Entertaining Your Guests In Style
If you’re like most brides, selecting a venue can be a daunting process, especially if you have very little notion about all the options available in your area and are not quite sure what to consider when finding your reception space.
First of all, consider the date you actually have chosen. Did you pick a date in the middle of the summer — high season — or in the traditionally chilly time that has become more popular due to the great designs now available in the cold months? You both need to discuss what you want for your day: a hotel ballroom, a warehouse loft, a vintage barn or a swanky tent. Some of your choices may be limited due to weather if you’ve chosen a time period during the year that is not conducive to an unheated - or non-air conditioned — tent or barn. Sometimes those locations can be accommodating and can bring in either option if weather necessitates it, but you’ll have to weigh cost with practicality then. Once your date is selected, you’ll want to book a venue that matches the aesthetic you desire as well as your estimated guest list. It’s important to realize how quickly locations book in advance.
Many venues start to book two years out — so be sure to make inquiries early. You may also find it easier to select a time of year and, armed with several dates that work for your particular ceremony venue or church, go to the most popular and heavily booked locations with many options open instead of just a single date to try and match together. Or, you may not care so much about an exact venue as you do a particular caterer or service level. If that is the case, you’ll want to encompass all the properties covered by that vendor to better understand your options regarding room and capacity size as well as style.
Even if you are set with a single date, or you started a bit late and most of the locations you were considering are all booked up throughout the season, all is not entirely lost. There are many vendors, especially here in Veil Magazine, that have multiple locations with the same high level of service, food design and host in a variety of settings sure to fit with your wedding hopes in some manner. So while sometimes it is important to choose an interior vibe that best describes your personal style, when food or some other element is equally important to you, it can help to open your horizons to include other venues you may not have initially added to your list.
Remember, a reception is where you can get creative about your tastes and offer up dishes that can be a memorable part of the evening. This is also an important part of your guests’ experience, beyond the venue surroundings itself. If you choose a location that can provide a culinary and gastronomic memory, it will be something guests remember for a long time.
Therefore, once your venue and caterer are selected, you will want to go over the type of service that you’ll be providing your guests.
Here’s a brief summary of your options:
This option for foodservice is best used for midday events, morning brunches or cocktail receptions. A combination of stationary food items and passed or experiential appetizers is the likely route to ensure guests have time and opportunity to get some food in their belly. Because alcohol is usually part of the event, you’ll want to emphasis having food with a bit of weight using meats and breads as well as considering vegetarian dishes as well. You can liven this up with appetizers that match your theme, colors, or even are presented in unique ways, such as on acrylic trays or in ice shooters.
While this is another more informal way to feed your guests, you need never worry about guests being hungry later, as everyone can fill their plates with however much food they think they need. You can also create a very familiar, cozy environment with guests getting served in a ‘family style’ way at each table, which is a step up from the traditional long buffet line but still allows for bulk food options. There isa myth that buffets can be less expensive than a plated meal, but that is not true. Buffets require extra amounts of food to be bought by your caterer to ensure that they don’t run out as people fill their own plates and portion sizes cannot be controlled.
This is truly a culinary experience for your guests — getting to select, point and watch as their food is being cut and served. Carving stations do not even need to be confined to meat. You can have potato bar stations, pasta bars, sautéed vegetable and seafood bars, or even an omelette bar if you’re hosting a brunch reception. Carving stations tend to end quicker, so while this is a buffet type of serving style, be sure that your guests are aware that there is an end time to the food being available.
A classy step up from carving stations and ‘help yourself’ bars, small plates are exactly what they sound like: small plates of pre-served food that guests can grab. There are usually several small plate stations throughout a reception room, but they can be fancier items, such as lobster, scallops, certain types of beef cuts or specialized pastas. The pates are expedited by whatever chef is manning the station, so they have the finished appeal of a plated meal but in smaller portions. This is an elegant way to still create the movement in the room you’d get with a buffet or carving stations but offers a more delectable cuisine.
This is the traditional way to serve a wedding meal. Whether you allow your guests to choose their entree table side, on the RSVP cards, or offer one single dish, plated meals are the most formal way to feed your guests at the reception. You will have several servers on hand to make sure tables are served relatively at the same time, allowing guests to dive into a fully created and executed meal with proper proportions and final design. It is still possible to have unique dining experiences with a plated meal. Offer an amuse bouche, sorbet before the entree, or have a cheese and fig course before offering cake. You are the masters of the menu at your reception: have fun, even when doing something traditional.
Remember your reception should be a reflection of your wedding style, but that doesn’t mean you are limited to a vintage venue if you want vintage flair or specific meal options. You can create that vibe with everything from the decor, lighting and the food service, so don’t feel completely edged in by your theme. Select what fits all pieces of your wedding and your personality the best and you won’t be left with any questions about your final decision.