Raising a Glass

Wines and weddings are a perfect match. There are few ways more appropriate to celebrate one’s nuptials with family and friends than by raising a glass to future joys. Before you decide upon your wedding wines, there are a few guidelines that may help you to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of wedding reception planning.

You’ll want to allow for four glasses per bottle when planning the amount of wine to be purchased. At four glasses per bottle, that means that four guests will receive a generous pour from each bottle. That being said, if you are expecting, say, 200 guests, you’ll need to purchase at least eight cases, with each case allowing for approximately 48 pours, and each guest, ultimately, receiving two generous pours. Because some guests will not drink at all, or some will only have one glass, while others have three glasses each, quantities should balance out. It’s always a good idea to purchase an extra case or two, but be careful to not buy too much, as mindless over-drinking at receptions can be problematic.

Following the 200-guest example, you’ll want a balance between red and white wines. For summer weddings that may be occurring on very hot days, you may want that extra case or two you purchase to be white wine, as guests may desire something lighter to drink during warm weather. Aside from wine, you may want to offer sparkling wine, champagne, cava (Spanish sparkling wine), or prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) while serving guests the wedding cake. Make sure to have non-alcoholic sparkling wine on hand. Most weddings have at least one expectant mother as a guest, and children appreciate being included in toasts. Quantities for sparkling wine, champagne, or cava should be lower, with only one pour per guest—enough for a toast. For 200 guests, you would need about four cases.

Many event sites give you the option of purchasing wine through their caterer or business. This is certainly true for wineries. Some even make it mandatory. If this is the case, make sure that you are not being double-charged a corkage fee if you are purchasing wines from your event site purveyor. If they allow you to opt out of having to purchase their wines, or wines they carry on their regular menus, make sure that you’re not charged too high a corkage fee. Corkage fees should be open for negotiation, and respectable businesses will be open to this.

Perhaps most importantly, speak to your caterer or service staff about staggering the service of wines. You don’t want to make all of the wine available at once by putting bottles on the tables for guests, as you may run out of wine too quickly, and it’s hard to monitor over-drinking when all of the wine is made available upfront.

Lastly, it’s a faux pas to provide the wedding party table with better wine than the rest of the guests. For a truly intimate, friendly, and equitable wedding reception, all guests should be served the same wines. If you want to give your wedding party something special to taste, the rehearsal dinner is the best time for that.

Now, for the fun part, here are a few suggestions for reasonably priced, but delicious wines:


Cava is Spain’s version of champagne and is made using the same methods as French champagne. A highly drinkable and enjoyable cava is made by Freixenet, and comes in an elegant black bottle. It can be found in many local stores and is delicious. Freixenet Brut, Spain, $10 /bottle.

Prosecco is Italy’s version of sparkling wine. I love proseccos and find that they are a great value for the quality. Many are light, delicious, and affordable. Folonari Brio Prosecco, Italy, $9/bottle. “Sparkling wine” is what we call champagne here in the United States. There are some very pleasant sparkling wines available today that are elegant and flavorful. Domaine St. Michelle Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Washington, $9/bottle.

Champagne: Ironically, the home of champagne has fewer, inexpensive, delicious sparkling wines. Most attractive champagnes begin at and above the $20/bottle mark. But here’s one that’s fun to drink: Saint Hilaire 2002 Limoux Blanc de Blanc Brut, France, $11/bottle.

White Wine

Happily, it’s hard to find a really bad Californian white wine out on the market. Thanks to advancements in the cellar, most reasonably priced white wines, barring unusual problems like cork taint, etc. are rather appealing. Here are two choices that pair well with salads, lighter-styled appetizers, and seafood or chicken entrees. Camelot 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, $8.99/bottle; Beckmen 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast, $12/bottle.

Red Wine

Inevitably, at your party, you’ll have relatives present who don’t normally drink red wine. Many will say they don’t like wines that aren’t sweet, and that red wine is typically too bitter for them. So, it’s important to find a red wine that is easy to drink and has a pleasant mouth-feel. Here are two that I consistently enjoy: Beringer 2003 Founder’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $10/bottle; Bogle 2003 Petite Sirah, $8.99/bottle.

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