4 Ways To Personalize Your Wedding Catering

There aren’t many things wedding guests look forward to more than the food you will serve. Since this will catch their attention the most, it’s a great time to make it your own! Here are a few ways you can customize your menu.

There aren’t many things wedding guests look forward to more than the food you will serve. Since this will catch their attention the most, it’s a great time to make it your own! Here are a few ways you can customize your menu.

1. Adding a Personal Theme
There are so many ways to make your meal personal, and it can go beyond including meals from your cultural background. Recreating your first dinner date, incorporating a signature food item from your college years, or serving up some menu selections from your upcoming honeymoon destination are creative ways to let your guests know a little more about you as a couple! Couples with a love for travel may have stations with food from around the world. Dodger fans could serve Dodger Dogs and peanuts – or if the couple roots for rival teams, they could have a little bit from both! The possibilities are endless.

2. Signature Cocktails/Favorite Beverages
Providing guests the chance to try your favorite drink is not only the easiest way to personalize your wedding, it guarantees you will have your favorite drink in your hand all night! Whether it’s a classic like an old-fashioned or something delicious you accidentally created one night, it’s always a hit for guests. Some couples even brew and serve their own cider or beer! But make sure to check with your caterer and venue first. If they don’t allow outside alcohol, you may not be able to serve it to guests.
Bonus Tip: Creating a bar sign with unique and personalized drink names will help your guests know about the signature or favorite drinks, and they will be more likely to try them.  Luckily, since it is your wedding, you have creative freedom to call the drinks whatever you want, whether you made them up or not! This works with non-alcoholic drinks too. Serving your favorite bottled root beer or your grandma’s famous homemade lemonade is just as personal. Whatever your favorites may be, your guests will want to try them!

3. Send Off/Late Night Food
After a night of drinking and dancing, your guests could use a little snack! This is a great opportunity to incorporate something small and fun, especially if you opted for a more traditional dinner earlier in the evening. Popcorn for movie lovers, fresh pretzels to recreate your first date at the fair, or mini street tacos just because they are your absolute favorite… whatever you want! The possibilities are endless for personalized small bites, and they are easy for guests to grab on their way out. Ask your caterer how they can make your send off a little more delicious.

4. Favors
Similar to the send off snack, favors can be small bites that can be an easy personal touch. Mini jars filled with honey from your hometown, or small pastries or donut holes from your college late night coffee shop are fun and unique ways to bring personal touches to your wedding. Favors don’t have to be food! But people will be more likely to be interested in them if they are. Non-food items can be fun and personal, but you may have a lot more left behind. No donuts would be spared at the end of the night!

Remember, the key to your guest’s hearts is through their stomachs!  Your wedding will be remembered for years to come if you have a specialized or personal treat that you guests have never enjoyed before!

8 Ingredients For The Perfect Wedding Day

Let’s talk about the 8 ingredients that make perfect wedding day food and beverage experience.

Do you want your friends and family to remember and talk about your wedding day for years and years?  I know the answer to that question is yes which is why there are a few things you need to know about the most important part of the most important day of your life.  By most important I mean the food and drinks, of course!

Wedding reception food doesn’t always just have to be about the cocktail hour and dinner.  Be creative!  Think about how to work the food and drinks into more parts of your wedding day.  If you keep your guests eating and drinking, you will have happy guests and happy guests like to share their experiences.  Haven’t you heard the saying, “the key to the heart is through the stomach”?  Well, it’s true and that’s how you will get your guests to remember your wedding day for years to come.

I broke your wedding ceremony and reception down into 8 parts that I like to call “the ingredients”.  Let’s talk about the ingredients that make perfect wedding day food and beverage experience.  Enjoy!

THE FIRST INGREDIENT:  Ceremony Sips and Nibbles
Let me be brutally honest, there are a very small amount of people who are excited about watching your actual ceremony.  Surprised?  Are you really surprised?  I’m sure your parents, grandparents, sisters and maybe a best friend or two on the bride’s side are going to enjoy this part of the day, but, unfortunately, that’s probably about it.  If an average wedding has around 150 people attending, less than 5% of guests that are actually excited about the ceremony portion of the day. Don’t be sad, this blog is about solutions!  If I wanted to make you sad I would write a blog about what happens 5 years after the wedding. I’m just kidding.  That’s not why we’re here.  But really, why should the majority of your guests be excited or interested?  Wedding ceremonies are traditionally boring and uncomfortable.  There is never any food, never any drinks and there’s not a whole lot happening in the way of excitement.  It’s just the thing you have to do before the real fun starts.  It’s kind of like sitting on an airplane on your way to Vegas.  Sure you’re excited about getting there, but that doesn’t make flying on an uncomfortable airplane something that you look forward too.  So what do you do?  You start drinking the minute you get on the plane to get the party started.  You see what I’m getting at here.  Your wedding day is a celebration; it’s a party.  So let’s get the party started right away!  Don’t be afraid to break tradition and let your guests have some fun.  I know what you’re thinking, your fiancé’s best friend from college drinks too much and gets out of control.  Relax, even your drunkest friend won’t be intoxicated and unruly before the ceremony even finishes, and if you strongly feel someone will need to be completely intoxicated before 6:30 pm, you might want to consider some new friends.  So what am I telling you to do with your guests here?  Hit them with a half glass of champagne or a shot of a specialty cocktail on the way to sit down.  Maybe even pass a little teaser bite around to get them excited.  Getting dressed up and going out is fun and your guests will be excited, be sure to keep their excitement alive!

THE MAKE OR BREAK INGREDIENT:  Picture Time
Everyone underestimates how long the pictures will take.  Let me tell you something right now, whatever amount of time you have in your head… it will take a few minutes longer than that.  You have two things to think about here.  Think about your bridal party who is taking pictures with you and your guests who are doing something else while they are waiting for you.   The last thing you want is your guests starving while they wait even longer for you to take your pictures.  Here’s another scenario for you: Let’s say you are meeting a group of old high school or college friends for dinner at a nice restaurant.  Everyone is excited to see each other and the anticipation of a fun and exciting evening is in the air.  The mood is overwhelmingly positive and the stage is set for an amazing experience.  The night will include food, drinks, good friends and a celebratory occasion to get together.  Sound familiar?  What could go wrong?  Now let’s say you sit and you immediately order drinks and some appetizers for the table to share.  What if it takes 30 minutes for your drinks to come and an hour for you to get your appetizers?  It’s a given that everyone is a little unhappy and it likely has affected the mood and the focus of the conversation.  Suddenly the rest of the experience is not so good. The ambiance is suddenly not as enjoyable, the drinks are nitpicked with intense scrutiny and tons of other minute details of the food and service are brought to the forefront and dominate the conversation.  Had those drinks and appetizers arrived quickly, the same experience would have been completely different.  The swing would be from average to extraordinary and nothing about the actual experience after the drinks and appetizers would be different.  The experience was lost at the start and there was almost nothing they could do to recover.  Don’t make this mistake.  Get your guests some food and drinks and make them happy.  Make sure while you are taking pictures that you have food and drinks planned for both your wedding party and your guests.

THE EXPECTED INGREDIENT: The Cocktail Hour
Cocktail hour is a portion of the event that is usually automatic and everyone knows is coming.  Therefore, because it is a staple in almost all wedding events, there are so many options here.  We are going to dedicate pages and pages of options for the cocktail hour.  Your options range from simple and classic to off the wall crazy and fun.  In my opinion, this is really the part of the night that you can take some chances with.  So, take them!  Make it memorable.  Make it fun.

THE MAIN INGREDIENT: The Reception
This is the focus and the main part of the evening.  Like I said before, the food and beverages are the most important part of the most important day of your life.  I mean that!  Your options here are endless; buffet, stations, plated, family style, semi-plated, and so many more.  I could go on but I’m sure you don’t have the time to be here all day and after all, this is only an intro!  Don’t worry, I will be breaking these options down into detail in future blogs to come.

THE IMPORTANT INGREDIENT:  Beverage and Bar
You have a lot of ways to get creative here and just like the reception, there are several options.  This is another ingredient I am going to dedicate more posts to in order to really go over all of the possibilities.  The best advice to give right now would be, you have to have some fun with the beverages.  Do his and her specialty drinks, craft beers, mini cocktails, and even some fun non-alcoholic drinks.  Check out our blog on the different types of wedding reception bars to learn more.
5 Wedding Reception Bar Options

THE SWEET INGREDIENT: Dessert
Of course, you’re having cake.  Wedding cake is a given and another piece of the day that is expected.  It is also typically expected to be, well, not that great.  Don’t take it to heart, even great wedding cake is still pretty boring.  Don’t worry, there are lots of cool cakes and great bakeries out there, do a cake and have fun with it.  What’s really important here is, what are you going to do besides the cake?  These options can range from traditional to super cool and fun.  It depends on what part of the country you are in and what kinds of things you like.  The sky is the limit here.  If it’s good, then the guest will love it, remember it and talk about it.   You could accessorize your cake with mini cupcakes, chocolate truffle lollipops, marshmallow treats, cake balls or something along those lines.  You could also go a different route and drop mini cookie jars on each of the tables or do apple or pecan pies on each of the tables.   Don’t worry, I’ll be talking a lot more about dessert options too.
Check Out 5 Cute Dessert Ideas Here

THE UNEXPECTED INGREDIENT: The Treat
The food is gone, the toast is made and the dancing is underway.  The party is in full swing and all of the nonsense is out of the way.  Now is a perfect time to hit them with the little extra fun stuff when they least expect it.  You have a couple of options here depending on what you did up to this point with food and dessert.  You can go sweet or savory.  Pass around some fun stuff or maybe a couple of little things.  Mini sliders, breakfast tacos, and fried chicken lollipops are just a few options.  It’s inexpensive and a great touch, not to mention a very pleasant surprise for your guests.

THE FINAL INGREDIENT: The Takeaway
The night is over and you made your exit as husband and wife, congratulations!  Your guests start to head to their cars and cabs to get home.   Now is when you put the icing on the cake, hand them the grand finale.  Perhaps you hand them warm donuts, a package of warm mini cookies or a slider and fry bag with a mini apple pie.   Wow, how good does that sound? After a long night of drinking, dancing and celebrating who doesn’t want a late night snack to indulge in on the drive home.  Finish strong!

Now you have the outline for the perfect wedding day food and beverage experience.  Once again, this is the most important part of the most important day of your life and if you didn’t believe me when I said before, I’m sure you do now!  Remember to check back for examples and some ideas for each of the ingredients to your perfect wedding day.  Happy wedding planning!

Four Common Catering Misconceptions

Get the most out of your caterer with these four tips. Learn what will actually save you money and what only sounds like it will.

Choosing a caterer for your big day is one of the major decisions you will have to make.  It is no secret that wedding costs add up quickly and with there being so many options within your catering decisions, this may seem like a good place to cut down on some of your budget.  There is no harm in trying to trim some costs, but not everything you think is going to save you money will actually do so.  I am here to explain some misconceptions when it comes to catering and ways to save.  Get the most out of your caterer with these four tips, learn what will actually save you money and what only sounds like it will.

  1. Thinking an all vegetarian event will save you money
    It makes sense when you initially get the idea, but when it comes time to crunch the numbers, you may be surprised. While steak can be pricey, it doesn’t mean that vegetarian options would save you much money. Instead of looking at meat vs no meat, consider the products. Mushroom ravioli with truffle oil can cost just as much, if not more, than some meat entrees. Take into consideration the products used with each dish when you are choosing your menu items. If something is imported or out of season, it may add a few extra bucks per person.
  2. Assuming action stations are cheaper
    Actions stations are a great addition to a wedding! They engage your guests, allow them to pick how they want their food, and they can catch up with family and friends while they wait their turn. However, with each action station comes an additional attendant or two to help serve guests – and that means extra staffing cost for you. When considering action stations, don’t look at just the price per person for the station. Ask your caterer how many staff members are required to work each station you are interested in. If having solely actions stations breaks the wedding bank, choose one action station that is a must-have, and ask your caterer to help you find the right buffet to compliment it.
  3. Ordering less hors d’oeuvres than your anticipated head count
    It may sound crazy, but it happens more often than you’d think. If you have 200 guests attending, and only have the budget to feed hors d’oeuvres to 60 of them, it’s time to come up with a new plan. Think of it from the guest’s perspective – if you attended a wedding and heard people rave about an hors d’oeuvre, you’d want to try it, wouldn’t you? To avoid this, choose lesser priced hors d’oeuvres that you can order more of, or ask your caterer about their display selection. You want to make sure whatever is available to guests is available to all guests.
  4. Paying for an open bar for half of your guests
    This is not a reality. Even if his side doesn’t drink at all, how will the bartender know if they are part of the groom’s side? And how will they regulate it? If you have 250 guests and think only 100 will drink, look into other bar options. Venues and caterers offer a variety of options. If you don’t like the idea of a cash bar, consider drink tickets or a consumption bar. Both are paid by you, but they can be more affordable alternatives in this case. With drink tickets, there are different tiers of pricing depending on the type of bar available. You can purchase as many drink tickets as you wish, and then distribute them amongst the guests you know will drink. An easy way to do this is including it with their place card. Once their tickets run out, they can have the option of purchasing drinks. A consumption bar means every drink has a set price (which also depends on which tier bar you have available) each drink ordered gets tallied throughout the event. You will then get billed after the event for those drinks served. You can set limits to this as well. If your bar budget caps at $2,500, the bar can turn into a cash bar at that point. Most caterers and venues are great about allowing you to extend the cap as the night goes on as well.

It is easy to see why Brides and Grooms may see some of the above options as smart money saving ideas before they are really looked into.  It is important to make sure you evaluate and compare your options before actually making a decision.  Don’t cheat your guests out of something delicious by thinking you are saving a few bucks when in reality, you may not be.  Don’t stress, caterers are well aware that there is always a budget to aim within when planning a wedding.  A good caterer will work with you and be able to make suggestions so that you will be happy with your food choices and your spending!

Wedding Bar 101

A walk through of the 5 types of beverage service options you can choose from for your wedding reception.

Wedding planning requires a lot of work and decision making.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the vendors you are considering and proposals you are reviewing. No matter where you go for your wedding reception needs, a major question you are going to encounter is “What type of bar service would you like”? While the question is simple, the answer may not be, especially because alcoholic beverages can be one of the most expensive parts of your reception. Don’t stress, we are here to help! There are 5 types of beverage service options you can choose from and we are going to walk you through all of them in order to turn your difficult decision into a breeze.

  1. Non-Alcoholic Bar
    While choosing not to serve alcohol at your wedding is not for everyone, it is an option and believe it or not, there is a way to make it fun! You can serve “Mocktails”, offer a soda bar, flavored lemonades, and even ice cream shakes. Don’t be afraid to provide your guests with something unique or even create a signature non-alcoholic drink. Just because you aren’t going to have alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t have fun serving your guests!
  2. Cash Bar
    This is easy to understand, with a cash bar all of your guests will be paying for their own drinks. Even though the explanation is simple, there are still some important questions you need to be sure to ask your caterer when choosing this option. While you are choosing to have your guests pay for all of their alcoholic drinks, be sure that you are providing them with non-alcoholic beverages. You don’t want your guests to end up getting charged every time they order a soft drink or any kind of regular beverage. You may also want to consider the option of combining the cash bar with one of the fun non-alcoholic packages from above. Combining will allow you to provide your guests with a fun non-alcoholic drink station while still giving them the option to opt for alcohol on their own dime. Either way, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves no matter what their preference.
  3. Consumption Host Bar
    A consumption host bar is one of the options that allows you to host all of the drinks at no charge to your guests. This is where things get a little more complicated and a little more thinking has to be involved. We know you want to provide your guests with everything you can, but we also know everyone has a budget. The real catch with this option is that you don’t know what your final bill will be until the end of the evening, scary right? While this may not worry everyone, for those of us trying to make sure we stick to a budget, it could make you a little uneasy. Don’t worry, that’s why we are here, below is a way to figure out a rough estimate of how much this option will cost you in the end. Do the calculation below in order to determine whether or not you think this option will be right for you. Remember, if you have your heart set on fully hosting a bar for your guests, this is only one of two options, so even if after further investigation this is out of your price range, all hope is not lost!
    Consumption Host Bar Calculation (for a 4-hour event) Get the consumption drink price for beer, wine, and a mixed drink, add them together and divide by 3. This is your average drink price. Divide that number by the price for the 4 hours of bar time, that will give you the number of drinks per person. For example lets say beer is $5, wine is $6, and mixed drinks are $7, that gives you an average drink price of $6. If a 4-hour bar is $24 then we divide 24 by 6 and get an answer of 4 drinks per person.
    See, the calculation is simple! The only catch here is, only you know the drinking habits of your guests. If you think there is no way each person will drink more than 4 drinks, this might be the right choice for you budget wise. If you have a lot of heavy drinkers attending, this option is probably not your best choice and it might be time to scroll down and look at the open bar option.
  4. Open/Host Bar
    As mentioned previously, this is your alternative option when you plan on taking care of all your guests’ drinks for the evening. With the open bar option, you are paying a fixed price, which allows you to accurately calculate your budget and provide your guests with free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for the night. Most venues and caterers will offer different levels of open bar, which are typically charged by the hour. The longer you purchase, the less expensive each drink becomes.
  5. Partial Cash Bar
    We’ve mentioned budget a lot, and for those of you stressing about it, this option is our gift to you. We know you want to offer your guests everything you can in order for them to have the best time possible at your wedding reception. If you have your heart set on providing your guests with drinks but your budget does not seem to be in agreement, there is a way to please both. There are a few different options when choosing a partial cash bar. One way is to use drink tickets, you can offer each guest 1 or 2 drink tickets to redeem at the bar. If your guests want additional drinks after they use their tickets, it would be cash. There is a way to make the ticket option fun, you can print nice tickets with your wedding logo, pictures, or fun quotes. If you choose this option you might as well go all the way, make the tickets something you are happy with, really incorporate them into your all around wedding theme. If the drink ticket method is not for you, you can go with the maximum bar spend option. The maximum bar spend option allows you to put a fixed amount towards the bar tab and once that tab is reached, it becomes a cash bar. None of these options sound like something you like? Luckily, we have one more for you. Our last option is to host an open bar for only a fixed amount of hours. Let’s say you’re having a 5-hour reception, you may choose to host the bar for the first 3 hours then let the bar switch to cash for the last 2. There are many different options when it comes to choosing a partial cash bar, the only thing left to decide is which will work best for you.

There you have it, the 5 types of beverage service options you can choose from for your wedding reception. So now, take a deep breath, decide what you really want to offer your guests, take a look at your budget, and make it work! It is possible to please your guests and your wallet. Wedding planning isn’t easy, but your wedding should be one of the greatest days of your life. Find an option that works best for you so that you are able to enjoy your special day to the very fullest!

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Caterer

A wedding caterer brings more to the table than just delicious food. Make sure you consider these 5 things before choosing a caterer for your special day!

The quality, presentation, and timeliness of the catering service you choose for your wedding day will have a significant impact on the experience of your guests. While everyone might not remember all the details of your special day, they will remember the amazing array of food they indulged in or the signature cocktail they enjoyed exclusively at your wedding.  Keep in mind, it’s not just the food and beverages that the caterer will impact. Items like linens, china, glassware, silverware, and other catering equipment are all aspects that also need to be considered when choosing your caterer. This is why choosing your caterer is such a crucial part of your wedding day preparation!

In order to make sure everything is taken care of and that you will not run into any surprises, here are 5 things you should consider before choosing a wedding caterer.

  1. Food and Beverage Flexibility
    The first thing to consider when choosing your caterer is FLEXIBILITY. It is important to make sure your caterer is flexible! You should have the ability to make changes to the menu and add your own special touches. The caterer should offer a nice variety of options but also be flexible about making changes or substitutions. Tell the staff what you like and have special hors d’oeuvres and cocktails offered just for your event.
  2. The Bar
    Next, THE BAR. Drinks are as important as food these days, especially at big events like a wedding. Whether you are offering beer and wine or a super-premium full bar, there are some easy ways to spice it up and make it fun. Offer local craft beers and some fun and interesting cocktails. Have your caterer put together a couple of specialty cocktails for you to taste. It is always fun to have a custom cocktail exclusively made for your special day, and yet another way to leave an impression on your guests. It is also important to make sure you think of those people who don’t drink! It’s always nice to have a fun non-alcoholic drink available, this way everyone can feel as though they are joining in on the celebration with their fancy glass in hand.
  3. China, Glassware, and Silverware
    Does the caterer provide china, glassware, and silverware, and is there a fee? When choosing a caterer for your wedding this is something that may not come to mind right away, and with the distraction of delicious food and drinks, who could blame you. Believe it or not, when it is itemized, china, glassware, and silverware can run $10 to $15 per person for a wedding! If you are not prepared for that expense, it could be quite a surprise. If the caterer you are considering does provide this, make sure that it includes all of the items you need and that there are no additional fees. The caterer knows exactly what food and beverages will be at your event, as well as, how much, which also means they know exactly what they need. It will be hard for your guests to eat if they don’t have enough forks. An experienced caterer will supply not only what is needed, but also, plenty of extra so you are sure not to have any shortages. Choosing a caterer who provides this service will offer you piece of mind and leave one less worry of any miscommunication.
  4. Linens
    Does the caterer offer or provide linens? This is yet another important aspect to consider that can be easily overlooked. Remember, all linens are not created equal! Make sure the linens offered or provided by the caterer are floor length linens. Nothing is worse than seeing the legs of the buffet or seating tables at a wedding. This is your wedding not a high school awards dinner, every detail matters and should be just as important to your caterer as it is to you. Again, it is better to get this through one source in order to eliminate any confusion. The less you have to deal with the better.
  5. Who is the Caterer?
    Lastly, who is your caterer? There is a BIG difference between a true catering company and a restaurant that offers catering. True catering companies cater every day and have the know-how and equipment to handle special events, and there is no event more special than your wedding! You want to make sure your caterer has the staff and equipment to take care of your event. Make sure the key people involved in the planning are going to be at your wedding to make sure it is executed properly. Sure it would be nice to have Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray cater your wedding, but I doubt either one of them will be in attendance to make sure your event goes without a hitch. When it comes to catering, think local and stay away from the giant chains. A true local company with catering as its main focus will dedicate the time and effort truly needed to make your special day as perfect as you imagined it.

Remember, no day is more memorable than your wedding day! A wedding caterer brings more to the table than just delicious food. Make sure you consider these 5 things before choosing a caterer for your special day!