An intimate wedding guarantees meaningful interactions with all of your guests, the comfort of being around close friends and family, and saving money that you’d rather spend on other things.

Featuring wine as part of your intimate ceremony can be an inexpensive way of making the event feel a little fancier than it otherwise might.

If your intimate event includes a sit-down dinner, wine is even more important. A glass of wine can enhance the food you’re serving, and help get conversation and laughter flowing. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive. 

The wine subscription service Firstleaf has created a guide to choosing wedding wine.

How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Wine has:

  • Wine recommendations for the most common wedding entrees
  • Info on the most popular wedding wines
  • How to make sure you buy enough wine 

Step One: Selecting the Entree

For an intimate wedding on a budget, choose the food before the wine. You have many more options of budget wine than you likely do for inexpensive or DIY catering. 

Pairing food and wine properly is important because a bad pairing can make both the food and the wine taste worse. Conversely, a good pairing will help each partner shine. Come to think of it, it’s a little bit like a marriage that way.

Step Two: Choosing a Good Wine Pairing

The basics of wine pairing are that strong-flavored wines pair best with strong-flavored foods, and lighter foods go with lighter wines. That’s the general concept behind the “red wine with beef, white wine with chicken and fish” rule you’ve probably heard.

Of course it’s not as simple as that. A chicken dish served with a bold, spicy, tomato sauce is definitely something you’d want to pair with a red wine. Strong-flavored fish like salmon can often be paired with lighter reds. 

A more helpful way to think about pairing may be to consider geographic pairing. The wines of the world were originally developed to harmonize with the preferred food of the area where the wine was made. You’ll see that heavier reds tend to come from areas where cattle were raised, while lighter white are from coastal areas where they ate more shellfish or delicate seafood. 

So, if you’re serving a French-style dish, look for a wine from France. If you’re going with a seafood dish, look for wine that originated in a coastal area. 

To give yourself the widest variety of choice (and, likely, the ability to save a little bit of money), consider choosing one of the more popular wine varietals.

Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir

Whites: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio

Step Three: Acquiring the Wine (And the Right Amount)

If you choose one of the more popular varietals, you’ll have a lot of choices. And more choices typically means lower prices. Good bottles of all of these types can easily be found in the inexpensive $5-$15 range.

Another option — again, if you choose a popular varietal — is to turn your wine choice into a way for your guests to participate in the event. Ask each drinking guest or couple to bring, say, a bottle of Pinot Noir. They could share the story of why they picked that bottle at the dinner table.

Or you could ask a wine enthusiast guest to supply the wine for the event, and make that your wedding present. 

Every bottle of wine has approximately five glasses. For a 3-4 hour event, 1 bottle for every 2 people is an appropriate amount. So, if you have 20 guests, 10 bottles of wine should be plenty. You could manage that for $150 or less quite easily.

A Small Detail, But An Appreciated One

Serving wine with dinner is a small detail that makes an event feel just a little bit more special. Your guests will appreciate the gesture, and you’ll feel good about it too as you raise a glass to your future as a couple.

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