Find the right wine for your wedding
June 10th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

June is back on top. After dropping to second place (after September) in 2011, it is once again the most popular month for weddings. What surprises me, though, is that it’s not the most popular month for bankruptcies, given the average cost of a wedding these days is about $28,000. Love conquers all, it seems, even one’s bank account.

But the fact that you’re blowing nearly thirty grand on your nuptials doesn’t mean that you have to spend the bulk of it on wine. In fact, there are some terrific wine values out there that will please even the most critical of guests. Possibly even your new mother-in-law, though that might be asking too much.

One approach to choosing wedding reception wines that will add some fun to the process is to do a casual taste-off with your spouse-to-be. Find three or four whites and three or four reds that you think are good possibilities, then open them all and taste them together—that way you’ll end up with choices that you both like. (Some venues require you to use wines on their list; ask them for some samples, or find the same bottles in a nearby store using a site such as

Also, keep in mind that you’re choosing wines for a very broad range of people, everyone from your best friend to your weird uncle Morton (or whomever). You yourself may love bizarre organic wines from Slovenia, but a wedding is one instance where you might want to head toward choices that are a touch more familiar. Here, for example, are a few great values that would be ideal wedding reception pours.

2011 Bellenda San Fermo Brut Prosecco ($19)
Less overtly fruity than many Proseccos, this nectarine-scented sparkler is appealingly complex for the price.

2012 Acrobat Pinot Gris ($12)
Oregon’s King Estate makes this lightly melony white without the use of oak barrels, keeping its fruit flavors bright and zingy; it would be ideal as a pre-dinner cocktail hour pour, or with chicken or seafood dishes.

2011 Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages ($15)
An affordable white Burgundy (i.e., Chardonnay), this balanced, citrusy wine, with its gentle touch of oak, will go well with a vast range of foods.

2010 Columbia Crest H3 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Made with grapes from Washington state’s up-and-coming Horse Heaven Hills region, this streamlined red has a terrific amount of flavor and depth for a $15 wine.

2010 Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)
A small percentage of Petite Sirah gives this dark-fruited Sonoma Cabernet additional backbone and structure; a great option if the reception menu includes tenderloin, for instance.

More from Food & Wine:

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Best Burgers in the U.S.

Summer Hors d'Oeuvres

Father’s Day Recipes

Best Summer Grilling Recipes

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Weddings • Wine

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    August 5, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  11. Miguel

    Why just wine? People today are looking for more variety, flavor, and quality so why just wine, what about beer?

    And I am not talking cheap industrial light lagers that offer no flavor and no satisfaction. You can get a great deal on a keg and often rental of a jockey box to properly serve the keg, from a local brewery. Why send money to some giant industrial corporation(Like Gallo, Budweiser, or Miller/Coors) that don't care about you, regardless whether it is mass produced wine or beer. Spend you money on wine and beer from people who care, and it will show your guests that you care.

    Many local breweries and wineries will even brew, blend, and/or bottle special for your wedding.

    June 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  12. GiveMeABreak

    I am getting crap from the family for opting out of attending a cousin's destination wedding. I am still planning on giving the couple a nice gift. But I just don't have the money to spend on a resort destination wedding. And I don't want to have to use a credit card to afford the whole trip. I say have the wedding you want but do not expect everyone to be able to participate. I also say that as a guest that attends – be happy with whatever the couple offers for food/drink (believe me they are not making money on the deal) and just wish them well! Too much focus on the material!

    June 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Yep, if you're having a destination wedding don't expect someone to have to shell out thousands of dollars to attend. If you have that much money, keep it small and pay for everyone's travel and accommodations.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  13. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫


    June 11, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  14. 11genealogist11

    The link from CNN is "Don't waste money on wedding wine." They could leave off the word "wine" and get my full agreement. Weddings have become ridiculous.

    June 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Me me me me...

      It's all about the Me generation, so what did you expect their "special" day would bring? Minimalism? Peeshaw! It's all about me:
      I'm the most important person in the world.
      Get out of my way when I'm driving because where I have to be is way more important than where you have to be.
      My turn signal means "look out, I'm coming in."
      Worse: I don't need to use a turn signal because you should just KNOW I'm going to brake at the last minute & turn.
      I'll just get in line wherever I want – "Oh I didn't see all those other people behind me. Well ... I'm already here, so I'll just stay here because I'm Me."

      June 11, 2013 at 7:39 am |
      • Jerv

        Dayum! If you didn't just nail that one right on the head. I'd love to get drunk with you and play some pool.

        June 11, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  15. buzzwordscankill

    The post is about wine selection, not all the other wedding details.
    I got married a couple of weeks ago, I selected all our wines, sparkling, spirits and beer with the help of a liquor retailer. The result was great, they helped me select well priced wines with excellent drinkability vs price trade off. Do a little research on grape varietals and talk to your friends about what wine they like! If you serve wine that people actually like, you won' t ever have to worry what people think.

    June 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  16. Katie

    Didn't spend any money on the wedding, but now 25 years later we are having a vow renewal and a catered picnic. Unbelievable what the cost is, despite the free place, free parking, and simple fare. I wanted a picnic, I wanted friends and family there. No fancy dresses, no "colors", no fancy cake, no flowers except for a couple corsages & bouts and a very simple bouquet, and STILL the cost (mostly for the food) is well into the thousands. Seriously??? After all the expense of my simple catered picnic, I find $28,000 low for what the average wedding must cost.

    June 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I laugh at people that take out home equity loans for a wedding. The commercialism of weddings is ridiculous. People actually have full time jobs as "wedding planners" Get real.

      June 11, 2013 at 10:31 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        And don't get me starting on the rings. Anything over a couple hundred bucks for a piece of metal with a rock in it is stupid. Diamonds are one of the most abundant materials on the planet, yet they are rationed to keep the prices sky high.

        June 11, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  17. abbydelabbey

    Spending a lot of money on an ostentatious display is simply wrong. A nice wedding need not be a very expensive one. One of the biggest wastes of money is a "fancy" wedding when the money might be better used to perhaps make a nice down payment on a home or saved for an emergency. Maybe I'm just too practical because I would rather see the money saved or maybe I'm too cynical because I wonder how many of those folks are still married five years later?

    June 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  18. TDomer03

    There's nothing wrong with spending some money on a wedding. Ours, all told, probably cost slightly above average, but it included the caribbean ceremony with 17 people and a party when we got back. And I'm certainly not what you'd call a princess, nor do I indulge in that mindset. We spent that much on airfare and rooms for our bridesmaids and groomsmen, in addition to an open bar at the party. I would certainly never crap on someone else because they spent more (or less). It just makes you look insecure.

    June 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • BRB

      You are a princess and just don't know it. By most standards, you you exude princess behavior. Your husband and/or you had better be wealthy or you are going to face disappointments.

      June 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
      • TDomer03

        Thinly veiled insults, how polite. But from the look of your other posts, you seem like a homophobic bigot, so what else should I expect?

        June 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
        • Just sayin'@TDomer

          You're going to make a great ex-wife some day. That much is obvious.

          June 11, 2013 at 8:25 am |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          He's already porking his secretary.

          June 11, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  19. Phattee

    I hate the entire concept of weddings. Why must there be an elaborate, expensive ceremony where guests are forced to choose between either A) spending a huge chunk of money on travel, lodging, and attire or B) getting on the couple's bad side? Why can't two people just go down to the courthouse, get the papers signed, and call it day?

    June 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • BRB

      I told both my sons that if and when they got married, I would give them $10,000 cash for a really nice wedding vacation. They both agreed that would be much better than a wedding ceremony, reception, and junk gifts. BTW – two buck Chuck is the way to go with wine since 90% of the morons attending will not know the difference.

      June 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • KLF

        2 buck chuck is nasty! And most people who would bother drinking wine would indeed notice. What an idiot!

        June 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
      • kmcg

        You realize that 2 buck chuck has won multiple awards (for red and white) in blind taste tests, don't you? Goes to show what you know...

        But it's also probably because it's the left over good wine sold to them and bottled cheap... sounds smart to me ;)

        June 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • bitnar

      I have to say I agree.

      June 10, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Joshua

      Could not agree more. Weddings are a complete and utter waste of time and money. The "special day" nonsense is ... just that, nonsense.

      June 10, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
      • Buck

        Are people really so bitter that they want to chalk up a wedding day as an "utter waste of time and money"? Wow....

        June 11, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  20. wowzersz

    the cheaper the booze, the longer it lasts, the better the wedding.

    June 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  21. M.E.

    I got off easy, the vast majority of my in-laws are Mormon and I come from a very small family. So we just got a mixed case and sort of commandeered the balcony as the booze section. Everyone who wanted to drink could, there was plenty of non-alc for the dry folks and everyone was happy. Oh, and my wedding clocked in only a little over five grand, including botanical gardens location and dress by a reputable designer. Spending 28-30K is for idiots.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Kevin P

      We spent a total of 1K, including the wedding bands. 18 years ago, today.

      June 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Buck

      If you were truly happy about it, you wouldn't have felt the need to end your comment with that insult. Who cares if someone spent more money than you? Don't be so insecure about it.

      June 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • M.E.

        I can't actually think of how I could have blown 28K on the kind of wedding I wanted. I'm sure if I'd hired a planner to who said I simply MUST have everything it could have been done, but that's where the idiocy comes in. How dumb/crazy do you need to be to hire someone to plan a party for you? It's easy, the list of things you actually need for a wedding is pretty short, the rest of it is just about being flash with money. People who don't have money try to make it look like they have lots. People who are financially secure tend to be more low key and quiet about it.

        June 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • Habberdash

          But why do you have to act like a jerk about it?

          June 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
        • Buck

          Habberdash, you pretty much summed up my thoughts.

          June 11, 2013 at 10:21 am |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          ^ Blew a crap load of money on their wedding. Now divorced. Bitter.

          June 11, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • BRB

      Another great plan is to have the wedding at a remote park. Just bring some cakes and cookies, bottled water, and a few ounces of homegrown cannibus. $500 for the whole deal and everyone is relaxed and having a good time – even the old folks will take a hit or two – I am not kidding.

      June 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        ^ I like this plan.

        June 11, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • BRB

      At least a Mormon wedding is good for one thing – no booze bill. Having three or four daughters in law for each son can't be so bad either – at least you don't have to babysit the grandkids : > )

      June 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  22. Fiona

    At the last wedding I attended the caterers went around and filled every champagne flute on every table even though everyone was on the dance floor and the bride and groom and family were not going to do the standard toast, etc. None of it was touched. I've seen wedding caterers fill wine glasses abandoned on furniture and side tables, too. The same "bill padding" happens with wedding cake, which is often plated and served to each place setting at entirely empty tables. Many clubs, hotels, restaurants and caterers charge by plate serving.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • adrienne

      In defense of the caterers, those people filling glasses might have just been trying to look busy so they didn't get yelled at by their supervisor. That's what happens where I work; you stand still too long, you get in trouble, even if there's nothing to do that won't bother the guests.

      June 11, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  23. Pook

    All crap, mainstream/puppy mill wines.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • M.E.

      Yup, but they're cheap and when you're looking to get 100+ people tipsy including many people sketched out by anything much more interesting than a glass of Yellow Tail merlot, these are fine. Save the interesting and unusual bottles for your own consumption!

      June 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  24. Fred Evil

    Better yet, save your money on the wedding altogether. If it's real love, a marriage is irrelevant, if it isn't real love, the marriage will be a killer.
    Don't throw your money away on wedding designers and food and bands and BS. Save it for you and your spouse, you'll need it.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Buck

      "If it's real love, a marriage is irrelevant" You're entitled to your opinion of course, but I have to say that I disagree with it. We saw our wedding and the reception as a way to celebrate each other, the joining of our two families, and to also show our appreciation for all of the guests. It was essentially a big party almost the entire day. If you want to see it as something entirely negative, that's up to you. But, I honestly feel sorry for you man when I think about what you're missing out on.

      June 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  25. rodzynka01

    Wine is great but top shelf liquor is more important. Cheap booze at weddings is horrible.

    June 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  26. Bob

    Come on people. Two Buck Chuck. Whats the problem.

    June 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Pook


      June 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Sue

      Trader Joe's isn't accessible as you think.

      June 11, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  27. sweetivypress

    This article is only relevant if you're hosting a wedding where you can provide your own wine. If you choose to host your wedding at a venue or have a private caterer serve your liquor (by preference or state law mandate), the prices listed are completely off the mark. Any venue or caterer is going to mark them up 250-300% from wholesale cost. Grocery stores only mark them up about 50-100%.

    Do your research...

    June 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  28. Mike

    Uhh, just don't waste money on a wedding period. It lasts a few hours and people want to spend tens of thousands on it? Ridiculous. My wife and I spent about $500 total, and that includes the rings. The wedding shows they have on now are really funny. Go ahead and waste your money idiots.

    June 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mike

      Oh yeah, the average American has 7k in savings while the average wedding is 28k? LOL, seems like our priorities are messed up doesn't it?

      June 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Stella

      We did the same thing Mike. We went to the justice of the peace, exchanged rings and our friends took us to lunch. It will be 10 years in October and I don't regret anything we did.

      June 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Typical American Bride

      But it's MY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Buck

      That's fine that you didn't spend much money at all for your wedding. I personally won't ridicule someone for spending more or less money on their special day. It's entirely up to the couple and it's their big day. I must point out though that your comment really does suggest though that you're rather insecure about the fact you spent a relatively small sum on the event. Why do you honestly feel the need to insult other people for spending more if you're happy with what you did? Anyway, we personally spent around $20k. Did we regret it? Heck no! It was an absolute blast and it was our way of showing our appreciation to our family and friends. Now, I'm not saying you should pay more or less what we did. You should just do what you feel is right and don't let others influence you. In the end, if you go around trolling articles like this one and insulting others, you are clearly not happy about how you celebrated your special day.

      June 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
      • Mel

        THANK YOU! I am so sick pf people calling weddings stupid. They are a celebration! Going to the justice of the piece is fine for you. I wanted the dress (Clearance!) and the veil (my something borrowed, it was my sister's!) and the whole shebang. There are ways to do it with out breaking the bank.

        June 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • Stella

          Good for you. That's what you wanted. I never called it stupid, just said that we did ours in a different way and never regretted it. You do what makes you happy. The justice of the peace made me happy and still is 10 years later.

          June 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • Buck

          Stella, you didn't insult anyone. My comment was in reply to Mike only.

          June 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
        • Fiona

          The problem is that in the last decade (or more) wedding receptions have become all about showcasing the princess bride and not about including, respecting and celebrating the guests. After all, your guests have given up hours of their free time to be with you, may have travelled a long distance and spent a lot of money to attend the party, and have likely given you a very generous gift. They should be welcomed and thanked, and given the opportunity to have fun. But I don't see that so much in weddings these days. I dread weddings, and have for many years. I'm tired of being a party prop and expensive-gift provider.

          June 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • cagal

        Exactly. It is up to the couple what they want to spend and how they want to celebrate. We spent $40K on a small wedding seven years ago, and never regret it. Our friends still rave about our wedding. We had great food, stayed at a very nice place, and now have beautiful pictures to cherish. Now that we are even more successful than before, my husband said he'd have made the same choices for our wedding if we could step back in time, just maybe with a few more friends.

        June 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • BRB

          Your husband is one of the following: 1- great liar 2 – whipped puppy 3 – closet gay

          June 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
        • Buck

          BRB, you are a very bitter person and for that reason I feel sorry for you.

          June 11, 2013 at 11:58 am |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          No one knows who you are, nor cares.

          June 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • Mike

        My post was not meant to ridicule although I can see how it would be seen in that light. For me it just makes more sense to spend that money on a house or something that will last.

        June 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • Mike

          oh yeah, I put idiots at the end didn't I. Sorry...

          June 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • abbydelabbey

      My husband and I had a quiet wedding - JP came to the house - no elaborate anything. Still married many years later. My parents eloped and had nothing special and their marriage lasted until my father died. Most of the people I know who opted for the big, flashy wedding did not stay married. Makes you wonder about priorities and judgment.

      June 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  29. amlowlife

    There are some very good wines for even less money at Trader Joe's (no, I don't work there–just buy a lot of wines from there).

    We found an excellent bottle of Chardonnay $6.99...and that's for a 1.5 liter bottle...which works out to about $3.50 per regular bottle! It's from Raymond Hill and it's a very high quality wine for the price. Wedding guests won't know it's not priced much higher (other than the clue of the 1.5L bottle).

    Another very good Chardonnay is called Blue Fin and that runs $3.99 per.

    For reds, the Black Mountain Cab is decent @ $6.99.

    An excellent Meritage is priced a bit higher but it compares to wines at twice the price. It's $17.99 for a 1.5L bottle which makes it a steal at $9.00/regular bottle. It's called Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Meritage.

    June 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  30. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Wine is terrible. I don't understand the whole culture behind this fermented grape juice.

    June 10, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Oh, also...would smash

      June 10, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • amlowlife

      Ridiculous response. Just because you don't understand doesn't mean it's terrible. I could say the same thing about anything you think is wonderful and you would respond similarly to my nonsense.

      June 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Your mom is wonderful.


        June 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Buck

      Beer is a fermented beverage. Do you also not understand the whole beer culture?

      June 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • fermentedmind

      Unless you are going water pretty much any beverage is could fall into the "That's gross if you think about it" category. Fermented grapes seems to make a lot more sense than say beer, whiskey, or god forbid scotch I mean peat moss really?

      June 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • Yup

        Think about drinking the stuff that comes out of a cow's underbelly. Whose idea was that?

        June 10, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          I've thought about this as well. Also, I wonder how many humans died eating poisonous things trying to figure out what we could or shouldn't eat.

          June 11, 2013 at 10:53 am |
        • weeds

          not just cow lactate, spoiled cow lactate – sold as buttermilk.

          June 11, 2013 at 11:07 am |
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