“The devil is in the details,” a once very popular idiom meaning even the smallest detail should not be overlooked—lest that one thing spoil the whole endeavor.

Brides are masters of the finite details of their big days—from securing the freshly starched table linens in the perfect shade of dove gray, to the near Switzerland-like abilities it takes to plan out a seating chart that manages to keep all major players feeling as though they have the best seats in the house, while simultaneously stopping any epic battles between frenemies from erupting. These ladies troubleshoot for everything, while keeping their own personal preferences forefront, with aesthetic appeal, and their guests, coming in a close second. Add the element of taste to that list, and you have the perfect recipe for choosing wines to serve at the reception.

Hence beverage choice is a bit more complex than a detail based solely on personal preference, or how pretty it may look.  Choosing the wine to serve during cocktail hour isn’t as simple as picking up multiple cases of “girls’ weekend favorite red.” But it doesn’t have to be an off-putting and daunting process either. In addition to personal taste, guest taste, and what goes well with food, there are a few more considerations.


  • What time of the day will the wedding be held? A midday occasion will generally be lighter on alcohol consumption—depending of course, on the crowd. A casual brunch reception combines nicely with mimosas and Bellini’s, while a black-tie evening affair will more often than not, pair wines with dinner courses.
  • Is it a heat-of-the-summer affair, or a fall occasion? Red wine tends to take a backseat in the hottest months of the year; still plan to serve it, but at a smaller ratio to the whites and champagnes.
  • Will there be any other alcohol served? Those throwing budget-friendly affairs may only serve beer and wine, which means that the quantities of both need to be much greater than if other alcohol was present, as in an open bar. This also holds true if wine and beer are free to guests, with an additional cash bar offered for other choices.
  • Is there a cocktail hour? If so, couples may opt out of having a wine pairing with every course in a sit-down dinner, especially if the reception is open bar.
  • The venue may have a lot to do with the choices available. Some venues only allow couples to choose from a list of approved caterers, or they may handle everything in-house. Usually, this means couples will determine selections based on pre-set price levels, which normally include the accompanying alcohol. If the venue is a winery, the only wine allowed on premise will be the vineyard’s own.

Once all of those considerations have been taken into account, it’s onto the actual selection. If perfection is the ideal, consider the much-heralded Royal Wedding of Princess Kate and Prince William. It has been reported that the brunch reception served the 650 attending guests’ vintage pink champagne, peach Bellini’s and elderflower cocktails. That of course, was just the teaser affair. A more select crowd was invited to the main event—a two-hour dinner paired with a white Meursault Burgundy and Pomerol Claret, rumored to be from the palace’s private collection.

In addition to only transporting wine (supposedly—we aren’t exactly privy to substantiate this claim with a quote from the palace) from several ancient cellars on family property, the Prince and Princess were also keen on tapping into the local and organic movement, insisting that their menu contained only ingredients made from those sources. In lieu of being able to serve the same highbrow vintage wines as Will and Kate, you could always adopt their same appeal to local sourcing, and serve Eastern Shore wines, at your Eastern Shore Wedding.

Local Wineries

Bordeleau Winery, situated on the banks of the Wicomico River just south of Salisbury, Maryland, is a full-scale operational vineyard—that, in addition to the growing of the grapes, and the bottling of the 18 varieties—also hosts wedding receptions. Bordeleau Event Manager Lisa Larger indicated that the winery’s location on the riverbanks appeals to couples, as does the more budget-friendly pricing. Couples pay a facilities fee, and must serve Bordeleau wine, but bring in their own caterers. When having a reception at Bordeleau, it’s all about personal tastes.

“We do tastings for every bride and groom. We don’t recommend any wines. It’s all about personal taste, what they like, and think their guests will like, in addition to what will pair will with their menu,” said Larger.

When tasting for a wedding, it’s essential to have the menu nearly complete to make sure that the selections are not only favorable to the palate during the tasting, but will also translate well during the reception—if the couple plans on serving wine with the meal.

Fenwick Wine Cellars, a farm winery in Fenwick Island, DE often hosts wine pairing dinners. As a guide, their white varietals that pair well with poultry are Chardonnay, Riesling, and Vignoles. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are pleasing accompaniments to beef.

If wine pairing isn’t on the dinner menu, or just as a general rule to stock the reception bar, a cabernet sauvignon is the popular full-bodied red chosen most frequently. Pinot Noir, slightly fruitier, with increased popularity over the past several years, is a distant second. Chardonnay and pinot grigio round out the popular choices of white wine. These four options serve as the go-to varietals when a guest asks for a non-specific “red” or white.”

We couldn’t leave off without mentioning the all-important wedding toast—typically we think of what’s in the toasting glass as “champagne.” But as Adrian Mobilia, owner of Fenwick Wine Cellars explained, France has won the legal battle over the actual word, “champagne,” and only the sparkling wines (that undergo a secondary fermentation process once bottled,) from the Champagne region of France can bear the name.

Actual champagne tends to have a higher price point. Other options include the Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco, derived from a slightly different process, or varities of sparkling wines from the United States, several of which are grown right here on the Eastern Shore.

Salute to your wedding, from Shorebread!

Home Grown wines can be found at these Eastern Shore Wineries:



All gallery photos by James Seip Photography of Salisbury, MD. For more photos, visit Seip’s blog.