Did you know that bringing your own wine into your venue and paying a corkage fee can be a HUGE cost saver while enhancing the meal and experience for you and your guests? This is something that venues generally won't outright offer, so you'll need to inquire about their corkage fees. A corkage fee will usually be in the $10 - $20 dollar range per bottle, which may seem steep, but considering the average markup venues have ($40 for a bottle of wine that you can buy for $15 at the grocery store) you can actually save money while customizing the wines to fit the flavors in your food. We brought in all our own wines from our favorite local vineyard, Talbott, which we paired to our cocktail hour and meal, then had Chandon champagne which matched our cake flavors wonderfully that we bought at the grocery store on sale plus a 20% discount for buying more than six bottles. After paying the corkage fee on only what was opened and poured, we saved hundreds of dollars, plus had leftover bottles of our wedding wines to store and save. (Again, talk to your venue's catering manager and request that they do this - you don't want to pay corkage fees on a bunch of opened bottles that were not used.)
Here's a great article from the Wall Street Journal about wines and weddings. Hope you are inspired to get out and wine taste with your fiancee and make it a fun and memorable experience - I know it was one of the highlights of the wedding planning experience for us.
Five tips for choosing a wine to serve at your wedding: (via the Wall Street Journal)
1. Taste at least 10 wines, five reds and five whites. You'd look at least as many rings before buying your wedding band.
2. Buy a good sparkling wine but don't waste money on Champagne; as one caterer said to me, "No one ever asks to see the label."
3. If you bring your own wine and pay a corkage fee you will almost always pay much (much) less than if you had chosen the catering hall wine.
4.Choose a wine with the widest appeal that also that will go well with food. This means wines that are fairly fruity and light-bodied with good acidity (i.e., Albarinos from Spain; Italian Dolcettos and reds from southern France.)
5. Most of the wedding wines chosen by the caterers are domestic but you can (generally) spend less money if you choose an imported wine. For example, you can get a great Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for $10 and an appealing Nero d'Avola from Sicily for $10. It's much harder to find that kind of deal in a domestic wine.