From chic, fun rehearsal dinner bottles to pairing wine with your wedding cake, renowned Bay Area/LA wedding and event planner Shannon Leahy of Shannon Leahy Events reveals her best tips for choosing and serving thoughtful wines for every leg of your wedding journey.
1.When it comes to choosing the right wedding wines, do you have any hard and fast guidelines?
For a typical wedding reception, we suggest our clients choose no more than five varietals for the evening available at the bar. Having a long wine list is often enticing when there are so many wines you love, but we find this can be overwhelming for guests, causing longer lines at the bar, and could also cause you to end up with a lot of half-empty bottles at the end of the evening which drives up cost and waste.
The usual breakdown for the five wines is one sparkling, one lighter bodied white, one fuller bodied white, one lighter bodied red and one fuller bodied red. Often we choose two of these wines to be paired with dinner, depending on the menu, and the rest are available at the bar and upon request.
With all that said, there are no rules, especially when it comes to varietals! We have had clients opt for a favorite rosé, choose a sweet wine for dessert, or even have a wine tasting station at their reception if they want to highlight a certain winery or style of wine that is special to them.
2. How do you calculate the number of bottles of wine needed for a wedding?
Very simply we estimate one bottle of wine per person for the evening. A more accurate representation might be one glass of wine per hour per person (with most receptions being about 5 hours, that’s how we end up at about a bottle per person!).
With that said, this number can really fluctuate depending on the style of the wedding and service at the wedding. For example, if you have a full bar with lots of fun specialty cocktails, you may have fewer wine drinkers. Whether you decide to have a sparkling wine poured at each place setting for a toast or just let guests toast with whatever they have in hand will affect this number as well.
3. What are some of your most versatile wine picks for buffet or banquet style wedding menus?
This is definitely something we rely on the wonderful sommeliers that we work with for suggestions, and of course, wine is so personal, but here are a few of my favorites:
For white, I love a Chardonnay that is more Burgundian in style. Something with not too much oak that is balanced tends to pair well with lots of different foods.
For red, a Pinot Noir tends not to overtake a fish while still standing up to red meat, so that’s often a great choice.
4. Is Champagne the only option for the wedding cake and toast?
Absolutely not, we see couple toasting with lots of different things, perhaps a favorite wine or even a cocktail. For dessert course we have done port and late harvest pairings that have been real crowd pleasers. Far Niente makes a particularly gorgeous late harvest Dolce that I would love to see someone toast with for a cake cutting.
5. What are some of the most elegant or intimate ways you’ve used wine in your wedding events?
A wine pairing for dinner is always a nice touch and an elegant way to showcase gorgeous wines alongside the beautiful menu you have selected.
We have had parents collect wines from the vintage when their child was born and then opened them on their wedding day to pour, which is always a special touch.
6. What are some creative ways to incorporate special bottles into the whole wedding experience?
We have had couples send guests home with beautiful favor boxes of wine or include a favorite wine – the bottle they had on their first date, for instance – in welcome bags for traveling guests, which are there when they arrive at their hotel rooms.
Some of our clients have also chosen special large format bottles that they love and had them etched or engraved with their names and date and then used it as a guestbook for guests to sign with paint pens. One tradition I love is having one bottle for each of a few key anniversaries (one-year, five-year, ten-year) and saving those special vintages to open on those dates.
About Shannon: Known for her candor and creativity, Shannon Leahy Rosenbaum of Shannon Leahy Events plans and designs stunning weddings all over the world. Named one of the top wedding and event planners in the country by Martha Steward Weddings, Shannon has been published in Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides Magazine, The Knot, Modern Luxury Brides, California Wedding Day, Today's Bride as well as numerous blogs including Style Me Pretty, Snippet & Ink, and Once Wed.
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