Thursday, February 13, 2014

Elegant Dessert or Dessert Table

In January we talked about having a cupcake wedding cake; a variation of the traditional wedding cake. One of my favorite alternatives though has to be the dessert table. But too, many have opted to throw all tradition out the window and select an elegant dessert. First lets talk about a simple elegant dessert served.

Elegant Dessert
There is sometimes a hesitation of a wedding cake simply because not all people like cake. Well, this will be true of any dessert selected; however, if you are attempting to create an elegant fine dining experience rather than a more traditional reception like atmosphere, then having an elegant dessert served after dinner may be the way to go.

If you opt to go this direction talk with your caterer and ask them what they would recommend to complete the dinner menu you have already selected. Or, this is the perfect time to pull in your ethnic background serving something that is traditional from your culture. For example, serving Gajar Ka Halwa (Indian dessert), Zuppa Inglese (Italian dessert) or Brudlaupskling (Norweigean dessert). The possibilities here are endless and will be unique to the bride and groom.

Dessert Table/Display
Lastly, and in more detail, lets talk about the dessert table.

What is it?
Dessert Table
The dessert table is just as it sounds; a arrangement of various elegant desserts on display for guests to serve themselves. These desserts can be placed out by the facility while guests are finishing dinner so that when it is time guests can help themselves to the sweet buffet.

Who should do this for me?
You can have your baker or the catering facility do this for you depending on the experience level and what your end goal is. If you want a small wedding cake plus the dessert table it is possible to order all of this through your bakery. But if your bakery is not familiar with the dessert table it is possible that your caterer can offer that service for you while the bakery makes your wedding cake.

What desserts should I select?
Your caterer or baker will be able to guide you in this but when picking out your desserts be sure to get a variety but not too much of a variety. You want to be sure to have ample amounts of each dessert selected so limit your variety to 4-5 types. Some caterers/bakers have packages complete for you already for which you would just select.

For example you could go with a Viennese Table which might offer assorted cakes, mini pastries, chocolate fountain with dipping items and assorted petit fours. You could go with Dessert Shooters which might consist of tiramisu, strawberry cheesecake, raspberry amaretto mousse and fresh berries with flower honey all displayed in shot glassware. Or you could simply go with Full Cakes which might consist of cheesecake, carrot cake, silk chocolate mousse, pecan pie tarts and so on.
Dessert Shooters

You can still order a smaller wedding cake so that you can have your photo opportunity to cut and serve each other cake. The wedding cake can then be cut and plated on smaller plates and added to the dessert buffet as another option for your guests. While you certainly can do so, I do not recommend having a served dessert and a dessert buffet as you are not only looking at a lot of food in general, but too one can only eat so many sweet items in a short period of time. Regardless of which style of dessert service decide upon, just be sure to take a moment aside and enjoy that sweet treat with your husband/wife!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cupcake display in leiu of a wedding cake

Back in December we talked about wedding cakes. As mentioned there are several options available now of which cupcakes are just one.

Cupcake wedding cakes can be constructed on a stand to mimic the appearance of a traditional wedding cake. There are a variety of stands available to you such as square or round, clear plastic or iron. You will want to check with your baker to confirm that they have a stand available that you like. In many cases I have had crafty fathers of the bride who went to work building a stand. In either case you will want to ensure you have a way to display your cupcakes in a fashion that matches your vision.

One item to keep in mind with cupcake displays is that typically not all of the cupcakes will be displayed. You do not want to over crowd the stand as it will then look thrown together. It is possible that some of the cupcakes will remain behind the scene until it is time for dessert which is fine; you would rather there be some cupcakes in back to
ensure that the display is perfect.

In nearly all cases there is still a top tier of the wedding cake as part of this display. There is one downfall of having just one tier; if you want to keep the top tier for your first year anniversary then you will want to do one of two things. First you can have two tiers of cake (the top to keep and the bottom tier to cut). If you go with this option, what you could ask of your reception hall is to serve the head table from the bottom tier of cake while serving the cupcakes to the guests. Or, two, you can ask your baker to make a separate top tier that arrives already boxed at the facility. This boxed tier you can take home to freeze at the end of the reception and then simply just cut the top tier of the display.

Having cupcakes also gives you flexibility in flavor variety. While I still recommend keeping your flavor selections to five or less, with a wedding cake you are limited to flavor variety based on the number of wedding cake tiers you need. If you do opt to go this direction be aware that if you have the reception hall staff serve the cupcakes that at some point a flavor is inevitably going to run out. Which means the last few tables served are going to simply end up with whatever is left. If you are not okay with this an alternate option is to ask that the cupcakes be placed on display and guests can help themselves after the entree is complete. In the event that your wedding food package includes a coffee display after dinner, it would be the perfect location to have the cupcakes displayed. An added bonus of this is that it gets the guests up and moving after the meal service.

On a final note, one bonus aspect of having a cupcake wedding cake is that every 'piece of cake' looks the same and is beautiful when your guests see it.

Next time we will look at a full blown dessert station complete with cake and other sweet treats; just another alternative to your wedding cake.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wedding Cakes

Once you have your main menu planned you will need to determine dessert. There are so many variations that are acceptable these days that it is not simply selecting your cake. You need to decide if you are even going to have a wedding cake or if you are going to do a cup cake wedding cake, an elegant dessert or a dessert table. For now we will focus on the traditional selection of the wedding cake. 

For your wedding cake there are so many designs and flavors that are available to you that it can be overwhelming. Personally, I recommend thinking about what you like and don't like before you head out to the bakeries. Look at photos online or in magazines to get a feel about the designs that you are interested in. The baker too will have sample works but being able to show them what your vision is will be useful to them. Try not to get your heart set on any one cake design but rather pick at least three. The reason behind this is once you start going around to visit bakers you may fall in love with a baker who may not be able to complete the cake of your dreams but may be able to complete one of your alternates. This just decreases the amount of potential stress you could encounter.

Once you have picked your cake photos you will start to go around and visit with bakers. First and foremost you will want to find out from them if they are able to complete the cake you are interested in. Thereafter the fun begins of selecting flavors and types of icings. Keep in mind there may be some ways to keep costs down. Filings/flavors, icing type, sheets cakes and decorations are all areas of interest to inquire with your baker.

Fillings/flavors: cakes that have a filling are going to be a little more expensive than cakes without filling. The type of filling you select will also play a role in pricing. For example a fresh fruit filling may be more costly than an iced filing. Inquire with your baker on if they offer a tasting of the flavors and/or the icing options which will aid in your decision making process. I highly recommend picking one filling for the entire cake as well. I have come across situations where brides and grooms have selected different fillings for each tier. Since the smaller tiers will yield fewer pieces of cake you will run out of those flavors more quickly than the larger tiers. The issues that come in to play here are that some guests may request a slice of cake for which there are none left to serve. If you do decide to offer different flavors either enable to facility to simply serve the cake at random (i.e. not offering a choice of flavor to your guests) or prepare yourself that at some point the facility will have to turn down your guests requests when certain flavors have run out. As for the flavor of the cake itself, keep in mind that flavored cakes may be more costly than more traditional batters (i.e. a carrot cake flavored wedding cake may be more costly than a simple almond flavored batter). Additionally, keep in mind that you want a flavor that will be pleasing to the masses in order to ensure that your cake is eaten by your guests and not wasted.

Icing types: a more traditional icing such as a butter cream or whipped icing will be less expensive than a fondant icing. While fondant icing gives your cake a finished polished look it is more difficult to work with than traditional icings and as a result will typically be more expensive. Too, fondant icing may not always be an option for your cake based on the design that you select but your baker will be able to guide you in this area.

Sheet Cakes: in some cases bakeries will offer a better price if you opt to have a smaller display cake and make up the difference in slices in the form of a sheet cake. Note that in these cases, the sheet cakes are typically the same flavors and colors as your display cake. In doing this, no one will be able to denote the difference in the cakes cut from the display versus the sheet cakes. 

Decorations: the baker may be able to make the necessary decorations that you want such as fondant flowers or ribbon. These decorations may or may not add an additional cost to your wedding cake. If these fondant flowers increase your cost with the baker, check with your florist who may offer a package that includes your wedding cake flowers at no or little cost to you. Additionally, if you seek a ribbon decoration around the base of your cake tiers go to your local craft store and find the ribbon in the style and colors you want. The baker can use this around the base instead of fondant. Be sure to buy the ribbon AFTER you order you cake so the baker can estimate for you how many yards you will need to buy. In this photograph the ribbon around the base of each tier is fabric and matches the colors of the flowers perfectly.

Friday, November 15, 2013

License, gifts and decorations. Oh My!

There are several obvious aspects to the wedding for which you plan for, when to cut your cake, who will complete the blessing, what you shall eat; however, the planning should not end there. Once dinner is done and the dancing begins, there are several important items that still need your attention surrounding the end of the evening and the following morning. You will need to plan arrangements for your the marriage license, gifts, you decorative items and the tuxedos.

Marriage License: Be sure to ask you officiant if you or they will be responsible for mailing the formal marriage license to the state for processing. In most my experiences, the officiant will be the one mailing in the license. But, if you are responsible, you could come prepared by bringing the necessary postage and charging an extended family member or friend with placing it into the mail after the ceremony and the needed signatures. If you need to travel from your ceremony site to the reception site, this can be done in transit. If your ceremony and reception are at the same location, ask the facility where you drop outgoing mail. In the event that neither of these are an option, you can slide the formal certificate, and the certificate that is yours to keep, into the locked card box at the reception to be tended to the day after the reception.

Gifts: You will want to put someone who is trustworthy in charge of the task of gathering the gifts and card box at the end of the night. Notably you will want to choose someone who will have enjoyed themselves, but not too much. Often a parent is chosen to do this; but it too can be a trusted friend or extended family member.

While it is standard etiquette for guests to send large gifts directly to your home, it is possible that these large gifts may still arrive at the reception. Additionally, you have no way of knowing how many gifts you will receive verse gift cards. Therefore, the rule of thumb is to simply be prepared. If you are having your reception at a venue that does not have overnight accommodations, you will want to be sure that whoever you have charged with this task has a vehicle, or access to a vehicle, that is large enough to accommodate the potential gifts. They will need to be able to load them into the car to transport to whatever destination you have selected. Ideally, since they are in the vehicle, it would be best to transport them directly to your home or the home of a parent to watch while you are away on your honeymoon. This way the gifts are only touched once. If they are transported to the location in which you have arranged overnight accommodations do not leave them in the vehicle. In this case you will have to load them onto a luggage cart and transport them to a guestroom.

It is considered inappropriate and rude to utilize a luggage overnight; however, by the time your reception has ended all the majority of the arriving guests will have checked in, thus they will not need the cart. The point? Roll the cart loaded with gifts directly into the guestroom so they can simply be wheeled out and to the vehicle(s) in the morning. I would recommend promptly thereafter returning the cart for the use of guests who are checking out.

This same scenario of transporting the gifts and cards via luggage cart, to a guestroom, will hold true if your reception is at the same location as where you are staying. The difference here would be questioning your venue to see if they provide any assistance at the end of the night with the transport of the gifts and cards. Note that I said assist. Some facilities will not offer any assistance in this process due to liability reasons while others will offer assistance to whoever you have placed in charge of this task. The facility may retrieve the luggage cart for you to load up and they may even take the cart to the predetermined destination but they will not complete this task solo on your behalf.  

As for the gift cards, in the event your hotel has safes in the room I would recommend using this for the gift cards. Many hotels to do have safes in the room but they do have safety deposit boxes located in the executive offices. Many hotels will not publicize this as often there are a limited number of boxes so be sure to ask if they have one and what is the procedure to secure one for the evening of your reception. Again, you can simply leave the cards in the locked card box with the other gifts if you so choose.

Decorative Items: If you are a fan of Pinterest you may very well be planning to make some or all of your decorations. Even if you are not planning on making any items at all, at the least you will most likely have a cake topper, card box, guest book with pen and toasting glasses. Typically, the facility will place these items out for you during the set up process, but you will need to have someone and some way to retrieve them at the end of the night. Ask the facility what their protocol for returning / retrieving these items. Each facility may be different in their response. With that, a recommendation would be to ask them to place these items on the gift table as each items is used. Meaning, once the social hour is over, the guest book with pen can be moved to the gift table. It will still be accessible by your guests in the event they had not yet signed it but it will be in a central location at the end of the night. This too applied to your toasting glasses and cake topper which can be placed then once dinner is done and the dancing begins as you will no longer need access to them. 

If you are making centerpieces and other more extensive items for which you do not want back as the facility if they will dispose of these for you and if so is there a charge. In the event you want to keep these items, see if the facility is willing to store them until the next morning. As mentioned before regarding the gifts, you will want to be sure that you have ready a large enough vehicle to get all of your decorations home. Many times my brides who wanted to keep their items wake up the next morning realizing that they did not bring the same large SUV for which brought these items. So be sure to plan as rarely can the facility store the items for you as there will most likely be another wedding or event that will be delivering their items to the facility and storage space is not ordinarily in abundance.

Tuxedos: The last item for today is the tuxedos. Some brides prefer to leave this completely the responsibility of the groomsmen which is ideal; however, in some cases the bride and groom rent the tuxedos in lieu of a groomsmen gift. It is in this case that you will want to prepare and make arrangements for their return. To ensure everything is returned as needed, place someone in charge of gathering all of the tuxedos the morning after the reception. If a tux is not returned in full, such as missing a tie, you may get charged. Therefore, in advance make a list of all the items that should be in the tuxedo bag (jacket, pants, tie, vest, shoes, etc.) and give to whoever you have placed in charge. Have all the groomsmen meet in a designated guest room with their tux and tux bag and together they can all quickly go through the check list to ensure all of the items are accounted for. If there are any items missing have the groomsmen check their guestroom again but if that does not solve the issue, try asking the facility to check the lost and found items as it is likely the article of clothing was left at the reception site.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sports Themed Receptions

There are so many different ways to let your personalities shine through. The more obvious ways are in the colors your select, your dress style, and your centerpiece choices and so on. Many people seek out different themes for their wedding such as rustic, nautical or classic. But there are so many different themes that may be a little scary but can be amazing if you do them right.

One example is a sport theme. Does that mean that you need to have little jerseys as your place cards or a football helmet as a cake topper? Certainly not, unless of course you are both die hard fans and wish to do so. You can bring this theme into an elegant event through creativity and planning. For example, since I live in the great city of Pittsburgh, I will use for this example our Steelers NFL team whose colors are black and gold.

To pull in such colors the bridesmaid's dresses can be a elegant little black dress whose flowers are flowers of various gold shades. For the groomsmen, an all black tuxedo with a gold vest will pull in the colors of the girl's flowers. Now for you I would recommend your white dress (or a shade of white) and white flowers. For the groom, all black including the vest. I recommend this look for any bride and groom as it allows for timeless photos as these will most likely be hanging in your home for many years. Dressing to trendy will date the photos very quickly whereas classic black and white is still as elegant today as it was back in the 1964 film My Fair Lady. If you would like to have a splash of color for yourself, go bold and daring with a unique shoe style.

For centerpieces you can mimic the bridesmaids dresses on the tables. Using our previous example, having black linens with gold centerpieces. This could be as simple as a cylinder filled with water dyed yellow with food coloring and floating candles; or simply gold candles as pictured to the left. If your ballroom where the reception is to be held is light and airy feel confident in selecting the black linens; however, if the room is already dark in appearance (dark walls, carpet, lack of windows), you may want to leave the linens white or use gold linens with black accent as seen in the photo on the above right.

For your cake a subtle touch would be to have a trim tastefully done on some of the layers that resembles the treads of a football. Now at first through you may think I am crazy but a talented baker can add this detail to your wedding cake and have it blend into the 'background' in such a way that it is not apparent. On that same token if you really want to go all out but still want a traditional looking wedding cake, have the grooms cake resemble a football or the actual football field of your favorite team. Traditionally, the grooms cake is displayed and consumed at the rehearsal dinner, but having it at the reception on a separate table next to the actual wedding cake would be a great compromise in this case.

CAUTION: I would not use black icing anywhere on the cake for a number of reasons. The two most important: first, your mouth turns black when eating black icing and you will be photographed more on your wedding day than any other time in your life and you will not want black teeth. More important still is your wedding dress. If you get black icing on your dress it can stain and you do not want that stress on the day of your wedding. If you want to have black accents on the cake do this with fondant decorations as these are removed before the cake is cut, plated and served. Or you can use real ribbon around the base of each layer which again will be removed before service.

If you want to keep the main events of the day formal such as the ceremony and the reception, you can always have fun with the cocktail hour, especially with this theme. It is as simple as having a 'tailgate' which can be accomplished by serving food items that you might serve or have while tailgating such as:

  • Turkey, Cheddar, Cherry Tomato Kabobs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
  • Antipasto Skewers
  • Crudités Display with Dips

For your place cards, yes I mentioned above that they do not need to be in the form of a football jersey unless of course that is something that you want. A more elegant way of pulling this off is to have the place cards made to look like the admission ticket to the sporting event. The teams would be your maiden name is your future name. The seat number listed on the ticket would be the table number for which the guest is to be seated. All gaming tickets have the game day listed on it which would of course, would be your wedding date, and so on. If you would prefer to have traditional place cards, you could always use this concept for your save the date cards which would set the tone for everything that will follow.

Along the lines of the escort cards / place card table, you too could use a traditional guest book along with a football or your teams jersey to be signed by guests.

One last suggestion/idea today before I sign off would be to have fun with your grand announcement into the reception. Be announced into the room with your teams fight song playing. Take it a step further and have the groomsmen come in with your teams jersey and/or helmets on.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Selecting your menu

Selecting your menu can be a hard thing to do for many reasons. You may have an idea of what you are looking for and if that is the case you have won half the battle. Whether you know what you may want or not, here are a few things to think about when you are planning the menu for your big day.

Seasonal: you may be determined to have patty pan squash as your side dish or part of a fresh vegetable display; an excellent selection for sure. However, if your wedding is in not in late June through early September, this choice may not be optimum. Does this mean that you need to be an expert in what is in season when? No. Talk with the chef that will be creating your meal or even your planner. Let them know what your preferences are and see what they suggest and recommend based on season. Too, keep in mind that if your heart is set on a unique item that is out of season, your dish may become more costly in order to get the product.

Pleasing a large group: First and foremost it must be understood that no matter what you select, someone will not preference your choices. Conversely, I do not recommend serving something that is so unique you are nearly certain to please no one. Try to find a happy medium by incorporating the unique and the usual. For example, if you have your heart set on serving something different like veal which can sometimes be controversial perhaps opt to do a dual entree or offer an option to your guests.

It may be obvious what a dual entree or offering options means but in the event it is not: A dual entree is where there are two different meats on the same plate. Typically a dinner plate will have eight to ten ounces of a protein on it. So if you opt to do a dual entree, rather than having one meat that is eight to ten ounces, there will be two different meats that will total eight to ten ounces. When offering options to your guests you would include the two options on your RSVP card so that when the guests replies accepting your invitation then they would select their meal at that time. You would keep a running total of how many of each dish is needed and report that to the planner so the correct amount is prepared for meal service.

With that being said, the second protein you select should be one that is more universal such as a chicken. This will give you the best of both worlds, the protein you preferred and a protein that is more acceptable to the masses.

These are just two of many hints to offer for now. We will let you digest this and offer some additional tips another day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Always be prepared: the bridal emergency kit

The day of the wedding is not the time that you want to discover that you are not prepared for a wardrobe or other emergency. In short, be prepared for all things possible with not only you and your dress, but for the bridal party as a whole.

Some simple preparations will ensure that you will be able to take on any situation. Below are a few items, that as a planner, I found were always great to have on hand. You can also go to Google and search bridal emergency kits which will give you several ideas on what to have in your kit. You can also find websites where you can buy kits pre-made, although it may be more expensive and the kit itself may not be as complete.

You yourself do not need to go shopping for these items nor should you be in charge of these items the day of the wedding; in comes the bridesmaids. Long before the wedding day, place all of these items into a bag and have it at the ready. Give this bag to a trustworthy bridal party member to be in charge of on the big day. A simple suggestion, if you are having your ceremony at the facility where you are getting married, such as a hotel, leave it at the hotel the day of the rehearsal so you know that it will be there the day of the wedding itself.

So grab yourself a back pack and head to the dollar store as nearly everything here can be purchased there and would be the most cost effective approach.

1.       Hair Spray, hair pins, ponytail holder, comb, pick and/or brush, mirror.
2.       Makeup.
3.       Deodorant and perfume.
4.       Tampons and/or sanitary napkins.
5.       Sewing kit complete white and black thread as well as black buttons that match the guy’s tuxedo jackets and white buttons to match their shirts. Too you can include sewing hooks that can be sewn in to fix a bustle if needed.
6.       Scissors.
7.       Hem tape.
8.       Safety pins.
9.       Tums, pain reliever, antihistamine.
10.   Stain remover stick, static cling spray.
11.   A pair of black socks. Many times I experience where a pair of socks for the groomsmen went missing or was forgotten; this will take care of that.
12.   Extra pair of panty hose.
13.   Extra pair of shoes for you. While it is unlikely that the wedding shoes you are wearing will have a heal break, it can happen. I recommend buying an inexpensive pair of shoes that have the same heal height as your wedding shoes so in the event something should occur you have a backup pair. Keep in mind no one will see your feet so the backup pair do not need to be as elaborate as your original selection.
14.   Breathe mints and/or gum. Keep in mind \that all party members should discard the gum before the ceremony begins as you do not want gum chomping captured in the candid photos or video.
15.   A bottle of water and straw(s) so that you can drink without messing up your lipstick
16.   Granola bars. While you are not going to want to eat you must eat even if it is only a fiber or granola bar. Keeping your blood sugar stable is a must.
17.   Tissues.

When I first started wedding planning over a decade ago, this list was very small. Experience with challenges has grown the list over time. There is no doubt if you talk with a former bride she could add something to this list based on her experiences. With that, use this list as some suggestions but put in your emergency kit items you feel are prudent. But whatever you place in your kit just be sure to have a kit as I can assure you it is better to be prepared!