The BYO Shower
Hello 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.”
Basically, my husband and I (emphasis on the I) are throwing my sister and her fiancee 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.