Yes, we have a wedding in the family. But after a year’s delay, things are going to be a bit different from the original plans. For a start, the bridesmaids can’t make it.
One is in Canada the other is in Hong Kong, so they will be dressed up in their pretty frocks, standing in their respective gardens, live-streamed into the ceremony. There has also been a last-minute substitution of the Best Man.
And half the groom’s family can’t travel either. There are limits on how many days elderly aunts are prepared to spend in quarantine – and they are coming only from Europe. But joy of joys, the wedding will go ahead under the new freedom rules which we will study carefully to make sure that everything complies. We might even be allowed to dance.
Even though numbers are down, as the groom says, this is the first party their friends will have been to for 18 months, so they want to have a good time, and that means making sure there is enough to drink.
I was delighted to discover that most wine merchants arrange wedding tastings so that the bride and groom can select their wines. The caterer at our venue is linked into the Majestic range, which is fantastic and well-priced, especially when you buy enough for a party.
Armed with the menu, we arranged a tasting but as luck would have it on the day of the tasting the bride was “pinged” by the NHS app and had to spend 10 days in isolation. Our local Majestic store rose to the challenge and the tasting was conducted over Zoom. One advantage in using Majestic is that if you live in Yorkshire but the wedding is in Devon, you can taste locally and the order will be fulfilled by the store nearest to the wedding venue.
The choice of wine is sometimes difficult. It is better if just the bride and groom choose the wines. “Committee decisions by the whole family quite often don’t work,” says Peter Fawcett, of Field & Fawcett in York, which is why he will often pack up a few wines for the bride and groom to taste at home.
Rob Hoult, at Hoults of Huddersfield, agrees. “This will be a very stressful day for the happy couple and they should choose the wines they like. If the top table is happy with the wines, then the rest of the guests are bound to be happy.” He warns against pouring beer at the reception. “There is something about beer that makes all the blokes stand around together, but when they are drinking wine they tend to sit down and talk to
How much will people drink? It is guesswork, but Rob finds that many people overestimate the amount that will be needed. It’s that gap between the wedding and the dinner that is the heavy drinking time. “Most people are standing up waiting while photos are taken, and they can’t put their glasses down, so they sip constantly. Once the guests sit down to eat, they slow down.
Make sure you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks circulating during the whole event and try not to overpour wine for the most enthusiastic drinkers. We have all been to weddings where the uncle that no-one has seen for decades falls asleep in his chair and snores through the speeches.
The general calculation is between half a bottle and three-quarters of a bottle per person. There will always be people who are not drinking, and several who may be driving. If your party goes on until late, the serious drinkers may manage a whole bottle per person. Sale or return is the key to getting the quantities right and make sure the caterer opens wines only when they are needed, so that extras can be sent back.
In this almost post-pandemic era, weddings are definitely smaller in size but there are a lot more of them. “We are seeing weddings happen every day of the week,” adds Peter Fawcett. “They are no longer weekend affairs.”
Wine comes in handy for wedding present lists too. At Firth & Co, in Northallerton, Andrew Firth is happy to arrange tastings for the bride and groom, not just for the actual day, but for the wedding present list. “We have some customers who don’t want to be given casserole dishes and clocks, they want a really good stock of wine to start their married life.” Some guests might give a case of Côtes du Rhône for everyday drinking, but magnums of vintage champagne can also be put into the cellar.
“When the wines are ordered everyone adds a special message which we write on to a gift tag around the neck of the bottles, so the happy couple can think about the person who gave it when they open the bottle.”
What should you actually choose for the wedding? There has to be fizz and depending on the budget it can be anything from prosecco to champagne. English fizz is perfect for an English summer wedding. Try Nyetimber Classic Cuvée (Field & Fawcett, £31.95) for one of the best, with fresh apple aromas, a touch of brioche and a fresh English garden finish.
Champagne is not always the most expensive choice. Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut is remarkably good and, at £12.99, it tastes several times above its price point.
Have some rosé on the tables for a summer wedding. It will accompany all kinds of food from canapés to fish and chicken, and it will be delicious as the sun goes down and the band strikes up. Simpson Estate Pinot Noir 2020 (Waitrose, £14.99) is full of fresh strawberry and nectarine fruit flavours, while Mirabeau Pure 2020, in magnums (Majestic, £33.99) looks and tastes terrific.
And what will we be drinking on the big day? I have no idea. The bride has changed her mind twice today.