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!

Three Simple Ways to Cut Your Wedding Costs

It sounds easy enough, but the further along you get in wedding planning, the tougher this concept can seem!  Rest assured, there are some quick and easy ways to cut costs, and don’t worry, none of them involve cutting back on the bar package or dress budget!

  1. Friday or Sunday Weddings
    Before you write this one off, put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Would you miss your friend’s wedding simply because it was on a Friday?  Of course not!  You may leave work a little early to give yourself time to get ready and get through the traffic, but it is all worth seeing your friend’s special day. Your guests will feel the same way!

    Often times, venues offer a reduced rental rate for a Friday or Sunday wedding because they are not as much in demand as a Saturday date.  They may also lift any food or beverage minimum they apply to a Saturday event, which helps reduce your costs even more.  When you tour venues, ask them for their Friday and Sunday rates. You could be pleasantly surprised, and if your guests value you as much as you value them, they will make time for you any day of the week.

  1. Buffet Dinner
    Again, put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Would you be traumatized if your friend’s Sunday wedding had a buffet dinner?  Probably not.  The second you smell the delicious food, all you will care about is making room for seconds!

    With most catering companies buffets are self-serve, which greatly reduces your staffing costs.  When you first start to research and look over menus, you may see the food is a couple dollars more per person than the plated option, which could steer you away, but you have to consider the OVERALL catering cost that comes with plated versus buffet. Less staff on site means a smaller percentage of your budget is being pulled toward labor. Even if you think you are set on plated or action stations, always ask for a buffet quote to compare. You never know – it could end up being the perfect fit!

  1. Cut the Guest List
    This one is always tough, but it can be done!  There are two approaches to cutting the guest list, some find one way works better than the other, while others use both rules.  It’s really up to you and your other half to decide what the two of you feel most comfortable with. There will always be pressure from family and friends on this topic, and when that happens, kindly remind them that their input matters, however, the budget will always win!

    Rule #1: We both have met you
    It’s simple, have both of you met this person?  By ‘met’ I mean, longer than those 10 seconds at that one barbecue 2 years ago, it needs to be a significant person in your lives together.  There’s no harm in mentioning work friends, old college roommates, etc. that may have played a big role in a chapter of your life before you met the person you are about to marry, however, they need to be placed on the ‘maybe’ list until your guest list is more developed.  Include all of those close to you that know BOTH of you first, and then add in the maybe’s after that.  It’s all about compromise.

    Rule #2: Have we seen you in the past year?
    This is for your own interpretation. Depending on where your families live, this rule may bend a little, because of course, you want to include your grandparents who live 2,000 miles away!  This is a general rule of thumb and up to you to enforce as you see fit.  Just as in Rule #1, there may be people who are important to you that you just don’t see as often as you used to, and it’s okay to add them to the maybe list!  But if you want to cut your costs down, you have to start with the essential guests and add from there.

Wedding planning is hard, and budget tends to be the most difficult thing about it.  Making the final decisions on all aspects of your big day is tough and some require more thought than others.  It is important to step back and look at the big picture when it comes to making the tough decisions.  Is your day really going to be ruined if you trim the guest list a little or make a tiny menu change?  Stay positive and remember, there are always ways to cut costs, even if your budget is small, you can still pull off the wedding of your dreams.  Happy wedding planning!

3 Tips to Simplify Your Wedding Catering Plans

After you book your caterer, you should feel a big weight come off of your shoulders, you have checked one huge box off your to-do list!  While you should feel better about locking in such a crucial component to your wedding, the work really isn’t over quite yet.  As your wedding approaches, you will need to confirm the final guest count, menu, rentals, and event hours with your caterer. Sounds easy enough, but as you start to work on the final details, you will find there to be much more involved than you expected!  Here are a few ways to ease your stress and simplify your wedding catering plans.

1. Buffet Menu
Not only can a buffet be a little more budget friendly, it is also less stress for you. With a buffet menu, all you need is a final headcount. Unless you have opted for children’s meals for the little ones who may not eat the regular buffet, everyone will be enjoying the same thing, which means you don’t have to worry about anything more than gathering the final number of mouths to feed! This also allows a more relaxed seating arrangement if you are not too keen on assigned seating.  Just be sure to allow extra time and extra seats, as people may take longer to pick a seat and you could end up with a lot of tables with one open seat, which would force the last bundle of guests to separate from their date/party.

2. Plated with One Entrée Choice
If you hate the idea of your guests standing in a buffet line, plated is still an option! Instead of offering two different entrée choices, offer just one. This eliminates you having to mark all the escort cards with meal choices.  I still recommend including the ‘vegetarian’ box on your RSVP cards in order to make sure your non-meat loving guests are taken care of.  It’s a lot less sticker placing on escort cards too since vegetarians meals tend to be less commonly requested than the main entrée.

3. Online RSVP
Technology has come very far in every aspect of the sense, including weddings! Popular wedding sites, such as The Knot, offer free wedding websites that include guest lists and the ability to RSVP.  Instead of sending RSVP cards with your invites, just include a little note on an insert, or even the invite itself, that directs your guests to your wedding website to RSVP. The wonderful thing about the online RSVPS is you also have the ability to limit the number of guests so you don’t get any unexpected plus ones. The site calculates the number of yes’s and no’s for you, as well as entrees if you offer more than one option, which saves you some time.

Wedding planning is very time-consuming so why not simplify it wherever you can.  Your guests will be happy to celebrate your special day with you no matter what menu options they are given, so don’t think you need to try and please everyone with their favorite foods.  In the end, this day is all about you and your loved one so focus on making choices that fit your budget and you are both happy with.  I hope these tips have been helpful in saving you some time and stress.  Happy wedding planning!

 

Must-Have Flavors to Include in Your Fall Wedding Menu

Fall is finally here and with it comes a ton of tasty things many of us wait all year to enjoy! Here are some easy and delicious ways to incorporate a touch of autumn into your wedding day dishes.

Salad Flavors: Cranberry & Pumpkin Seeds
Nothing says fall more than cranberry and pumpkin! These items are the perfect addition to hearty greens like kale and spinach. Take a classic spinach and almond salad and add some fresh cranberries for a fall accent, or take it a step further and try our favorite Autumn Kale Salad!  For this delicious salad favorite, take fresh kale tossed in olive oil and lemon juice then top with shredded carrots and cucumber. For the finish, drizzle a semi-sweet dressing, such as champagne vinaigrette, and top it off with dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds to add just the right amount of fall flair!

Entrée Flavors: Fig & Honey
Throwing in the sweetness of fig and honey will instantly transform your meal into a fall favorite! We love fig and honey glazed chicken accompanied by a quinoa and squash side. If you are looking for something a little less traditional, this dish can easily be converted into sliders which pair great with sweet potato fries.  Whether you choose a plated or buffet style reception, you can easily work these fall flavors into your menu and your guests will love them!

Dessert Flavors: Cinnamon &  Nutmeg
Whether you are looking for a second dessert option or something in lieu of cake entirely, choose something with cinnamon and nutmeg. These spices are the go-to addition to any autumn sweets recipe. A dessert we can’t stop dreaming about is Gingerbread S’mores! Simply substitute gingerbread cookies for the graham cracker, then get the marshmallows and chocolate ready! Since this involves high temperatures, your caterer will typically have an attendant at the station to assist guests, but it is well worth it, guests of all ages will be going crazy over this delicious dessert!

It is no secret that the fall season and weddings go hand-in-hand.  Not only is autumn the perfect wedding season but it is also amazing for planning a menu, the most delicious flavors and treats are in full swing during the fall months so be sure to take advantage of them.  Happy wedding planning!

Top 2 Reasons to Have Hors D’oeuvres During Cocktail Hour

The time has come for you to plan the menu for your wedding reception. You may be wondering if it is worth spending the extra money to serve hors d’oeuvres at your cocktail hour. When advising clients, I always say “Absolutely!” to this question. There are plenty of reasons giving your guests something to nibble on before the reception and dinner begin is money well spent, and here are the top two!

  1. No Need to Rush
    If you know your guests are not going to be starving waiting for dinner, you can feel free to take your time with post-ceremony pictures. Providing your guests with something to enjoy alongside their cocktails will assure you have no need to rush.  Not feeling rushed during photos will make it a less stressful experience and allow it to be much more enjoyable!  Your guests will be happy nibbling on something delicious like Bacon and Bleu Cheese Risotto Cakes or Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Pinwheels and you will be relaxed knowing they are taken care of.
  1. Enjoy Your Alone Time
    Another great way to use cocktail hour to your advantage is to enjoy a private dinner for you and your new spouse in the Bridal or Groom Suite. This may sound a little crazy at first, but hear me out.  At the reception you are going to be bombarded with all of your guests coming to say their congratulations, you may not get the opportunity to really sit and enjoy your meal. Cocktail hour is a great time to take 15-20 minutes to yourselves and just enjoy the moment together.  Not to mention, eating beforehand will allow you to avoid any crankiness and make all of your upcoming socializing much more enjoyable!

These top two reasons to have hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour are often overlooked.  I know planning a wedding is stressful, especially when it comes to your budget. Even so, in the end, the most important thing is being able to enjoy your day to the fullest.  Keep in mind, hors d’oeuvres do not have to be expensive!  You can do something like a fruit and cheese display for $3/guest and peace of mind is priceless.  Happy wedding planning!

Fun and Clever Ways to Keep Your Wedding Buffet Moving

If you are considering having a buffet style dinner service at your reception, one of the concerns you may have is how to manage your guests to ensure there won’t be a long line of hungry people!  There are a few ways to handle this task while keeping things interesting and a bit more interactive for your guests rather than just calling them up by a table number. Here are some fun ways to keep your buffet running smoothly and get your guests fed in a timely manner.

1. Play Your Favorite Tunes
On each table, instead of a number, put one of your favorite tunes. Have the DJ announce to the guests to listen for the song on their table to be played and when they hear it to “dance” over to the buffet line. This keeps your guests engaged, plus who doesn’t like music while they wait.

2. Centerpiece Specifics 
Instead of having the same floral centerpiece at each table, try mixing it up by featuring a different flower at each table. Have your DJ call out the names of the different flowers and whichever table has those on it gets to go. If you go this route, remember to keep it limited to flowers that most people will recognize; some good ones would be: roses, daisies, carnations, sunflowers, lilies, and tulips.  If you really doubt your guest’s ability to recognize flowers, you could always go by color, maybe different colored roses, or whichever flower is your favorite, on each table.
Keep in mind, you can make this idea work with any type of centerpieces you choose to have, straying away from the traditional florals is never a bad thing either!

3. Sing For Your Supper
Have your DJ pick a secret song with “Love” in the title then go from table to table and ask your guests to sing a few bars of a song that they think it might be. Whichever table has the guest that guesses the correct song gets to hit the buffet line first!

4. Relationship Trivia
This idea has a similar set-up to the previous but this time, instead of singing, the DJ will ask a question about you and your significant other. The first person to get the question correct earns their table the right to head to the buffet!

These are just a few ideas that will keep your guests engaged and entertained. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and have fun with it.  Make your wedding so much fun that your guests will even enjoy waiting for their food (now that’s impressive).  Happy wedding planning!

5 Chic & Unique Summer Wedding Cocktails

Are you considering having a signature cocktail on your wedding day?  Whether you are thinking of creating one on your own or just looking for something delicious, here are some great recipes that will be sure to please your guests and beat the heat!

Sullivan Street Sour
This is a twist on the Disarrono Sour that uses cherry juice to pull out the sweet notes in the Disarrono.
Ingredients:
– 5oz Disaronno Liqueur
– 2oz Fresh-pressed lemon juice
– 1oz Simple syrup
– .5oz Cherry juice

Frida Tequila
This drink is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The mild spice of the jalapeno compliments the sweetness of the agave and the fruitiness of the watermelon.
Ingredients:
– 5oz Jalapeno- Infused Tequila
– 2oz of watermelon puree
– .5oz Fresh Lime Juice
– .75oz Simple syrup
– Lime garnish

Blackberry Mint Julep
This is a nice twist on a classic drink. The addition of the blackberries makes this drink extremely refreshing and tasty!
Ingredients:
– 2oz Bourbon
– .5oz Chambord
– .75oz Fresh Lime Juice
– .5oz muddled blackberries6 mint leaves

Shaken Lemonade
Lemonade is a summer staple. Try sprucing it up a bit with your favorite vodka, some bubbles for extra zest , and lovely garnish!
Ingredients:
– 2oz vodka
– 2oz lemon juice
– 2 oz club soda
– 2 Rosemary Sprigs for garnish

Grapefruit Goddess
This drink is super feminine and light. Its blush color pleases the eye while the sweet- sour taste pleases your taste buds!
Ingredients:
– 1oz citrus flavored vodka
– 1oz grapefruit juice
– .5oz Amontillado Sherry
– .5oz honey syrup
– Grapefruit wedge for garnish

Don’t be afraid to stray away from the traditional mixed drinks and create something completely your own.  Having a signature drink at your wedding will give your guests another way to remember your special day and keep them talking about it for months to come.  Even if you aren’t big on alcohol, or maybe you have a lot of younger guests attending, you can also create a signature “Mocktail” for all of those non-alcohol drinkers to still enjoy the experience of your unique beverage creation!  Alcohol or not, your guests are sure to enjoy your special day and all the deliciousness that comes with it.  As always, happy wedding planning!

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!

Kid-Friendly Wedding Ideas

If you and your fiancé do not have children, the decision whether or not to have kids attend your wedding can be a delicate one. It’s best to be clear on the save-the-dates or actual invites if children are invited or not.  Addressing the envelope to the whole family, for example, The Smith Family, versus addressing it to Mr. and Mrs. Smith helps clear up some confusion and is the most polite and subtle way to approach the issue.  Since today’s blog is about those who do wish for kids to take part in the festivities I will leave out the best ways to say “No Children Please” and continue on to how to make kids a sweet and fun addition to your celebration!

If you don’t want restless children at your event you will need to provide some entertainment options for them.  Here are 3 helpful trends I have been seeing:

  1. Ceremonies
    Unfortunately, during the time the children are expected to sit still and be quiet is when they seem to experience the most restlessness.  Ask your caterer to make the kid’s small individual bags of popcorn, or something similar, to keep them occupied during this time.
  1. Kid’s Meal Options
     Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer for kid’s meals. Young children don’t typically like the adult food served at receptions and a group of cranky, hungry little ones is the opposite of what you want. Most caterers are happy to provide a kid’s buffet or boxed meal option, this can even save you a couple bucks!
  1. The Tot’s Table
    If the children are old enough to be at their own table (think kindergarten and up), a Kids Only Table is the best way to keep them entertained throughout dinner and can be really fun. Don’t shy away from asking one of your closest mommy or daddy friends to help you get creative with this and even help you decorate it on the big day. Close friends, for the most part, like to be involved in the wedding planning in some shape or form so now is your chance to make them feel included, it’s a win-win!
    Some ideas for the kids table include bubbles, glow sticks, crayons, coloring books, and play dough.  The Crayola website, along with quite of few other free websites, provides downloadable coloring printables. I have even seen wedding themed coloring printables at receptions before. Don’t forget snacks and possibly juice boxes.  Centerpieces should be interactive, so swap that floral arrangement for pinwheels for example.  Stay away from glitter, paint, or confetti to avoid any venue restrictions and possible clean up fees if it gets all over.  Also, be sure to put signage on the kid’s area so parents can easily find it.

In the end, parents will also bring the items needed to help entertain their children so don’t feel too much pressure. However, providing a few kid-friendly options definitely doesn’t hurt. If all else fails, hire a babysitter to watch the children in the Kids Only Space at your wedding. This is an especially good option if your venue has a space that can be used as a kid’s lounge.  I hope these kid-friendly wedding ideas come in handy, happy wedding planning!

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!