Even under the best of circumstances, weddings are difficult affairs. Between the emotionally explosive brides and/or bridesmaids re-creating Ophelia's scenes from Hamlet and the unsure, second-guessing bridegrooms who are contemplating a quick move to a country without extradition, there are the cast of Tennessee Williams extras, including the over-protective daddy, the twitchy mother of the groom, and the various friends and family who are wondering if they will ever have a special day.
But enough about my wedding.
All kidding aside, emotions run high at weddings, which is where alcohol comes in handy. I'm not advocating a Romanesque, bacchanalian free-for-all, but even the best wedding is improved with a little liquid lubrication; for the worst wedding, it can be the crutch that keeps the whole thing from falling into an abyss of despair, recrimination, and permanent estrangement. The few dry weddings that I've attended have had the air of forced jollity, as if everyone was trying really hard to pretend to have fun. We kept saying things like, "See, we don't need alcohol to have fun," "Wow, this grape Kool-Aid tastes terrific," and "Maybe you'll be old enough to drink at your second wedding, Lurleen."
On the other end of the spectrum, of course, there's the massive boozefest, in which the bride and groom blow tons of cash (sometimes theirs, more often daddy's) on a well-stocked bar featuring everything from staples like rum and vodka to exotic horrors like kumquat schnappes and vodka made from scorpions. Of course, there are always a few people who have to try everything, after which they dance like Crispin Glover with a stomach cramp and end up falling asleep under one of the tables.
One of the big problems with alcohol is getting a good selection without overdoing it.
A good solution is to have a small selection of wines and beers at your wedding. Here are some tips for keeping prices down while keeping your guests happy:
- Look into locally-produced beers and wines. Often, these are very flavorful and surprisingly cheap (this is especially true if you happen to live near the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery). At our wedding, my wife and I had two kegs. One was Yuengling and the other was New River Pale Ale, a delicious beer that was produced in our hometown. Also, because we bought it from the brewer, we got a great deal.
- When buying wines, don't mess with grocery stores. Discount clubs often have great deals, but the best route is probably to check out your local wine merchant. Small, locally-owned wine stores often have great deals on partial cases of wine or items that have been slow to sell. In my case, the neighborhood store had a decent stock of a Spanish red, a light German white, and a dry French blend. We found that half the fun of finding our wine was spending a few months trying all the different choices at the store.
- Ask about discounts for buying in large quantities. Many wine stores will give you a significant discount if you buy more than twelve bottles. If you're buying a couple of cases, this can make a huge difference.
- Not sure how large a selection to get, we asked our local merchant. He told us that, when buying wines, it's a good idea to pick up a red, a dry(ish) white, and something sweet. Between these three wines, he noted, we would pander to the three most obnoxious types of wine drinkers: the ones who only drink red, the ones who only drink red, and all the girls in their early twenties who like to drink wine coolers but want to act like grown ups. This advice was absolutely on the mark.
- If you are paying for the wedding yourself, some of your relatives may offer to help. Consider asking them to buy you a case of wine or a keg of beer. It will give them a sense of involvement in the wedding, and they may be able to help you choose the wine. Besides, it's something that you'll all remember!
Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.