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Catering | Manolo for the Brides - Part 3
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Cool or Creepy? You Decide

In the past week, I’ve seen a new trend talked up on two different wedding reality shows. On both Rich Bride, Poor Bride and Whose Wedding is it, Anyway? couples have been advised to get and have chosen to hire living tables.

What’s a living (or strolling) table? Well, it’s a person who dresses up in a costume and stands inside a hole in a table on casters decorated to match the costume. The table is then set with a selection of hors d’oeuvres, or desserts that guests can help themselves to as the table wanders through your reception or party.

Here’s what it looks like:


Is Meat-Free or Alcohol-Free Fun-Free? No

One of the thornier issues that comes up when planning a wedding is the menu. No matter what you do, someone is going to be unhappy with what you choose to serve. This only becomes more true if you are planning not to serve either or both of two popular items: alcohol and meat.

For some reason, there are a great many people who cannot wrap their heads around the concept that meat is not necessary in every meal or that it’s possible to have a good time without an alcoholic drink. The fact is it’s perfectly possible to have not only a delicious but a completely satisfying meal sans meat and it’s more than possible to have a blast without a glass of bubbly.

Chances are, though, that at least one or two people on your guest list would be skeptical of my claims in this regard.


Once Upon a Menu

When you head to either your friendly neighborhood caterer, your own cookbook shelf, or your favorite group of church ladies to work out your wedding reception menu, a great many concerns will affect your final choices: price, personal taste, known food issues among your nearest and dearest (allergies, moral or religious dietary restrictions, cousin Wendy’s legendary phobia of Brussels sprouts), cultural expectations, etc.

But there’s one thing that most likely won’t even enter your thoughts: availability.

We’re spoiled for choice today. If strawberries aren’t in season, we can get them from another hemisphere or an agricultural concern that creates the correct circumstances for strawberries to grow all year round. If we want lemongrass, it doesn’t have to grow nearby. Freezing techniques allow us to have duck, venison, or lamb whatever the time of year. Corn on the cob in December? Not a problem.

Back through the mists of time, though, what you ate depended far more heavily on where you were and what time of year it happened to be. If you wanted oysters but lived inland, you might well be out of luck. If the only fruit trees in the local orchards were apple and peach, then good luck coming up with oranges. Oh, and if you wanted a cake, it took much stronger arms to whisk the ingredients since you wouldn’t have a nice stand mixer to whip the butter and eggs for you. Excuse me for a moment while I go pet my KitchenAid.


Loaves and Quiches

The wedding, or formal official breakfast, is a stereotyped affair, cast in the moulds of the confectioner and restaurateur. It is little else than the fashionable ball supper, lighted up by day instead of gas light, and is composed, like it, of stewed oysters, galantines, mayonnaise of fowl, cold game, ices, pyramids, and all the knickknackeries of confectionery.

from: “The Bazar Book of Decorum.
The care of the Person, Manners, Etiquette, and Ceremonials.” 1873

These days I expect that few of us will be serving stewed oysters, mayonnaise of fowl or large amounts of cold game, but it’s still necessary to feed your wedding guests something. It may be as simple as cake and punch or it may be an entire roast pig. More likely, you’ll want to choose something in between these extremes.

You may have guests with particular dietary needs. Maybe your Uncle Frank is diabetic, and little cousin Sally is violently allergic to peanuts and citrus. Your college roommate may be vegan while the Best Man considers no meal complete without steak. Then there’s your brother’s hatred of all things seafood and your bridesmaid’s boyfriend who has taken a strong stance against any food that is orange in color. Don’t laugh. While the names and relations have been changed to protect my sanity, I’ve known people with every one of these problems or attitudes, and most of them were at my wedding.<>How to pick a meal that will please your guests without breaking the budget? Here are a few thoughts.

Be clear with your caterer about how much you have to spend. A good caterer is used to working with brides who have very little to spend as well as those who aren’t the least strapped for cash. In fact, your caterer may have some very creative ideas for feeding people on a budget. Good communication will help you come up with a workable plan.

Accept that someone won’t be happy. If you’ve got an extended family of extremely picky eaters, you won’t please them all. You can, however, provide food that will satisfy most of your guest list. That’s good enough.


A bridal mini-buffet

Rebecca is a beautiful bride

First off, I want to say congrats to Rebecca and her fabulous Bianchi gown. Wait, I mean congrats to Rebecca and Josh, of course! But the dress was her mother’s, passed down from her oldest sister who wore it first in 1964. Is that not the best? I love well-done vintage.

If you’re a bride with a question (and what bride doesn’t have at least one or two), head over to Top Wedding Questions. This message board site delivers not only the questions, but also the answers, as put forth by expert moderators. When you posit your query, you can be sure you’re not going to get a double-handful of regular folks weighing in. If you just want to chat, however, head over to Beautiful Brides & Beyond, a truly fabulous nuptial forum.

And finally, be careful…very careful…when planning your reception menu. From the Manolo comes a news story about a suitcase full of monkey meat that found itself on the wrong side of the law.

A large suitcase containing the remains of 26 butchered monkeys was confiscated at Logan Airport in Boston on its way from Ghana. The 300 pounds of raw meat, destined to be served as the main course at a wedding in New Hampshire, was “oozing out of its container,” said Tom Healy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Um, ew?

Easy access

Don\'t make it harder than it has to be

The fabulous Sara shared a most ingenious littel tip regarding vendors with me recently. I can’t remember now whether she used this tip while planning her own wedding or only thought about it after the fact. Either way, it’s a real gem.

She recommends that brides-to-be program their vendor telephone numbers into their cell phones by category rather than vendor name or company name. That way, when the pressure is on and they need to consult their florist, DJ, caterer, or cake artisan, all they have to do is scroll through their contacts until they hit upon the appropriate keyword. Want even easier access? Program your vendor numbers into your cell phone’s voice dialing system! That way, you can just shout “TENT!” when you realize that your contract says you’ve reserved at 40-person tent for a 200-person wedding.

But why not take it one step further? Make sure you can reach your vendors with nary more than a mouse click by adding their info to your e-mail address book by category. Because, hey, what’s easier to remember? The simple keyword ‘florist’? Or MaryJsBloom.O.Rama@yahoo.com?

(More) tips for the frugal bride

wedding on the cheap

I have no illusions about my eventual wedding. I may have mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: I have six younger siblings. My father is a good provider for his family, but he cannot afford to be oppulent. I don’t have any savings that aren’t dedicated to my eventual retirement. So, I know that when I get married it’s going to be a relatively simple affair. Neither my family nor I can afford to drop a thousand dollars or more on a dress, much less anything else.

So, for my own future reference and possibly yours, I will now present a list of things any bride can do to create a frugal yet fabulous wedding.

Get high tech. Spend the forty bucks to splurge on wedding planning software like Smart Wedding 4.0 that keeps track of things like spending, guests, seating, appointments, vendors, and gifts. It’s like having your very own wedding planner…except this one won’t push you into buying nasty little packets of stale Jordan Almonds.

Go to the library. Or better yet, to one of those bookstores that have a little cafe and will let you read books like Denise and Alan Fields’ Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget while drinking a latte.

Be confident in your ability to find the perfect dress for less. Don’t feel you have to settle for retail prices. Surf the Internet classfieds, check EBAY, visit sample sales, consider checking your local Salvation Army or Goodwill outlet, and look for knockoffs. Sometimes having an original dress handmade by a tailor can be less expensive than buying it off the rack. Making your own dress with help from books like Susan E. Andriks’ Bridal Gowns: How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams is also an option.

Instead of booking an expensive hall, consider letting mother nature host your wedding. She has wonderful taste in colors!

Finally, use any resource you can. Plenty of Web sites, such as Brilliant Wedding Pages, have oddles of money-saving tips and tricks that will help you choose favors that are so fantastic, a dress that is so divine, and a setting that is so sublime that no one will ever know you’re a budget queen.

Now, if only there was a cost effective way to inspire The Beard to go ring shopping…

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