Today’s blog is going to be a little bit different, but a lot of fun! Maile and Micheala are joining forces to bring you a blog about reception planning. You are going to find helpful information in regards to your reception meal, beverage planning, bars among other tips. Hold on tight, this is going to be a long ride, but will be totally worth it!
How would you like you and your guests served during your wedding reception? When deciding on your wedding meal, you must decide what type of food service you are going to use. This decision will not just impact your guests and the overall feel of your reception; it will also impact your budget.
Types of service include:
- Plated and Served:A plated and served meal is a very classy way to have your guests served at your wedding. Each course is plated and served by servers to all your guests and you. A plated and served meal, though elegant, can be more expensive because it requires far more kitchen staff and serving staff. On the other side of things, you can control portions, food presentation and it allows your guests the comfort of waiting in their chairs at their tables versus having to stand in line and serve themselves.
- Buffet: Food is set up in a display, usually in chafers and is self-serve. Buffets are traditionally a very cost effective and timely way to serve your guests. It also allows yours guests to select what they would like to eat and how much they would like. Though this may not feel as sleek and elegant as a plated and served service, depending on the display, it really can be enticing and beautiful. Things to consider when choosing your buffet set up, request that the silverware and napkins either be preset on the table or be set at the end of the line so it is the last thing guests pick up. Also you may want to have satellite stations for salad, dessert and beverages in order to assist with the number of items your guest needs to hold while serving themselves. Satellites stations also help eliminate long lines.
Family Style: Family style is where food is served in large dishes and on platers and are passed from guest to guest. This is a great way to bring your guests together in a very traditional way.
- Cocktail*: Though some receptions will include a cocktail hour, a growing trend has emerged where all the food is at a reception is served in cocktail fashion with stations featuring themed dishes where guests serve themselves. You can offer quite a variety of food, smaller portions and you can create an atmosphere that encourages guests to mix, mingle and enjoy. This is a wonderful option if your reception isn’t starting until much later in the evening.
- Cake and Punch*: Instead of serving a meal, some brides and grooms choose to serve their guests cake and beverages. This tradition is reminiscent of years past but it is a trend that is making quite a comeback. Some will choose to have an intimate wedding and dinner, then invite guests to join them in celebrating their nuptials with cake and punch. This is also a great option both for budget reason it also should you be getting married in the early afternoon or should you opt not to have a bar or dance.
- *If your reception will be a cocktail or cake and punch reception, we advise sharing that with your guests. This ensures that they don’t come expecting a full meal and to plan accordingly.
If your reception choice involves a meal, there are a few other details you will need to consider:
Meat Options: When you decide the type of meal you are serving, your catering service will ask how many meat options you would like to offer. Most will feature one or two. This allows your guests a choice or both. If you are doing a buffet or family style, caterers will prepare a percentages of each. For example if your choices are brisket and Italian chicken, they may prefer to prepare 60% brisket and 40% chicken. Or they will ask if you want a portion of each for each guest. It’s important that you do an honest assessment of your guest list when making this decision. If you are doing a plated and served meal and offering more than one option, you can include this question on their RSVP card. It’s a great way to gather the needed information your cater needs.
- Carving Station: If you do a buffet and you want to add an upscale opting, a carving station is a great way to do this. It also makes your line interactive and interesting.
- Children’s Menu: If you have a number of young children attending your reception, you may want to include a menu for them. Sometimes reception food isn’t as kid friendly as some may desire so offering pizza or macaroni and cheese is a great way to welcome kids to your reception and make sure they are cared for. It can also offer a cost savings too.
- Dietary Needs: It’s your reception and you know your guests. If you have special dietary needs in your wedding party, you may want to accommodate that. Be sure to discuss this with your caterer. If you know, for example, you will have a large portion of vegetarians attending your wedding, you may want to offer an entrée that meets that need.
- Snack Bar: One trend that we have started seeing at weddings here at The Leadership Center is a snack bar. Some brides have chosen to set up different types of candy, allowing the guests to pick and choose to create their own snack. Others have gone with popcorn and provided different flavored salts to put on top. Another snack option I have seen at a wedding was a do-it-yourself trail mix station; they had everything there for you and you created the trail mix of your dreams. Snack bars have become quite popular because many brides and grooms leave between the ceremony and reception to take pictures and partake in some celebrating with their wedding party. Snack bars are a great option for guests to munch on goodies while waiting for the main meal to be served. This is also an amazing option to have if you are having a bar to tide your guests over until the wedding party arrives at the reception.
A few things to consider when picking out and setting up your snack bar: Are there food regulations at the venue that you chose? If so what are you allowed to bring in? Are you wanting a fun and inviting setup for your snack bar? If so, do you have containers? Does the venue have containers to rent or know of vendors?
Now that you have these key factors figured out it is time to figure out what snacks you want. Do you want sweet such as candy or do you want something more salty such as popcorn or pretzels? Even though this is completely your decision, you do want to consider what your guests might prefer because they will most likely be the ones enjoying it, not you. Also if you have children in attendance then you may want to consider something that is child friendly. You will also want to consider your budget. There really are so many options and ways that you can go with your snack bar. You could build your snack bar around a color scheme or on specialty snacks based on the theme of your wedding. However if you do that it could be very costly. Popcorn is definitely a more budget friendly and popular option, but you need to remember that you will need space for storage of the popcorn. The options are limitless!
Once you have decided on what you are putting on your snack bar, it is now time to consider serving and refills. Are you going to have someone stationed at the snack bar answering questions? Or are you going to make signs stating what each item is? Or if it is something that is special to you and your significant other are you going to include a little anecdote in reference to a particular candy? Or are you going to have someone watch from afar and refill whenever necessary? You will also need to consider what dishes and utensils you will have for your guests to use when serving themselves. There is a lot to consider when putting together a snack bar, but this is something that you can truly customize and make your own. It can be something totally fun and unique to you and your significant other or you can do something a little more practical and cost effective. That is completely your option; just make sure to have fun with it!
- Bar/Beverages: Beverage service is a completely necessary part of your reception. Everyone needs something to drink during your reception, especially if you are getting married during the hot months. Another key suggestion we make is that whether you are having cake or some other type of dessert, coffee is most generally something that needs to be on the menu. Unless you know specifically that your guests are not coffee drinkers, generally the older generation is a big fan of coffee with their dessert. It is also something that is great to have if you are having a bar at your reception, before people head home after a wonderful night of celebration.
One thing you may not realize about food service is that beverages aren’t necessarily the cheapest item. Each venue or caterer charges differently. Here at The Leadership Center we are able to provide different beverages such as iced tea, water, coffee or punch, however, we are not able to provide alcohol. Check with your venue and see if that is something that they provide. If they don’t do food service and you have to hire a caterer, check with them. Otherwise it may be possible that your bar, if you choose to have one, provides iced tea, water and coffee.
Having a bar at your reception is up to you. You know your guests better than anyone. Bars are not necessary at a reception. Don’t feel pressured to have a bar, they can incredibly expensive. If you do want to look in to having a bar there are some really key things to consider when looking for a bar: Does the venue you chose have a bar? If you have to hire an outside bar, do they have a liquor license? Do they have insurance? Do you have a choice in what alcohol they bring in? Does the bar work well with budgets? Do they have licensed bartenders? Do you want it to be a cash bar or an open bar?
We are very selective about the bars that we work with here. We have a preferred vendor list for bars. On our preferred list are bars that we know have insurance, are responsible to control liquor serving, work well with a budget and are genuinely good to work with! If your venue doesn’t have a bar, ask them for recommendations or if they have a preferred list; this will help you narrow down the search. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Once you have chosen your bar, you will need to decide if you are having an open bar, a cash bar or a mixture. An open bar is going to be more expensive, a cash bar is much more cost efficient while a mixture is somewhere in the middle. Knowing your budget is integral in this decision. Can you afford to spend more money on alcohol? Do you need to limit it to wine and beer only which lessens the bill or do you specifically need it to be a cash bar because it’s the most budget friendly?
If you choose to have a bar but want to forego having an established business host your bar and want to do it yourself, I would highly advise against that. It is an incredible liability and strain to put on yourself—you are in charge of purchasing the alcohol, monitoring your guests and making sure no one is over served. You are also responsible for the licensing which most venues require. If someone does get over served and something happens, it is your responsibility. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to alcohol and leave the responsibility up to a trustworthy and trained bar.
- Cake:There are so many decisions that need to be made when it comes to the reception food “extras”. Are you going to have cake at your reception? Or are you and your significant other not cake fans? If so, there are many other options that you can go with—pie, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, bars, or ice cream. What you serve at your reception is up to you.
Whatever you choose, check with your venue to see if you can bring them in or if it has to be catered through them. Also no matter if it is done through the venue or through and outside vendor, check on fees. Is there a delivery fee or a service fee? A display fee? If you go with an outside vendor, is there a mileage limit or extra fee for extra travel? All of these are important for your budget. Another tip when choosing a vendor is to find out if they deal with food allergies. The amount of people that are allergic to nuts or gluten intolerant, etc. is incredible. If you know that someone in your family is allergic it’s nice to have an option for them.
Once you have decided on dessert, you need to decide what flavors to provide, how you are displaying the food, who is serving/refilling them. Choose flavors that are important to you, but are also guest friendly. Pinterest is a great way to find display ideas. Check with your venue and sweets vendor to see if they have restrictions, ideas and tips. Also figure out who is serving your sweets. This is a great task for family members or friends. If you don’t want your family or friends to be hassled during the reception, check with the venue or caterers to see if this is something they offer, but be aware that it may be an additional cost.
Now that you have figured out the flavors, display and serving; what are you serving on? Does the sweets vendor have the plates, silverware and napkins? Does the venue? Or is that something you will need to purchase on your own? Plastic plates and silverware is totally acceptable for your sweets. It is not acceptable for your main meal.
One final thing to think about is does the venue have storage for extra sheet cakes or if you are going with cheesecake/pie do they have refrigeration for those items? Many venues do not and you will need to provide coolers of ice for temperature controlled items or figure out places for extra sheet cake storage. These are things that can be discussed with the venue who will be able to provide you with suggestions.
If you have any questions regarding snacks, beverage and bars or sweets your venue should be able to assist you or direct you to the right people. Planning out your reception can be incredibly overwhelming because there are a million and one decisions to be made, but there are professionals that have done this many times and are willing to help you out so do not be afraid to ask the questions you may have.
…And a few other things to consider when working with Caterers, Bars, Cake Bakers, etc.:
We have given you quite a lot of details to think about when organizing the food and beverages for your reception. Should you choose a location like The Leadership Center, we work very hard to simplify the process as much as possible. However, should you be looking at another venue or working with a number of vendors, here are a few other things to be thinking about:
- Delivery Times: When working with various vendors, be sure to keep a list of vendors with all their contact information and delivery times to eliminate any undue stress on your special day. If your reception is at The Leadership Center, having this info is very helpful for us (or any venue) so we know when to expect cake deliveries or when the bar should be arriving. Should there be a change in the schedule or a vendor is running late, having contract information on hand makes contacting them a lot easier.
- Set -Up or Display Costs: Be sure when you are setting your contracts up with your various vendors, you are aware of what their costs cover. Will the cake company set-up your cake and display? When your catering company comes, will they also be bringing the dishes? What set-up, if any, do they need? When your event is at The Leadership Center, we provide the set-up for the food, and cake, etc. We have a clause in the contract that covers dishware, display, etc. Not all facilities or vendors cover this.
- What do you have to rent? Should you prefer a particular dishware or your vendor/venue does not provide items like dishware, glassware, silverware, or serving ware, you will have to purchase or rent it. If this is the case, you will be adding additional cost and delivery fees.
- What are you responsible for providing? We really encourage you to read your contracts and ask lots of questions to ensure you know just what you are getting from your vendors and what you are responsible for providing. Often times, a cake company will deliver your cake, set it up and make sure it looks beautiful, but they will not provide the knives or serving ware to serve your cake. While your caterer may be providing food, chafers, serving and dishware for your meal, are they providing plates for the cake or glasses for the beverage station? If you are having a snack bar and doing that on your own, where are the dishes and such coming from? We have found that it works best to set up your reception on paper in stations and make it a check list to ensure you are covered on all the details. It will make it easier to plan, execute and not worry about while you are enjoying your special day.
- Payment: One last but very important item: payment to your various vendors. Most vendors will require a down payment at the time of order. Then they will require a final payment at delivery or completion of service. Be sure you know when those are due and you have your forms of payment ready. Most vendors will also require a credit card on file just in case you fail to pay on time. Failure to pay can mean that you incur more fees or your guests won’t have that particular item to enjoy during your reception. If you are not the person paying the bill, be sure that the vendor knows who is. Overall, we cannot stress enough to try very hard to have this organized ahead of time to ensure all goes well on your special day.
So we know this was long and detailed. There is a lot to think about when you plan your reception. We hope all these tips are helpful. As always, if we can be of any assistance in planning your event, give us a call. We are happy to assist. We encourage asking lots of questions, inquire into all the details and don’t be afraid to double check things.
We wish all the best in your planning! Happy planning.
Maile & Micheala