Planning for a wedding (congratulations!) can be time consuming and sometimes a little stressful, especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget or have to work within certain conditions at a venue. We asked our party planner extraordinare Grant, from our London Bridge shop – The Arch, to talk us through how he advises couples to buy wine for the big day.
How to work out a basic budget
- To calculate a budget for wedding wine, work on half to three-quarters of a bottle of wine per adult, depending on whether your family and friends are thirsty drinkers, plus a glass of sparkling wine for the toast (you get 6 normal size flutes/glasses per bottle of sparkling wine, and 4-5 glasses of still wine per bottle). When you know the quantity of wine required you can easily work out a budget.
- If there is a bar or if there are other drinks such as beers and spirits on offer, this will make a difference to the amount of wine needed, some will take the option of beers if it’s available. Generally, look at a 40/60 split between red and white wine, though in summer you may want to favour more whites or, if you know your friends and family are big red wine drinkers, then, more red. Think about the guests as you probably have a good idea of what everyone drinks already.
- If you’re providing your own wine, remember that you may have to factor in a corkage charge (see below) on each bottle.
- Venues may offer a corkage option to you, where they will open and serve wines you purchased elsewhere. As they generate a fair amount of revenue from selling wines at a ‘mark up’, this is a way for them to recoup some revenue if you decide not to use their wines for your wedding.
- However, bringing your own wine is almost always a better way of spending your budget. Do a tasting with the venue’s wines, and also ask what the corkage charge is as it differs from venue to venue. Then taste some wines with a wine merchant, and compare the value including the corkage. You may find spending £7-£10 a bottle plus the corkage gives you a better value wine and probably one that suits your palate/requirements more.
- Bear in mind that when buying a large amount of wine, such as for a wedding, the case price may be lower than buying bottles individually so make sure to ask the wine merchant to price for the amount of bottles you actually need.
How to choose wine at the tasting
- Unless you completely trust the person making the recommendations always taste the wines on offer as there are good and bad examples of each and every wine style.
- As a general rule try to avoid extremes of flavours or styles as you are catering for many people with different palates: not everyone likes Hunter Valley Semillon and Red Sancerre for instance.
- Generally, steer clear of too much sweetness/dryness/tannins/acidity/body though, in some cases one or some of these extremes may suit your menu and you should be tasting with the food in mind. Certain wine styles will clash with certain foods, Chablis and reds with high tannins don’t go with spicy food for instance, and a white with reasonably high acidity should accompany a smoked salmon starter.
Using your wedding wine budget wisely
- How to use your budget wisely – i.e. sparkling v Champagne. There is a romance associated with Champagne especially at weddings. Choosing a Traditional Method sparkling wine (made the same way as Champagne, just not in the specific town) from outside of Champagne is completely acceptable and will certainly make the most of the budget.
- If the budget is tight for the still wine, then choose a lower cost red as it will generally be (though not always) more palatable than a cheaper white. A good wine merchant will be able to help you here, and you should always taste the wines you’re going to serve.
- If you’re using a caterer or having a wedding at an unconventional venue, check if the caterer charges for using their glasses. At Laithwaite’s we do free glass hire which could also save some money.
Delivery and quantity
- When getting wines delivered to the venue or the caterers always leave a few days spare if possible just in case something goes wrong with the delivery, so where possible avoid delivery on the day (if your merchant is just down the road this won’t matter so much).
- Most merchants will have a sale or return policy. We allow you to return up to 25% of your order (unopened, in resaleable condition) thus leaving leeway so you don’t run out of wine! You might also want to keep a few bottles as a reminder of the day?
- Also remember to find out if there will be a delivery charge. If you organise your wedding wines through one of our shops then we offer a special Wedding Service with free of charge delivery in the UK but this could add on up to £1 per bottle if there is a fee.
Always seek objective advice on wine styles when tasting (your wine merchant or sommelier at the venue should be able to provide this) and if possible take a friend or two along to offer more opinions on the wines. You’ll have a lot of important decisions to make so why not share this rather enjoyable task with some friends!
Generally the best value can be found when spending £8-£14 a bottle. If you can afford more, great!