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.

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

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!

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.

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!

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.

6 Cool Wedding Food Ideas

6 fun and practical wedding reception food ideas that will help maximize your budget and your guests’ experience!

While a lot of hard work and planning goes into your wedding day, food is always a major part of every occasion and something your guests remember.  In order to ensure the menu of your special day gets rave reviews, here are a few fun and practical wedding reception food ideas that will help you maximize your budget, as well as, your guests’ experience.

  1. Mini is Still Big
    Small bites have a big impact!  Sliders, cones, tacos, savory lollipops, soup sips… we could go on all night. Going mini allows your guests to enjoy a variety of unique flavors without getting them so stuffed they can’t show off their dance moves.  Remember, it’s supposed to be fun, small food options allow your guests to keep it moving all night long!
  2. Family Style
    Plated dinners are always nice, but sometimes they can feel a bit too formal and hinder the fun of moving around and socializing.  If you are totally against a buffet or stations, family style is an option you may want to consider.  Going family style is a little more casual, but not quite the buffet line.  Your guests will be able to pick and choose the foods they like while also being encouraged to interact with one another.  If you are not fully convinced family style is the way to go, you can always do a semi-family style dinner.  A semi-family style dinner consists of having a plated entrée for each guest while having fun sides come out on platters, it’s the best of both worlds!
  3. Variety, Variety, Variety!
    Stations are a great way to offer your guests an interactive experience, get them up and moving, and give them a wide selection of food.  These are not your parent’s stations, it doesn’t have to be the same old carving and pasta stations.  Get a little crazy with an Avocado Martini Bar, Pulled Pork Tacos Station, Risotto Bar, Chicken and Waffle Station, you get the idea.  Be creative, there are no rules when it comes to the foods you choose for your special day!
  4. Comfort is Always Cool
    Comfort can be casual or upscale and it’s a fun way to get your guests to experiment a little bit.  Comfort food can be great, delicious, and memorable.  Take the classics and give them an unexpected twist.  Try Cajun Spiced Roasted Chicken, Greek Meatloaf, Loaded 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese, Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwich Station, Texas Chili Bar, Chicken and Waffles, Champagne and Fried Chicken, nothing is off limits.  Incorporating foods everyone loves into your wedding reception with a sophisticated twist is something all of your guests can enjoy, don’t be afraid!
  5. Cocktails
    These days, when it comes to events, the drinks are as important as the food.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing beer and wine or a super-premium open bar, it’s easy to make it fun!  Make an effort to do a custom cocktail or two, your guests will definitely want to try the drink they can only get exclusively at your wedding.  Also, offer local craft beers to make the bar a little more interesting.  Oh and by the way, did you know frozen cocktail popsicles are a thing now? YUP, who wouldn’t want to give that a try?!
  6. Finish Strong
    You’ve planned every detail up to this point, just when your guests think the night is done, hit them with your one final touch, DESSERT!  There are several ways to do this, depending on your preference, but here are a few of our favorite ideas.  Passed warm beignets or warm chocolate chip cookies, passed assorted chocolate truffle lollipops, mini milkshake shots, a chocolate fondue station, we could go on, but we think you get the idea.  Be sure to finish like you started, STRONG.  Nothing tops off a great night like satisfying your sweet tooth.

Always remember, be creative.  Any food can be made into a wedding food with the help of your caterer.  It’s your special day so if you like it, have it!  Don’t be fooled by classic weddings of the past, there are no rules to the type of food you have to serve at your wedding reception.