No wedding is complete without the perfect champagne toast, but arriving to that point requires plenty of decisions. Wine and champagne decisions alone include things like what type, how much wine to buy for a wedding and when to serve the wedding wines. Those decisions shouldn’t cause stress. After all, your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. Our guide to champagne and wine for a wedding gives you all the important details to nail this planning task, so you can move on to other decisions like where to seat your guests and which songs to play.
Plan Your Wedding Alcohol Menu
Wedding wine and champagne may not be your only beverage options at your reception. Many couples also serve beer or have an open or cash bar for other alcoholic drinks. Before choosing and calculating your wine and champagne supply, plan your entire alcohol menu to see how it breaks down. If you also have kegs of beer and an open bar, you won’t likely need as much wine or champagne. If wine is your only beverage, plan to get more, as your guests will likely drink it all night. Keep that total beverage picture in mind as you plan the champagne and wine for wedding reception events.
Assess Your Guest List
Your guest list plays an important role in the type of beverages served and the amount of wine and champagne you need. You know your guests best. Do most of them drink? Do many of them not drink at all? Do your guests prefer beer or other drinks to wine and champagne? Will they stay and party into the night, or will many of your guests leave early? Use these factors to help you calculate wedding reception wine and champagne quantities. Your wine-obsessed guest list might rebel if you run out of vino early in the night. On the other hand, you may end up with cases of leftover wine if your guest list prefers water to wine.
Calculate Wine and Champagne Amounts
When deciding how much wine to order, always round up and err on the side of ordering too much wine. This keeps your guest happy and saves you from extra wedding-day stress if the bottles dry up early into the event. You can always use the leftover wine to fill your own wine rack or to give as gifts for upcoming occasions. You probably won’t ever live down the stories about your guests going without wine if you order too few bottles.
Several factors go into calculating quantities of champagnes and wines for weddings. You can use a general recommendation for a wedding wine calculator, but you should also adjust the amount for specific factors relevant to your event. Those factors include:
- When you plan to serve wine: Are you going to serve wine for the entire reception or only during dinner? If you’re popping corks all night, you’ll need a lot more wine. The same question applies to champagne. Will you only serve one glass per guest for the toast, or will you offer it all night at the bar?
- Wedding reception timing: Guests tend to drink more or less wine depending on the timing of the reception. For example, people tend to drink less alcohol at a daytime wedding or weddings that fall on Sundays or weekdays. An evening or weekend wedding may mean you need to increase your wine count to accommodate for increased consumption.
- Wedding reception location: Location is also a factor. If your reception is held at a hotel where most guests are staying, they may consume more wine than they would if they had to drive somewhere afterwards. Likewise, wedding receptions held at wineries tend to bring out the wine connoisseur in your guests, making them drink more than they might at another venue.
- Other drink options: Will you serve other alcoholic beverages? Will those beverages be free, or do you plan to have a cash bar? If wine is the only free option and you’re serving it all night, guests may opt for that instead of the paid options at the cash bar.
- Who is serving: If guests are pouring their own wine, increase the amount you order. Most people are a little more generous than a bartender or server is when it comes to pouring their own drinks. If you have a catering staff member or bartender pouring the wine, specify that you want smaller serving sizes. Some inexperienced servers may fill the glasses more than you want, making the wine disappear faster. The containers also influence the size of pours. Large glasses beg for larger servings of wine. Opt for smaller glasses to keep the pour amounts under control.
- Guest preferences: Are your guests wine drinkers, or do the prefer beer? Do you have lots of non-drinkers on your guest list? Knowing what your guest like to drink helps you determine how much of each type of drink you might need.
- Guest ages: What is the average age of your guest list? If half the guests are kids, you won’t need nearly as much wine as you would for an adult-only wedding reception.
A standard wine bottle holds 25 ounces, which equates to roughly four or five glasses, depending on who is pouring and how much wine goes into each glass. Estimating four servings per bottle gives you a buffer to account for heavy pours or higher than expected consumption.
A general guideline is to assume each adult guest will drink approximately two glasses of wine over a two-hour period, or roughly one glass per hour. Wedding receptions often last longer than two hours from start to finish, so you’ll likely need to increase that amount.
A safe estimate is to account for one bottle of wine per guest unless you are having a short reception or only plan to serve wine with dinner. Add extra wine on top of the one-bottle-per-person estimate to give yourself a buffer if you’re worried about running out. If you have 100 guests, you might order 125 bottles of wine, for example. Adjust your numbers based on the other factors you considered. For example, if you’re also serving beer and having an open bar, you might not need as much wine. You can also decrease your numbers if half your guest list doesn’t drink. If wine is your only beverage or you have many wine-loving friends, you may want to order even more of your selected wine varieties.
Now that you have a general idea of the number of bottles required, you need to determine how many bottles of each type of wine to buy. Most people offer at least one white wine and one red wine option. This gives most guests at least one option they like. An easy option is to do a 50/50 split between the red and white wine. You can also lean more toward one than the other if you know your guests will prefer one type.
Outdoor and summer weddings are often associated with refreshing white wines. If your wedding falls during this time, increase the amount of white wine you order. People tend to drink more red wine in the fall and winter, so bumping up the amount of red wine you order for a fall or winter wedding is a good idea.
Champagne is typically only used for the toast at the wedding, so you won’t need nearly as much of your bubbly selection as you will your main wine varieties. If you don’t like champagne, consider a bubbly wine option. When figuring how much champagne for a wedding reception, consider that each bottle offers about eight servings. This estimate gives each guest a small serving of the sparkler for the toast. If you’re only serving the champagne for the toast, divide the number of guests by eight to determine how many bottles you need. For 100 people, that’s about 12.5 bottles. Round up, and add extra bottles in case the servers pour larger servings. You don’t want any of your guests to have an empty glass for the toast. If you plan to serve the champagne or sparkling wine throughout the night, you’ll need more. Use the same methods as you used for the other wine varieties to estimate how much to buy.
Set a Budget
The alcohol represents only a small part of your overall wedding budget. It’s important to know how much you want to spend on the wine and champagne before you choose the specific varieties and brands. A general guideline is to allot about 15 percent of your overall reception budget to the wine and champagne. The good news is most varieties of wine come at varying price points, starting under $10 per bottle and going up from there. This means you can serve your guest a delicious wine even on a limited budget.
Once you have a general budget in mind, you can determine how to spend it. Figuring out the number of bottles of wine for wedding reception activities helps you narrow down the options. If you have $2,000 to spend on wine and you need 100 bottles, you can spend about $20 per bottle. The math is easy once you figure out your budget and the amount of wine and champagne you need. With your per-bottle cost in mind, you can start sorting through the different varieties and brands of wine to make your best wedding wine and champagne selections.
Explore Wine Varieties
Wine comes in all varieties, from dry to sweet, red to white. If you’re not a wine drinker, you may not know where to start when it comes to choosing the best wines for weddings. Learning about the different varieties helps you narrow down the options.
Wine can be categorized by five main characteristics. Consider the following traits and your preferences when choosing your wedding wines:
- Sweetness: Wines vary in sweetness, from a very dry wine with almost no sugar to very sweet wines. Balancing the sweetness level is often a good idea for wedding wines. An overly sweet wine doesn’t usually pair well with foods, and many people don’t like the sugary flavor.
- Body: Wine generally is described as light, medium or full in body. Lighter wines tend to feel more refreshing, while full-body wines have a substantial feeling that holds up well to strong food flavors.
- Acidity: High acidity in wine is often described as a tart, zesty feeling with a slight tingling sensation. Lower acidity produces a richer, rounder wine.
- Fruit flavors: The fruit flavors you taste in a wine help define it. Some wines have heavy fruitiness with distinct fruit flavors you can pick out as you sip. Others tend to be less fruity and more difficult to identify.
- Tannin: Tannin is a compound in wine that produces a bitterness. While not related to the dryness, wine that is high in tannin tends to make your mouth feel dry. Some people do not like high tannin levels, but tannin can add complexity and balance to a wine.
White wines tend to offer a lighter, refreshing feeling. They span from dry to sweet, with many options in between. Once you narrow down a specific variety of white wine, do some tasting of different brands, as the sweetness levels and even some of the specific ingredient flavors tend to vary from one brand to the next.
Some of the popular white wine choices include:
- Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon blanc is light and crisp, offering a refreshing quality. This versatile wine works well with a range of foods, including chicken, seafood, cheese, oysters and vegetables and is suitable year-round.
- Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio: Pinot grigio offers a light, crisp flavor with pear, lemon, melon and sweet spicy notes. This light white wine goes well with chicken, shellfish, rich fish and pastas. Italian versions, known as pinot grigio, tend to have a steely flavor with good acidity, while the French pinot gris version provides more flavor complexity with a richer flavor.
- Chardonnay: Chardonnay is considered a rich white wine, typically with a creamy texture and intense fruit flavor. If you go with a Chardonnay, stick to an unoaked or lightly oaked variety, which has a stronger fruit flavor. It pairs well with many different types of foods yet is pleasant enough to drink on its own. Chardonnay works well with chicken, shellfish, white fish, pork, veal and vegetables.
- Riesling: Another very versatile white wine, Riesling offers a crisp, aromatic quality, often with a slight mineral touch. Riesling ranges from very dry to sweet, so taste different brands to get the type you want. Riesling works well with almost any food, including shellfish, pork, vegetables and ethnic foods.
Red wine is a classic option and tends to be very popular as well. As with white wine, you’ll find a wide range of flavors and sweetness levels within each variety, so it’s always a good idea to taste before you buy.
When it comes to red wine for a wedding, try one of these options:
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet sauvignon typically features dark fruits, particularly plums, blackberries and black currant. This red wine pairs well with hearty dishes and is the top pick in America for red wines. The full body of cabernet sauvignon works with beef, duck, rich spices and sauces, marinades and other red meat.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot noir is known as a silky wine, using berries, cherries, plums, violets, and warm spices to obtain its flavor. The wine ranges from earthy to fruity, with some falling in the middle of the range. This red wine has a lighter body than some other red wines with low tannins, making it suitable for sipping alone. That light body also lets the wine pair well with a variety of food options, even lighter fare. Try it with duck, lamb, hearty fish and pork.
- Shiraz/Syrah: Both names represent the same wine: an earthy, fruity red known for its dark fruit and herbs with earthy accents, such as leather, tobacco and black pepper. Shiraz is considered a big red wine, making it suitable for red meats, pork, lamb, grilled meats and game.
- Zinfandel: Zinfandel is almost exclusively an American wine, with few other locations growing the grapes. It is a spicy red wine with intense flavors, including dark berries, plums, cherries, chocolate and black pepper. Zinfandel also has a high alcohol content, so consider that fact before serving it at your wedding. Zinfandel pairs nicely with spicy foods, grilled meats, red meat and barbecue.
- Grenache: This red wine appears lighter but offers a medium to full flavor, pulling in berry flavors plus white pepper. Grenache is available on its own or in wine blends. It works well with red meat, lamb, chicken and vegetables.
- Sangiovese: Sangiovese offers a fresh cherry flavor with herbal accents and is often high in acidity and tannins. Newer versions often have lower acidity levels. Sangiovese pairs with chicken, red meat, mushrooms and food with tomato sauces.
Dry rosés offer the best of both words. This variety of wine is quickly gaining ground and becoming a solid choice for wedding receptions, since it falls between white and red wine. A rosé offers the refreshing flavor typically associated with white wine. Yet it also has enough body to stand with substantial foods you might serve, just like a red wine.
Dry rosé tends to have a crisp, fruity flavor without being as sweet as a white zinfandel or similar blush wines. It is a versatile wine option that works in any season and for any time of the day. Rosé is suitable to pair with almost any food options, including chicken, red meat, salads and seafood.
Champagnes and Sparkling Wines
Champagne and sparkling wine is often associated with celebrations, which makes them perfect for weddings. However, the flavors and the appealing bubbles make sparklers a delicious and suitable drink on their own. Dry sparklers in particular work well with foods if you want to offer a sparkling option beyond the traditional champagne toast.
All champagne is actually sparkling wine. The only sparkling wine that can be called champagne is that made in the Champagne region in France. Other names for sparklers include sparkling wine, cava, prosecco, asti and cremant, depending on where it is produced. More important than the name or where it originates is the flavor it offers.
Sparkling wines come in varying sweetness levels, identified by special names. Explore these different levels to find a sparkler that fits your preferences:
- Extra-brut: Driest type of sparkler available; no added sugar
- Brut: Very dry with almost no sweetness; up to 1.5% sugar
- Extra dry: Also known as extra sec; a hint of sweetness without being overwhelming; up to 2% sugar
- Dry: Also known as sec; a little sweeter on the palette; up to 4% sugar
- Demi-sec: Sweet option; often considered a dessert wine; up to 8% sugar
- Doux: The sweetest option; up to 10% sugar
The sweetness level often depends on personal preference, as well as when you will serve the sparkler. If you plan to serve it during dessert, opt for a sweeter sparkler. A demi-sec is usually a good choice. Dry sparklers tend to taste metallic or bitter when served with sweet foods.
Consider these bubbly beverage options to find the best champagne for wedding activities:
- Blanc de Noir: Blanc de noir is a sparkler made primarily of pinot noir. Some types also use pinot meunier. It is generally full of red fruit flavors and has a heavier body than some sparkling wines, with a color ranging from golden to pink.
- Blanc de Blanc: This type of bubbly comes 100 percent from chardonnay with the flavors to match if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Other white grapes can be used if the wine is made somewhere else. This variety tends to have a light, delicate flavor.
- Metodo Classico: Metodo Classico is a style of making sparkling wine, very similar to traditional champagne. These wines tend to have creamy bubbles with a rich body.
- Prosecco: This Italian sparkling wine offers a fruity, aromatic flavor, often with flowery, peachy flavors. Prosecco is a bit on the dry side, although it tends to be sweeter than other varieties. Unlike some wines that improve with age, prosecco is better when it is young.
- Cava: Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling wine. It is produced in the same way as champagne, making it an affordable alternative to the real thing. Cava tends to have a balanced fruity flavor, but it’s not as sweet as prosecco.
- Sparkling Rosé: Sparkling rosés, also known as Rosato or Rosado, work well with food, as they tend to have a fuller body. These sparkling wines are sometimes made with a combination of still red wine and sparkling white wine. Sparkling rosés range in both color and flavor, from a light to a dark pink and from dry to sweet. Test out different varieties before settling on one to get the flavor you want.
Food and Wine Pairing Options
When choosing your wine, consider your food menu for the reception. The best wedding wines complement the main entrée if the wine is being served with the meal. Basic wine and food pairing guidelines apply to your wedding food.
If you’re not an expert in pairing wine with different food, use these general tips as a guide:
- Chicken: Both red and white wine work with chicken, as long as they are light to medium in body. Anything too heavy overpowers the flavor of the chicken. If you want a red wine, try pinot noir, Grenache or sangiovese.
- Beef: Because beef has a richer flavor, you can pair it with a stronger wine. Medium to bold red wines tend to work the best. Try Grenache, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz or zinfandel.
- Fish: A light, dry white wine pairs well with fish. Varieties to consider include sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. If you want a red option, try a rosé or a lighter red wine. Sparkling wines, such as prosecco or cava, also work well with fish.
- Vegetables: Green vegetables work well with light dry white wines, such as sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, as well as sparkling wines. Roasted vegetables also pair well with light white wines, but you can also successfully pair them with rich white wines, such as an unoaked chardonnay. Even a pinot noir, Grenache or similar light red wines work with roasted veggies.
Don’t let food and wine pairings stress you. Consult with your caterer for wine suggestions to go along with your specific menu. Most people will drink the type of wine they prefer anyway, whether or not it pairs well with their meal choice.
You can’t serve every guest’s favorite wine at your wedding, but offering at least some variety helps appease as many people as possible. Start with your own favorite wines — after all, this day is all about you. Add a few more options to your preferred vino types for variety if you want.
The most obvious way to add variety is to choose at least one red and one white wine to serve to guests. Most people prefer one — they always drink red wine or they always drink white wine. While traditionally some people associate white wine with spring and summer weddings and red wine with fall and winter weddings, a more modern approach is to offer both no matter what time of year you hold your wedding. You stand to please the most people by offering at least these two options.
Rosé wines are also a solid choice because they fall somewhere between white and red. This can be a compromise if you only want to serve one type of wine. A dry rosé gives the refreshing feel of white wine with the substance of a red wine to stand up to the food you serve.
If you want to offer more than one white and more than one red wine, start looking at the dry versus sweet varieties — another major factor some people consider in their wine preferences. Some wine drinkers only like dry wines, while others prefer varieties on the sweeter end of the wine spectrum. Offering one dry and one sweet wine, as well as one dry and one sweet red wine, caters to a wider group of your guests. You don’t have to choose the driest white wine and the sweetest white wine available. Simply choose something from the dry end of the scale and something from the sweet end.
Buy Your Own Wine or Order Through Caterer
When deciding where to buy wine for wedding events, you have two main options. You can order the wine through your caterer, or you can buy your own wine. Buying your own wine gives you more control over the brands and options. You can also usually find better prices from outside vendors and retailers. Ordering wine through your caterer may cost you about double the retail price for that specific wine.
However, not all venues or caterers allow you to purchase and serve your own alcohol. Always check with both the venue and the caterer before researching and buying your own wine. No matter how much you love a glass of vino, you don’t want to waste your wedding funds on cases of wine you can’t use on your big day.
Check out the pros of ordering wine through your caterer or wedding venue:
- You don’t have to do much research and check out pricing from different vendors.
- The caterer handles ordering and getting the wine to the venue, so you don’t have to haul cases of wine to your wedding reception location.
- You avoid a corkage fee. Sometimes caterers charge a corkage fee to cover the cost of opening and pouring when you provide your own wine. The fee is typically around $15 per bottle.
Now, let’s explore the pros of buying your own wine:
- You aren’t limited to the options provided by the caterer. While caterers can often order other wines, a wine retailer typically has a wide selection without any special ordering.
- You can often find wine much cheaper, since caterers mark up their prices. If your caterer charges a corkage fee, compare the cost of their wine to the cost of your wine plus the fee. You may still come out ahead if you find a good deal on wine. In general, the more expensive the wine, the more you save by purchasing it yourself and paying the corkage fee. Wine under $15 per bottle may be cheaper when ordered through your caterer. Try to negotiate a lower corkage fee to make your savings even greater.
- Buying in bulk often means you get a discount on wine, making it even more affordable. Many retailers offer discounts of around 10% when you order a case or more of wine at once. Buying wine yourself is already cheaper, but this discount cuts even more money off the cost, giving you more room in your budget.
Add a Personal Touch
Use your wedding wine menu as a way to put your special touch on your wedding day. You can customize your wine selection and presentation in different ways. Consider printing signs to place on the tables or the bar to share why the selected wine has personal meaning to you.
Try one of these ways to add a personal touch to your wedding wine:
- Wine with personal meaning: One option is to choose wine that has significant meaning to you as a couple. Choose wine you shared on a special occasion, such as your first date, first anniversary or the day you got engaged. If you can’t find or afford the specific brand, you can still use the same variety of wine for a personal touch.
- Family heritage inspiration: If you don’t have any specific wine preferences, choose varieties from countries that represent your heritage. Many countries now produce distinct wines, giving you more possibilities.
- Local wine: You can find wine from almost every region of the U.S., so consider choosing from a local winery. Another option is to order wine from a region where you vacation frequently together. If you have multiple favorite vacation spots, choose a few different varieties from those different locations.
- Personalized labels: No matter where the wine comes from, an easy way to add a personal touch is to decorate them with custom labels. Include your names, the wedding date, the wedding location and anything else you want to commemorate.
Buy Your Wine
With your selections in place, it’s time to purchase the wine. If you decide to buy through your caterer, the company will handle the purchase. When buying your own wine, you need to handle all of the research, purchasing and transport to your wedding venue yourself.
Follow these guidelines to help with the purchase:
- Order early: Comparing prices and finding the specific brand you want takes time. Start early to find the best pricing. The order may take some time to process, so check with the retailer to determine how soon you need to order.
- Sample before ordering: Budget is a concern, but no matter what the price range, you may find significant differences in flavor. You may love a merlot from one winery but dislike the flavor of merlot from another. If you can’t sample the wine for free, buy a bottle of the brand and variety you’re considering to ensure you like the flavor. You want to enjoy the wine at your own wedding.
- Go with bigger bottles: If you’re paying a per-bottle corkage fee, buying larger bottles of wine decreases your total fee. Those larger bottles may also be more inexpensive per ounce. Compare pricing if larger bottles are available in the variety of wine you want to serve.
- Buy all at once: Placing one large order for all the wine and champagne for wedding activities at once can save you money. Many wine retailers offer a bulk discount when you order larger quantities of wine.
If you’re ready to buy your own wine for your upcoming wedding, check out Marketview Liquor. We offer case discounts, including mix-and-match case discounts, and free shipping on six of more bottles of wedding wine and champagne marked “Eligible for Free Shipping.” Our wide selection of sparkling wine and champagne gives you the variety you want at a price that helps keep your wedding budget under control.