1. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
It goes without saying, the most important part of any wedding service need is to know what the bride and groom want, even if they do not! Take the time to get to know how they picture their special day in their mind, what they want to communicate to their guests and what atmosphere they want to set i.e. romantic, whimsical or interactive.
(In this scripture, vision is the good news about Jesus’s birth, death & resurrection that saves ‘the people from perishing,’ or eternal death after the grave. There is no heaven after death, aside from Christ.)
To create: a) cover your table with floor length linen; b) place your decorative linen on your table, underneath the area where your tub(s) will be; c) wrap 1-2 white, 13-gallon trash bag(s) around each tub(s) (this will help insulate the ice, prevent water condensation and keep your food colder and fresh); d) fill each tub with two to three 10-gallon bags of ice; e) assemble platters; f) fold up linen around edges of tub(s); g) fill bowls with perishable appetizers; and (h) cover food with plastic wrap until guests arrive. Voila!
2. Remain flexible.
Rest assured, you can leave your tights at home, and you do not need to take up ballet. But you should remain flexible with the following: shapes of your platters; seasonal food items (they will be cheaper and taste better); the finished product; the amount of time you need to set-up; head count; and any other requests from the bride and/or groom.
Here is a true and detailed account from my recent wedding I designed this spectacular appetizer bar for. (And I will take no offense if you skip over this story. I share it for laughs and better preparation for future events). Four days before shopping day, the mother of the bride whom I love to pieces requested I purchase additional food to ensure nothing run outs. A very valid concern! And my sister (who happens to be a chef) so wisely reaffirmed, “As a chef, we get paid to provide food, not to run out.” So I moved from a shy estimate of 6 bites per person for 2 hours to a cushioned 10 bites per person for 2 hours. This led to an additional, giant cooler my 11-year-old son could possibly fit into as well as extra of most everything else.
One shopping cart at Sam’s Club, from the bottom to a leaning tower above, quickly became two. Did I mention you may want to shop with someone else? This also led to having to rent a rental car. And, of course, the rental they initially wanted to pair the team and I with was not large enough. Thank the Lord Almighty and His divine providence, we were sent down the street to another shop, given the size we needed and were extremely discounted :) And who needs to be told two hours is not enough time to get to LA from the Inland Empire? Taking three hours to arrive shaved prep time from 2 hours to 1. I knew that was a risk, but I was backed by 2 powerhouse supports – my husband and sister – the team. Lo and behold, upon our arrival, the rental company was still pulling out tables and linens, and stuff was everywhere.
The main point for this section: there will ALWAYS be last minute changes, no matter how much you plan and prepare. Be ready to adjust, remain focused, respond quickly and deliver a phenomenal and polished product. No one on the outside will ever know the difference, unless, of course, they read this or ask...shh!!!
3. Display Ahead.
For the display, I purchased my tubs, linen, platters and everything I needed MONTHS before the event. I then proceeded to lay everything out, with the exception of the food, to get a visual of what it would look like. This allowed me to share with my client, and she was able to offer feed-back and affirmation that it looked great! Even more important, I was able to adjust platter sizes and food options, just by seeing the platters all in place. One item of note, on the big day, the ice may cause the platters to sit a little higher and fit nice and snug. This is okay! Just do not leave trays higher than the edge of your tub. If this happens, the platters will not be insulated enough, and the food can spoil – eliminate ice, or rearrange platters.
4. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
As I mentioned in my loquacious story in point #2, having a second set of hands for purchasing was great. How about making 200 caprese sticks, rinsing x, drying y, storing z and on-and-on the list goes? THIS IS NOT A ONE MAN OR WOMAN JOB! Having three sets of hands was ideal – everything was finished and looked even better than envisioned.
5. Create the Illusion of Abundance.
The bride and groom wanted fresh, simple and light appetizers. The menu consisted of three seasonal fruits, one seasonal veggie, caprese sticks, three varieties of meats, three varieties of cheeses, two varieties of crackers and three types of dips. Sounds like a lot? It is, but it is not. If you go by category, there were technically only four options with sub-options. Several options à color à variety à area à abundance. This also resulted in having to replenish the bowls often to keep them full, especially because this was one of my client’s high priorities. I had at least double of every platter. As items were running half full, I would bring another one in its place, take back the empty container and combine the two à abundance. Upon quickly glancing, guests that were modest in their first serving can see the bowls have since doubled in quantities and return for a real serving.
6. Ice, ice, baby--duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh--nuh-nuh-nuh!
Did I mention ice? Outdoor weddings always bring unique challenges to wedding planners, especially when it comes to forecasting weather and maintaining food safety. Common sense, the hotter it is, the faster ice will melt. And, most likely, if you are reading this article, a child’s 3-foot pool filled with ice and appetizers will not cut it for you. But how do you keep the ice from becoming a swimming pool with an elegant and appetizing design? The answer: shallow, long, plastic tubs, linen and ice. And all of your perishable items in coolers with ample ice and a cooler with extra ice.
7. “Measure [your wood] twice, cut once,” (my dad, AKA "Jeeves").
As the metaphor says, wood is one item that is better measured twice, because, once cut, you are stuck with it. And, chances are, it will be short. Are you thinking: ‘I get the wood picture, but how does that translate to quesadillas?’ Great question! You need to calculate, down to the blueberry, how many “bites” you will need, and no I am not talking about vampires. If you are serving hamburger sliders, one slider/serving = one “bite.”
Note, guests tend to eat more, when there is alcohol and it is night-time; guests tend to drink less, when there is a small variety or quantify of food; and guests tend to eat less when appetizers are passed or plated or it is hot outside.
Calculating “Bites” and beverages per guests, per hour:
-If followed by dinner, no open bar: 3 bites
-If followed by a dinner, open bar: 5 bites
-If there is no meal, no open bar and it occurs during a meal-time: 8
-If there is no meal, open bar and it occurs during a meal-time: 10
-Non-alcoholic drinks: 2 gallons/25 guests
-Alcoholic drinks: 1 ½ gallons/25 guests
Here is an example of how to calculate how many appetizers or appetizer bites you will need: you have 200 guests attending an outdoor wedding, ceremony starts at 3PM, cocktail hour is from 4-6PM, open bar and many feel like they should be eating dinner. 5 bites X 200 guests X 2 hours = 2,000 bites for 200 guests for 2 hours.
8. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
This was probably the most difficult lesson to learn, but I had a faint idea. When one of your best friends of 14 years, you know who you are, says she needs help for her wedding, you rise to the occasion! Anything to make her day beautiful and flawless, I was on board. I knew I would not be able to attend the ceremony, my favorite part of a weeding, but the team and I were with her in spirit and prayer. However, once the cocktail hour was over and the wedding party was lining up, I saw her. There she was in her spectacular wedding dress looking ahead to make her grand entrance…priceless :) I quickly ran to her and gave her the biggest hug. I even saw the groom back-stage a little earlier, and he was starving…strawberries for him and his fellow groom’s man. He said everything looked great, tasted delicious and was so thankful for our service. Again…priceless.
After the cocktail hour, the team and I made ourselves an appetizer platter and had a quick celebration victory. We then went for the tasty reception dinner, celebrated the toasts, ate cake and I even got to steal a dance with the bride. But it was different. If you are looking for your mom, maid-of-honor or someone close do this for you, I would HIGHLY DISCOURAGE YOU FROM THIS DECISION – they will be unable to fully share and celebrate your special day. You do not have to hire AV Weddings, but hire someone! This goes the same for any wedding service you may need on the day of your wedding. Click here, to contact AV Weddings and schedule a complimentary consultation.
With that being said, I am so grateful I was able to serve this couple on their once-in-a-lifetime experience – I love them both so dearly. I was able to celebrate the first day of their marriage by their side, with my husband and sister, and I was able to eat the cake, too ;)