Planning a wedding is wonderful and stressful at the same time. With the proliferation of wine tastings and wine classes, the craft beer revolution and the resurgence of cocktail culture, a lot of people have some added stress trying to find “good” wines, beers, and spirits that will impress their guests. But it doesn’t have to be stressful.
Although a wedding, and the party afterwards, is part of “your” day and possibly the best party you will ever attend, a lot of decisions you will have to make are going to be for the comfort of your guestsand their enjoyment. Most likely, you are going to have some extended family to accommodate, and despite your love of artisanal gin and handmade tonic, you’ll want to have things on hand to please all your guests.
Stick to your budget
It’s easy to get swept up in either trying to save a buck or two per bottle or thinking the most expensive wine on the list is the best one. You might be tempted to pay corkage fees and bring your own wine – but this is rarely cost-effective at hotels or venues of that type. Aiming for bottles in the middle of the road is usually safe, but unless you have strong feelings about your price per bottle, see the next point. In short, most good venues won’t have crummy picks on their list.
Go for the crowd pleaser
The most important thing to remember is to go for crowd-pleasing wines that work with a variety of foods or settings. Don’t worry that your second cousin is a sommelier or if your uncle only drinks plonk, it’s about pleasing the masses. Lighter bodied dry white wines and medium bodied reds without too much tannin are your friends here. Whites such as pinot gris or lightly oaked chardonnays are very versatile, while for reds, chianti or valpolicella are great go-to wines, same with shiraz and red blends in general. If it makes you feel better, almost no one will remember exactly what you chose down the road.
Consider having a welcome cocktail at the reception. Either something the bride and groom like, or something created just for the occasion. This is also a great place to have drinks tied to the wedding theme. I’ll tell you right now, there aren’t many wines out there that fit a steampunk-themed wedding, or wines that fit with your passion for collecting art deco vases or rock climbing. For outdoor weddings or events outside a licenced venue, the cocktails can be made ahead of time or in a punchbowl – helpful for getting drinks in thirsty guest’s hands quickly (though be sure to have a non-alcoholic version for the kids or some guests.
These are tricky wines, the toasts are very important and people love giving them, but most people don’t drink champagne or sparkling wine outside of special occasions. My advice is to not worry too much about the wine here. If your budget includes champagne (the French stuff) by all means… if not, look to Cava (from Spain), Crémant (sparkling wine from France, but not from Champagne), or sparkling wine from Canada or the US. Prosecco is also a solid choice here.
Beers and Spirits
Unless you are hosting the wedding at a private venue, such as home rather than a hotel or such, you most likely won’t have to worry too much about beer and the hard stuff. My suggestion if you do? Pick about 3 beers. Keep them simple, and pick a light beer, a slightly bigger one such an ale, and maybe an import. With local craft beer being so good and so popular, you might want to consider inviting them to the wedding.
With the hard stuff, if you are supplying it, the retail shop you use should be able to recommend suggested quantities for each, but buy a brand you like, in the price range you are comfortable with. It might be your house bourbon or vodka for a while. If you must have something special (i.e. a special aged whisky for the girls or bubblegum-flavoured vodka shots for the groomsmen) this is the time to get it.
How much alcohol do you really need?
You know your guests best. If they are quite the “bon-vivants”, you might need to scale up your numbers, while some groups just don’t drink very much. If you are bringing your own alcohol to the venue, ensure that the staff won’t just pull the corks on everything ahead of time, and make sure to ask at the store you are purchasing from about returning unopened bottles.
Generally, most “average” groups will drink about 1 drink per person per hour of the function – but you won’t want to run out. A party of about 150 guests will consume about 3 cases of wine (split among white and red), about 15 dozen beer, and about a case or so of mixed spirits. Plus whatever you need for the toasting. Most good liquor stores will have a pretty good idea of the quantities you need, but there are several drink calculators online which are helpful.