Ok, let’s face it, wedding planning is stressful. And just when you think that you have overcome your ‘deer in headlights’ moment, and are ready to take the plunge into making some real progress on your wedding plans, out pops the holidays. There’s enough plans for cheer and glee to send even the most stable amongst us spinning. What do you do when there’s a thousand different things going on, family get-togethers, office parties, celebrations with friends, and yet you are still needing to make progress on your plans for your wedding?
Conduct your catering research during the Holiday season.
Kill two birds with one stone. Use your time during the holiday season to hone in your ideas about catering for your wedding. Sure there are going to be some elements that might differ by season. For example, you probably haven’t attended too many weddings that served turkey and dressing. However, there is still a lot of ground that you can cover on your catering plans, while at the same time making the most out of your holiday season. You simply need to focus on doing what people generally do during this period, eating and drinking. The fact of the matter is that within the plethora of gatherings and celebrations that you will attend this year, there will be a wealth of ideas that you will be able to pull from for inspiration and learning about your wedding food and beverage catering.
Be the tactful researcher.
The key to effective and efficient wedding planning is having your ideas formulated, organized and readily available for sharing. You want to have your ideas well prepared, because this will aid your wedding professionals in helping you to get to the vision and execution you want. The clearer you are on your vision, the more helpful you can be in guiding your planner or caterer towards your perfect reception food courses, cocktails, wines, and even deserts. Right now, the catering ideas are flowing in abundance! All you have to do is pay attention, explore and experience.
First, a lesson in branding 101. Consumers will experience your product based on at least one of their five senses; what they see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. Use this five-senses formula as your guide for assessing your holiday party, specifically as it relates to how you ultimately experience the food and beverages. When you walk into the engagement, what do you see? Is the food accessible? How are bars and beverages organized? Do these layouts motivate a particular circulation or interaction of the crowd? For example, if there is one bar at the very back of the room, on the other side of the crowd of guests, this will force you to greet most guests before you actually grab a cocktail or wine. This setup might be just fine if you and your fiancé are master socializers. However, if you are like most people, your social skills tend to improve with a starter beverage, and potentially even a bite to eat. Of course, if you believe that this might be the case for guests attending your wedding, a better setup for you would be to have the beverages and potentially bites closer to the entrance, or commencement, so that your guests can easily transition into a social setting full of familiar and new faces.
What does the food look like? How is it laid out or plated? Are the chefs visible amongst the guests? Is it setup as a buffet for self-service, or are there servers? Are there any visual cues that make it clear how and when you are supposed to approach the food and beverage service? What you are trying to assess here is ambiance and organization cues for the guests. These factors will create more or less informal environments. For example, in a survey conducted by Field & Pond, 100 wedding goers were asked what type of serving setup would they prefer: plated, family style, or buffet. Over 50% of respondents indicated that they would prefer buffet. They indicated that they preferred a more informal environment that would allow them to more fluidity in movement, as well as the option for getting the type and quantity of food they wanted.
Some gatherings may make announcements or presentations about the food or beverages. It is not uncommon for a chef to give a simple and short presentation on the cuisine or pairings. This particular approach would elevate the sophistication of the service, and formality of the experience. Alternatively, the host may publically thank the caterer at the end of an event, particularly if that caterer is a family member or personal friend. This particular approach might give the impression of a less formal, and more familial environment. Whatever the case is, pay attention, explore and experience it. There are not necessarily wrong or right answers. However, this work will help you to start to crystalize the ideas and answers that feel right or wrong for your big event.
Of course, the food itself is also an important factor. What does it taste like? Are utensils needed? Is it easy to manage? What are the textures like? Would it be delightful in warmer weather, for summer or early fall weddings? Surely one is not expected to taste ever single bite offered during the holiday season. However, that’s were your conversation and social skills will come in handy. As you are mingling, look for cues that might indicate that guests are really enjoying, or not enjoying a particular dish. For example, if it is a self-serve buffet, is there a lot of a particular item left over? This could be an issue of portion planning or taste. Don’t be shy in asking friends , or even your fiancé, what they think about a particular dish, or why they like it. If you are fearful of being thought of as ‘catty’, simply tell them that you are doing research for your upcoming wedding, and you are desperate for new ideas. This is a great conversation starter, and might lead you to new and beneficial insights.
Use the early part of the new year to meet with caterers.
It is a little known fact that caterers actually take on fairly hectic schedules during the wedding season, which is typically late March until early November. Depending on the caterer, they may have bookings Friday through Sunday, for several weekends straight, and they are using weekdays for shopping and prepping. Unfortunately, this period happens to be the point in where most brides and grooms to be snap into task mode, and are really looking to tie up loose ends on their planning. The result here is often times it becomes a frustrating experience for both the caterer, and the client, to find an available time in where they can meet to do a tasting. Scheduling your tasting early is always a good idea. However, an even better one, is scheduling it to take place during the holiday or new year period (i.e. January/February). This is a period in where your caterer may have more availability, and of course have an easier time finding a time and date to conduct a patient and delightful tasting with you. And of course, because you will have done your research during the preceding months, you will actually be able to provide helpful guidance to your caterer in advance to, and during, your tasting, so that you achieve the outcome you want.
You can still make needed progress, without trading off holiday cheer.
Remember, your ideas are what’s truly key in the planning process. Let the wedding professionals be the experts that they are. Your focus should be on becoming a great conductor, in helping to guide them towards your perfect vision. So don’t stress, just go party through the holidays, and garner the insights you need. And remember, if you have time, write things down, or take snapshots, so that you can organize your ideas well, and have them readily available for sharing with your wedding professionals. Now go enjoy the holiday cheer!
For more information and ideas on various wedding ideas, visit the Field & Pond photo gallery.