Wedding Food 101: Plated vs. Buffet

Choosing what style food service you want at your wedding reception is no easy task, there are a lot of different factors that play a part in this decision.  Plated and buffet style events are both very popular for weddings, it all depends on your preference and the style of your big day.  Knowing a little bit more about each type of food service will help you discover which type is right for you, this is why I have decided to provide you with a list of pros and cons for both a plated meal style event and a buffet style event. I hope this breakdown of the two will help make your decision easier and allow you to find which option best suits your needs!

Buffet Style Reception:
Buffets are great for more casual events because they promote more mingling and interaction among guests.  If you are looking to keep your costs low, buffets are a great choice. They do not require servers to serve your guests which will save you money on catering staff, and you are also able to provide a larger variety of food options.  If you choose a buffet style meal, your guests will serve themselves from food stations set up on long tables. While guests serving themselves will save you money on staffing costs it may cause a line to form and take a while for everyone to get their food.  Some guests will take a bit longer to finish their meal depending on when they get back from the food line so if you are on a tight schedule for doing dances, toasts, etc. this may not be the right option for you.   Buffets require a bit more food since people tend to eat more when serving themselves, it is also a small possibility you may run out of some items because there is no exact amount that each guest may take.

Plated Style Reception:
Plated meals are the most traditional and formal option for events, they usually consist of three to four courses that are served while your guests remain seated. Having your guests served while being seated is a lot less chaotic, there will be no lines and everyone will be served at the same time.  An advantage of doing this type of meal service is that you can spread out activities such as dances and toasts in-between courses to keep guests engaged and maintain a nice energy throughout the event.  Another nice aspect of having a plated style meal is that you do not have to worry about running out of food since each guest is being served the same set amount, one thing to keep in mind, though, is the extra cost of servers required for this style.  Also, be aware that having a plated dinner will require a bit more planning and organization on your end.  You will need to send out response cards so your guests can select their meal preference, you will also need to have escort cards and place cards so the servers know which dish each guest ordered.

Both options have positive and negative aspects to them, but your guests will have a great time either way! If you are more relaxed, want to encourage your guests to mingle and not on a strict schedule, a buffet style might be best for you.  If you are a planner and like to keep things very organized and traditional, a plated style reception is what you should go for.  At the end of the day, it really just depends on what style you like best and what your budget allows.  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 Details You Need to Know Before Meeting Wedding Caterers

Wedding planning can be made into a bigger beast than it needs to be, but if you come prepared to vendor meetings it will tame things quite a bit.  Vendors don’t expect you to walk into the meeting knowing the ins and outs of the wedding world … that’s their job! However, in order to successfully find the right vendors for your big day, you do need to know what you want to a certain extent. Here are four key things you need to know, or at least have some idea of before starting your search for the perfect wedding caterer:

  1. Your Budget
    This topic always feels so taboo to couples which is why I bring it up first.  Your budget really dictates what can be made possible.  There is nothing wrong with saying your budget, it actually helps in many ways and makes planning much easier. Stating your desired budget helps your prospective caterer choose the best menu for you. Don’t fixate on whether your budget is too high or low for what you want.  Tell your caterer what you want and what you are willing to pay for it. If your budget truly is unrealistic, caterers will help bring you to reality.  There isn’t a caterer out there that could pull off serving surf and turf for $8 per person.  However, if you are willing to work with the caterer and be open-minded to their suggestions, you may be able to get closer to your ideal wedding menu without completely hurting your wallet. Trust the pros! Tell them what you want. Be honest and open, and they will do the same.
  2. Your Desired Theme/Style
    Whether you want traditional or quirky, you need to have an idea of which road you want to take. Some caterers specialize in very elegant, traditional plated meals while others are known for breaking the mold. Then, of course, there are the caterers in the middle who do a little bit of everything. It’s not a matter of talent, but your preference.  Knowing earlier on what type of meal you want to have at your wedding helps save you time and stress. Choosing your vendors is like dating all over again, you find the one you click with, and the rest is history.
  3. Guest Count
    By no means do you need a final headcount before meeting with caterers, but having an idea of how many guests will be attending will help your prospective caterer choose menus that are more realistic for you. This goes side by side with your budget like we just talked about above, 250 people versus 50 people can mean a completely different menu for your desired budget. If you really don’t have any idea how many guests you plan on having, you need to step back and sort that out first.
  4. Event Hours
    This detail gets overlooked a lot, but it affects your caterer just as much as the menu or rentals. Most caterers include an hourly rate for their staff, so you need to have an idea of how long you want your event to be. If you already have your venue booked, this should be an easy answer. If you are still looking for your venue, just having an idea of the type of event you want is enough for your prospective caterer. Some couples choose to only have a light cocktail reception that wraps up within two hours while others want a six-hour reception. You don’t need to know your exact event start and end time, you just need to know what kind of event you have in mind.

So there you have it, the 4 details of your wedding that you should know the answer to before starting your search for the perfect caterer.  The more information you can provide your prospective caterer with, the better off you will be and the more they will be able to help you.  Planning your special day is never anything short of stressful, embrace the help when it is available and allow your caterer to make your ideas work the best they can.  You will be surprised at what is possible when you let down your wedding planning guard a little and leave some aspects to the pros.  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!

5 Kitchen Items Every Wedding Registry Should Splurge On

Your wedding is a great time to get things you would want that you normally would not buy for yourself. Most of your guests will want to buy you something nice – so why not point them in the right direction! While it is fun to ask for a quirky waffle iron or countertop soda machine, make sure you ask for a few higher quality kitchen essentials. The items used daily are often times the most overlooked when building a registry because they aren’t fancy or super exciting, but let’s face it – you need them! These essential items are the last thing you want to skimp on as far as quality is concerned. It can be a little overwhelming wandering through the aisles and deciding the must-haves, so here are a few to help.

  1. Knives/Knife Set
    You will always appreciate an amazing knife set. They are a crucial tool no matter how large or small the meal. The last thing you want is to dread chopping potatoes or meat because you know it’s going to be a workout. Quality knives will allow you to slice and dice your way through dinner prep without any temptation to throw in the towel and order takeout.
  2. Pots and Pans
    Finer quality cookware doesn’t just end at the stove – they help shorten your time at the sink. Over time, the lesser quality items begin to rust and break. Before registering, do a little research. Think about what types of meals you typically cook, read reviews on different types and brands of cookware, and price out the different options. Some people prefer copper cookware while others prefer Teflon. No matter your preference, you want to ask for quality items that will save yourself from the short and long term headaches.
  3. Silverware
    Similar to pots and pans, silverware can last a while, or not so much. Quality silverware will be at your table for years to come – going a lesser route will result in rusted and bent cutlery. Choosing a nicer set of silverware can simplify things as well. If you choose a cleaner, simpler style, it can work with every day casual meals as well as grander holiday dinners without seeming out of place.
  4. Everyday China
    Your everyday meals deserve more than a paper plate. If you do not yet have durable, dishwasher friendly china, you should consider it. The fine china sets are beautiful additions to any formal table setting, however if you do not have the daily basics, build that first. Quality casual china will be more resistant to chips, fading and staining, and if you choose a more traditional, basic style, you will not have to worry about replacing out of date looks.
  5. Crockpot
    It might sound like a silly must have, but as you start your new life together, you will find more use for it than expected. Life will only get busier, and it will be your biggest ally at dinner time. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long work day to a delicious dinner waiting for you, and crockpots always make that a possibility. There are countless recipes online, as well as, cookbooks to give ideas. You want to make sure to invest in a good brand to avoid coming home to a burnt meal… or worse, a burned kitchen.

So there you have it, 5 items you should be sure to add to your wedding registry!  Don’t overlook the common, most-used items for all of the fancy gadgets that may seem amazing while registering but months later end up in the back of the cabinet never to be used again. Start with the basics and then go from there.  Happy wedding planning!

From Miss to Mrs: Changing Your Last Name

I decided to take a break from my usual wedding planning posts to touch on an important part of the marriage process that people often forget doesn’t just happen (although it would be nice if it did).  Changing your last name is a process, and while it may not be the most enjoyable one, the end result will have you feeling great and bring you to the realization that you are officially married!  Woohoo!  The most important thing is knowing the order in which to make the change.

Bonus tip:   In order to save yourself a major headache, don’t change your name until  after your honeymoon!  If you make the change before, your passport and other important items will no longer be valid and you probably won’t get the new ones back in time for your trip.  Don’t start the celebration of your marriage off with a meltdown, play it safe and wait until you are back home to start your name change process.

Below are step-by-step instructions on how to make the official change from Miss to Mrs:

  1. Get a certified copy of your marriage certificate
    You need this document before you can do anything else. Your marriage should be on file with your local county clerk by the time you return from your honeymoon. You can get a copy of your marriage certificate at the county clerk’s office and you do not need an appointment.  This will most likely cost you  $10 per copy.   I would suggest getting two copies.  You will need to bring one copy of the marriage certificate around with you for the rest of the name change process so it is always nice to have a backup back at home in case anything happens or it gets lost somehow.
    What you will need to bring with you:  Your ID only
  1. Visit your local Social Security Office
    This is where you actually change your name.  This can be the dreaded social security office experience of long lines and waits. To make this as painless as possible, avoid going in the middle of the day like on your lunch break.  Going first thing in the morning, maybe even a little before the office officially opens, will help you beat the majority of the line.  Unfortunately, the social security office does not allow appointments for a name change, so wake up early and try to beat the rush!  I would also suggest going online and printing out the form you need to fill out for your name change so that you are already prepared when you get there.
    What you will need to bring with you: Your marriage certificate, your current license, your passport or birth certificate (for proof of citizenship)
  1. Visit the DMV
    The next step is to change your name on your license. You need your new social security card for this so you will have to wait for it to come in first for this part.  Once you have your new social security card, head on over to the DMV and you know what to do from there!
    What you will need to bring with you:  Your new social security card, your current license, your marriage certificate, a bill (for proof of address), payment

And that’s it for the government to recognize your new name! After all of this, you will need to inform others of your name change such as your employer, bank, credit cards and bills, and anything else you would like to see your new name on, such as emails. Most of these things require your marriage certificate to change.

While the process is a bit of a hassle, in the end, it can be exciting when you start seeing your new name on everything. I hope this information has been useful for you. Congratulations and good luck to all the newlyweds in this process!

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!