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!

3 Items That Will Transform Your Wedding Menu Into A Winter Wonderland

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I don’t just mean the holidays. If you are planning a winter wonderland wedding and need some inspiration, look no further! Here are some delicious ideas to help make your winter wedding memorable.

1. Cocktail Hour – Soup Shooters
What better way to help guests warm up? Soup shooters are a delicious and fun way to get the party started!  The best part about them is how many options you have, just choose your favorite soups. I recommend something smoother and/or creamy like tomato or lobster bisque. Depending on the size of the shooter, it may not be ideal for something chunkier such as chicken noodle.  Consider serving a complimentary second bite, such as lobster bisque shooters and crab cakes, or topping the shooter off with a small bite, like a mini grilled cheese. Guests won’t be able to get enough of them!

2. Dessert – Hot Cocoa Bar
Nothing says winter more than hot cocoa! This is a fun twist on the traditional coffee bar, and it is an easy switch.  I recommend having the hot cocoa in a large coffee/hot water urn, this is much more beneficial than providing just the hot water with individual cocoa packets to your guests.  Not only will the already prepared cocoa stay hot and fresh in the urn, it will also be less of a mess than your guests mixing it themselves and not to mention, less expensive than those individual packets!  Provide delicious sweets such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup for guests to garnish their drinks to their liking. This bar works perfectly with cake or by itself for the non-cake lovers too!

3. Bar – Burr Royale
A wintery take on the traditional Kir Royale, your guests won’t be able to get enough of this delicious drink!  Start by sugaring the rim of a champagne flute with blue sugar crystals. Pour ¼oz of blue curacao into a champagne flute, followed by 3oz of champagne. Garnish with a lemon peel and raspberry, or any other fruit that may go better with your color scheme, and serve. Depending on the brand of champagne, you may find the drink can turn out slightly green, so it’s never a bad idea to supply your bartenders with some blue food coloring just in case!

So there you have it, 3 tasty ideas to enhance your winter wedding.  These ideas are all simple and delicious, but most importantly, they won’t break your budget!  Wedding planning is all about being creative and incorporating the things you love into your special day so don’t be scared to stray away from the traditional hors d’oeuvres or desserts.  Your guests are sure to love your original selection of winter treats and stations.  Happy wedding planning!

Three Simple Ways to Cut Your Wedding Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Tips to Simplify Your Wedding Catering Plans

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Fun and Clever Ways to Keep Your Wedding Buffet Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creative and Imaginative Wedding Centerpiece Ideas

When you start tossing around decorating ideas for your big day, you will come to find that centerpieces are a must for your reception. Even if you are not into over-the-top décor, centerpieces are almost required for added ambiance on your tables. The most common, and often stunning, centerpiece is the classic floral arrangement. Today, however, I would like to offer up some alternative ideas that I have seen in the past in case flowers aren’t your thing or you are looking for a unique and creative replacement for your tabletop!

  • Edible Centerpieces – This one is my new favorite trend. It offers not only an inviting and original look for the table, but also an hors d’oeuvres option for your guests. This could be something like an antipasto platter, which if done correctly by a great caterer, can be both artistic and a great pre-dinner snack. Another option is fresh sliced fruit to provide great color for the table as well as an appealing spring and summer treat. Desserts can also be created as centerpieces, think a cupcake tower for a neat display done in your wedding colors.  Also, a great rustic or holiday tabletop idea can be cookie jars, pies or tarts.
  • Potted Herbs– This option is great for the spring and summer months when you and your guests are feeling the fresh summer vibe. This centerpiece idea comes off very sweet and shabby chic or rustic. Not to mention, this is a budget friendly option as well. These can be in pots, rustic jars, crates, the list goes on. Often they give off a pleasant aroma and you can even opt for herbs that compliment the dinner if you really want to take things to the next level.
  • Vintage Lanterns and Candles– Lanterns are a great base to work with. You can fill them up with candles from large to small, flowers, or succulents. These can save you on flowers and aren’t too difficult to play with if making your own DIY centerpieces. Floating candles or twinkle lights also give off the same cozy atmosphere.
  • Special Touches– Don’t forget you can also jazz up your table with all kinds of odds and ends. Think branches, pinecones, pumpkins, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, feathers and baby’s breath.

So while floral centerpieces are always timeless, there are also chic ways to change it up. The above are just a few ideas to get your creative mind thinking of ways to make your day even more distinguishable and memorable for you by adding your own touch and style.  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!