Weddings are often more about getting through than grand, celebratory occasions that require the perfect Champagne. No one can afford to serve that to a crowd anyway, so here are the wines and beers to keep your sanity as you or someone you used to like (before they became a bridezilla) rides that crazy wedding train.
Your Best Friend’s Wedding
Helping a close friend get married can feel akin to deploying a complicated military operation. The consequences of getting things wrong, especially when family is involved, can feel about as severe.
Shopping for a bachelorette party. Why are there so many ridiculous parties leading up to what is, essentially, just another big party? Weddings now just seem like an excuse to make your friends do a lot of pointless errands, the most pointless of all being going to five stores to create little party favor bags for the guests at the bachelorette party. No one wants penis-shaped pasta, and we can all provide our own breath mints and hair ties, like we have at every other party of our adult lives. After an evening of party-favor-and-mimosa-bar-planning torture, you’ll need something refreshing that reminds you you’re an interesting adult with taste. Try a saison, a style of Belgian farmhouse ale that’s experiencing something of a renaissance in the United States. These are tart, refreshing, not too high in alcohol, and flavored with an interesting variety of additives from fruit to peppercorns. Sip one in the bathtub while listening to This American Life podcasts and trying to forget you ever purchased anything phallic at a party store.
A sweltering outdoor reception. Weddings and other catered events always have a dismal array of choices, so here’s how to navigate bad wine lists. When in doubt, stick to white, and stay away from Chardonnay and Riesling. Some of the greatest wines in the world are made from these grapes, but the bad ones are really terrible. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, tend to be bearable even when they’re pumped out, factory-style, from overcropped grapes, cultured yeast, and giant stainless steel tanks. No one tries to doctor them with oak chips like they do Chardonnay. Reds at an event like this will also tend to be given the fake-oak treatment, but worse than that, they’re usually too warm, which amplifies their offensive flavors and aromas. If you must, stick with the Pinot Noir and ask for an ice cube in it. Sounds like sacrilege, but it’ll make it taste better. But seriously, stick to the white. Who wants to drink red wine or whiskey when your clothes are sticking to your body like cling wrap because you’re so sweaty?
Bridesmaids’ dress fitting. Why is the sizing for formalwear so out of whack with sizing for the rest of the insane lady-clothing universe? As if stuffing yourself into a strapless, pastel concoction didn’t make you feel huge enough, it has to be five sizes bigger than the size you usually wear. People complain about size inflation as if sizing has any meaning other than relative and emotional. It’s meaningless! So why go all retro with the sizing during an emotionally fraught event like a wedding? Size-of-ass-related panic calls for desperate measures: Pilates, and, to reward yourself, a white wine spritzer.
Take a pint glass and the whimsically colored straw of your choice, and fill the glass with ice. Fill halfway with something inexpensive, dry, and not oaky or creamy—Sauvignon Blanc or an Italian white like Verdicchio will do nicely. Take the fancy juice of your choice—mango or one of those mixed juices that includes peach both work well with Sauvignon Blanc—and add a few splashes. Fill the glass the rest of the way with seltzer water or sparkling mineral water. Sip, enjoy, and feel the toning and lengthening start to kick in. Maybe you can cut off the bow on that dress without anyone noticing.
Never-ending toasts. Sure, sparkling wine is the traditional choice for toasting a new couple, but it has a way of going to your head, so the fizz from a nice wheat beer might be a better choice. Hoegaarden will do in a pinch, but if the bar’s really got it together, try Bell’s Oberon, with its mildly malty flavor and orange citrus notes. Now if only you could get the groom’s uncle away from the microphone . . .
The morning after. It’s the morning after an awkward, wedding merriment—induced hookup, and you’ve woken up facedown, drooling, with your mascara flaking into the hotel pillow cushion. This situation calls for a slightly classier hair of the dog. Most people, when they think of France and bubbles, think of Champagne, but almost every other wine region makes a sparkling wine, and one of the best values is sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. There are several styles, but look for dry sparkling Vouvray. Don’t be fooled by its bad reputation. It may be a style of wine (well, actually a region) that makes many people shudder when they hear it—a lot of anonymous, semisweet, not very good Vouvray made its way into the United States in the 1970s, and the name has come to be associated with that—but the region is home to a wide variety of delightful styles using its signature grape, Chenin Blanc. The best thing about Vouvray’s bad rep is that it’s kept the prices low. Dry versions will remind you more of Champagne—for about one-third to half of the price! (Because you’ll need your extra money for all the fucking twine to tie around Mason jars, and the organic floral hairpiece you’re supposed to make and pay for yourself, to “reflect each bridesmaid’s personality.” Ugh.)
Fruitier than Champagne, but not sweet, and a little more sophisticated than Prosecco, dry Vouvray is the perfect thing to have stashed in the mini-fridge the night before and drink out of a plastic cup from the bathroom while you nurse your sore feet and try to find something to wear that doesn’t scream “walk of shame.”
Excerpted from Diane McMartin’s This Calls for a Drink (Workman Publishing, 2016).