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!

Why You Need A Signature Cocktail at Your Wedding

Are you looking for a unique way to jazz up your reception without spending any extra cash? A great way to add a personal touch without adding to your bill is a signature drink! There are many wedding bar options, if you are unsure of them, take a look at this Wedding Bar 101 post which breaks down the positives and negatives of all you wedding bar choices in order to ensure you choose the right fit for you!  No matter which option you choose, a signature drink can always be incorporated and makes things fun.  Below are a few cocktail ideas for the upcoming Spring 2017 wedding season!

  • Pink Grapefruit Ginger– This cocktail includes selections that are popular on the cocktail scene at the moment – Gin, Pink Grapefruit, Ginger Ale, Lemon
  • Blood Orange Mimosa– It doesn’t have to be brunch for a mimosa on a refreshing spring day – Sparkling Wine, Fresh blood orange juice
  • Blueberry Orange Smash– A twist of fresh fruit in a bourbon cocktail – Blueberries, Bourbon, Orange Bitters, Vanilla

These are just a few options to get the ideas flowing.  You could also incorporate your theme into the signature drinks or even your wedding colors.  When it comes to cocktails, the possibilities are endless!

Bonus tip: if you have already decided on having an open bar during your reception a signature cocktail can be created and incorporated into your event for no extra charge at all!  Alcohol is no cheap commodity, so if you decided to splurge on the open bar, you might as well make the most of it!  Most caterers will create special cocktails unique to your event without charging you extra for this service because the liquor is already part of your bar package.  Now that’s a win-win!

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!

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!

5 Chic & Unique Summer Wedding Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding Catering Charges Breakdown

As you start researching caterers for your wedding, you may find you are seeing charges and fees you didn’t expect. Rest assured, the additional charges stated on your proposals are not your caterer’s way of scamming you – they are very much part of the norm.  Keep in mind, while hiring a caterer means you are purchasing food for your event, you are also purchasing a service.  Here is a breakdown of the most common charges that come with catering:

Service Charge
This one always gets the biggest reaction out of couples, so let’s start here.  A service charge is a fee that is typically 18 – 22% added to your total event costs. Couples think that this covers the staff tips, but it doesn’t.  It’s used to cover things like fuel costs, overhead, and wear and tear of equipment and serving ware. Think about what it takes to serve your family at Thanksgiving, now imagine doing that for 150 – 200 guests, in addition to having to set up your own kitchen in a new place to do it!  There are a lot more details and equipment needed than people realize. Even so, every company may work with a slight variation of what is included, so it is not taboo to ask what each company includes in their service charge.

Rentals
Once you choose your delicious menu, don’t forget you will need to provide a way for guests to enjoy it!  Venues may provide linens and napkins, however, they typically depend on your caterer to provide china, glassware and silverware. Be sure you confirm what the price covers – some caterers price things per person, while others are per item. You want to make sure you have all the bases covered, from cake plates and forks to coffee mugs and champagne flutes if you are planning on serving it.

Staffing
The food and drinks won’t serve themselves, and I certainly don’t want you or your bridal party bringing out giant pans of hot food while wearing beautiful attire. Servers are crucial for keeping your event running smoothly and your guests taken care of.  I’m sure I don’t even need to begin to explain how important bartenders are, and in some states, they are legally a must. All alcohol must be served by licensed bartenders. Most companies pay their staff $20-30 per hour, and while it can sometimes feel like a heavy hit to your budget, it is more of a necessity than anything. Your wedding should be a fun day for you and your guests.  The only time you should be breaking a sweat is on the dance floor!

Tax
Just like everything else you purchase, your catering is subject to the standard state tax. This applies to all goods and services provided by a business. If you do not see tax stated on a received proposal, check with the caterer to see if it is worked into another area/charge. While I hope all caterers are upfront about all charges and fees from the start, some may run things a bit differently, and you may have a second bill outlining the behind the scenes costs.

I hope this breakdown has helped shed some light on the commonly misunderstood catering charges.  It is no secret that planning a wedding is expensive and seeing so many charges can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that this is one of the most important days of your life!  A great caterer is worth it, in the end, your guests will enjoy every aspect of the night and so will you.  An experienced caterer will ensure that everything goes along without a hitch and leave you stress-free to enjoy the best day of your life!   Don’t go with a second-rate wedding caterer just to save a few bucks, choose based on who you think will  help make your day as special (and delicious) as possible.  Happy wedding planning!

Brunch Weddings: Why and How-To

If you are a morning person, or just love brunch, I have good news for you!  There are many perks to a late morning/early afternoon wedding. Brunch weddings are a differentiating spring and summer trend that is starting to take off as couples tie the knot early in the day then get to the celebrating!

One of the perks of a brunch wedding is that it can actually save you a few bucks on venue fees, especially if you opt for a Sunday morning date as opposed to the premium Saturday rates. Another perk is the sun, daylight is a photographer’s dream and can make for some magical pictures. Late morning weddings are also very versatile in the sense that they can be made as dressy or casual as you would like. Most importantly in my book, of course, is the food and menu options. Brunch is great because breakfast and lunch foods are typically easier to please all the many palates of your weddings guests. Below are some wedding brunch menu ideas to get you started:

Hors D’oeuvres: Just because its early doesn’t mean you should skip the appetizers!  Most of your guests won’t have eaten anything yet that day and will be looking forward to anything you have to offer. Think mini quiches, donut skewers, bacon “lollipops”, french toast sticks, and shrimp cocktail shooters.

Breads and Pastries: Your morning meal would not be complete without breakfast breads. This can be something neat like a Biscuit Bar with jams, jellies, honey and gravy or maybe a Bagel Bar with all kinds of spreads from sweet to savory which can also include traditional salmon lox. Even an alluring display of mini muffins, breakfast breads, and pastries can turn out very impressive to both the eye and stomach.

Main Course: For your main dishes you can do anything from a sit-down breakfast or buffet to more casual and very fun stations. Examples of some delicious Brunch Stations are Waffle Bars or Chicken and Waffles, Made-to-Order Omelet Stations, Carvings Stations, and Cereal or Yogurt and Granola Bars.

Bar: One of the most exciting parts of a morning wedding is the brunch style drinks! Think Bellini as your signature cocktail and keep the mimosas flowing, both are breakfast beverage staples.  Bloody Marys are another must have, or hey maybe even a Bloody Mary Station to allow your guests to really get into it. Coffee Bars are also very well received at brunch events, which is no surprise.  Most guests will probably consider coffee a necessity, so make sure they are able to get their morning caffeine fix at your wedding!

Favors: To end the reception you can incorporate your breakfast theme into your favors as well. This could be coffee mugs, chocolate covered coffee beans, coffee grounds, bloody mary mix, mini vodka and OJ’s or mini champagne and OJ’s.

So there you have it, your how-to guide for a brunch wedding!  Feel free to make your brunch event as casual or as dressy as you would like.  Incorporating games and puzzles is something else that is very popular during a morning affair, as well as, wedding décor involving morning papers and mason jars or jazzing it up with charming tea-style themes. The party doesn’t have to stop there, the best part about an early wedding is that it provides the opportunity for great after party events surrounded by friends and family.   A morning wedding means more hours of celebration and who wouldn’t love that?!  Just remember, no matter what hour of the day you choose, happy wedding planning!

Refreshing Spring Wedding Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Must Have Spring Wedding Cocktails

Who doesn’t love a spring wedding? Everyone will be looking forward to the great weather and beautiful blooms on your special day, but there’s no reason to stop there!  There are so many ways to tie a spring theme to your wedding beyond just your bouquet.  I compiled a few of my favorite floral inspired drink recipes for you to try. Looks like this spring will be a gin-lovers dream!

Lemon and Lavender Collins
2oz gin
1oz lavender simple syrup
1oz lemon juice
Seltzer Water
Sprig of lavender or lemon wheel for garnish

Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 Tbsp Lavender Extract

Part 1 – Making the Lavender Simple Syrup
– In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water and sugar
– Stir to combine, then bring to a boil
– When all of the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes
– Turn the heat off, add in the Lavender Extract, stir
– Allow to cool completely before using
Part 2 – Mixology
– In a cocktail glass, add in a good handful of ice followed by the gin, lavender simple syrup, and lemon juice.
– Stir, then top off with seltzer water.
– Garnish with a sprig of lavender or thinly sliced lemon wheel and enjoy!

Cardamom Rose Cocktail
1.5oz of Hendrick’s gin (this is a rose & cucumber infused gin)
.75oz of Rose syrup
.25oz of Fresh lemon juice
.75oz of Fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
2 dashes of Peychauds bitters
1 Cardamom Pod

Rose Syrup Recipe
2.5 cups water
4 cups sugar
.25 cup fresh lime juice
.5 cup rose water

Part 1 – Making the Rose Syrup
– Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan
– Simmer for 10 minutes
– Add the lime juice and rose water and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally
– Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool
– Pour the syrup into a clean, dry bottle
Part 2 – Mixology
– Lightly muddle 1 cardamom pod at the bottom of shaker
(not too much muddling or it will overpower the drink)
– Add the rest of the ingredients and ice; Shake for 20 seconds
– Strain over fresh ice to remove the cardamom pod
– Add a splash of seltzer water
– Garnish with rose petals or fresh lemon wedge

Jasmine Cocktail
1.5oz gin
.75oz fresh lemon juice
.25oz Campari
.25oz Cointreau

Mixology
– Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake to chill.
– Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist

Chamomile Honey and Whiskey Cocktail
6 chamomile tea bags
4 cups water
4 tbsp honey
3oz whiskey or bourbon
2 orange slices
3 lemon slices
Fresh chamomile flowers (optional)

Mixology
– Heat water to a boil, pour hot water over tea bags in a large, heat-safe pitcher/container
– Add honey and bourbon and let steep for 5 – 10 minutes
– Pour mixture into a shaker, add ice and shake for 15 seconds.
– Pour over ice cubes into a rocks glass, and garnish with chamomile flowersI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!  Leave your guests with the memory of something they had only exclusively at your wedding and will talk about for long after the day is over.  Give one or two, or maybe even all, of these cocktails a try and you will be glad you did!  Enjoy! And as always, happy wedding planning.