Spring has trickled by, and summer is wading in. Love is in the air, and we’re basking in the glow of the wedding season. From April to October brides and grooms exchange their vows and celebrate with family and friends here in Western North Carolina. Asheville and its surrounding mountains have become a popular destination for weddings, and June is the traditional peak of the season. So what can you expect when planning for the wine and beer at your reception?
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t the Weinhaus in Asheville, we have been assisting in making these events go smoothly and on budget for over 35 years, so I’d like to share some points on how to make your wedding parties a hit with your family and guests.
While it’s wise to book a number of elements far in advance, such as your favorite venue, caterer, band, or wedding coordinator, filling in the details of procuring wine and beer can be accomplished much closer to the wedding day. In fact, I recently had a customer come in from out of town to buy wine and beer for his wedding—the next day! I definitely don’t recommend cutting it that close, thankfully we carry enough stock to accommodate that situation. It’s better to plan once you know the menu, approximate number of guests, venue location, and, of course, the date when contacting the beverage purveyor. You can save money by contacting a wine and beer merchant directly, rather than assigning that task to a caterer or a wedding venue. A merchant that has a good reputation in event planning can talk you through a realistic number of what you will need considering the time of year, indoor versus outdoor, the menu, length of reception, number of guests, and other factors particular to your reception. It is also good to coordinate other parties and gatherings such as the rehearsal dinner, bride and groom parties, etc. Using the same selection of wine and beer at parties leading up to the wedding reception will assure that leftovers from the prior events won’t be wasted, and in most cases, easily transferred to the final event. This may take some collaboration between hosts of each event, but the wine and beer merchant can often facilitate these plans with separate ordering and invoicing.
[quote float=right]The key is to develop a balance in the wine & beer desired with budget constraints. [/quote]The types of wine and beer are seemingly limitless, but most planners will suggest simplifying the wine choice to a couple of red and a couple of white varieties to pair with food choices, and perhaps some bubbly to enjoy for a toast to the bride and groom. Popular red wines choices are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Grenache blends. For whites, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling are often used. For bubbles, nothing says p-a-r-t-a-y like Champagne, but true Champagne comes only from that region of France and is often an expensive option. Less costly choices that don’t sacrifice taste come in the form of sparkling wines (also called Cava or Cremant) from Spain, France, Italy, the United States, and other wine growing regions. Brut refers to a dry style of sparkling wine. Other sweeter choices are Moscato, Prosecco, Extra Dry, or Demi-Sec styles.
Asheville is “Beer City” and well known for quality local craft breweries, so having the right beer is as important as the wine choice. To please the beer drinkers, choose styles that vary from light styles (Lagers, Pilsners, Wheat Beer) to middle of the road (Scot Ales, Brown Ales, Pale Ales, IPAs) to darker, heavier beer (Porters, Stouts, Imperial Ales). Local and craft beers tend to be a bit pricier, while national domestic variety can be a good choice for the non-discriminating guest.
In planning on quantities, I like to start with the number of guests that will be drinking alcohol. Estimate the average age of guests and determine the split between wine and beer (and spirits if provided). Next, estimate the quantity of drinks per person. A rule of thumb is two drinks per person in the first hour, and one for each hour thereafter. Once you know the average number of drinks per person, multiply by the number of guests drinking wine, then divide by five (glasses per bottle) to arrive at the total number of bottles needed. For beer, first determine if you will serve kegs or bottles and cans, then using the same method of figuring total drinks per person, divide by the servings per keg, or just the number of bottles or cans. There are 12 bottles of wine per case, 24 bottles or cans of beer per case, and 168 12-ounce servings per full keg. Smaller keg sizes are also available in most cases.
This primer gives you a good idea of what you need to consider for a wedding, or any party for that matter. There are always other details particular to your event that can be made part of the plan. The key is to develop a balance in the wine and beer desired with budget constraints. Working with a local, experienced vendor will help you make your wedding day one that all will remember.