Wedding Catering FAQs

With wedding planning comes questions – and you are not alone if you have a long list to ask! Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked wedding catering questions.

  • How much is a wedding for 200 people?
    I am starting with this one because it seems like it would have an obvious answer, but it really doesn’t.  There is a common misconception when it comes to catering costs – in reality, there is not a flat rate per person for catering as a whole.  Whenever I get this question, I can only answer with MORE questions because there are so many factors that go into a quote.  Did you want a plated dinner, action stations or buffet? Any food for cocktail hour? Open bar, consumption bar, cash bar or bartender only? How many hours will your event be? Where is your event? The list goes on…
    Every caterer has their own style, not only with their cooking but with their execution. When you are looking for quotes, start with your date (or tentative date).  Ask the caterer if they are available that date, and ask them what they need from you to generate a quote.  If you don’t have answers to some of their questions, tell them what you think you would like, but that the detail is still flexible/TBD.  Vendors need a starting point in order to give you an estimate.  Telling them you are “unsure” to half of their questions will not get you the quote you want.  If they have to fill in the gaps for you, you may end up with a quote that is totally opposite of what you had in mind, and it could scare you away from an awesome vendor.
  • Do I need to include all guests in the head count?
    YES, 1,000% yes.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  If a guest is coming to your reception, they are assuming they are getting fed with everyone else and you should want to feed them!  You are hosting an important event; everyone that made it onto your guest list is important to you, and therefore you want to treat them as such.  There are two exceptions to this:
    1. “Cocktail Reception to Follow” – These are the only four words that will help you reduce the amount of food provided without disappointing guests.  When guests see this on their invite, it implies you will not be providing a full meal at the reception. In this scenario, you are ordering hors d’oeuvres by the dozen and/or a variety of displays that will each only feed around 75% of your guests.  All guests will still enjoy some items, but not every guest will be able to enjoy every item.  I get a lot of couples with the mindset of “when it runs out, it’s out”, and that’s okay as long as you are okay with some guests not eating a little bit of everything.  With this style, you want to make sure you are still covering at least 75% of your guest count.
    2. Action Stations/Specialty Items – We often get couples that want to feature an item that is special to them but know not everyone will even want to try it.  As long as your main meal has everyone included in your count, it is okay to have a partial count for the unique item. We want you to add your personal spin to things, after all, it is YOUR day!  Don’t be afraid to add in the cool Asian Taco Fusion Station – you just need to make sure everyone is fed outside of that.  You should also consider including a few extra people in the unique item count – you never know who may branch out and love the cool new food you just introduced to them!
  • Can I try the food before my wedding?
    Absolutely!  Every caterer has their own approach to tastings.  Some provide a private tasting, where you try only the items you are considering for your day. Others host group tastings or open houses.  With these types of tastings, you are trying a variety of items from their menu.  Some of it may be what you are considering for your event, or it may not. There is less customization with group/open house tastings; however, there is a bigger variety to help you try a little bit of everything.
    If you wish to try the food before signing with a caterer, ask them about their policy and potential pricing.  Just like the booked event tastings, caterers all have different approaches to tastings prior to booking. 
  • What is included in the service charge?
    The service charge is a percentage applied to overall event costs, which is why it can fluctuate as you tweak your menu and event details.  On average, the service charge is 18 – 22% of your total cost.  It covers all of the back-end costs that go into the event aside from the food itself.   Most companies do not charge for the large cooking/serving ware, tastings (after booking), walk-throughs, meetings, food/rental transport and delivery, insurance certificates, etc.  This fee offsets all of the costs to ensure your event runs perfectly!  Many believe service charge is the staffing and/or gratuity, but that is not always the case.  Labor typically is a separate charge and unless stated, gratuities are not included.  In my opinion, gratuities are never expected but always greatly appreciated!
    Sometimes it can be hard to stomach such a hefty charge – but consider all that is needed to feed your guests.  Imagine trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a field for 15 – 25 people. What would you need to make it happen?  Now multiply that 10 times.  It adds up faster than you’d expect!  Caterers are essentially restaurants on-the-go, and the service charge helps cover the “go”.
  • Do I really need the amount of staff you included in your quote?
    If a professional caterer recommends it, trust them! They do this all the time and know what it takes to execute your event.  If you have quotes from four different caterers, and one has double the staff that the others have for the exact same type of menu, it’s okay to ask that caterer how they calculate their staffing.  The same goes for a caterer who quoted far less staff than the others you are comparing it to – the last thing you want is an understaffed event.  Caterers typically staff 1 server for every 25 – 30 guests with a buffet dinner, and 1 server for every 15 – 18 guests with a plated dinner.  These ratios can vary depending on the timeline, venue layout, rentals provided and menu.  It never hurts to ask, but know that most caterers staff only what is necessary to make your wedding run smoothly.

So there you have it, five of the most commonly asked wedding catering questions!  I hope these answers and explanations help ease your mind and maybe even make your wedding planning a little less stressful.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by a vendor’s quote if you don’t understand what all the charges mean or all the work that is going into the task at hand.  It is important to not let these charges take away any of the joy or excitement of your special day.  A great caterer will be able to work with you and your budget in order to compromise on getting you what you want at a price you can afford.  Don’t be afraid to shop around for a caterer you can trust and feel comfortable with, you want to be able to enjoy not only your wedding day but the whole planning process.  Happy wedding planning!

Add-ons and Extras for a Memorable Reception

I often get asked about that extra little something to make for a distinctive wedding reception.  Today’s blog isn’t about money saving tips and tricks as much as that added special touch when you have some room left in your budget.  Below are some ideas to inspire you!

  • Starters and Cocktail Hour
    I see a lot of couples skip hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour as a way to save a little bit here and there.  If you are looking for a great flow for your reception, I recommend not forgoing something to snack on at the start of your party.  Whether it is passed bites or appetizing displays, this helps pass the time and keeps your guests mingling while awaiting your grand entrance.  Guests that have just been to the ceremony and are getting hungry appreciate a small bite before dinner.
    Bonus Tip: The important thing here is keeping guests occupied during cocktail hour while you take pictures and refresh. So not only nibbles, but drinks can also give them something to do. Creating a signature drink or having staff pass champagne or red and white wine at the door can give an elegant touch while making guests feel important and get them in the mood to begin the celebration.
  • Dinner
    When looking to add something unique to dinner feel free to think outside the box. A plated dinner doesn’t have to be just two courses.  Having two starter courses, for example, an Ahi Tuna Tartar, Apple Smoked Bacon wrapped Scallops, or a Wild Mushroom & Bleu Cheese Risotto Cake dish, before the salad comes out can make it a stand out affair!
    Bonus Tip: Another idea is adding a dessert course to a plated dinner, or even a dessert station.  I often see guests get excited about dessert options other than the wedding cake.  An interactive dessert station, for example, ice cream cookie sandwiches or homemade ice cream made on-site, gives guests something extra to remember.  Another option is offering bite size dessert displays, as attendees often tend to go towards smaller easy to grab options over a whole slice of cake.
  • Bar
    If you are looking for your guests to get down and dance, dine and really celebrate, having an open bar is a must.  Adding a couple signature drinks is also a great idea. A cute sign by the bar listing some unique specialty drink options will make things easier for your guests allowing them to go up to the bar and place their drink orders without having to give it much thought.  Signature drinks are great because guests will always remember the delicious tasting beverage they experienced exclusively at your wedding.
  • Late night
    A passed snack later in the evening after everyone has been dancing and burning some calories can be really fun.  This can be something unique to your style, your favorite things, or your wedding vibe/theme.  Think passed milk and cookies, quesadillas, pizza bites, sliders, milkshake shots, or truffle lollipops.  Late night bites are great because they are unique yet loved by everyone, think about it, all great nights usually end with your favorite foods.

So there you have it, it’s not often that I talk about extra things to add to your budget rather than things you can do without but these are definitely some great alternatives.  All of these options add to the feel of your reception and give your guests a little something extra to remember your special day by.  It’s almost always the little things that separate your event from all of the others.  Add one or more of these ideas to your wedding plans and make your event one that stands out from all the rest.  Happy wedding planning!

5 Unusual Foods Your Wedding Guests Will Love!

No matter what the event, food is always an important aspect.  If want your wedding to be memorable and enjoyable for all, food is a great way to win your guest’s hearts.  When it comes to your food choices don’t fear being original.  Traditional is great, but unusual foods can set your special day apart from the rest and make it a great experience for all of your guests.  Here are a few of my top suggestions for unusual foods your guests will love!

1. Milk & Cookies
Who doesn’t love this classic pairing of two favorites?!  This is great for a midnight snack to serve your guests after they have been dancing the night away. This could also be used in place of cake if you are looking for a more non-traditional dessert item.

2. Mini Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup
Mini grilled cheeses with tomato soup shooters work great as an hors d’oeuvre during cocktail hour.  This delicious comfort food combo is perfect for those chillier fall/winter months.

3. Macaroni & Cheese Bar
Guests love interactive food options where they are able to personalize their item. With a Mac & Cheese Bar, you have a ton of fixings displayed around the traditional and always delicious, mac & cheese.  Let your guests get creative by adding whatever they wish to their classic favorite allowing for a truly original dish.

4. Fish Tacos paired with Margaritas
Who doesn’t love fish tacos and margaritas?  Whether they are together or on their own, they are always delicious!  This pairing is a great option for a summer event when margaritas are in full demand.  You could do this as a station with full-size tacos and drinks or change it up a bit for hors d’oeuvres and use mini tacos and margarita shots to make it fun!

5. Popcorn Bar
A popcorn bar is also another great option for late night snacking!  Have a selection of savory flavors mixed with sweet flavors for guests to munch on as they celebrate with you!  Guests of all ages will love it and because popcorn is such a great grab and go treat, this snacking won’t stop the party!

So there you have it, 5 foods for your wedding reception that your guests will love!  Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and stray away from the traditional.  The most memorable aspects of a wedding are often the things you have never seen done before.  While shrimp cocktail and wedding cake will always work for the occasion, mini grilled cheese & tomato soup or sweet & salty popcorn mixtures can really make an impression and leave your guests talking about your special day for years to come.  Happy wedding planning!

3 Items That Will Transform Your Wedding Menu Into A Winter Wonderland

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I don’t just mean the holidays. If you are planning a winter wonderland wedding and need some inspiration, look no further! Here are some delicious ideas to help make your winter wedding memorable.

1. Cocktail Hour – Soup Shooters
What better way to help guests warm up? Soup shooters are a delicious and fun way to get the party started!  The best part about them is how many options you have, just choose your favorite soups. I recommend something smoother and/or creamy like tomato or lobster bisque. Depending on the size of the shooter, it may not be ideal for something chunkier such as chicken noodle.  Consider serving a complimentary second bite, such as lobster bisque shooters and crab cakes, or topping the shooter off with a small bite, like a mini grilled cheese. Guests won’t be able to get enough of them!

2. Dessert – Hot Cocoa Bar
Nothing says winter more than hot cocoa! This is a fun twist on the traditional coffee bar, and it is an easy switch.  I recommend having the hot cocoa in a large coffee/hot water urn, this is much more beneficial than providing just the hot water with individual cocoa packets to your guests.  Not only will the already prepared cocoa stay hot and fresh in the urn, it will also be less of a mess than your guests mixing it themselves and not to mention, less expensive than those individual packets!  Provide delicious sweets such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup for guests to garnish their drinks to their liking. This bar works perfectly with cake or by itself for the non-cake lovers too!

3. Bar – Burr Royale
A wintery take on the traditional Kir Royale, your guests won’t be able to get enough of this delicious drink!  Start by sugaring the rim of a champagne flute with blue sugar crystals. Pour ¼oz of blue curacao into a champagne flute, followed by 3oz of champagne. Garnish with a lemon peel and raspberry, or any other fruit that may go better with your color scheme, and serve. Depending on the brand of champagne, you may find the drink can turn out slightly green, so it’s never a bad idea to supply your bartenders with some blue food coloring just in case!

So there you have it, 3 tasty ideas to enhance your winter wedding.  These ideas are all simple and delicious, but most importantly, they won’t break your budget!  Wedding planning is all about being creative and incorporating the things you love into your special day so don’t be scared to stray away from the traditional hors d’oeuvres or desserts.  Your guests are sure to love your original selection of winter treats and stations.  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!

4 Unique Wedding Cake Alternatives

We all know a tiered wedding cake is the traditional dessert and often a focal point at any wedding, but these days more couples are opting for something a little bit more distinctive. Here are 4 unique ways to satisfy your sweet tooth on your big day!

  1. Donuts
    Donuts will be the next big thing in wedding desserts, taking cupcakes place as the runner-up to cake. They are easily customizable, you can decorate them to be plain or ornate.  Donuts also give you the ability to create tons of different flavor options for your guests, allowing you to be able to please everyone with the variety of options. Serve these babies up with cold milk or hot coffee and they are sure to be a hit!
  2. Pie Buffet
    Having a pie buffet at your reception will give it a hint of nostalgia and a variety your guests will love. This option can also be very budget friendly if you have family members or friends who are expert pie makers. Pair this up with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and you’re set!
  3. Ice Cream Sundae Bar
    Who doesn’t love ice cream?! A make-your-own sundae bar will win over guests of all ages. With so many options you can even cater to those who have special dietary restrictions by offering ice cream made with coconut milk or non-dairy sorbets. You can also add a personal touch by creating custom flavors to really impress your guests. Add some sprinkles, nuts, chocolate sauce and caramel for your guests to customize their sundae and you are sure to have a winning dessert bar!
  4. Fresh Fruit & Cheese
    Fruit and cheese are such an elegant pairing of deliciousness! You can create beautiful displays by playing up the different shapes and colors of the fruits. An assortment of cheeses will provide your guests with a savory snack while the fruit will satisfy their sweet tooth without any of the guilt. You can also add a chocolate fountain to dip the fruit in for a little indulgence and because, well, who doesn’t love a chocolate fountain?!

There you have it, 4 wedding cake alternatives sure to please any guest.  Don’t be afraid to shy away from the traditional aspects of things when planning your wedding, it might make your special day even more special when you do!  As always, 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!

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!

12 Month Wedding Planning Timeline

When you first get engaged, it seems to be proper for you to immediately start planning the wedding.  But in my opinion, you’re missing out on an amazing part of your life together if you do that.  Why not enjoy your engagement a little bit before you go bonkers and start stressing out?  Why not celebrate the fact that you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together, instead of spending all of your time worrying about one day?  Not to say that your wedding day isn’t a big day, it’s a huge day!  But don’t let it get to you.

I’ve looked at a lot of timelines people suggest for when you get engaged, for when to start looking for a venue, when to order your cake, your invitations, etc.  But they all seem to have items on their to-do lists that I just don’t think are necessary, or maybe just in the wrong place.  Now, I will agree that a year is a good amount of time to be planning the wedding, not including your blissful, “We just got engaged!” phase together.  The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be, and the more time you’ll have to save up some money.

So with that, here is my version of a To-Do List:
Oh but first here one more tip! Get your engagement photos taken during your blissful stage, before all the planning.  This will produce some of the cutest pictures and you will have plenty of time to get them printed and back to you before you send save-the-dates and invites.  Don’t have this feel like just another item on your checklist to get done.  This is a sweet and wonderful time full of happiness, so take advantage of that!

12 Months Out:
*Get a wedding binder
This is for you to be able to keep track of everything you’ll be needing and going over; contracts, quotes, pictures, etc.  Have this include a calendar of some sort so you can keep track of all your appointments.  This is something you should be doing whether or not you have a coordinator.
*Work on your budget
This is very serious and very important.  If you do not sit down with your significant other and decide on a budget, it could open up a whole new door of complications.  Together, decide what you can afford and what some absolutely necessary items would be and what some things you can live without are.  Without a budget, you’ll never know when to stop.
*Write down a preliminary guest list
You will, at least, need to have an idea of how many people you will be inviting because this has a lot to do with your budget.  If you know how many people you’ll need to feed, you’ll know how much money that will cost; the more people, the more food cost.
*Choose a wedding date
This one may be a little obvious but sometimes you’ll need a couple of different dates.  So sit down together and discuss at least 2 or 3 dates in case you find the perfect venue, and they don’t have your first choice.  Sometimes even just a month and day of the week would be enough to give you the freedom for whatever venue you fall in love with.
*Start looking for ideas
Now you should have your budget, so you will know if you’re going to be making your decorations yourself or having someone else do them.  Start browsing around the internet and see all the different ideas that are out there.  Pinterest is a great place to start and we both know, a helpful wedding blog is always great!
*Start looking for your dress
At this point, we don’t expect you to find THE dress, but you should, at least, start to look at places that are affordable for you.  There are hundreds of places to get a wedding dress and you don’t want to miss out on anything because you don’t have time to try all the places you’d like to.
*Pick your bridal party
If you want to do something cute to invite your friends to be in your bridal party, now is the time to do it.  I’m sure a select few would know it’s coming, but it shows your appreciation if you go out of your way to ask.  It is not a small commitment for your maid-of-honor and bridesmaids to say yes.  The same goes for your sweetheart, make sure you both know how many you want in the party and that he asks as well!
*Pick your venue
You will need at least a month to shop around for venues, so start now and you’ll have a better chance of finding your date.  Once you find the place you want to get married, DO NOT HESITATE!  If you hesitate to book it, someone else will take it right out from under you.

9 Months Out:
*Save the Dates 

Pick and send out your save the dates.  I love the idea of a picture of the couple for save the dates but keep in mind the extra cost on the photos.
*Gift Registry
Go ahead and start registering.  Sometimes this can take quite a while, so give yourself plenty of time and don’t feel rushed, but don’t overwhelm your guests either.  Find a happy medium.
*Pick and order your dress 
You may have already found the one by now, but in case you haven’t, it’s time to get crackin’!  Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day, but don’t go crazy.  Make sure that once you have your fitting, you’re at a size you plan on being at, and maintain that.  Be comfortable with yourself and don’t work out too much, but also, don’t go overboard at those cake tastings.  Don’t try to make your body fit the dress; make the dress fit your body.  You will look much more beautiful if your dress fits you perfectly!
*Block out rooms at a hotel
If you’re going to have a bunch of out of town guests, you’ll need to have a block of rooms at a hotel that is decently close to your venue.  Hotels do not charge you for this and will give you a lower rate for the block.  Try and find something that won’t be too expensive either, they are already spending money to fly or drive to your wedding destination.  Also make sure your guests get the information for the hotel you have rooms at.
*Shop for bridesmaids dresses
This is something that can get very stressful, if you let it.  Decide if you want matching dresses, just matching colors or just a matching color scheme.  It is good to have your bridesmaids go with you, so you can see what style dress looks good on them.  But if you’re doing all one dress style and color, don’t let them sway your decision completely and stress you out.  Try to keep the cost down on these dresses as well.  If you do the dress shopping far out enough in advance, your friends may have more time to save up for the dress, but it is still something they will probably only wear to your wedding.  In the end, you probably won’t be able to make everyone happy, but try your best.
*Book your honeymoon 
Take some time and look into different airfares and hotels.  Be sure to make this fun and exciting!  Don’t stress out over it.  Go somewhere that you’ll both enjoy and can afford.  Also, don’t forget about a hotel the night of your wedding if you are leaving in the morning.
*Shop for and purchase your wedding rings
 If your engagement ring was bought as a set, it will probably be easiest to go back to the same place, but you don’t necessarily have to, and you don’t need to get his there either.  Look around at what other places have to offer.  Make sure it’s something you love, because you’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life!
*Book your DJ, Photographer, Florist, Cake, etc.
This is probably the part that will take the biggest hit to your pocket.  Now is the time you’ll need to start putting down deposits to book your musicians, photographers and videographers, day of coordinator, etc.  Make sure you have done plenty of research on someone before you give them your money.  Look into their past events, make sure it’s something you want and make sure you have good chemistry with your vendors.  Don’t book someone that you don’t really get along with.  If you are doing your decorations yourself, start buying all of your products to make them, and start working on them.  Give yourself enough time just in case an idea doesn’t work, or you end up needing more of something.  Making the decorations can be extremely stressful, so don’t procrastinate it and feel free to recruit some free help.  When it comes to your cake, please, please, please try many different bakeries and their cakes, check into many different prices, and look at past cakes they’ve done.  It is a horrible experience to have your cake be dropped off hours before your wedding and it be wrong (Yes, I have witnessed this happen.  It was able to be fixed up a bit, but the couple was still unhappy with the situation and it really stressed them out, that’s not something you need).

6 Months Out:
*Book the rehearsal dinner
Make sure you get your guest list for the dinner and everyone gets an invite.  Don’t forget to invite them to the ceremony rehearsal as well.
*Look for and rent Groom and Groomsmen’s tuxes
This is not nearly as painful of a process as finding the bridesmaids dresses, but it is just as important.  Make sure to give yourself enough time for it.
*Order the rest of your bridal accessories
Now is when you should be getting your cute extras.  Order your veil, gloves if needed, undergarments for the dress and don’t forget your shoes (or to break in your shoes if you already have them).
*Finalize your guest list
Sit down with your honey and make some more cuts, if necessary, or add a few more people you hadn’t thought of.  Try to get a good idea of how many invitations you’ll need before you order them.
*Select and order your invitations
Invitations are very important, so make sure you order plenty of them and with enough time to get them sent out and get your RSVP’s back.  Sending out the invitations can be very time consuming because you’ll probably have to address every one of them.  And again, some free help is always appreciated here if you can find it!

2 Months Out:
This is the time for you to start to finalize everything.  You’re now in the home stretch!  So make sure everyone is on the same page and everything is being paid for!
*Order your cake
This is something you are allowed to be picky about.  Don’t be afraid to express exactly what you want and make sure there is no confusion and no questions when you leave.
*Check in with your wedding party
 Give them a little nudge and make sure they have everything that they need, just don’t forget to be nice!
*Get your marriage license
 Find out what requirements there are for obtaining your marriage license and make sure you get it done, and don’t forget to pick it up once it’s ready.
*Send out thank you cards for the engagement party
You should have already ordered your invitation set, and hopefully your thank you cards as well.  Make sure you order a few extra to send for the gifts you received at your engagement party/bridal party/etc.
*Finalize day of transportation and jobs
You can easily get caught up in all of the fun details like decorations, dresses, makeup, and invitations, but it would be quite embarrassing if you had forgotten about how you’ll get to your ceremony or how you’ll be sent off as the newlyweds.  Some venues have rooms for you to get ready in the day of, so it takes a little stress off of you.  You won’t have to worry about getting in the car with your dress or having your makeup sweat off, but what about the send-off?  Do you want to drive off into the night in an old classic car that says just married?  Don’t forget about the transportation!  Also, finalize what everyone will be responsible for.  Whether someone is in charge of making sure you don’t forget a shoe, or that all of the party favors get to the venue. Make sure someone has a job for the clean-up.  A lot of places won’t clean your decorations for you, so delegate someone to take them home, or make sure your decorator knows when to pick them up.
*Start to pay off your vendors
The sooner you can start to get some things paid off, the more it takes off your mind and the less you have to do closer to the big day.
*Pick your hair and make-up stylists
 Don’t go into this blindly.  Look around at different stylists, or maybe you have a friend that can do it.  Either way, make sure you have a trial run!  This way, you can discuss everything in much more detail when it’s actually being done.  If something doesn’t work out, you know not to do it again.
*Mail out your invites 
You could do this earlier, just be sure and give your guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and ask that the RSVP’s are back 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.

1 Month Out: 
*Finalize vendors and pay them
Some vendors don’t require final payment until a couple of weeks out, but the sooner you get it done, the more stress it removes from you.
*Pick up your rings
Make sure they are correct, whether there is an engraving, or the size is right, etc.
*Write your speeches and vows
Make sure anything you want to say at the rehearsal or the wedding, is down on paper somewhere.  It helps to write it down and get it out, that way you can tweak it if you want.  And if you lose it, it will probably be easier to remake.  Have someone read it too, or read it to them, and see if they have any suggestions.  The vows are very important and should be taken seriously.  You are making one of the biggest commitments you will ever make in your life.  Don’t go into it lightly.
*Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
If you’re going the traditional route, make sure that you have your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, and be sure and keep track of them!
*Purchase guest book, cake cutting set, champagne flutes, etc.
Go ahead and get your small items like this.  This gives you enough time to look around for the cutest sign-in book and cake cutter.
*Check in with those that haven’t RSVP’d
This is not going to be fun, but you need to start hunting down those, hopefully only a few, people that still haven’t RSVP’d.  You have to know a final guest count for your caterer and so that your venue knows how many to seat for.
*Schedule a final dress fitting
It’s crunch time!  Make sure it fits!
*Put together a timeline for the night
Your vendors will need a timeline so they know when to set up and be ready and when to come back and pick everything up.  If you have a coordinator, she may do this, but do it with her and make sure you’re both on the same page.

1 Week Out: 
*Finalize any due balances
Make sure everything is paid for and there are no loose ends!
*Pick up your dress
Yay! It’s time to go get your dress!  This should be a simple enough exchange, just make sure you keep the dress clean!
*Confirm any last minute details
If you have a limo, make sure it is confirmed.  Confirm drop off and pick up times for your vendors.  Confirm reservations.  Any small detail that could go wrong, make sure it’s going to go right!
*Emergency kit
Put together an emergency kit for yourself and your bridal party.  Extra bobby pins, safety pins, sewing kit (if you’ve got someone who can sew), hair bands, tissues, band-aids, anything you can possibly think of that you might need.  If you think about it and decide against it, you know you’ll need it, so just put it in the kit anyway!
*Go get pampered
Treat yourself to a mani/pedi, or a facial, or go full out and have a spa day.  After how stressed you’ve been, it’ll be nice to just relax right before your big day.

1 Day Before:
*Pack all necessary day of items
Make sure you don’t forget anything.  If you need to make a list to help you remember everything, do it.  Especially don’t forget the rings, license, or the cake cutting set!
*Attend rehearsal dinner
Now would be a good time to test out your new waterproof makeup.  If you plan on giving out any gifts, now is also the time to do it.  But most importantly, have fun!  Enjoy some good food and good company before the big day.
*Go to bed early
You may not be able to fall asleep for a while, so make sure you get in bed early.  If you can manage to fall asleep right away, even better, then you’ll just be extra rested for your wedding.

The Day Of: 
*Eat a healthy breakfast
Eat something that will give you energy without making you shaky; something that has lots of fiber and antioxidants.  Get your day started right, and the rest of day will go smoothly!
*Double check
Double check everything you’ve packed up, including your honeymoon luggage and necessary items (passport, tickets, etc.).  Double check that everyone knows what they’re responsibilities for the day are.  Double check and make sure you grabbed that amazing waterproof mascara.  Double check anything and everything that could possibly cause you more stress if it went wrong.  Take the time to do it in advance, and you’ll be glad you did.
*GET MARRIED!
And have fun doing it!  It’s a celebration of a huge step forward in your life with the one person you love the most.

So there it is, that’s all I’ve got for you.  Just remember, keep your stress as low as possible, it’s not healthy to be stressed.  Don’t procrastinate because you think you have all the time in the world, it’ll be here before you know it!  And love, love so unconditionally it hurts.  If you do this, you and your special somebody will have an amazing life together.  Happy 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!