Eat, drink and be married - what to drink?
September 24, 2012 7:56 AM   Subscribe

["wedding" drinks - need help!] my partner and i are having our commitment ceremony in 3 weeks. neither of really drinks alcoholic beverages. we're confused/overwhelmed by the options and would love some advice.

from reading older posts and "wedding blogs" it seems as though we should have a white wine, a red wine, a localish beer (we're in the d.c./maryland/virginia area) and maybe even a cider. 2 buck chuck is probably not as nice as we'd like, but we don't need anything fancy. we'll have about 60 drinking guests. oh, and we're actively avoiding hard alcohol so no recommendations in that area needed.

posted by anya32 to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You could also make a non-alcoholic wedding punch. Almost all the weddings I went to in the South were safe for teetotalers, and I must say, WEDDING PUNCH IS YUM.

2 liter Gingerale
2 liter Club Soda
1 bag frozen strawberry & 1/2 bag frozen raspberry blended.
1 can of frozen lemonade
1 can of frozen raspberry grape
1 quart of frozen sherbet (let it melt.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:07 AM on September 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

There are a few basic beers; if you have one of each kind, beer-drinkers will find something that they will like. Find a local brewery that's popular and buy some cases. (Sorry, I'm far away, so I can't recommend any breweries.) You absolutely won't need more than 2 cases of anything unless your reception will be in hot weather running for 8 hours. (Running out of beer/wine/ice? That's what a Best Man (or equivalent) is for.)

Lager: Bud/Miller or you can up your game with Pilsner, and maybe have a light option.
Ales: Get a Pale Ale, and IPA (stick to an ordinary IPA, no DIPA, RIPA, BIPA, etc.), and a Porter (= stout, for simplicity's sake)( again, mainstream this-- no oatmeal stout, milk stouts, chocolate porter)
Cider: Have one.

That's if you're going with bottles, because you can always give away bottles, take leftovers to parties, even sell large volumes of leftovers at a discount to friends.

If you're going with kegs, you'll want a Pilsner and a Pale Ale. Third keg would be a Stout, fourth, I'd go light-lager, fifth IPA. I'm not saying you need 5 kegs, but that's they order from which I'd escalate-- I'd recommend a minimum of 2, and have a bar staffer do the tapping, at least for the first half of events. Even if you do kegs, I'd stick to bottled Cider. Canned is okay too, but don't let your guests drink out of cans.

As for wine, your plan sounds good. I can't help you pick wines, though.

Congratulations and best of luck!
posted by Sunburnt at 8:13 AM on September 24, 2012

You basically plan in half a bottle of wine per person. If you want a popular, nice, drinkable, widely-available wine I would suggest Yellow Tail Pinot for white and Yellow Tail Shiraz for red. This is what I serve at parties. If you want to do something themed or festive or apropos, you could go with Cupcake wines; I've had the Chardonnay and it's lovely. I can't help so much with beer, but people local to the area I'm sure can. Congrats!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 AM on September 24, 2012

If you go to a GOOD local beverage outlet they typically will have someone on staff that can give you some great recommendations in the price range you want to stay in, as well as the amounts you'll need for that size group. They will be pretty accurate in their calculations.
posted by HuronBob at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2012

If you're doing a toast, you might want something sparkling to toast with. Champagne is traditional; sparkling grape or apple juice makes a good alternative.
posted by expialidocious at 8:17 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Having red and white wine (no need for anything fancy, unless your guests are all wine snobs aficionados; something inexpensive but not cheap will be fine) and beer is likely enough. A cocktail or two wouldn't necessarily hurt, but if you don't want hard liquor then obviously skip the cocktails.

My wife and I had a very limited drink menu at our wedding (though guests could order off-menu if they were willing to pay full price, since the reception was held at a restaurant). Our menu was, in brief:

- Sparkling wine (we had prosecco instead of champagne), plus OJ and cranberry juice so people could make mimosas
- Three types of beer (a saison, a lemon tea beer, and an amber ale)

For us, that was it, plus a couple of cocktails. It went over extremely well and we didn't hear any complaints about the drink selection. If your wedding/reception is in the evening, I would recommend having red and white wine, though. We didn't have any because we did a brunch, but it would be a good idea to have both options for a dinner.

In terms of beer choices, you probably want to go a little more "traditional" than we did. Most of our friends are beer snobs geeks, so we went with a few choices that other people may not have (though we were still careful to try and pick things that would appeal to the palate of someone who is used to drinking plain lagers even as we tried to make interesting choices). Sunburnt's advice on what types of beer to choose is excellent and I can't really add anything to that.
posted by asnider at 8:37 AM on September 24, 2012

Red Wine
- Go with a cabernet sauvignon, preferably from California. You can get a drinkable wine in this group for about $10 to 12. I love Shiraz, but it's too spicy for many. Cab is the safe choice.

White Wine
- Pinot Grigio. Again, due to supply and demand, California will offer you the best bang for your buck. Unless you want to, you shouldn't have to pay much more than $12 for something decent.

- I have a lot of friends in the DC area and the one beer they all agree on is Blue Moon. That said, I think you'd be wise to also offer something like Coors Light, for people who want a recognizable brand and/or a light beer option.
posted by Muppetattack at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more note: if you want to do a beer that's a little bit different than the norm, your ceremony is at the right time of year for an Oktoberfest. Many microbreweries have good Oktoberfest beers (I'm not too familiar with the DC area, so I can't recommend a local brew), and Samuel Adams produces one if you'd like something that will have a bit of name recognition for people.
posted by asnider at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wine is simple. A sparkling for arrival and toasting and a red and a white for the table.

Beer is trickier and I'd go somewhere between Sunburnt and Rodrigo Lamaitre. A lot of the time people don't particularly care what they are drinking at a wedding and the better beers are an acquired taste (for example, I love craft beer and I'd never drink Blue Moon - tastes like someone has spilt campari in it). But then again a wedding is a special occassion and people appreciate some effort with the drinks.

so for my wedding I got a base layer of bulk-bought commercial lager (half at 4% and half at 5%) and cider but I also got a mixed patch of various nice bottled ales for those who did want them (ie me). In terms of selection I was entirely driven by the best available price.
posted by ninebelow at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2012

I also live in the DC area! Congratulations on your commitment ceremony!

Woodchuck Cider is definitely a popular beer amongst my local DC friends. It's more or less seasonal, so it's always considered a special treat when it's in stock or being served. Regular cider would also a great compliment to Woodchuck for those who don't drink alcohol.
posted by nikkorizz at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2012

I helped out with an event that included wine and beer last winter, and Total Wine (Corridor Wine in Maryland) was awesome. They helped us pick stuff out, and we could return unopened bottles of wine or cases of beer. They have good prices, too.

For our party, more people drank white wine than red (even though it was in December), and the most popular beer was Sam Adams.

Mazel Tov!
posted by amarynth at 10:25 AM on September 24, 2012

On beer, you might want to look at alcohol content if guests are likely to drink a lot over the course of an evening.

A so-called "session beer" of 3.5-5% will keep your guests less intoxicated than a higher-alcohol beer of 6-10% or higher (effectively, two beers in one), and great-tasting beers can be found at all levels of this spectrum.
posted by asuprenant at 11:30 AM on September 24, 2012

I went to a wedding around this time that served nonalcoholic hot apple cider (as in spiced apple juice, not fermented cider) - absolutely delicious, and very popular. You could spike it with hard liquor beforehand if you want (not sure if you don't want any hard liquor at all or if it'd be ok in pre-mixed drinks).

While I would be thrilled to see alcoholic cider at a wedding since it's a personal favourite (either the fermented kind or spiced hot cider), it's definitely not an expected thing. As long as you have a couple kinds of beer and red and white wine, you're fine. The place you buy it will be able to recommend something decent in your price range.
posted by randomnity at 11:37 AM on September 24, 2012

Just wanted to add my favorite non-alchoholic drink which we always had in my family when my siblings and I were too young to drink:
Cranberry juice and ginger ale. Very delicious and sparkling so it makes everyone who isn't drinking feel included in toasts.
posted by photoexplorer at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2012

I'd agree that you should have at least one low-carb or light beer; it's fine to go with a national brand for this (Coors Light, Miller Light, etc - or their slightly fancier "ultra low carb" options).

I agree that Blue Moon or Sam Adams for beer, and Woodchuck for cider, are nice, widely-acceptable options.

Dogfish Head brewery is in Delaware, and they brew a well-regarded IPA (India Pale Ale). Their stuff tends to be sort at extremes, so you wouldn't want it to be the only beer you serve, but if you are serving a number of beers and your guests are open to stronger tastes, this might be a fun one to include.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:10 PM on September 24, 2012

I also wanted to add that it is really, really easy to get caught up in the minutiae of this sort of thing. Remember that nobody is going to leave saying "Great wedding and geeze, that wines was spectacular!" What you're looking for is probably closer to didn't suck. It's free booze, that isn't a hard hurdle to hit. It's going to be okay!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2012

Two things to keep in mind:

1) Blind tastings consistently show that people can't generally tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines. When I got married, our caterer recommended some white wine he'd just tried that was $3/bottle. It was delicious, honest.

2) You're giving people free booze. People who are already inclined to celebrate your happy day. You certainly can get fancier, but unless your guests are serious foodie-types, a white wine, a red wine, and a beer will be fine--and even if your guests are serious foodie-types, chances are they'll be so happy to be at your wedding, they won't think twice about the lack of artisanal beers and expertly selected, expensive wines.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, everyone! We're totally amazed by all of your responses! Thank you so very much! Your sharing is incredibly helpful! You are right - we can be a little more selective in what we choose but ultimately folks are not showing up for the free drinks (hopefully!). That is such an incredible reminder, especially at this point in our process where we are beyond the point of decision fatigue :) Thank you thank you! I'll share a photo eventually :)
posted by anya32 at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2012

Oh, also--depending on how you buy the wine, your vendor/liquor store may take back unopened bottles and refund you for them. I don't think the same deal is usually an option for beer, but it can't hurt to ask.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

This summer, in Maryland, we had an event like yours. I forget the red and white wines my wife chose, but we went with several varieties of Flying Dog (brewed in Frederick, MD), Yuengling, and Corona beers. We figured that all the beer drinkers we knew could live with at least one of the choices.

The Flying Dog IPA we had was by far the most popular.

We ordered all of the alcohol from Ye Olde Spirit Shop, also in Frederick. They delivered beer wine, and ice to the venue, and when the event was over, they picked up the left over beer and wine up and gave us full credit for all unopened bottles.

This was totally hassle free on our end, and I strongly recommend finding a store near you willing to work this way.

I have no relationship with Flying Dog or Ye Olde Spirit Shop other than being a very satisfied customer.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:44 AM on September 25, 2012

The prices and selection from D.C. shops tend to be loads better than Maryland (especially) or Virginia. There's a reason all the liquor store ads in the Washington Post are from places located in the District proper.

For beer, "Natty Bo" is basically the official beer of Baltimore, but since it's brewed by MillerCoors in Georgia and is basically a Bud-style beer, that might not fit. Yeungling is an amber lager, but a light, easy-drinking one, and is brewed in eastern Pennsylvania and pretty popular in the D.C. area.
posted by wnissen at 7:31 AM on September 26, 2012

Response by poster: Hi folks: Just an update! We ended up going to The Wine Bin in Ellicott City, MD (about 20 minutes outside of Baltimore). (Not associated with them except for this purchase). They were incredibly helpful, completely queer-friendly, we got a great discount for purchasing from them (a French red and white, two local beers and a Minnesota cider). And they are delivering for free on a Sunday (can't happen in lots of Maryland counties) next week. Your recommendations were incredibly helpful! Thank you!
posted by anya32 at 3:02 AM on October 7, 2012

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