There are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of couples whose weddings have been disrupted by the pandemic, and now restrictions are lifted they are all scrambling to book their venue, caterers and photographers. ‘Weddings are not just happening at weekends now, we are supplying wines for weddings that are happening every day of the week,’ said Peter Fawcett at Field & Fawcett wine merchants in York.
The pandemic has also changed the style of weddings too. My daughter gets married in a couple of weeks and the planned 150 guests who were sent ‘save the date’ notices for summer 2020 are now down to just 44 for this summer. The two little bridesmaids, one on Vancouver Island, Canada, and the other in Hong Kong will be dressed in their identical pretty frocks, standing in their respective gardens, live streamed into the event. The Best Man, who lives in Australia, has been substituted, and the elderly aunts who were planning to come from Europe are reluctant to travel.
From large and loud, this wedding has suddenly become small and intimate. But the budget has remained pretty much the same. The bride and groom are not thinking about saving the money. In their minds they have already spent it, so they are upping the quality and are planning to have a really good time.
Their choice of wine merchant was fixed by the caterer, and this happens a lot unless you have your own marquee on the lawn and you employ a private caterer. But our designated merchant, Majestic, is fine. They have a good range, with good prices, and one great advantage is that you can plan the event with your local store and if the event is happening a hundred miles away, they just pass all the details on to the nearest branch. They are happy to organize tastings for the happy couple to help them select the wines and most wine merchants do the same. Once they know the menu and the budget, most will open half a dozen bottles, usually free of charge, to help the selection. But don’t try and make it a family decision. ‘It is impossible to please everyone, so if the bride and groom are happy then everyone else will be happy’, said Rob Hoult of Hoults Wine Merchants. But he warns against providing beer. ‘For some reason, once beer is available, all the men stand in a big group, but with a wine glass in their hand, they sit down and chat to everyone.’
While the focus may be on matching wine to food, the real drinking is done between ceremony and the food, while endless photographs are taken. Fizz is the usual choice and if budget is a consideration, this is the time to pour Crémant de Bourgogne or perhaps a Tasmanian sparkler. Once it is time to go in for dinner, the rate of drinking will slow down so the quality can go up. For summer weddings you might want to major on rosé and there is nothing to beat magnums of Whispering Angel or Miraval placed on tables for guests to help themselves. Don’t miss the opportunity to pour special wines, that have particular significance to the bride and groom. When my son married his Canadian bride in Vancouver, we packed bottles of Camel Valley English sparkling rosé in our luggage to add a taste of England amongst the splendid Okanagan wines.
Every bride deserves to be toasted with sparkling wine so have this ready for the speeches. It needn’t be the most expensive, but make sure it is good. The toast is ‘long life and happiness’ – so it has to be champagne.
Christine Austin is a UK-based wine writer who contributes to regional, national and international publications. She is a wine judge for several international competitions.