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!

3 Must-Haves for Your Summer Soiree

Summer is just around the corner and before you know it, it will be time to bust out the grill!  This sunny season is the perfect time to host your shower or engagement party right in the backyard or any outdoor location of your choosing.  To get you ready for your outdoor celebration, here are some delicious things you will want to add to the menu to keep people talking about your event for long after summer has ended!

Refreshing Hors D’Oeuvres
With summer comes the delicious, juicy fruit we have all missed out on for the past few months, and everyone knows you really can’t go wrong with fruit!  One of the best things about fruit, besides it’s delicious and refreshing taste, is that it can be enjoyed by everyone including vegans, vegetarians, dairy-free, and meat eaters!   A decorative fruit display is a great option if you are going more casual.  However, if you want to step things up a notch, there are endless possibilities for passed hors d’oeuvres. One of my most popular hors d’oeuvres (and a personal favorite) is watermelon cubes with crumbled feta, basil and balsamic. The flavors of this treat pair perfectly together, it’s a guaranteed hit!

Colorful Salad
Summer is all about pops of color!  Bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, grapes, pears and so on, the possibilities are endless. Strawberries & Spinach, Pear & Bibb Lettuce, and Tomato & Mozzarella are all delicious duos to consider!  You can also throw a twist on a traditional mixed greens salad and add new variety to it by mixing up the textures. I love adding grilled broccoli or mushrooms to the traditionally raw salad, not only is it delicious, but it ties in the summer grilling vibe.

Spiked Strawberry Lemonade
There is no doubt that you need the perfect summer signature cocktail to complete your summer menu!  Lemonade is an obvious choice, and you really can’t go wrong with a spiked strawberry lemonade. Below is the recipe for the delicious summer cocktail, you may even find that it tastes like everyone’s favorite pink Starburst, YUM!

Here is what you will need:
1¼ oz Spiced Rum
½ oz Simple Syrup (or one stevia packet if you want to reduce sugars)
1 Sliced Strawberry
1 Slice of Lemon
5 oz of Fresh Lemonade
Club Soda (optional)

  1. Muddle the strawberry, lemon, and simple syrup
  2. Add the spiced rum, lemonade and ice then shake
  3. Serve in a highball glass, top off with club soda (optional) and garnish with a lemon peel

Bonus Tip: If you want to go the self-serve route and make a big batch for your decorative drink dispensers, I recommend getting strawberry puree instead of using fresh berries to avoid blocking up the spouts.

So there you have it, three must-haves for your Summer Soiree.  Summer is a great time to host your celebrations whether it be your engagement party, bridal shower, or even the big day itself!  There are so many ways to have fun during the sunny months and the option to spend any or even all of your event outdoors is always great.  Take advantage of the sunshine and be sure to add the sweet and refreshing flavors that come with it into your event as well.  Happy wedding planning!

Save or Splurge – The Guide to Making Your Wedding Budget Work

The longer you have been planning your wedding, the more you have dealt with the juggle between what you want and what you actually need. There are so many options and features when it comes to a wedding, how do you decide what to prioritize for your budget? Here are a few tips for things you should keep as well as things you may want to ditch.

Programs – SAVE
Realistically, guests don’t need a program to know what happens – there’s no intermission and if they are at your wedding, they know your name.  Not to mention, ceremonies always end with ‘I do’!  Other than the five aunts, grandparents, and close family friends who have watched you grow up, not many people will care to have a program as a keepsake.  If you feel a program is a must-have, keep it simple and only print enough for the first 3 rows on each side. The most important people who care to have a program tend to have reserved seats closer to the front. To ensure they each get one, have your house party or coordinator place them on each chair in those special rows. If you have any leftovers, leave them by the sign-in book for others to grab.

Specialty Linens – SPLURGE & SAVE
It might sound confusing, but it’s simple – splurge on your important tables and keep the others basic.  Your sweetheart/head table, cake, gift, and welcome tables get the most attention, so it makes sense to deck those out!  Spare yourself from going overboard – no one will have eyes on random guest table #11, it can have a basic linen without hurting your wallet or anyone’s feelings.

Cocktail Hour Bites – SPLURGE
I may be biased, but I feel offering food is never a waste, especially after your guests have just sat through your ceremony.  Depending on what time dinner begins, some of your guests may get a bit cranky waiting for the main meal.  Cocktail hour is designed to keep your guests happy and entertained while you are taking photos.  Food is the easiest way to do this, and it doesn’t break the bank!  Passed hors d’oeuvres can be ordered per person or per dozen, which makes them more flexible for your budget.

Top Shelf Bar – SAVE
I see a lot of couples who feel pressured to offer nothing but the best for their guests, but realistically, guests are happy to spend the day with you!  Offering a well or call level bar is nothing to be ashamed of, after all,  an open bar is an open bar!  As long as guests don’t have to pull out their wallets, they won’t care what you are serving.  Some wedding budgets don’t have room to host open bar for more than 2 hours (or any drinks at all) and that’s okay too!  Don’t stress about it.  If you are worried about impressing a guest based off of what you have paid for them to enjoy, maybe they aren’t the right guest to keep on the list.  Offer whatever works for your budget and know that your guests will have a great time.

For most couples, maintaining your budget is the most stressful part of the wedding planning process.  I hope these tips help you to better prioritize where your wedding budget is going.  In the end, this day is all about you and your new spouse celebrating your love.  Whether you spend top dollar on every aspect of your event or go the money saving route for everything you can, your guest will just be happy to be able to share the wonderful memories to come with you!  You’ll be surprised at how well some money saving tips can ease the stress on your budget and your mind.  Happy wedding planning!

How To Do A Brunch Wedding Right!

If you are looking for a budget-friendly reception idea you may want to consider a brunch style menu.  With a brunch theme, there is so much flexibility and who doesn’t love breakfast foods?!  Here are some tips to make your brunch reception really “wow” your guests!

1. Classic Brunch Beverage Station
Mimosas and Bloody Marys are both classic brunch beverages that will add a fun element to your event!  For the Mimosas, have a variety of juices for your guests to use and get creative with. For those who aren’t a fan of the bubbly, have some chopped veggie sticks out for the Bloody Marys to allow your guests to make their beverage a little more fun and add a pop of color to the display!

2. Hors D’oeuvres & Spreads
Savory hors d’oeuvres like risotto cakes, deviled eggs, and chicken & waffle skewers really fit the brunch theme and are great for cocktail hour to really get your guest’s palette warmed up for the rest of the meal! Or maybe your guests want something a little lighter so they don’t fill up before the main course.  In this case, a fruit and cheese spread will be great for those who love to graze throughout the event. Since most people love either fruit or cheese, and sometimes both, this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

3. Different Menu Styles
With a brunch themed menu, there are no rules!  Feel free to mix the styles of your menu, such as having a few family-style sides to make for an intimate feel and a carving station as a way to incorporate a great meat dish.
A delicious honey baked ham carving station is always a favorite and works as the perfect meat for brunch with it’s sweet and savory tastes.

4. Omelet Station
Speaking of mixing menu styles, why not add an omelet station?!  Instead of doing plain scrambled eggs in a chafer dish, go for an omelet station where your guests can pick and choose what add-ins they would like for a delicious custom, fresh-made omelet!

5. Coffee and Tea Bar
Having a coffee and tea bar is a great way to jazz up a simple beverage and give your guests the chance to make their cup exactly how they like it!  Not only does coffee or tea somehow come into play at every event, but you can also use this as a chance to provide wedding favors to your guests.  Whether you want to use this opportunity for a great takeaway gift, such as a custom ceramic mug, or just put your own personal touch to the station with monogrammed to-go cups or sleeves, it is sure to be a hit!
For an additional bonus, add some Baileys or Amoretto stir-in options to the station in order to really kick it up a notch! 

As you can see, going with a brunch-style wedding reception can be a lot of fun!  Not only do you get to choose from fun foods that are everyone’s favorites, but you also get to be creative and put a fun twist on the traditional. There is no doubt that your guests will enjoy all of your sweet and savory menu choices as well as your beverages, whether they are spiked or not!  Be creative, have fun, and as always, happy wedding planning.

Autumn Wedding Inspiration

Fall is a gorgeous time of year for weddings, there seems to be a romantic charge to the air as the weather begins to cool. One of mine, and many others, favorite things about fall is the seasonal harvest and by that I mean, the food!  This time of year brings us so many mouthwatering food options so why not use them to our wedding planning advantage?!  If you are looking to celebrate the season at your wedding, below is some fall foodie inspiration for all stages of the evening!

  • Hors D’oeuvres:
    Whether you are opting for passed hors d’oeuvres or plated displays, there are tons of delicious and fun fall inspired options!  For passed hors d’oeuvres think baked mac & cheese bites, deviled eggs, sliders, bourbon glazed meatballs, bleu cheese mousse stuffed figs, and bacon wrapped dates.  For appetizer displays, seasonal fruit is always a favorite, the display is not only delicious but will add a great pop of color. There are also endless rustic bread options that can include a wide array of apple butters, jams and honey.
  • Cocktails:
    Don’t forget the fall drinks for cocktail hour!  Anything with spice, maple or apple will put a delicious autumn twist on an ordinary cocktail.  For example, apple sangria, maple bourbon cocktails, hot buttered rum or anything with cinnamon.
  • Stations:
    Stations have become very popular this past year and there is plenty of reason for it. If you are looking for a mix and mingle or cozy and less formal atmosphere, this is a great way to mix it up! Some unique and seasonal stations include a chili bar, caramel apple station, or soup bar.
  • Dessert:
    Passing mini desserts can be a fun way to show off sweet fall flavors and provide an original end to the evening. It doesn’t get much cuter than passed mini caramel apples or mini pumpkin pies.  Other fall dessert displays include donuts and apple cider, brown sugar cupcakes, chocolate bourbon cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, rustic pies and mini pumpkin cheesecakes.  Keep in mind, you could also easily turn any of these dessert ideas into your favors instead!

These are just a few ideas to turn up the theme of your wedding and match your food to the season. While a lot of weddings concentrate on the décor for their theme, sometimes the food ideas can be what is most memorable and talked about for years to come.  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!