Forget all the complaining about wedding planning I've done already, let me tell you about the really hard part of all this.

We would like to have alcohol at our wedding. Maybe it says something bad about me, but one thing I always wonder as I'm looking at a wedding invitation is whether there will be booze. And if there is, is it free? In my defense, the only reason I wonder about this first is because I am generally already sure that there will be free food and cake. I'm not saying that I would ever skip a wedding because they weren't going to quench my thirst, just that I wonder.

We decided to do an open beer and wine bar. So that way we're generous enough to foot the bill for our guests' libations, but we're not getting too crazy up in here with the liquor. Cost-efficient, and also prevents things from getting too sloppy.

In meeting with caterers, it became clear to us that we would like to supply our own alcohol and have the professionals serve it. For one thing, it's cheaper. Most places will charge you $2 for a bottle of beer, and anywhere from $8 to $15 for a bottle of wine. We can do better than that. After all, you can get PBR in cans for about fifty cents apiece.

Just kidding.

Except that the caterers are not. They want to charge me $2 to give my friends and family bottles of Bud Light. They have other choices, too. Miller Lite, for instance. Michelob Ultra, even.

One caterer asked what it was we were looking for that their selection of six beers could not fulfill. Obviously, they are making a little extra when they provide the beer, so they'd rather we go with their choices. But she really seemed aghast that we would require anything else. In fact, it is possible that she didn't even know there were other beers. Her manner seemed to suggest that there was just no pleasing some people. We told her we were just snobs.

Which is true, really. Some couples don't care about beer. If I went to a wedding, and my best choice was Miller Lite, I would happily drink it without a complaint. Buying the alcohol yourselves is an additional task, and if you don't care all that much about the selection, I can see why you might just let the caterers do whatever. However, we care. I do not want to drink beer I don't like at my own wedding. Especially when it turns out that it's actually cheaper to serve the good stuff. $2 a bottle is $24 for a 12-pack. You can buy Weihenstephaner for less than that, which is so good it makes me want to poke my eyes out. Since we don't want any eye-gouging at the wedding, we'll probably serve things that are more like $1.25 apiece (like Spaten or Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout or New Belgium Abbey).

And that brings us to the wine. We haven't picked out our beer list yet, but I don't expect it will be a problem. We know what we like, and we've tried a lot. That is not true of wine. I did some math and figured out that I'd like to pay a maximum of $6 apiece for the wine. I know some bottles that I like, but nothing in that price range.

So I went to Trader Joe's and explained my predicament to an employee who happened to be passing through the wine section. And she led me around the aisles, pointing to various things while I stuffed them into my bag. Man, buying wine for "research" purposes is really fun. I really only meant to buy a couple bottles for the weekend, but I ended up taking home eleven (averaging $5.50 a bottle). For the time being, I've switched to drinking wine. We both taste something, then mark our overall feelings on the receipt, and then I finish out the bottle (either happily or grudgingly and either way, not all in one night), while Josh switches back to those fifty cent cans of PBR. By the end of it, we hope to have a couple of reds and a couple of whites that we like well enough to serve to our closest friends. So far, we've found a couple of $4 bottles that we really like. I suspect that I'm going to be keeping a lot more wine in the house after this.

Oh, the miseries of planning a wedding. Pity me.

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