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Prior to my life as a planner and designer, I created and designed food and beverage experiences for my clients at one of our area’s top catering companies. I had the fortunate role of developing the wedding division for this company and have worked closely with hundreds of couples since. Food and beverage will typically comprise approximately half of your budget and is a great place to focus your attention during planning. It is an excellent place to infuse personality, detail and to tell your story. Even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed “foodie” it doesn’t mean you cannot have a fun, interesting or inspiring menu. I often encourage my clients to identify what is delicious and comfortable to them and then we figure out an intriguing or interesting way to present it. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be a wow factor. As if there aren’t enough decisions to be made throughout the planning process, it can’t just stop with selecting a caterer, you have to decide the style of reception you would like and then go from there. Here are a few ways to make your reception truly yours and how to select and step up your food and beverage game.
Just because there are wedding packages doesn’t mean you have to pick one and move on. You have the right to have a menu as unique as you are. Ask if there are ways to incorporate things you personally love or reflect the two of you. Maybe there is a strong tie to a regional food item where you are from? Or an item you shared on your first date or the night you got engaged? For example, crabs and Old Bay seasoning are a regional favorite for Marylanders and we often pass a Virginia ham and peach chutney biscuit for our Virginia clients. If you are nervous about rocking the boat too much, Hors d’ oeuvres are an excellent place to infuse personal flair without reinventing the wheel.
Choose the style of reception that reflects the mood and feel for the wedding you want. I hear it all of the time from caterers and venues… “Well, it is just what we do and it works best this way.” If your venue or caterer seem inflexible on the style of reception you are interested in, it might be better to move on. It really is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I am all for working with the strengths of the team but I will push the limits of their capabilities often, I believe it is how we grow, but understand that I’ve been doing this for over a decade and everyone does have their limits. You want to make sure you are setting yourself up for success. If you want a seated and served plated multiple course meal and they make it clear that a buffet is what they do best, take the advice and reassess. It may be that their staff is not well versed in a served meal or their kitchen staff has not mastered the timing for this style of service. There is nothing more nerve-wracking than asking someone to do something they have no confidence in and hoping that it meets your expectations.
Not sure what type of reception you want? A lot of this may depend on where your roots are planted… meaning folks in the South are more accustomed to a cocktail style reception where a seated and served meal is more common above The Mason-Dixon line. With that said, Washington, D.C. is a transient city and we have a lot of couples that are inner-faith, multi-cultural and represent a variety of regions. We have been getting creative lately and intertwining a few reception styles to accommodate these specific needs but here we have broken down the “big-4” to help you figure out which reception style best fits you:
No matter what type of reception you host, keep perspective. This will not be the last meal you or they will eat, and if I am being honest most of your guests will remember that “the meal was delicious” or they “loved how interactive the stations were.” You want to choose a menu that tastes good, is presented well and on time. Maya Angelou said it best, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Your goal for your reception and truly the entire planning experience should be about the feel, not the things. Focus on the goals of the non-tangibles and act accordingly.
A nationally acclaimed award winner for her impeccable event design and production, Danielle is revered as an industry expert and is often tapped to share her insights through editorial and educational contribution in the global market.