Wedding Catering Charges Breakdown

As you start researching caterers for your wedding, you may find you are seeing charges and fees you didn’t expect. Rest assured, the additional charges stated on your proposals are not your caterer’s way of scamming you – they are very much part of the norm.  Keep in mind, while hiring a caterer means you are purchasing food for your event, you are also purchasing a service.  Here is a breakdown of the most common charges that come with catering:

Service Charge
This one always gets the biggest reaction out of couples, so let’s start here.  A service charge is a fee that is typically 18 – 22% added to your total event costs. Couples think that this covers the staff tips, but it doesn’t.  It’s used to cover things like fuel costs, overhead, and wear and tear of equipment and serving ware. Think about what it takes to serve your family at Thanksgiving, now imagine doing that for 150 – 200 guests, in addition to having to set up your own kitchen in a new place to do it!  There are a lot more details and equipment needed than people realize. Even so, every company may work with a slight variation of what is included, so it is not taboo to ask what each company includes in their service charge.

Rentals
Once you choose your delicious menu, don’t forget you will need to provide a way for guests to enjoy it!  Venues may provide linens and napkins, however, they typically depend on your caterer to provide china, glassware and silverware. Be sure you confirm what the price covers – some caterers price things per person, while others are per item. You want to make sure you have all the bases covered, from cake plates and forks to coffee mugs and champagne flutes if you are planning on serving it.

Staffing
The food and drinks won’t serve themselves, and I certainly don’t want you or your bridal party bringing out giant pans of hot food while wearing beautiful attire. Servers are crucial for keeping your event running smoothly and your guests taken care of.  I’m sure I don’t even need to begin to explain how important bartenders are, and in some states, they are legally a must. All alcohol must be served by licensed bartenders. Most companies pay their staff $20-30 per hour, and while it can sometimes feel like a heavy hit to your budget, it is more of a necessity than anything. Your wedding should be a fun day for you and your guests.  The only time you should be breaking a sweat is on the dance floor!

Tax
Just like everything else you purchase, your catering is subject to the standard state tax. This applies to all goods and services provided by a business. If you do not see tax stated on a received proposal, check with the caterer to see if it is worked into another area/charge. While I hope all caterers are upfront about all charges and fees from the start, some may run things a bit differently, and you may have a second bill outlining the behind the scenes costs.

I hope this breakdown has helped shed some light on the commonly misunderstood catering charges.  It is no secret that planning a wedding is expensive and seeing so many charges can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that this is one of the most important days of your life!  A great caterer is worth it, in the end, your guests will enjoy every aspect of the night and so will you.  An experienced caterer will ensure that everything goes along without a hitch and leave you stress-free to enjoy the best day of your life!   Don’t go with a second-rate wedding caterer just to save a few bucks, choose based on who you think will  help make your day as special (and delicious) as possible.  Happy wedding planning!

Brunch Weddings: Why and How-To

If you are a morning person, or just love brunch, I have good news for you!  There are many perks to a late morning/early afternoon wedding. Brunch weddings are a differentiating spring and summer trend that is starting to take off as couples tie the knot early in the day then get to the celebrating!

One of the perks of a brunch wedding is that it can actually save you a few bucks on venue fees, especially if you opt for a Sunday morning date as opposed to the premium Saturday rates. Another perk is the sun, daylight is a photographer’s dream and can make for some magical pictures. Late morning weddings are also very versatile in the sense that they can be made as dressy or casual as you would like. Most importantly in my book, of course, is the food and menu options. Brunch is great because breakfast and lunch foods are typically easier to please all the many palates of your weddings guests. Below are some wedding brunch menu ideas to get you started:

Hors D’oeuvres: Just because its early doesn’t mean you should skip the appetizers!  Most of your guests won’t have eaten anything yet that day and will be looking forward to anything you have to offer. Think mini quiches, donut skewers, bacon “lollipops”, french toast sticks, and shrimp cocktail shooters.

Breads and Pastries: Your morning meal would not be complete without breakfast breads. This can be something neat like a Biscuit Bar with jams, jellies, honey and gravy or maybe a Bagel Bar with all kinds of spreads from sweet to savory which can also include traditional salmon lox. Even an alluring display of mini muffins, breakfast breads, and pastries can turn out very impressive to both the eye and stomach.

Main Course: For your main dishes you can do anything from a sit-down breakfast or buffet to more casual and very fun stations. Examples of some delicious Brunch Stations are Waffle Bars or Chicken and Waffles, Made-to-Order Omelet Stations, Carvings Stations, and Cereal or Yogurt and Granola Bars.

Bar: One of the most exciting parts of a morning wedding is the brunch style drinks! Think Bellini as your signature cocktail and keep the mimosas flowing, both are breakfast beverage staples.  Bloody Marys are another must have, or hey maybe even a Bloody Mary Station to allow your guests to really get into it. Coffee Bars are also very well received at brunch events, which is no surprise.  Most guests will probably consider coffee a necessity, so make sure they are able to get their morning caffeine fix at your wedding!

Favors: To end the reception you can incorporate your breakfast theme into your favors as well. This could be coffee mugs, chocolate covered coffee beans, coffee grounds, bloody mary mix, mini vodka and OJ’s or mini champagne and OJ’s.

So there you have it, your how-to guide for a brunch wedding!  Feel free to make your brunch event as casual or as dressy as you would like.  Incorporating games and puzzles is something else that is very popular during a morning affair, as well as, wedding décor involving morning papers and mason jars or jazzing it up with charming tea-style themes. The party doesn’t have to stop there, the best part about an early wedding is that it provides the opportunity for great after party events surrounded by friends and family.   A morning wedding means more hours of celebration and who wouldn’t love that?!  Just remember, no matter what hour of the day you choose, happy wedding planning!

Refreshing Spring Wedding Ideas

Spring is upon us and with the change in weather, we are seeing couples opt for some less formal options, as well as, lighter menu selections to add to the big day.  Below are some fresh and cool ideas for the warmer months of 2016:

Grown up Popsicles:
“Poptails”, or frozen cocktails are a playful idea for the spring or summer and the options are endless. These can go with your wedding theme or be a take on your favorite cocktail. Great with champagne or prosecco, examples include champagne and raspberry, margarita, wine soaked, bourbon peach and many more. Also, feel free to leave out the alcohol in some for a kid-friendly version!

Mix and Matched Décor:
From stemware to plates to chairs not everything has to match anymore. If you are going for a slightly more casual and lively look, this is a new trend in the wedding world. You can also apply the same concept to bridesmaid dresses and color palates. Don’t be afraid to get eclectic!

Fruit and Veggie Bar:
This is a great cocktail hour idea for a lighter fare. For the veggies, this is all about the dips, be sure to have a few different dip options! To change up the traditional veggie and fruit display idea, you could offer individual veggie cups with dip or yogurt and fruit parfaits.

Dessert Shooters:
For a late night snack or appealing display, these are a standout dessert option. Wedding cake is often left untouched, but mini desserts seem to fly off the tray! Some ideas include Strawberry Shortcake, Key Lime, Lemon Meringue, Boston  Crème Pie, Banana Cream, and Lemon Cheesecake

Low-Key Ceremonies:
If you are a more private couple, you can choose to keep your wedding ceremony simple. I am seeing this more and more with couples who want to get to the celebrating while still having a meaningful intimate moment with one another. Another way to keep things relaxed is by offering pre-ceremony cocktails because, well, it’s never a bad time for a cocktail!

Spring weddings are great and super enjoyable.  Not only is the weather beautiful, but this time of year allows for a lot of fun food and drink options.  Whether you want a low-key wedding or to go above and beyond, these ideas can help make your special day complete.  Happy wedding planning!

4 Must Have Spring Wedding Cocktails

Who doesn’t love a spring wedding? Everyone will be looking forward to the great weather and beautiful blooms on your special day, but there’s no reason to stop there!  There are so many ways to tie a spring theme to your wedding beyond just your bouquet.  I compiled a few of my favorite floral inspired drink recipes for you to try. Looks like this spring will be a gin-lovers dream!

Lemon and Lavender Collins
2oz gin
1oz lavender simple syrup
1oz lemon juice
Seltzer Water
Sprig of lavender or lemon wheel for garnish

Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 Tbsp Lavender Extract

Part 1 – Making the Lavender Simple Syrup
– In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water and sugar
– Stir to combine, then bring to a boil
– When all of the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes
– Turn the heat off, add in the Lavender Extract, stir
– Allow to cool completely before using
Part 2 – Mixology
– In a cocktail glass, add in a good handful of ice followed by the gin, lavender simple syrup, and lemon juice.
– Stir, then top off with seltzer water.
– Garnish with a sprig of lavender or thinly sliced lemon wheel and enjoy!

Cardamom Rose Cocktail
1.5oz of Hendrick’s gin (this is a rose & cucumber infused gin)
.75oz of Rose syrup
.25oz of Fresh lemon juice
.75oz of Fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
2 dashes of Peychauds bitters
1 Cardamom Pod

Rose Syrup Recipe
2.5 cups water
4 cups sugar
.25 cup fresh lime juice
.5 cup rose water

Part 1 – Making the Rose Syrup
– Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan
– Simmer for 10 minutes
– Add the lime juice and rose water and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally
– Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool
– Pour the syrup into a clean, dry bottle
Part 2 – Mixology
– Lightly muddle 1 cardamom pod at the bottom of shaker
(not too much muddling or it will overpower the drink)
– Add the rest of the ingredients and ice; Shake for 20 seconds
– Strain over fresh ice to remove the cardamom pod
– Add a splash of seltzer water
– Garnish with rose petals or fresh lemon wedge

Jasmine Cocktail
1.5oz gin
.75oz fresh lemon juice
.25oz Campari
.25oz Cointreau

Mixology
– Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake to chill.
– Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist

Chamomile Honey and Whiskey Cocktail
6 chamomile tea bags
4 cups water
4 tbsp honey
3oz whiskey or bourbon
2 orange slices
3 lemon slices
Fresh chamomile flowers (optional)

Mixology
– Heat water to a boil, pour hot water over tea bags in a large, heat-safe pitcher/container
– Add honey and bourbon and let steep for 5 – 10 minutes
– Pour mixture into a shaker, add ice and shake for 15 seconds.
– Pour over ice cubes into a rocks glass, and garnish with chamomile flowersI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!  Leave your guests with the memory of something they had only exclusively at your wedding and will talk about for long after the day is over.  Give one or two, or maybe even all, of these cocktails a try and you will be glad you did!  Enjoy! And as always, happy wedding planning.

3 Things Your Wedding Caterer Wants You to Stop Doing

I know you are new to wedding planning, and for most couples, this is the first time they have ever had to plan something so big and detailed. But don’t worry!  That is why I am here to help you build your dream day! With that said, there will come times when you will need to momentarily step back and to let the wedding professionals guide you. Your wedding is your vision and I want to help you get there. Just keep in mind that sometimes you may need to briefly get out of the driver’s seat – just long enough for your wedding vendors to map things out for you.  Below are three things that you should stop doing when planning your wedding in order to make the process easier and more enjoyable for everyone!

1. Not Revealing Your Budget
While it may seem like being completely upfront and honest with your vendors could make you too vulnerable, it’s actually the opposite. This is your first time, but wedding professionals do this every day. It is very common for couples to hide their desired catering budget and us wedding professionals don’t understand why! When you go to buy a car, you know before you leave the house whether you’ll be shopping for a Honda or Lamborghini, and you should follow that same mindset while planning your wedding. Give your caterer a starting budget that you know you are comfortable with, even just a range is fine! Providing a dollar amount as a strong starting point is so much more helpful than saying, “low budget”, “affordable” or “high-end budget” – your definition of “affordable” could mean a far different number than another couple.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the budget topic altogether.  Your caterer will want to provide you the best services within your budget. No caterer wants to scare you away with a giant sticker price and also doesn’t want to disappoint you with something more basic than what you had in mind. Trust that your wedding caterer isn’t out for every dime of your budget! Holding out on your budget only slows things down and makes it take longer to get you the information you need. If you truly don’t have a budget in mind, be upfront about it, but also be realistic that you may not get the type of catering proposal you had in mind right off the bat.

2. Bringing an Entourage to Your Tasting (Especially Without Notice)
This one can easily be avoided. For most caterers, they plan ahead to serve two people and prepare accordingly. Your tasting is basically a private dinner consisting of one on one time with the chef. Unlike restaurants, not all caterers have endless amounts of food on hand. Caterers order food fresh for each event and order the quantity based on attendance. Your caterer will understand that there may be a parent, bridal party member, or sibling who wants to come as well, and that is fine, but you should be sure to share that information beforehand.  Not only does your caterer not want to look ill prepared, but they also like to know your proposed headcount ahead of time to make things easier on you. If you have six people that want to join your tasting, most caterers will kindly guide you toward a more intimate number. While it is understandable that some people may be helping you pay for the wedding, or your best friends are foodies and you value their opinions, there really can be too many cooks in the kitchen. Once you surpass four people, the opinions can be overwhelming, and you may walk away feeling more stressed than needed. The value of bringing others into the wedding planning process is understandable and appreciated, but ultimately this day is about you and your partner. This is your day to be yourselves, and have things the way the two of you like them! If you bring too many strong opinions to the table, you might lose your wedding day identity.

3. Asking Too Many Questions without Answering Any of Theirs
We know this is an exciting time, and definitely an unknown domain. You have nothing but questions, and that is very normal, but remember how often your caterer has done this. Let them guide you. It’s just like in school – if you wait long enough, your questions will probably be answered before you have to ask them. You’ll get your answers faster by providing some first. It’s very hard to tell you how many servers you will need to have on staff for your event if you don’t state how many people you’re expecting or what type of dinner you want. Event hours, guest count, type of dinner service, and type of bar are just a few of the factors in calculating event costs. The only question you really SHOULD ask upfront is to see a menu, because after all, if you don’t love what your potential caterer is cooking up, it’s time to keep looking.

While this post focused on things to avoid while working with your wedding caterer, these 3 tips can be applied with almost all of your other wedding vendors as well.  Not everyone is out to get you when planning a wedding.  Wedding professionals understand what a great expense a wedding is and want to make your event as amazing as possible.  This is why it is important to be honest about your budget so that they can plan accordingly and do their absolute best to fulfill all of your requests.  Also, remember, whether it be about food, color scheme, decorations or anything else, don’t let anyone’s opinion take over your day, you and your future spouse should make all the final decisions and always remember to please yourselves before anyone else!  While your mind will most likely be filled with questions the whole time you are planning your wedding, stay calm!  If you are working with the right wedding vendors they will ease your mind and provide you with the knowledge you need to plan your dream day.  I hope this helps and as always, happy wedding planning!

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.

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!

Unique Food & Beverage Themes of 2016

In 2016 we are going to be seeing more weddings that are inspired by a theme. Theme inspired weddings give couples a way to express their unique style and personalities while also making the wedding more intimate and personal for them.

There will soon be a lot of blogs about décor for your theme popping up, but the food and beverages are often overlooked.  Complimenting your wedding inspiration with food and beverages that fit your theme will set you apart from the rest.  It is no secret everyone loves to share pictures of their amazing meals and treats, the unique and delicious themed bites and sips at your wedding are sure to be talked about and shared!  Below are some ideas to get the ball rolling and get you thinking.

  1. The Vintage Carnival, Circus or Retro Styles – This is for the casual, fun and quirky couple. You don’t have to pick an outdoor venue to pull off this vibe. You can turn any open spaced reception venue into a playful space as long as it is versatile. Any little nooks can be turned into a kissing booth or game area. You can hire a magician, stilt walker or entertainer to get this feel. Hire a caterer that will customize some menu items for you.  This theme is especially good for appetizers and late night snacks such as a Snow Cone Bar, Mini Corn Dogs, Cotton Candy Bar, Popcorn Bar, Candy Apples, Funnel Cakes, Homemade Graham Crackers, Buckets of peanuts in the shell on tables, Homemade Pretzels, or Roasted Peanuts or Caramel Corn in cones.
  1. Farmer’s Market, Fresh or Foodie Themes – With everyone gradually leaning towards healthier lifestyles, it’s no surprise more requests for local and fresh ingredients are being made by many couples. Foodies are starting to incorporate their love of food into their weddings. Spring and summer weddings can be very charming with beautiful fruit and vegetable displays alone. Some more ideas to compliment this are homemade breads and jams or meat and cheese stations. The right caterer can customize some of these things for you. You can even go so far as to set up stations as “booths” like an actual Farmer’s Market. More ideas include olive oil tasting stations, summer pasta salads with fresh herbs, and baked pies and goods.
  1. Travel Theme – We have all seen the weddings decked out completely in a love for Paris. The updated and more modern idea would be an around the world theme. This is for those with a passion for travel or foodies that want to offer food from all different cultures to throw a stand out event. Stations can be from Italy, Argentina, Cuba, Vietnam, and the Caribbean to name a few. This is a way to showcase really great menu items if you have a love of food. From unique and unheard of to favorites such as a risotto station, rustic pizza station, mini Cuban sandwiches for hors d’oeuvres or Caribbean skewers and bites. Don’t forget the bar on this one! This theme can be paired with refreshing spring and summer cocktails such as a Mojito bar, Caribbean rum drinks, or endless signature drink ideas.
  1. Old Hollywood, 20’s, and Gatsby Themes – Classy, Timeless, Gorgeous and Glam. This can be in a ballroom or your rich friend’s mansion.  The attire and décor are very much a part of this wedding theme, but to stand apart from the rest, this can be a really cool theme as far as food and beverages as well. While food is important, this event deserves lots of attention turned towards the bar. Champagne, champagne, champagne. Did I mention champagne?  Have your guests be greeted at the door with it, toast with it, keep it flowing all night. Sugar rimmed glasses, a rock candy or strawberry garnish also add a little something.  Other drink ideas could be a Gin fizz, Mint Julep, Moonshine, Aviation or French 75. Popular bites to fit the time include oysters, deviled eggs, shrimp cocktails, and olive and nuts bars. These all make great hors d’oeuvres and add-ons. Main courses are flexible. You can have a sit-down dinner with this type of event or stations and snacks to keep people up and moving.

If you decide to have a themed wedding, the most important thing to keep in mind is choosing something that inspires you or personally speaks to you. Once you get that idea the rest falls into place. Happy 2016 wedding planning!

8 Ingredients For The Perfect Wedding Day

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!

Cocktail

Wedding Bar 101

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!

Wedding Caterer

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Caterer

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!