Finding a unity ritual to include in your wedding ceremony can feel like a tall order, especially if you're having a secular ceremony instead of a religious one. Many rituals, like unity candles, have their roots in religious traditions and might not feel like the right fit. But if you and your spouse-to-be love wine or plan on tying the knot at a vineyard, the wine box ritual may be for you.
A wine box ceremony is a non-religious wedding ritual in which a bottle of wine is enclosed in a box so that it can be opened by a couple at a later date. Some couples opt to add an extra layer of meaning by including love letters to each other and sealing them in the box alongside the wine.
Meet the Expert
• Amy Nichols, the owner of Amy Nichols Special Events, is a San Francisco–based wedding planner.
• Nan Craddock is a marketing coordinator for Easton Porter Group, which includes winery Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ahead, we talk to wedding planner Amy Nichols and Nan Craddock, a marketing coordinator in hospitality, about the wedding wine box tradition, its history and meaning, and how to incorporate one into your wedding.
The History and Meaning of a Wine Box Ceremony
While the origins of wine box ceremonies are unknown, wine has been a fixture at weddings since the ancient Greeks. Wine box ceremonies have gained popularity in recent years as more couples seek out ways to commemorate their future together. Essentially, it comes down to selecting a favorite or special bottle of wine that you both really enjoy (and that ages well). During the post-wedding reception, you'll seal this bottle of wine in a box, and you can opt to add notes and other keepsakes from your big day. Then, you agree to open it up years later, most commonly in 10 years. A wine box ceremony is a beautiful way to celebrate your love, your love of wine, and create an amazing moment for an anniversary in the future.
How to Have a Wine Box Ceremony
Want to know how to incorporate the tradition into your ceremony? Have the wine and the box on display on a table near the altar, along with anything you wish to include in the box (such as pre-written letters to one another). When the time comes, have your officiant explain the significance of the wine box. Make sure they mention the wine you've chosen and how long you plan to save the wine (or if you're going to open it to help you get through a tough time or on another occasion). Then, the two of you will place the wine and any accompanying items into the box and close the lid.
One tip? Save the hammering for once you're back home. Pausing the ceremony to seal the box could take a while. You could also choose a box with a latch and a lock, which you could more quickly close with a key mid-ceremony. Make sure you have a planner or a member of your wedding party take the box to a safe place so you remember to take it home. Then, when the time comes, pull out your wedding album, open the box, and pour some wine as you reminisce about your wedding day.
If you're looking for a fun twist on the traditional wine box ceremony, Nichols suggests purchasing more than one bottle of your wine that you're saving. "Open one on your wedding day and enjoy a sip during your wedding celebration, and then seal the other in your wine box. Alternatively, if you are big wine lovers, buy 10 bottles or a case, and enjoy a bottle every year on your anniversary and notice how the wine develops and ages with time," Nichols says.
What type of wine should we select?
The first step is to find a bottle of wine that you'll want to preserve. Talk to a wine steward at your local wine store (or winery) about a bottle that will age well. It's a great idea to pick a specific date upon which you'll open the wine—say, your 10th wedding anniversary—so you can select a bottle that will be even better then than it is now.
Wedding planner Amy Nichols suggests, "As a rule of thumb, red wines tend to age better than white wines, but that doesn't mean you can't age a white wine or that all red wines will age well. Some red wines that couples have chosen to save include Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, and Cabs. Whites that age well include select Sauternes, Riesling, and some Champagne. Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé don't tend to be ones that people hold onto for a decade. But consult an expert before picking a specific bottle." Craddock lists a Petit Verdot as a great 10-year cork that ages well. "Black cherry and plum are the primary fruit flavors, but hints of lilac and violet intensify over time," she says.
How do you recommend the wine box be stored?
Most bottles of wine fare better when stored horizontally, so the cork stays moist, and in a cool, dark place. Think about where you'll be displaying the wine box, too. "Try to store your wine somewhere that resembles a wine cellar—think a cool closet or basement," says marketing coordinator Nan Craddock.
What types of wine boxes are there to choose from?
There are a plethora of options available online, from ones engraved with your wedding date to velvet-lined options that come with two wine glasses for you to save and use when the box and bottle are opened. You could also opt to DIY the box in some way, whether that means building it yourself or adding an inscription on the lid. Don't hesitate to hit up Etsy for a handmade or engraved ceremony wine box that you will cherish for a lifetime.
What other mementos can you seal up in a wine box?
From well-wishes courtesy of close family members to predictions of where you might be 10 years from now, there's no shortage of ways to display your love for one another. "A lovely thing to include is a love letter or notes to each other to save for your 10th anniversary," Nichols says. "You could also include other fun relics, such as a local newspaper front page or photos from the beginning of your courtship."
What should you consider when selecting a wine for your wine box?
Ultimately, it's up to you and your partner's individual wine preferences, but it's also important to take into account the anniversary date that you plan on celebrating. As wines age differently (and taste better with age), you'll want to choose wisely.
Beyond tasting notes, it also comes down to selecting a wine that holds special meaning—perhaps, a wine to commemorate a romance-filled vacation or your engagement. "If you got engaged in France, choose a French wine," Nichols says. "If you are getting married in Napa Valley, choose wines that are from the region where you tied the knot. It's hard for me to call out a single wine that would make everyone happy, so I'd really recommend that couples lean on a wine educator or expert to help choose the best varietal. This could be a sommelier from your favorite fine dining restaurant, the vintner from a winery you love to visit, or even a knowledgeable staff member from your favorite wine specialty store."
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