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The BYO Shower

Aug25

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHello dearest Amy!

I have spent numerous hours on the computer searching for different responses to my question, and I am not finding an even response of “wow omg r u serious, yousuckatlife” and “No, you are not crazy it is ok to do this.”

Literally hours later I remembered. Amalah! She has an answer for everything! Let me go bug her with my OCD tendencies and see what she has to say.

Basically, my husband and I (emphasis on the I) are throwing my sister and her fiance a wedding shower at our house. I decided on a wine tasting and dessert/cheese party (you like wine, mmm yes) because said couple met, had first date, and got engaged at the same winery. Their wedding will be there too. I figured it was such a large part of the whole shin-dig that I could go ahead and jump on the bandwagon also. This is not the problem. Budget/ me worrying too much is the problem. I have looked up prices online to order a case or 2 of different wines, but I don’t want a box of all the same kind. Do you know of anywhere where you can mix and match a box with different types? I can probably swing a case plus another few random types budget-wise. BUT! I was thinking, how terrible and awful would it look if I mentioned on the invitation to “bring your favorite wine to share?”

I know guests are expected to bring a gift and all, so I don’t want to make this super expensive. I could probably try to swing more wine into the budget, but the list of people to invite I was sent by my sister was a little longer than I expected. I am also doing homemade desserts/other snack and pre-made things of sorts.

I think having people bring a bottle would be neat, because it would allow people to try a bunch of different things. Who knows, maybe it would look cheap of me?

Please help, my head may explode from all the second-guessing-myself I have been doing.

Thank you so very much for making me laugh on a regular basis.
Poor and WINE-ey

Oh, goodness, you poor thing. Clearly, you need more drunk friends. Because otherwise you’d know that asking guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, given the party’s theme. Perfectly. Acceptable. This really isn’t different from many other themed showers I’ve attended, where guests are asked to bring their favorite recipe, or purchase a gift from a specific household category, or hell, it’s like you’re hosting a potluck, except just with wine.

Here’s the only potential misunderstanding I could see coming up, and it’s still probably not a huge one: By saying “bring a bottle of your favorite wine TO SHARE” you are implying that everybody’s wine will be opened and tasted at the event. That might happen, if this is That Sort Of Crowd (aka MY KIND OF PEOPLE), but chances are you are going have a lot of leftover wine, including bottles that did not get opened. As we’ve already discussed here at Ye Olde Smackdown, there can be some confusion over who ultimately “owns” those bottles. Personally, if I received an invite like this, I would assume the bottle was part hostess gift, part bride-and-groom gift, depending on whether it was opened or not. I would NOT assume that I would get to take it home at the end of the party, but some people…might, particularly if they brought another gift.

If you decide in advance that all unopened bottles will go to the bride and groom, you should probably say something like that on the invitation, so people will know that the wine is indeed part of their “gift.” Something like: Please bring a bottle of your favorite wine to share at the party! (Leftovers — if there are any! — will help stock Dick and Jane’s wine cellar at their new home.)

If you don’t want to go that route and prefer to leave it more casual, I’d probably come up with an arrangement that gets rid of any formal hostess bottle-opening duties: Have the guests put their offerings on a table out in the party area, with all stemware provided. Have a bottle of red and a bottle of white already open and available, but a bunch of bottle openers there too, so the guests are free to open what they brought or whatever looks interesting to them. That way, at the end of the party, those who assumed the bottle was a gift probably won’t give a second thought. Those who maybe still see the bottle as “theirs” can just grab it. (The thought of doing that personally makes me itch, but whatever.) If anyone asks, you can say that you absolutely don’t mind either way — you figured leftovers would go to the bride and groom (i.e. NOT YOU, the HOST), but make a joke about oh, there’s more than enough. (People might ask because they’ll want to put their name on it, like any gift, NOT because they’re sniffing around for a take-back, by the way.)

Here’s a rule of thumb that I don’t think appears in any etiquette book, but probably should: If someone IS terribly offended by the concept (a bottle of wine AND a gift! what freeloaders!)…they are 100% free to not freaking attend. Or to just bring a gift and skip the wine. Or bring a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and a vegetable peeler, if their budget is similarly strapped. It’s your job to make the guests feel as comfortable and welcome as you can (and thus try to anticipate REASONABLE situations where awkwardness might crop up), but you also can’t please everybody. Again, PERSONALLY, I would not bat an eye at the suggestion of bringing some wine along with my gift of serving spoons. (I’d probably be YAY, THERE WILL BE WINE THERE. THIS WILL BE FUN!) I’d bring a reasonably priced bottle because my favorite wines are reasonably priced. If I saw a bottle opener, I’d open it, and encourage other people to try it. I sense that this is the sort of party you want and that you’ll likely get, so relax! IT WILL BE FUN.

As for buying wine…I wonder if the winery where the wedding will take place would be willing to help you out with a deal and a selection? Are the bride and groom members of their wine club, and thus eligible for a generous discount on cases? Possibly worth looking into. But beyond that, really, the best place to start is at your local wine shop. NOT the tiny six-pack shop that has like, three kinds of Chardonnay and two of them come in jugs, but a wine store, where the proprietors are passionate about wine. (We live in a super-strict state-store state [and we're not allowed to have wine shipped from the Internet!!] but I assure you, they still exist, even here.) You may have to drive, but it will be worth it. Go there and talk to them. Tell them about your party and your budget and they will help put together a case or two for you, and most places will give you a case discount of 10% or even 20% off, even if you’re mixing and matching. Good wine does NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE. It’s hard if you don’t “know” wine, but wine merchants do, and if you go in saying “I have $XX amount to spend, and I need it to be fabulous” they are not going to rip you off — they’re going to try to inspire a similar love of the stuff, in most cases.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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31 Responses to “The BYO Shower”

  1. tasterspooon Aug 25 at 1:18 pm Reply Reply

    Not only does good wine not have to be expensive, but having some super-cheap bottles can both stretch your budget and serve as foils to the fancier stuff. Maybe it depends whether you’re having a formal “tasting” – like, every wine hidden in a paper bag, “Okay, now everybody guess what you think #4 is!” – or just an open bottle free-for-all.

    We recently did the former for a work event and the Two Buck Chuck was in the mix intentionally – and frankly, quite popular.
    W/r/t the original question, I would not be put off by a “bring your favorite bottle” note…though I might be more likely to bring a bottle with a funny animal on it than I would to a normal dinner party.

  2. andrea Aug 25 at 1:25 pm Reply Reply

    I think it varies on where you are from. I was HORRIFIED when my husband snatched back the alcohol we had brought to a party.. as in “you did WHAT! Put it BACK!” He was completely confused and shocked that it was poor etiquette. Where he is from its completely normal to take back what you have brought if not used. I have him trained now to JUST LEAVE IT ALREADY.

  3. Amy in StL Aug 25 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

    I took a boyfriend to a party where everyone was encouraged to bring wine to share. Ours wasn’t opened and while I was saying goodbye he went in the kitchen and grabbed it. When I met him in the foyer, I made him put it back. But in his group; everyone brings home what is left so the host isn’t overwhelmed with leftovers. So maybe it’s best to specify a preference.

  4. Sara M Aug 25 at 2:19 pm Reply Reply

    Can I come to this party?!! I would totally be up for bringing a bottle of my favorite wine. My husband, however, likes to find and bring wines with weird/offensive names. To one party, he brought a wine called Fat Bastard.

  5. Erin Aug 25 at 2:47 pm Reply Reply

    What about just asking a few folks that you know well (or the bridesmaids?) to bring a bottle with them? If you supplied 2-4 bottles, and had 4-6 people bring a bottle each with them, you’d probably have enough for tasting purposes?

  6. Brandi Aug 25 at 2:52 pm Reply Reply

    For mixing and matching a case, try Lowes Foods or Harris Teeter. Yes, they are grocery stores, but they both have a pretty large selection so you should be able to find a good variety of wine and they even offer boxes that you can load up with your selections and I think they offer a discount if you purchase the wine that way. Just another option in case your closest wine store is half a state away.

  7. Stephanie Aug 25 at 2:54 pm Reply Reply

    I have hosted a few wine tasting parties and Amy is right. You will wind up with a LOT left over, and most of them half-open, in which case it’s hard to even begin to drink all of them. We had to pour out wine that had gone bad for that very reason. I like the idea of giving the extra wine to your sister. That way, it’s clear that not all the wine has to be opened. Do you have a BevMo in your area? They usually have discounts on multiple bottles. But my favorite “big box” wine store is Total Wine. They have great prices, they have 12 bottle 10% off discounts, and the people there KNOW their wine. We have one in our area (CA), but it’s mostly an east coast thing. My husband, who loves wine, seriously salivates over the idea of going there, but I have to give him a budget or he will just spend and spend and spend. But I digress… yes, this is an awesome idea for a party and no, don’t overthink it. Oh! One more idea. If you want to “stock your sister’s wine fridge” tell people to bring a bottle of wine and they will be entered into a raffle for some sort of prize.

  8. Beth Aug 25 at 3:04 pm Reply Reply

    This sounds like a super fun party!

  9. April Aug 25 at 3:10 pm Reply Reply

    You can pick up so many good bottles of wine for under $10 a bottle at Trader Joe’s. I say if you have one near you, make MAJOR use of it!

  10. Suzy Q Aug 25 at 3:14 pm Reply Reply

    @Stephanie: I am SHOCKED by the concept of leftover wine going to waste. Sacrilege! That would never happen with me or any of my friends, but then again, we drink a lot given the opportunity.

    I second the Total Wine suggestion. There’s also ABC Liquors where you can get a discount and Publix (grocery store), if you live in the southeast. If I were invited to this party (hint), I would bring TWO bottles of wine.

  11. JCF Aug 25 at 3:19 pm Reply Reply

    We buy lots of good, but inexpensive, wine at Trader Joe’s and World Market. Also, (certainly depending on where you live) a lot of grocery stores let you mix and match 6 packs and give you 10% off the entire cost of the 6 pack. I’ve gone to Vons, picked 6 bottles already on sale, gotten an additional 10% off, and ended up saving a ton!

    By the way, I would LOVE to be invited to a party like you’re describing! It sounds fun!

  12. Christen Aug 25 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    I think this shower sounds crazy-fun! If I got the invitation I’d be psyched. Something that isn’t a “wear a paper plate hat and play games and coo over mixing bowls” party? Sweet! Not sure where you live but Beverages and More (or BevMo to those in the know) has a great deal where when you buy one bottle, you get another for $.05 or something insanely cheap. My best friend and her husband bought all the wine for their entire wedding this way and didn’t go over budget. And trust me, there were some serious wine drinkers in that crowd! Costco also has decent deals. No one has to know WHERE you bought the wine: if it’s good, it’s good, right? Have fun!

  13. Therese Aug 25 at 3:55 pm Reply Reply

    What a great idea and a very unique way to tie in how the couple met and their future wedding. If I were to get an invitation of this type, I would be super excited! As others have pointed out, I would assume that the wine was going to the couple or the host as a gift and not think twice about it. If you’re worried about wasting opened bottles of wine (as those are hard to keep fresh for long) you could announce at the end of the party for folks to feel free to take the opened bottles so they don’t go to waste. Have Fun!

  14. Amalah Aug 25 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    Darn it! I wanted to add in three more things re: open leftovers but got distracted. Writing about wine does that. 

    1) You can get bottles of a spray-in “wine preservative” that will extend the life of an open-but-recorked bottle. It actually works pretty well! Total non-necessity for us on a regular basis, since we NEVER have wine leftover that long (ie more than one day in the fridge), but if you’re anticipating a BUNCH of bottles and see it for sale at your wine store, you might want to give it a try.

    2) Check your local container laws before you hand out re-corked bottles to guests to take home, particularly anyone who is driving: http://www.winedoggybag.com/statelaws.htm

  15. Stephanie Aug 25 at 4:25 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, so I feel like I have to defend myself re: the open bottles of unconsumed wine. Most of these wines were brought my coworkers who have (in my opinion) very bad taste in wine, so my husband and I couldn’t stomach it. Did I mention my husband’s a wine snob? He is. And he makes his own wine, which I think is not that great (neither does he), but my coworkers thought was AMAZING during the blind wine tasting that we did (hence all the open bottles of wine). So yeah. Wine generally does not leave our house unconsumed, or it’s recorked using that great vacuum sealer thingy. Amy – thanks for the winedoggybag website. I’ll remind guests next time that in CA, you need to put the drinks in the trunk.

  16. Erin Aug 25 at 10:14 pm Reply Reply

    I have a follow-up question: Just because I’m interested…I don’t drink but have no issue partying it up with friends that do…What does a non-drinker bring in such a situation? Just a present? Some cheese? Haha…

  17. Kailee Aug 26 at 10:46 am Reply Reply

    Sounds like an excellent idea for a party. I was invited to a similarly themed bridal party, but the hosts provided wine and guests were asked to bring a little cheese or chocolates for pairing purposes. it was a lot of fun. I’m sure your guests will love the party!

    One word of advice, from a thank you note perspective (especially if you go the route of the couple keeping the leftover, unopened wine), make sure you jot down if the guests bring a bottle of wine, maybe even a description (i.e., Amy brought a Chardonnay, Erin brought a Malbec). That way the bride can also thank the guests for their gift AND the wine.

  18. Christen Aug 26 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    @Erin: A gift or cheese would be fine (cheese is always A-OK with me), but chances are there would be other non-drinkers at the party (DD’s, pregnant ladies, etc) so maybe share a festive non-alcoholic drink option? Seems like at parties like this options beyond water or Coke are scarce. Even some sparkly lemonade is a pretty bottle would be a novel departure. Your call, really.

  19. tasterspoon Aug 26 at 1:38 pm Reply Reply

    I agree, @Erin, nice non-alcoholic beverages are essential for these parties and often forgotten. Italian Sodas, French lemonade, sparkling cider – so everyone can feel festive. If you want to do a little legwork, some wineries make juice from their wine grapes that are very good and can be really informative at a tasting. I’ve had Gewurtztraminer juice that was great. At a party recently someone recommended the juices from Navarro Vineyards. You can go to their website and do a search for “juice” – they’re like $11 per bottle.

    http://www.navarrowine.com/shop/productdetail.php?prodid=701

  20. Bethany Aug 26 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    @Erin, I’ve thought about that since i have a large number of friends in AA or who are just really health concerned, and I figure it’s like me being a vegetarian. I’d call and check with the hosts and say “I’m thinking of bringing sparkling cider/lemonade/etc” just to avoid bringing the one non-alcoholic beverage they bought. I always try to have some cool bubbly cider on hand when I entertain but would love it if someone brought something different for variety.

    Also, that sounds like the coolest shower ever. So much better than toliet paper dresses or any of that other “traditional” stuff. I should see if my friends who are getting married at a winery and met through a wine shop would like a shower (they were originally anti-shower and anti-gifts because the wedding is a two hour drive for people and we’re mostly in our 20s and still barely making our budgets).

  21. Megan Aug 27 at 2:56 am Reply Reply

    This is great advice.

    The wine store tip is dead on. They love wine, they want to share. Rarely do ‘normal’ customers buy by the case for their own consumption. A mixed case should not be an issue.

    Wine tasting parties are a great chance to share your favorite or get some new ones. Depending on the size of the group, we’d encourage people to introduce their wine to the group, or circulate with their bottles and share stories about how they found it, why they like it, etc. For the non-wine lovers in the group, bring a palate cleanser, refresher, or a bottle that a friend recommended for you. In this age of camera phones, it’s easy to snap a pic of the label so you can find your new fav later on.

    Shoot you can neven give evryone an inexensive corkscrew as a favir at the door, and tell ‘em to get pouring.

    And come on, cheap tasy wines are greatly appreciated and even better to share than the pricey ones. I’m always on the lookout for those!

  22. Diana Aug 27 at 6:42 am Reply Reply

    I think this sounds wonderful!

    I would like to add that I have loose ties to a winery, and when I went there and said that I would be doing a tasting at work (evening, private time people, not during office hours, that might have been better for that place, though), they GAVE me a box of different wines – because I was generating business for them! Granted, this was in Germany, where you do not pay to taste wines, usually, but still. Be brave and just ask, the worst they can do is say no. Ask for information of the bottles that you can place, and order forms that you might hand out, you know?

  23. Diana Aug 27 at 6:48 am Reply Reply

    Okay, yeah, but not like it’s a sale or whatever, not tastlessly dispayed. Just if someone asks. You can’t promise revenue to a winery, and thisis a private thing, so this is a fine line.

    But then I am the person who thought it was way cool that our wedding’s champagne afternoon at the aforementioned winery was so awesome that guests actually bought stuff when there because they loved it so much. The owner came up and worriedly asked of it was ok, and we said it was fine. Just to explain the mindset, sorry, didn’t want to overinform.

  24. Melissa Aug 27 at 5:26 pm Reply Reply

    @Amalah, your comment mentioned adding three more things in about the wine but I only see two more points? Starting with the wine a little early today?? LOL
    If so, I am jealous.

  25. Willow Aug 28 at 12:18 am Reply Reply

    See, I think asking people to bring a bottle (if they like) is FINE.  Especially since you’re contributing the “foundation” wine.

    The last wedding shower I was invited to was a wine tasting at a local wine shop and I chose the “do not attend” option because the invitation essentially stated that the fee to do so would be $40 per guest.  Oh, but please no shower gifts.  I should effing think not– especially because you were pretty obviously still obliged to buy a wedding gift off of the registry whether you ponied up for the shower or not.  And would probably feel somewhat obliged to purchase a bottle or two from the aforementioned shop as well.

    Since I was knocked up and couldn’t have any wine, let alone $40 worth, it was a pass.  I swear I’m not a cheapskate, but even if I’d been the thirstiest unpregnant girl on the planet, it would probably still have been a pass, because I hate a big-strings-attached invitation.

  26. Kayla Aug 28 at 7:38 am Reply Reply

    Thank you all for the great comments! Amy, I’m not going to lie… It totally made my day to see my question posted. Thank you.

  27. Jaymee Aug 30 at 6:11 pm Reply Reply

    I’m having a “Blind Wine Party”
    in a couple of weeks. You could do something like that. Here’s how it works:
    1. Bring a bottle of wine to the party – doesn’t matter how expensive or how cheap, just try to bring one that you think nobody else will bring

    2. When you get to the party your bottle will be covered so that nobody knows what kind it is and placed on a table with the other bottles.

    3. You will receive 1 pebble to be used for voting

    4. Socialize, eat, and taste the wines at your own pace. When you find a wine that you like the best place you pebble in it’s voting cup.

    5. At the end of the night whoever brought the winning bottle of wine will get a prize.

    Houdini makes a wine perserver for opened bottles of wine, that way you can send them home with the bride and groom and they can drink them at their convenience without worrying about them going bad.

  28. Liz Aug 31 at 7:15 am Reply Reply

    Slightly related: I put together an engagement present for some friends that was a case of their friend’s favorite bottles of wine under $15. Everyone donated their fave bottle in that price range, and wrote a little note about where they discovered, why they liked that wine, or whatever (notes included gems like “This wine is $4. You can judge me, but if you do so, you have to give it back”

    It was a nice personalized present and was fun for the couple to drink their way through and read the little notes from their friends, in addition to getting a new crop of cheap good wine recs.

    Just another wine-themed idea that’s fun to throw together and shouldn’t be seen as too rude by those who love wine!

  29. liberrian Sep 02 at 10:20 pm Reply Reply

    How about this: when guests arrive, give them a note card and ask them to jot down a few words about why they brought this particular bottle of wine (or ask them to bring such a card with them). Some might say “I liked the name” or “pretty bottle” but some might have interesting things to say about the wine’s flavor, pairings, etc. Which might help people choose something to drink, give them something to talk about, etc., but if they also put their names on the cards, then the bride and groom can easily match bottle to gift-giver (for thank you’s). Anyway, it might give the party more of a “pick something deliberately to share with your friends and loved ones” feel and less of a BYOB feel. (Plus, with lots of these kinds of get-togethers, it can be nice to create a basis for conversation amongst people who don’t know each other well.)

  30. Kathleen Sep 03 at 11:08 pm Reply Reply

    We used to do wine and cheese tasting parties all the time. Now I do beer parties (because I looove beer more). Spent around $100 on cheese and about $40 on wine when that was the party. I think I’ve only ever had one person take their beverages back (at a beer party – with a LOT of leftover beer). 

    Two other notes: the cheap crappy wine? We used it to make cooler sangria. With some good fruit and decent vodka, you can make most anything good.

    And the cheap people? Often brought Miller High Life to the wine party. No idea why. That we’d shake up and poke holes in (in the backyard, when we were bored), because I have no idea how to make beer I don’t like drinkable. (Sorry, beer snob).

    In other words, I’m with most everyone else – go for it, and just ignore the people who cheap out on one end or another- odds are you’ll get great beer. I do like the suggestion of giving the extras to the bride and groom.

    And: any liquor store in Colorado (of decent size) gives 10% case discounts for whatever mix of wines you put in the box. Most wineries I can think of do as well. Seems like Connecticut was similar, so ask around.

  31. Kathleen Sep 03 at 11:11 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, I second @Christen about having a decent non-alcoholic option – and the nonalcoholic wine generally is not decent (tried several for a baby shower, fortunately also had non-alcoholic pomegranate margaritas, too).

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