Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Choosing Wine for Your Wedding: 5 Tips

wedding-champagne-chocolates image by Andrew McMillan

I don’t know how brides do it.

Flowers, cake, invitations, reception hall, ceremony site, dress, choosing bridesmaids, photographers, videographers, transportation, caterer, wine, guests, and more . . .oh my! The number of decisions you have to make for a one-day event is simply staggering. And you want it all to be just perfect.

So when it comes to the wine selection for your big day, though it’s just one decision among many, you want it to be right too. But there are a lot of questions to consider:  How much wine do I buy?  Which wines do I buy?  Which wines will go well with the reception dinner or buffet?  How much is the wine going to cost, and where am I going to buy it? It’s a lot to consider, but it really doesn’t have to be stressful.

So, how do you get started choosing?

Well, if you’ve booked a venue where you’ll be relying on the wines they provide, then not to worry, your decision is going to be much easier, if a little more restrictive and run-of-the-mill.

But if you’ll be purchasing the wine yourself, you’re going to need a few wine shopping guidelines.  To reduce the stress, remember that the wines you select do not need to please the palate of a wine connoisseur, unless you or your honey happen to be one, and having the very best wine is important to you.  At the end of the day, you probably just want to have some nice wines on hand that are interesting, tasty, and don’t break the bank.

There are many wines that fit that description, so not to worry.  And I’m going to tell you how to get started finding them.

I’ve developed an in-depth knowledge of tasty, interesting, value-priced wines and where to get ‘em, from my years of being a wine enthusiast, service industry professional, seeker of wine values, and writer of this blog, so . . .

Here’s how I would do it if I were planning my own wedding wine purchase:

1. Visit with your local wine retailer of choice, and tell them you need guidance on buying wine for your wedding.

If you have a favorite place where you regularly shop for wine, they will be happy to help you choose the wine, guide you on how much you’ll need to purchase based on your guest count, and suggest interesting, value-priced wines, based on your budget. 

Smallish, local wine stores are your best bet, because the staffers there will know A LOT about wine, and know the store’s wine inventory intimately, so they’ll likely have lots of good suggestions for you. 

If you shop at World Market, Costco, or Sam’s Club, you’ll have a large selection of wines to choose from, but you won’t get the same kind of personalized attention and service.  And if you buy wine from a small, local retailer, some will even deliver the wines to your reception.

2.  Buy by the case, it’s less expensive.

Many wine retailers give 10% -15% discount or more on case purchases, so it makes sense to buy this way.  A case is 12 bottles. 

When you’re buying by the case, you can buy wines of all one wine in the case, or you can buy a mixed case – which means your 12-bottle case can be made up of several different wines.

Some retailers will give you a deeper discount on cases of all the same wine, and a bit lesser of a discount on a mixed case, and some give the same discount no matter how your case of wine is put together.

3. Know which wines work best for your reception particulars.

The specific wines you choose for the reception are going to depend on several factors, including the format of the reception, your menu, the time of year, and the time of day.

Winter weddings and heavier food may necessitate having more red wine on hand than white, summer weddings may be better off with a selection of white wines and light, fruity reds or rosé, outdoor receptions in the hot summer months will do well with crisp, low-alcohol whites and reds, and so on. And of course you want to choose wines that complement your menu.

4. Know your guest count and wine budget. 

When working with a local wine retailer, these two pieces of information are going to come in very handy.

Here’s how to figure out how much wine you’ll need:  A standard 750-ml wine bottle holds 25 ounces; which is the equivalent of five glasses of wine. 

Most caterers count on each guest consuming one-half bottle of wine, or about two glasses, every two hours. If the party lasts four hours, count on one bottle per person. This might seem like a lot, but these calculations allow for the fact that some folks will drink more, some less and some not at all. 

So, if you have 100 guests and a 4-hour party, that means 100 bottles of wine, or about 8 ½ cases, so let’s just say 10 cases of wine, for ease of math. You can find nice, interesting wines in the $10-$12 per bottle range, meaning a case will set you back about $120-$144, and with a 10% case discount, that brings your total down to $108-$130 per case, before tax.  So in this scenario, with a wine budget of $1400, you can get 10 cases of wine, or 120 bottles. 

Obviously this is just a rough estimate, because not every bride is going to have 100 guests and a 4-hour party, and some wine retailers may give you a deeper discount than what I’ve calculated here, so just use this as a guide to get your own calculations started. 

5. Gather as much knowledge as you can before making your choices by attending local wine tastings – FUN!

There are many tastings all over our lovely city on most nights of the week, and most are free.  In fact, there are at least a dozen good local tastings I go to regularly to discover great new wines, bargain and otherwise.  This is a terrific way to find the perfect wines for your wedding, as well as explore your personal tastes and develop your palate, all at the same time.  Highly recommended.  : )

There are lots of wine brands that consistently deliver good quality at very fair prices, so you should be able to find something nice, no matter what your wine budget. If you want to get a lot more bang for your buck with your wine purchase, then I suggest you buy by the case, choose wine from lesser known producers with a good reputation, and buy wines from up-and-coming or lesser know wine regions, like South America and Washington State, for example.  Also, knowing something about wine and your own personal preferences by attending tastings will help you hone in on some marvelous wine bargains.


(Now, if all this seems like too much to deal with on top of everything else you’ve got going on during this very busy time, I offer wine consulting for weddings. I can help you source and select the wine for your big day, or give you a guided wine tasting to help you identify wines that fit your taste and budget.  For more information on these and my other services, please visit my website here.)

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


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