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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Must Have Spring Wedding Cocktails

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.

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

While you may find yourself so wrapped up in your wedding planning, there will come times when you will need to momentarily step back and to let the wedding professionals guide you.

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

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.

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!

Beginner’s Guide to Wedding Venue Hunting

When starting your hunt, you want to get as much information as possible from the potential venues so there are no surprises down the road and to ensure the venue you end up with is your perfect fit.

When starting to wedding plan, one of the first things to do is find a venue. Everything centers around the venue so this is one of the most important parts of getting the wedding planning process started. When starting your hunt, you want to get as much information as possible from the potential venues so there are no surprises down the road and to ensure the venue you end up with is your perfect fit. Below is a list of questions to help you make the best decision for your special day.

  • How many weddings do you have in one day?
    Many venues have more than one wedding in a day, which is fine, you just want to ensure you have enough setup and breakdown time, as well as, enough time for your event. You will want at least 2 hours for setting up, 1 hour for breaking down, and 4 hours for your actual event. Another great question when discussing the time frame is the cost of adding an additional hour.  An extra hour can eliminate some stress and erase any feelings of needing to rush any portion of your event, so if the price is right, it is definitely worth it!
  • What is included in the venue rental?
    Venues range from providing only the venue space to providing tables and chairs, utensils and plates, linens, napkins and more. If no additional items are included, another great question is if you must rent them through the venue or if they can be provided by the caterer or a vendor.  The fewer vendors you have to deal with, the less stress you will have.  A venue that provides you with more than just an empty space will save you from the headache of making sure everything arrives at the right place at the right time and allow you to pay attention to other important details of your day.
  • When are the final details due?
    You want to know up front what your commitment is when signing the contract and the flexibility of final head count and any possible changes you may need to make down the road when you are further into planning.
  • Are you required to use the venue’s preferred vendors?
    Some venues will have a list of vendors you must use such as caterers, decorators, florists, and so forth.  If this is the case, you will want to look up these vendors before deciding on the venue in order to make sure they are also a great fit for you and to get an idea of their pricing.
  • What are you, as the client, responsible for as far as breakdown after the event?
    Some venues only require that you or your vendors take out any décor or items you brought in the venue with you. Others require you to go so far as to sweep and mop the venue when your event concludes. This is good to know so you can prepare accordingly.
  • Are there any restrictions?
    Can you hang decorations from the ceiling or on the walls? Are candles allowed? Is confetti allowed? These are all good questions to ask so that you have all the facts and are aware of all the venue regulations.  You don’t want to find out that you can’t have certain decor after you already had the perfect vision of how you planned to decorate the venue in your head.

While the above are basic functional questions you need to know, don’t be afraid to ask a ton more. A great wedding venue will be happy to answer your questions and there is no such thing as getting too much information. Feel free to walk around the venue and take pictures if you like. Keeping organized and bringing a list of questions in a wedding folder can prove to be very helpful.  Happy wedding planning!

How to Plan Your Wedding Catering Menu

Picking out your wedding menu should be one of the less stressful parts of planning a wedding. It’s a huge part of the wedding, yes, but if you have the right caterer, they’ll make it easy for you.

Picking out your wedding menu should be one of the less stressful parts of planning a wedding.  It’s a huge part of the wedding, yes, but if you have the right caterer, they’ll make it easy for you.  Often times the hardest part about planning is knowing where to start, which is why I broke down how to plan your wedding catering menu into 3 simple steps to get you started on creating the menu of your dreams for the most memorable day of your life.

1. Choose Your Menu Style
The first thing you need to decide is what style you’d like the dinner to be.  There are benefits to all of them, so figure out what kind of a feel you want to have at your wedding.  Plated meals are wonderful because they seem more elegant and make everyone feel extra special being served a course by course dinner, but they can be more costly and take longer to get through.  Buffets can be very cost effective and quick, and give you a lot for a little, but can be a little tricky with it being self-serve.  Maybe the idea of a self-serve buffet just isn’t in your vision for the day at all.  In that case, stations are always cute and fun and a great way to get your guests interacting and mingling, but then you have to think about extra service fees that come with having served stations.  And of course, there’s always family-style which has a very comfortable feel and makes sure anyone sitting in close proximity gets to know each other.  There are positives and negatives that can be found with almost any serving style option so decide what fits best with your vision of the evening and run with it!

2. Be Accommodating, But Only When Necessary 
Once you’ve figured out the style you want, then you have to actually pick what you want to serve and that opens up a whole other can of worms, doesn’t it?  Well, it shouldn’t.  Your guests are going to enjoy whatever food you provide and hopefully they are there more for the celebration of the union as opposed to the free food.  Making sure your food items are something the guests will be comfortable eating is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing your menu, but to a certain degree, you shouldn’t base every choice on a handful of guests, one in particular, or making sure everyone will love everything you pick.  Everyone has different tastes, opinions, diet restrictions, etc. so there is bound to be someone that doesn’t like something, and that’s okay!  It’s important to be accommodating to anyone that needs accommodation, but to simply attempt that for your entire wedding by going off of everyone else’s tastes and opinions, is almost impossible to accomplish.  Of course, you want everyone to be happy and feel like they’ve been thought of.  I mean, no one should be left out!  Everyone should get to eat and enjoy what they’re having, so there’s one, very easy solution to this predicament; find a caterer that can accommodate any diet restrictions you need.  Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, halal, does everyone involved in making and preparing the food need to use powderless or non-latex gloves to avoid setting off Aunt Petunia’s allergy?   Anyone who is making your wedding meal should have no problem accommodating any guests’ needs you ask.  Certain requests or requirements could come with additional costs, so keep that in mind, but if it’s important to you, make sure you do your research and ask questions before you choose your caterer.

3. Choose Your Type of Cuisine 
What about if you don’t necessarily have anyone with specific diet restrictions you’re trying to accommodate but you wanted all of your food to be a certain cuisine, or multiple cuisines?  Maybe you’re from Ethiopia and want to have all Ethiopian food but you don’t want to make grandma cook at your wedding?  Maybe you’re from China and want all traditional Chinese, wedding catering?  Maybe you and your honey love to travel and want to have all different types of cuisines in mini bites?  Foods from Africa, Mexico, India, Spain, Nigeria, Ireland, etc., the list can go on.  Finding a caterer that can accommodate a specific cuisine can be very difficult and ultimately, pricey.  Instead, look for a caterer that can build all kinds of styles, flavors, and menus, not necessarily just what you specifically want to have served.  Any caterer that has great reviews, especially if they’ve been reviewed for specialized menus, is definitely a caterer to consider.  Flexibility is crucial at this point because it’ll get you exactly what you want and hopefully for the price you’d like to spend.

An experienced caterer can create, duplicate, and specialize almost any menu for you.  Specific cuisines, diet restrictions, allergies, specialized menus, personalized hors d’oeuvres, mini bites, desserts, you name it.  It’s your day and therefore, anyone you hire should want you to have everything exactly as you’ve always hoped!  Of course, you should always make sure your caterer offers a tasting, paid or free with booking, so you can be comfortable with their cooking style and most, if not all, should.  As always, a good caterer will make it easy for you, and they are definitely out there, so do a little research and find a caterer capable of creating your perfect menu!

4 Ways To Personalize Your Wedding Catering

There aren’t many things wedding guests look forward to more than the food you will serve. Since this will catch their attention the most, it’s a great time to make it your own! Here are a few ways you can customize your menu.

There aren’t many things wedding guests look forward to more than the food you will serve. Since this will catch their attention the most, it’s a great time to make it your own! Here are a few ways you can customize your menu.

1. Adding a Personal Theme
There are so many ways to make your meal personal, and it can go beyond including meals from your cultural background. Recreating your first dinner date, incorporating a signature food item from your college years, or serving up some menu selections from your upcoming honeymoon destination are creative ways to let your guests know a little more about you as a couple! Couples with a love for travel may have stations with food from around the world. Dodger fans could serve Dodger Dogs and peanuts – or if the couple roots for rival teams, they could have a little bit from both! The possibilities are endless.

2. Signature Cocktails/Favorite Beverages
Providing guests the chance to try your favorite drink is not only the easiest way to personalize your wedding, it guarantees you will have your favorite drink in your hand all night! Whether it’s a classic like an old-fashioned or something delicious you accidentally created one night, it’s always a hit for guests. Some couples even brew and serve their own cider or beer! But make sure to check with your caterer and venue first. If they don’t allow outside alcohol, you may not be able to serve it to guests.
Bonus Tip: Creating a bar sign with unique and personalized drink names will help your guests know about the signature or favorite drinks, and they will be more likely to try them.  Luckily, since it is your wedding, you have creative freedom to call the drinks whatever you want, whether you made them up or not! This works with non-alcoholic drinks too. Serving your favorite bottled root beer or your grandma’s famous homemade lemonade is just as personal. Whatever your favorites may be, your guests will want to try them!

3. Send Off/Late Night Food
After a night of drinking and dancing, your guests could use a little snack! This is a great opportunity to incorporate something small and fun, especially if you opted for a more traditional dinner earlier in the evening. Popcorn for movie lovers, fresh pretzels to recreate your first date at the fair, or mini street tacos just because they are your absolute favorite… whatever you want! The possibilities are endless for personalized small bites, and they are easy for guests to grab on their way out. Ask your caterer how they can make your send off a little more delicious.

4. Favors
Similar to the send off snack, favors can be small bites that can be an easy personal touch. Mini jars filled with honey from your hometown, or small pastries or donut holes from your college late night coffee shop are fun and unique ways to bring personal touches to your wedding. Favors don’t have to be food! But people will be more likely to be interested in them if they are. Non-food items can be fun and personal, but you may have a lot more left behind. No donuts would be spared at the end of the night!

Remember, the key to your guest’s hearts is through their stomachs!  Your wedding will be remembered for years to come if you have a specialized or personal treat that you guests have never enjoyed before!

Fun Food Trends For Your Wedding in 2016

Whether you are looking to do off beat things from the start, or you just want to add a little fun flair to your classic concept, here are a few ideas to make your meals memorable.

The best way to your guests is through their stomachs. While traditional chicken buffets and plated steak dinners are always a great route to take, there’s no harm in exploring some new options! Whether you are looking to do off beat things from the start, or you just want to add a little fun flair to your classic concept, here are a few ideas to make your meals memorable.

Brunch
Who doesn’t love breakfast?! While this concept is more common than it used to be, it is still far underutilized in my opinion. Whether you are hosting a daytime or evening wedding, guests will not be able to resist the savory smell of bacon. From chicken and waffles made fresh to order, to build your own mimosa and Bloody Mary bars, there are so many great twists to make it personal. Guests love being able to customize things to their taste buds, and brunch stations are a great way to do that!

Mini-cocktails paired with an appetizer
Pairing drinks with appetizers is not only fun, it’s practical! Let the food AND drinks come to your guests at cocktail hour. Pair a taco with a mini margarita (maybe your uncle’s signature recipe?) or serve sliders with a mini mug of the couple’s favorite beer! Choosing a favorite food and drink duo to be passed around will allow guests to learn a little about the newlyweds while keeping them happy until it’s time for dinner.

Late night snack
This could be done by your caterer or a food truck! After your guests have danced the night away, offering a late night bite is perfect. Sliders, tacos, mini pizzas, mac and cheese… the ‘fourth meal’ options are endless! If you decided to keep things a bit more traditional with dinner, this would be a great way to change things up once guests are in full party mode. There’s no better way to wind down from a great dance party than with a little snack for the road.

Remember, although others may lead you to believe differently, there are no wedding food rules.  This is your day and if you want to have breakfast for dinner or burgers to end the night, go for it!  Enjoy your one and only special day with everything you love and everything you love to eat.  Your guests will be glad you did!

Unique Food & Beverage Themes of 2016

Complimenting your wedding inspiration with food and beverages that fit your theme will set you apart from the rest. Check out these ideas to get you started!

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

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

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

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

8 Ingredients For The Perfect Wedding Day

Let’s talk about the 8 ingredients that make perfect wedding day food and beverage experience.

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!