Wedding Tips

How To Plan A Wedding Menu

Brides and grooms always have dozens and dozens of questions around catering! I can't blame them, really, when there are a lot of choices and so many different ways you can go about planning a wedding reception menu. I think one of the most daunting tasks of wedding planning for brides and grooms is creating the perfect menu. Many of my couples aren't sure how to wrap their minds around catering and menu planning. So, where do you begin? How do you choose a caterer? What style of menu is right for your wedding? How in the world do I keep the food budget under control? There are so many questions to be answered! I've asked Catherine Luckadoo with Something Classic Catering & Cafes to give some expert advice on how to plan a wedding menu and to provide some insight into choosing the right caterer for your wedding.

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Q: When first starting to plan for your wedding reception menu/food, what is the best piece of advice you can give to a bride and groom? What should they know going into this part of wedding planning so that they don't get overwhelmed and frustrated, or make too many costly mistakes? A: It's your day so make it a menu YOU like!  Choose items that reflect your personalities, cultures, and relationship with each other.  If you are from very different regions, select items that represent both areas.  If you love to eat pizza together, choose a small mini pizza as one of your butlered hors d'oeuvres for cocktail hour.  If you got engaged over cheesecake, incorporate cheesecake into your desserts.  Use food tags to identify why you chose some of the selections.  The more your menu reflects the two of you, the better.  Have fun with picking your menu and trust your caterer to help guide you with quantities and balancing the menu selections.

Q: Are there any specific food items, food genres, and/or serving styles that you would recommend to couples looking to plan a menu on a budget? A: Steer clear of a plated dinner if you are on a tight budget.  The food itself is not necessarily the most expensive option but the service required to execute a seated dinner - to get your guests served quickly and efficiently - is about 5% higher. A simple buffet is generally the most cost effective.  And a pasta buffet is typically the most economical way to really fill up your guests and keep them happy.

HudsonWed-100
HudsonWed-100

Q: The big debate: station style menu vs. a plated meal. From a catering perspective, can you give one or two pro(s) and con(s) of each menu style? A: Variety is the spice of life as they say, so the more variety, the better chance you have of pleasing all of your guests with varying tastes.  A stations menu allows you more selection.  Keep in mind it is also a little less structured so there is a slightly less formal feel to how it is presented and served.  A seated menu can be more time effective if you want to get your guests fed quickly and get on with the party!  It is also a little more formal in the fact that your guests are being served directly to their tables.  The major con, I would say, is that it is a lot more work for you.  Unless you plan to serve all of your guests the same meal, you have to keep track and organize everyone's meal selections from their RSVP cards to turn in to your caterer.

View More: http://laurenrosenauphoto.pass.us/whitleyanddarian
View More: http://laurenrosenauphoto.pass.us/whitleyanddarian

 

Q: What are some of your favorite wedding menu/food trends that you’ve seen lately?
A: It’s all about “small plates” right now. Guests love the cute and clever presentation of their own petite dish full of fun and unique flavors. The small plates we are using at Something Classic these days are everything from an actual small plate, a mini cast iron skillet, a ceramic Asian spoon, a shot glass, a bamboo steamer pot, an espresso cup, and a petite mason jar, to name just a few.  You can take what would ordinarily be a rather uninteresting raw vegetable display, for example, and turn it into something fun and enticing by placing those same vegetables and dips in a little personal mason jar.

Q: Let's break down a wedding menu. How do you recommend brides and grooms plan a wedding menu so that it's balanced and appealing to all their guests? 
A: Let your caterer and wedding planner help guide you - and don't be afraid to ask for help.  No one expects you to know how to plan a perfect wedding menu.  Start by making a list of your dream selections and then your caterer can help ensure that it is balanced, well rounded, and cost effective.

Q: There are so many dietary restrictions these days, and all brides want their guests to be well-fed and comfortable. So, when planning a menu for your reception, how many options is enough and what suggestions do you have for accommodating guests dietary restrictions, while keeping costs in mind?
A: Don't get too bogged down in this one but it is, in fact, very considerate to try to accommodate the dietary restrictions of your guests as much as possible.  It is probably the easiest to do when you are planning a seated dinner and guests have the option of notating their restrictions on the response cards.  On the other hand, as I mentioned previously, the more variety you offer, the more chance you have of providing something for everyone. At Something Classic, we like to provide attractive menu cards to place by all of the food so that guests know what they are eating and can avoid anything that is not preferable (or not safe) for them to eat.  Ask if your caterer will provide those and if not, you may want to consider printing your own.

HudsonWed-44
HudsonWed-44

Q: What are the top three things you should be on the look out for/consider when going into a menu tasting?
A: So in all honesty, this is a bit of a hot button topic for me and probably for many caterers.  Every company does tastings differently and many do not offer them at all. Let me start by saying, I totally get it.  I was a bride once too and I wanted a tasting to be sure we had made great selections.  But I was told that they didn't offer tastings and that I could visit their restaurant instead.  I was disappointed, but I had lunch there and was relieved to find the quality was excellent and I could rest assured my guests would be happy with anything we chose.  And they were! There is a misconception out there that every couple should get a five course tasting just for considering a catering company.  If we offered that to all interested couples, it is all would spend our days doing. Tastings are expensive and incredibly time consuming and labor intensive for chefs, and so we reserve them for our clients who have booked our services.  For those who are not comfortable booking without a tasting, we offer three options: excellent references, several restaurants owned by our company to give our clients an idea of the quality of our food, and we do offer a tasting at a fee to clients who have not signed a contract (which is waived if they move forward with our team).

All of this being said, if you are having a tasting, these are the things you will want to keep in mind:

1.) Accept trying any food offered even if it is not what is specifically on your menu.  It will at least give you a good feel for the quality coming out of the catering kitchen. 2.) Understand that unless you are working with a restaurant, tasting hours may be very limited.  Catering chefs work very long hours and weekends so they typically have small windows during the work week to produce tastings on a smaller scale.  You may need to take time off of work to attend. 3.) Keep in mind that caterers serve the masses.  While our food quality is excellent no matter how many guests we are serving, I have found that what is being prepared for the two of you to try at your tasting may not translate exactly the same on your wedding day when it has been prepared for 150 guests. 4.) Have fun with it!  The best part of your tasting is getting to experience the excitement and anticipation of your wedding day together. Don't take it too seriously and get bogged down too much in the details.

I leave you with this: Food is important and with it being a huge portion of the cost on your wedding day and a very big part of entertaining your guests, I completely understand why it can feel like a stressful decision.  But it doesn't have to be and it shouldn't be!  Find a caterer who loves what they do - it should be evident from the start.  If your coordinator is excited about your wedding, that will go a long way in the service your receive from the whole catering team throughout the planning process and on your wedding day.  Our head chef, David Clarke, tells us all the time upon receiving complements on his food, "We just put a little love in it".  If you find a caterer who will do just that, you will be in great shape.

Eat, drink, and be MARRIED!

XO, Catherine

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Huge thanks to Catherine at Something Classic for giving such great advice and insight into planning a great wedding menu that will please your guests - and your budget! I know wedding planning can seem overwhelming for couples - and planning a menu can feel nearly impossible. But, if you hire a professional and licensed caterer, you cannot go wrong! Trust them and their experience, and you'll have a delicious night your guests will enjoy. Happy planning, y'all!

XO,
A.

Everything You've Ever Wondered About a First Look

Oh the first look. Arguably one of the biggest debates among weddings today is this question of: to do a first look? Or, to not do a first look?  And, you can probably make a sound argument for either side.  As a wedding planner (and former bride!), I have a strong stance on this topic.  But, I wanted to bring in a pro to also weigh in with her professional opinion and view points.  I've asked Charlotte wedding photographer, Crystal Stokes of Crystal Stokes Photography to help me answer common questions and clear up some misconceptions about the first look.

1. Let's start with the basics.  What is a first look? It is a private moment between the bride and groom prior to the wedding ceremony.  The photographer and videographer are the only other individuals around to capture this intimate meeting when you get to see your soon-to-be spouse for the very first time.  It's usually a bit staged so that the photographer and videographers can have the chance to capture your reactions as you see each other.  Basically, my clients will trust me to seek out a beautiful location for this moment to happen, and I do my absolute best to get them away from the crowd so they can be alone in this moment together.  Typically, I will place the groom somewhere with his back to the bride, and she will approach him and either tap him on the shoulder, or ask him to turn around to see her.

 2. Why do a first look? What are the pros?  A first look is advantageous for brides and grooms who want to get formal photos taken care of quickly.  The first look is helpful in a couple of ways.  Not only does it give the couple the opportunity to join the cocktail hour or reception more quickly, in order to enjoy the reception longer and to spend time with their guests who all travelled in to celebrate with them.  But, most importantly, it can also ensure that a couple doesn't run out of day light so that they can take all the photos they want out of their day.  A first look also will typically give a photographer more time to do what I like to call the "romantic shots".  You know, the ones that when you finally get your wedding photos back you immediately search for while skipping the others because at the end of the day, your wedding is about your marriage and the person you are committing to spend forever with - and having extra time to create those beautiful photos is really incredible and valuable! Another big pro is that the first look helps couples remain calm on the wedding day.  Nerves can often get the best of people on their wedding day, and I've seen those nerves settle on multiple occasions when the bride and groom were able to hold each other before one of the biggest moments of their life.  It really is a beautiful thing!

First Look - Crystal Stokes Photography
First Look - Crystal Stokes Photography

3. But, won't doing a first look ruin the big reveal? It won't feel as special when the ceremony time comes because we've already spoiled the surprise. I do not think that the first look ruins the big reveal.  There is something so beautiful and fresh and life altering that happens the moment a groom sees his bride walking down the aisle during the ceremony, among loved ones, for the first time. Perhaps he just saw her moments before the wedding, but that doesn't change the magical moment that happens when their eyes met moments before becoming man and wife.

 4. Any other advice you have to share with brides on the topic of a first look? Or anything you want to share with brides to help demystify the first look debate? A first look is a wonderful thing, and I believe that it really depends on what you want from your wedding day and the timeline you want to keep.  I know some couples want to remain very traditional - and I've noticed that the groom more often than the bride wants to wait until the walk down the aisle!  And, if tradition is a top priority, then I never push to change that. However, if a bride is on the fence about which direction to go, I absolutely let them know the benefits of a first look.

I wanted to add a little something, too!  Brides, I echo and want to further explain my personal and professional preference for the first look.  I have never met a photographer that did not prefer a couple to do first look. That is a fact!  I can tell you from experience being a bride that it does not in any way ruin that special moment at the church when you're walking towards your groom.  For me, I got to experience those butterflies and have a whole new rush of emotion all over again once the church doors opened!  I've seen brides visibly become calmer and more natural once they got to see and touch their groom.  The first look is meant to be an intimate time where you can take a deep breath together, and really take a moment to pause for just one little minute on one of the biggest days of your life to take the chance to soak it all in with your guy by your side.  Oh, it's such a special time - I really can't sing it's praises enough!  Brides always want to see their grooms reaction when they finally see them in their beautiful gown for the first time.  A lot of times you get a more genuine and natural reaction from grooms during the first look vs. waiting until the ceremony because they can let their guard down within that private moment and not feel like their whole family (and yours!) are staring at him waiting for him to react to his beautiful bride. Talk about pressure!  First look photos continue to be some of my favorite from the wedding day.  As a planner, I advocate for a first look because it helps with the timeline SO much! Like Crystal said, the photos you want to frame and hang on your wall, to send out as Christmas cards, to show your children one day, etc. are the photos of you and your groom! So, why not make that a priority by getting those coveted photos taken first so that you can be sure that you do not lose any time.  Things happen on a wedding day, and although we do our best as planners to control the schedule, I can't control family members that walk away before photos are complete, or unforeseen distractions that push the timeline back.  All of that being said, it's your day and no one will (or should!) ever force you to do something. However, your vendors are professionals that have done this a time or two, so they are giving you advice based on experience.

Thanks so much for bringing your viewpoint as a photographer to this fun debate, Crystal!  For more information about a first look, check out this helpful video explanation from Every Last Detail, this rather humorous explanation from The Knotty Bride, and this article about wedding day photography from The Knot - check out number 9, y'all.

But, I really want to hear from you! Brides - are you considering a first look? What's your hesitation and/or concerns? And, former brides - let's hear your experience! Did you do it? Did you skip it?

XO,
A.