5 steps to creating a wine list that you and your guests will love
Congratulations! She said yes. The date was saved. And the cake has been tasted. But has the wine?
In a recent poll The Knot found 57% of couples rank food and beverage as the most important aspects to focus on during the wedding planning process with 79% offering open bars and 51% champagne toasts to give their guests a celebration to remember. And wedding guests felt similarly with 40% of them expecting to party with complimentary alcoholic drinks. While some may find planning the drink menu for their wedding stressful, it doesn’t have to be.
How much wine should be served at a wedding?
Before you can begin planning the wine menu for your wedding, you need to first collect answers to a few questions:
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is how many 21+ people are you expecting at your wedding?
Next, you’ll need to know how many hours your wedding reception (including the cocktail hour) is planned for.
On average, wedding guests drink 2 drinks the first hour and 1 each hour after. This means if you are expecting 100 guests over 21 at your wedding and your total wedding reception time is 4 hours, you should plan for at least 500 drinks to be served during that time.
At a high level, there are 3 kinds of beverage services at a wedding. The first is a cash bar where the guests are required to pay for any alcoholic beverage, including beer and wine. The second is complimentary beer and wine. The third option is a full open bar, which also includes mixed beverages and signature cocktails. Depending on the type of beverage menu you’ve selected, the number of kegs, bottles and liquor vary.
Generally speaking, at a wine and beer only event 75% of guests will choose to drink wine and 25% will drink beer. With a full bar option, 50% tend to choose wine, 20% beer and 30% liquor. This distinction matters because it will help guide the number of kegs and bottles that need to be purchased for your reception:
A keg of beer contains 165 12 oz. beers
A 750 mL bottle of wine contains approximately 4 6 oz. glasses
A 750 mL bottle of champagne contains approximately 5 5 oz. glasses
A 750 mL bottle of liquor contains 17 1.5 oz shots
Going back to our example, if you are hosting a 4-hour event with 100 21+ guests, at least 500 drinks are needed. If you’re hosting a beer and wine only celebration, you will need approximately 375 glasses of wine and 125 beers. This means you will need 94 bottles (not accounting for spillage or over-pours) of wine to fulfill the wine portion of the menu.
Because this article focuses on the wine portion of the menu, we’ll cover how to select beer and liquor in future articles.
What are the best types of wine to serve at a wedding?
Now that we know how many bottles of wine are needed for your event, the next step in selecting your wine menu for your wedding is to explore the variety of wine styles available to you and your guests. Did you know there are over 10,000 unique varieties of wine grapes around the world? According to Stacker, there are nearly 65,000 wine producers worldwide, with around 14,000 of those producers located within the United States. Despite the overwhelming variety of selection, you can easily accommodate your guests with a few crowd-pleasers.
The four main types of wine served at weddings can be classified as white, red, rose or sparkling. These are the most popular wine styles featured at weddings. Ideally, you would choose to offer one of each (unless you know your guests favor one style far more than the others).
Pinot Noir Rose
Things to consider when selecting a wine menu for a wedding
Now that you know how many bottles of wine are needed for your wedding reception and have a good idea of the top styles that will go over best with your guests, it’s time to consider a few more things prior to making your final selection for your wedding wine menu.
Your preferences. The most important thing to consider is your personal tastes. This celebration is meant to honor you and your new spouse, so it only makes sense that you would ensure there are a few wines on the menu that are your favorites.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this are to purchase what you drink at home or what you order at a restaurant when you’re celebrating special news. Regardless of cost, you want to sincerely enjoy the wines you offer at your wedding. You also want them to be a reflection of you and your spouse. If German Riesling is how your kick off every weekend, then make sure to have that variety on your menu. Your wedding is an opportunity to extend your household to your friends and family, so only pick wines you absolutely love and would share with friends and family.
Your guests’ preferences. While your tastes take first priority, it’s considerate to take into consideration your guests’ preferences as well. If you’re inviting many craft beer enthusiasts who are less into wine, you can probably get away with a smaller wine menu, making room on your bar (and in your budget) for a wider variety of craft beer options. On the contrary if your friends and family are wine aficionados, you’ll want to have plenty of reds and whites available for them to enjoy.
Time of event. If your reception is taking place in the early evening following a cocktail hour and is planned to go later in the night, then you’ll going to need plenty of refreshments to keep you and your guests dancing the night away. On the contrary, if you’re planning an afternoon lunch and reception, you likely won’t need as many drinks as guests will be less inclined to partake during the morning vs a night reception.
The time of your event can also impact the types of alcoholic beverages you choose to serve. For example, if you are hosting a daytime wedding, you will likely need more of the types of beverages that are associated with day drinking – think champagne, light beer, hard seltzer. Whereas at night, guests are more apt to choose red wines, higher ABV beers and liquor.
Budget. While all of the above are important to consider when planning your wine menu for your wedding, budget is a factor of reality and something you want to respect. The last thing you want to do is go over your budget by 10x and end up with a stressful evening. So how much should you spend on wine for your wedding? Sommeliers suggest that couples spend, on average, $25 to $70 per bottle for their wedding receptions. Based on 100 guests, you would need to provide around 140 bottles for a 60-minute cocktail hour and five-hour dinner and dance party. This would put the wine bill at between $3,500 and $9,800, before adding in other bar costs.
There are some ways you can save on wine for your wedding, which we’ll cover in a future article. At a high level, you can consider:
Bottles vs kegs (yes, wine comes in kegs!)
Offering lower cost bottles to your guests and reserving a few premium bottles for you and your immediate families
Toasting with a sparkling wine (or any drink on hand) vs champagne
Including corking maximums in your contract
Take home policy. Another thing to consider when planning your wine menu for your wedding is the venue or bartending service’s take home policy. If you order 100 bottles of wine and only open 94, what happens to the other 6? Can you take them home or offer them to your guests as a thank you for helping to clean up at the end of the day? If your wedding venue permits this, then ordering a few extra of each style of wine is the way to go – and another reason to only offer wines you love!
Region of your event. Is your wedding being hosted in a region known for excellent wines? Is supporting the local economy and wineries important to you? Do you want to give your wedding guests a taste of something they’ve never had before? If yes, then consider featuring wines from the wineries local to your region or state. Even if you decide to have some old trusties that can be found at any CVS in America, offering a few local options is fun for everyone. Here in the Hill Country of Texas, we’d recommend offering Narrow Path, Bending Branch, Augusta and Becker wines. You could even get one style from each winery and have a “Taste of Hill Country” tasting for each guest. Now that’s an experience every guest would remember!
Before making your final selections for your wedding wine menu, have a tasting.
Just as you wouldn’t order a cake without tasting ALL the options or order a dress without trying it on, think of the wine menu for your wedding in the same way. Since this is a reflection of you, and you’ll be investing a chunk of your budget, it’s important that you absolutely love every wine on your menu. A tasting can be done in a few ways.
At home. There’s no shame in having a private tasting party at home! This is probably the most simplistic way to go about it. Once you have your eye on a few wines, purchase them online or at your local bottle shop (normally you can get a discount for 6 or more bottles), gather a few friends together and pop them open. One of the drawbacks of going about it this way is you will likely not go out on a limb to purchase adjacent wines or those you’ve not yet tried before. Another drawback is it’s DIY, leaving you with the prep and cleanup.
Another at-home wine tasting option is to hire a local sommelier or mobile bartending service to host a private tasting at your residence. The procurement of wines for these tasting options will vary, so be sure to inquire the best way to prep for the event.
Did you know? If you’re in the Texas Hill Country, Off Main Brewing boutique brewery hosts private wine and beer tastings for clients who select the premium Boutique Brewery package. Not only do we work with you to create a custom craft beer recipe to be served at your event and personalize two boutique brewery add-ons, but we host a pre-event tasting for up to 30 people at your place! It’s like pre-gaming for your big day.
At local wineries. Another option for getting your wine tasting done is to visit one or more local wineries. We recommend making a day out of this, identify a few wineries in close proximity to each other and hire a driver to take you from winery to winery. This is a particularly great option if you’re going to offer some local wines at your wedding. It’s always fun to be able to share a personal story or testimonial about why you love and chose that wine to share with your friends and family.
Even better than just an afternoon of wine is spending the weekend touring local wineries. This is easy to do if you’re in a winery-dense area like the Texas Hill Country. There are loads of winery tour companies that would be able to accommodate groups of all sizes. Be sure to take note of the wineries, styles and years that you love most. This would definitely be a weekend to remember for anyone lucky enough to be invited to participate!
So to recap how to build the best wine menu for your Texas Hill Country wedding:
Understand how many total glasses of wine you will need for your length of event.
Decide how you want to divide your total wine by style (red, white, rose and sparkling).
Align on a budget.
Consider your and your guests’ tastes, time of your event, take home policies and locality.
Host or participate in a private or public wine tasting before purchasing the wine for your menu.
As with all aspects of your wedding, don’t let choosing wines for your reception overwhelm you or your spouse. At the end of the day, your family and friends are simply excited to celebrate you and your commitment to one another. The great wine is just icing on the cake!
If you are interested in learning more about Off Main Brewing Boutique Brewery and how we can help make your Texas Hill Country wedding one to remember, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’ll walk you through the process, holding your hand the entire way and deliver a personalized, stress-free event experience and memories that will last for a lifetime.