some varietal wines in three-liter boxes.

Have your caterer provide a dedicated wine steward for the event. He or she will keep wines properly chilled, have a generous variety open at all times and make it easy for your guests to keep their glasses filled.

For the “Champagne” toast, it’s perfectly fine to set aside one special bottle for the bride and groom. For everyone else, go with Italian Moscato d’Asti or Prosecco. These fresh, lightly sparkling wines work with almost any style of cake, and their moderate alcohol will help to keep everyone safe on the drive home. Coordinate the timing in advance so your server can have the bubbles ready. And offer your nondrinking guests sparkling water or nonalcoholic sparkling cider so they can also toast to your future happiness.

Set up a wine and water bar. Stock it with an equal mix of white wine, dry rosé, red wine and bubbly. If you have friends or relatives who are wine collectors, ask if they have some nice wines that they can donate for the occasion. Often, people with the best wine cellars are begging for a reason to give some stuff away, because they can’t drink it all themselves.

Your wine budget should allow one bottle for every two wine-drinking guests. Avoid exorbitant corkage fees by holding your reception in a venue that will allow you to bring the wine at no extra charge. This requires a bit of research, and it rules out most restaurant and hotel venues, but it will save you a ton of money.

Buy mixed cases to get the case discount (usually 10–15% off), but don’t buy more than three or four bottles of any particular wine. Find a retailer who can help you assemble a nice mix at a price that fits your budget—$100 per case is a good baseline figure.

To read about custom wedding cocktail trends and recipes, click here.

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