Even the Biggest Oenophiles Won't Know These Vineyard Wedding Tips

You might think that great wine is the only key to a beautiful vineyard wedding—and while that's definitely important, there's so much else to consider when your wedding venue is a winery.
by Ivy Jacobson
  1. Vineyard wedding
    Jasmine Star Photography

    Delicious wine, lush green leaves and a rustic setting—what's not to fall head over heels in love with when planning a vineyard wedding? Wineries make for unforgettable wedding venues—which is exactly why we chose Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma Valley, California, for The Knot Dream Wedding this year! But there's more to planning one than you think since grapes aren't always on the vines for pretty photos and pastoral vineyards don't always show up on even the most high-tech GPS devices.

    That's why we consulted Madeleine McQuarrie, Chateau St. Jean's event planner, who gave us the lowdown on nine logistical ins and outs that you might not have considered. Cheers!

  2. 1. Check the Local Sound-Ordinance Rules

    Dinner and dancing sign
    Annie McElwain Photography

    Usually, rural counties (in which most wineries reside) are strict with their sound ordinance—in some cases, music must be turned off by 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. Just be sure to double-check any rules in the area and confirm what time your entertainment will wrap up.

    "This shouldn't deter you from booking your wedding at a winery," McQuarrie says. "In most cases, you're able to add more time to the beginning of your event to maximize your time at the venue."

  3. 2. Save Room in Your Budget for Vineyard Extras

    Vineyard wedding
    Meg Smith Photography

    Since some vineyards are used to doubling as wedding venues, they may have access to equipment that a large event requires, like microphones, extension cables, speakers, linens, tents and tables. If it's a vineyard that's not full-service, you may have to rent everything you need from a vendor—even electricity!

    "If your site doesn't provide electricity, you must rent generators," McQuarrie says. "The generators will provide power for all of the basic wedding essentials, including lighting." If that's the case for you, ask the venue if it has a vendor list to see what you have to work with, and consult a local wedding planner—he or she will know all the local vendors specializing in vineyard events.

  4. 3. Make Sure Your Wedding Eats Can Be Prepared

    Flowers and cheese at a wedding
    The Observatory

    Vineyard weddings are all about delicious wines, cheeses, fruit and more—but just make sure your caterers will have everything they need in terms of food-prep areas. If your venue doesn't have a commercial kitchen, your caterer may need to bring in a remote kitchen.

    "This is a common occurrence—caterers are pros when it comes to vineyard weddings!" McQuarrie says. "With careful communication and planning among you, the site and the caterer, this will not negatively affect your event."

  5. 4. Do GPS Devices Work at Your Vineyard?

    Wedding transportation
    Juliet Elizabeth Photography

    While vineyards are found in gorgeous, bucolic settings, some of them may be a little hard for modern technology to find: Picture winding, unpaved roads. "The easiest way to ensure the safe and timely arrival of your guests is to provide them with transportation from their hotel to your venue," McQuarrie says. "There are so many fun options available now, and not just stretch limos! You can charter luxury SUVs and school buses. There are lots of great options that can fit your budget and theme."

    And if there's no room for transportation in your budget, it's a great idea to give guests extremely detailed driving instructions on how to get to your event venue, since GPS devices often won't work way out in the vineyards.

  6. 5. Yes, Harvest Time May Affect Your Wedding Plans

    Vineyard wedding
    Delbarr Moradi Photography

    For most venues, the summer season just means warm weather. But for a vineyard, summer means vibrant green vines at a vineyard, which is why it's so important to know how seasons may impact your planning and aesthetics. "Deciding on the season and date of your vineyard wedding is major, so you must do research for the region that you are looking into," McQuarrie says. "Do you want the vines to be green and full of grapes? Then early summer may be your target date. Do you prefer burnt oranges and reds as your vineyard canvas? Late September and October may be the best months for you. During the winter, vines will become dormant, so you won't have any foliage on the vines—and in some regions there may even be snow. All seasons make for beautiful wedding photos. It's just all up to you and your vision for your wedding."

    Also, most vineyard venues also have fully functional wineries, so during the harvesting season of your region (usually August), there may be some commotion—think large trucks, grape picking and unexpected smells. This is because the grapes are very delicate, and when the vineyard manager decides it's time to harvest, nothing can stand in the way.

    All things considered, talk with your planner or your venue contact to make sure the vineyard will have the look you want on your wedding date. Otherwise, if you're set on a photo with grapes growing in the background but your wedding is in the fall, you'll likely run into some issues.

  7. 6. Make a Plan If Your Vineyard Is Public

    Vineyard wedding
    Barbara B Covington Photography

    Lots of wineries that host weddings are also open to the public and give winery tours and tastings and have restaurants, bars and shopping options. "If you'd like a private wedding, communicate that to your site and ask if it's able to close one part of the property to public guests," McQuarrie says. "Or plan for an evening or morning wedding—something that's outside of normal operating hours. Most vineyard venues will be accommodating as they're excited to be a part of your special day!"

    Of course, you'll need to make sure that private wedding pricing fits into your budget. You can also ask if there are any off-season or less busy weekend options that may make reserving the entire winery more affordable.

  8. 7. Dress for Vineyard Floors

    Vineyard-wedding bridesmaids
    Jac & Jules

    Sometimes a rustic setting means that the floors are rustic too, meaning that aside from posing in the soil near the grapes and vines, you may be walking on wood, pebble and dirt floors. "Many of our clients use the term 'vineyard formal,' " McQuarrie says. "This helps rule out stilettos that may sink into the ground or long dresses that may be dirtied by the vineyard soil."

    Of course, you'll have a dress code that fits with your personal wedding aesthetic, but just communicate to your guests on your wedding website what they should anticipate from your venue so they can dress accordingly." You might also want to provide flip-flops for your female guests to save them from ruining their heels.

  9. 8. A Wine License Isn't the Same Thing as a Liquor License

    Wine at a vineyard wedding
    Mike Larson

    Having an open bar? Back up a step and remember that just because a vineyard produces alcoholic beverages doesn't mean it's licensed to serve liquor too. A wine license and a liquor license are two very different permits, so before you start planning your signature cocktails, see what the vineyard's legal terms are.

    "Many wineries function under a permit that regulates them to producing and serving only wine," McQuarrie says. "Often, for weddings, this means that just beer, wine and sparkling wine may be served. Check in with your venue to determine its alcohol policy as this will vary from site to site."

  10. 9. Check Your Powder Room Resources

    Vineyard wedding
    Dee Merz

    "If your venue is not full-service, you may need to bring in additional restrooms," McQuarrie says. "For a five-hour event, with a guest count of around 150 people, you'll need at least four to five restrooms. There are portable rental restrooms that have granite countertops, running water and multiple stalls that are perfect for weddings."

    An outdoor tent-rental company can also cover the restroom area completely to have it blend in with the vineyard wedding space. Fresh flowers, air fresheners and amenities baskets with mints, antibacterial hand lotion, hair spray and aspirin are also game changers for your guests. You can even hire a reception attendant to restock paper goods and clean up the area throughout the reception.

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