Use custom wine labels to save money on your wedding booze… covertly!

Updated Mar 15 2021
Guest post by Jessica Charlton

Our venue gave us the choice of paying $$$$ for a fully-stocked, open bar, or we could either provide all our own beverages. Being on a budget, and well-versed in cheap booze, we chose bachelor number two.

For our wine we bought eight cases of Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck (four cases of chardonnay, two merlot, two cabernet sauvignon), took off the labels, and slapped on our own. So any self-described "wine snobs" at our event wouldn't get so uptight upon seeing "the cheap stuff." Since we constantly remove labels and stick new ones on for our home-brewed beer, I have a couple quick tips for anyone pulling the ol' switcheroo to save major dollars on the bar.

Removing labels:

Fill a bathtub, bucket, cooler or other large watertight container with warm water and OxiClean. A scoop or two. Leave them to soak overnight. The next day the labels and adhesive residues will be totally gone from glass bottles. Plastic bottles take some extra scrubbing.

Adding new labels:

  1. Don't use stickers! Yes, really. They behave oddly when they get wet, so if your beer, champagne or white wine gets a bit sweaty in an ice bath or after removing it from the fridge at your venue the sticker will slough off on your bartenders' and guests' hands. No fun!
  2. Print your label design on a low-weight paper. Office paper works amazingly. The lower the weight, the better it'll stay in place on your bottle.
  3. The magic adhesive: GLUE STICK. Seriously. My future husband and I have used many adhesives for this project, and glue sticks are far and away the easiest, cheapest, and most effective. Buy a two-pack for $3 at your grocery store and go wild.
  4. Use rubber bands or hair ties to keep unruly labels in place. This is only an issue if you MUST MUST MUST use a heavier paper. If the ends keep curling up, slip an elastic band around it and give it a week or longer — show it who's boss!

And voilà! Now you have your very own custom wedding wine on the cheap. Cheers to that!

  1. Two Buck Chuck suddenly becomes Too Freakin' Classy.
    I'm gorn suggest that if you plan on chilling your wine to test out your labels and glue. As the bottle collects condensation upon being removed from the chiller, the labels might peel/bleed. Maybe gluesticks hold up just fine–I dunno!

    • Hey Dootsiebug!

      In my experience with low-weight (and also medium-weight) paper glue stick-ed to glass beer bottles, refrigeration and following condensation had little damaging effect to the adhesive. Peeling labels become a problem when the labels aren't adhered well to begin with…like I mentioned, if the edges are coming up, apply extra glue and hold 'em down with elastic bands for a week or two.

      Ink bleed is a problem I've never run into, but I think your test-run suggestion is a great idea for anyone trying this out so they can decide which inks to use.

  2. Excellent notion; we did this for my sister's wedding years ago, and it made the event even more special – some of the guests asked if we'd had the wine specially made! There was also a hurricane during the outdoor ceremony, and the basement we were having the reception in flooded, but we were unstoppable in our joy 🙂

  3. Yes! Thank you! I was wanting to do this exact thing, and was seriously just wondering this morning what the best way to get labels off and adhere new ones was. 🙂

  4. Omg, so going to use this for Halloween – why pay martha stewart to relabel my wine bottles as poison and witches' brew when I can do it myself! Thanks for sharing (I've ALWAYS had trouble getting labels off bottles… I can't tell you how many lovely bottles I just ended up recycling instead of keeping)

  5. wow this is great- thanks for the tips! i just have one question: how does the warm bath affect the wine itself?

    • A good question, and one I can't answer with authority right now. Typically I do the warm bath with empty bottles, full bottles of wine are new to me. My GUESS is the temperature isn't higher than however hot the bottle gets during transport, and that there is little affect. I'll do some "research" and get back to you 🙂

    • Given that red wines are supposed to be enjoyed at room temperature, there shouldn't be a problem with that.

      Rosés and whites are supposed to be enjoyed chilled, so maybe dont use boiling water on those bottles. However a sealed bottle shouldn't degrade too much with varying temperature, as the wine content is sealed away. This might be another one to test out prior to doing the real thing.

      I will ask my pub steward dad for advice

  6. Oh this is great. I was thinking of buying boxed wine, but this idea is wonderful.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  7. Huh. Good to know that gluesticks do actually stick something. (I avoid them for paper crafting because they never seem to hold anything.)
    If you aren't worried about condensation, stickers do work well. We used Avery sticker sheets and I just cut them into thirds for our Jones Soda bottles. They wrapped around totally and we just had the soda sitting on the table so no worries about wet. But all the ink ran the minute they got soaked (they were left outside after the wedding and got rained on a bunch).

  8. We served 2-buck Chuck at our wedding! But since almost no one there was familiar with Trader Joe's (there aren't any in Alabama) no one knew what it was 🙂

  9. We don't have Trader Joe's in my area (southwest Virginia), but if I'd seen this before my wedding last Saturday, I would have used Oak Leaf wine, which is usually <$3. Super cute idea!

  10. I do this all the time! It works wonders. Everybody loves the "Two Buck Chuck"… as long as they don't know what it is, they can't be snobby 🙂

    • Apparently wine collectors keep crates of it in their cellars. They'll enjoy one or two bottles of fancy, expensive wine, then crack open the Two-Buck Chuck…after a drink or two your palate is less alert, so why not protect your investment by continuing that wine bender with the affordable stuff?

  11. I'd like to chime in that WD40 is amazing at getting label glue off glass bottles! But might be a smaller scale option than the whole bathtub full 😀

  12. As someone who bottles and labels a metric crapton of mead to bring to festivals and rituals you can actually use shipping labels easily as bottle labels. Print them, then use clear fixative on top, then slap 'em on the bottles. They'll last through refrigeration and ice buckets.

  13. Being on a budget, and well-versed in cheap booze, we chose bachelor number two. made me laugh.

    This is a very clever way to save money. Plus you could use some of them as table numbers, as I've seen before.

    • Ok. Quick update:

      – One of the tonic waters was half empty. Not sure if it was a faulty bottle or what but I thought that was weird!
      – I think the effort is not worth the benefit for plastic bottles. I can achieve the same effect (or at least good enough for my purposes) by simply removing the existing label and then covering up the remnant adhesive with my new label.
      – OMG labels come off sooooo easily on glass bottles! Some of them were floating off the bottles just as I picked up a nearby bottle out of the bathtub!
      – Um, side benefit? The oxi clean made my bath tub all sparkly and stuff!!!

      • Update 2. The second tonic water bottle was half empty after I'd attached the new label. Weird. I wonder if the plastic was somehow compromised by the oxi clean? seems odd that oxi clean would eat through plastic. but weird that 2/3 of the tonic waters were spoiled … ??? anyway …

  14. This is genius! I've been trying to figure out how to serve Target's boxed wine without my wine snob family knowing the difference. (it's actually really good) Thinking I can start drinking screw-top wine over the next few months and save and reuse the bottles. Hmmmm…… it might just work!

  15. We are doing make your own wine for our wedding in November. My parents who are fairly wine savvy suggested it for our reception. Thanks for the oxyclean tip- we have been saving wine bottles for a while- and we will definitly try the oxyclean/hot water tip.

  16. 3M spray adhesive. Works like a charm and don't need the rubber bands for the thicker, cardstock weight of labels if you go that route (which I recommend, it looks better and don't need to worry about bubbling and wrinkles). Go by the instructions on the spraycan

  17. If your water is too hot or the temperature changes rapidly it will most certainly affect the taste of your wine! Careful or you might end up with a pungent or bitter after taste.

  18. I tried the 2 buck chuck with my own personal labels…but just know the cork is still labeled as such….I've since been trying to find a wine with an unbranded cork so I can take the labels off and stick on my own..if anyone has any ideas…

  19. I learned a lot about custom wine labels by reading this article. It was interesting to learn that custom wine labels can help to save you money at wedding receptions. I hope that I can remember this article the next time we are planning a wedding.

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