Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Food plays an important role in the wedding festivities, so you’ll want to take plenty of time and care when choosing your caterer. Here are some great questions to ask your caterer to ensure that you have a great “wedding feast” without any surprises!

Menu Options and Reception Styles – There is so much variety and choice when it comes to menu selection. It’s no longer “chicken” or “beef”. You can have a traditional sit down dinner, buffet, food stations or cocktail reception. It all depends on your personal preference and budget.

Budget – Let your caterer know your budget up front. Don’t assume that a buffet or food stations is less expensive than a sit down dinner. Remember, it depends more on what type of food you serve that determines the price.

Food Preparation – Does the caterer use all fresh food and produce? Will any of the food for the reception be previously frozen? Most of the “top notch” caterers do not use any frozen foods or anything that comes from a can!

Taste Testing – Ask if your caterer will do a “tasting”. This is where the bride and groom can go sample and taste some of the caterer’s dishes. Yum Yum…

Leftovers – Ask what is done with the leftover food. Particularly, if you are having a buffet or food stations there can be food leftover. Some brides choose to have the leftover food given to a homeless shelter or similar charity organization.

Many couples don’t get a chance to eat much or really enjoy the food during the reception because they’re so busy with their guests. So, ask your caterer to prepare a “leftover basket” with a sampling of all the delicious hors d’oeuvres, main dishes and even dessert. Late that night, the bride and groom can enjoy a wonderful, romantic picnic for two!

Sometimes the leftovers are given to the bride or groom’s parents. It’s especially nice if they are entertaining any out-of-town relatives and don’t have time to cook!

Family Recipes – Ask if dishes can be prepared that are not included on the regular menu. Some brides have a special “family” dish they’d like or a particular type of ethnic food prepared. This is a great way to really personalize your dinner and reception.

Guaranteed Numbers – Many caterers will quote prices based upon a certain number or minimum number of guests. For instance, many caterers base their figures on a minimum of 100 guests. If you’re final guest count is for only 80 guests, there may be an additional fee.

Wedding Cake – Do they offer wedding cakes? Is a wedding cake included in the price? Is there an additional cake cutting fee?

Tax and Gratuities – Are they included in the price? Are there any additional fees that are not included in the quote or proposal?

Ratio of Servers to Guests – Now, this can vary depending on the type of reception you have. One good rule of thumb is to have one server for every 8-10 guests.

Dress Code for Wait Staff – Will they be dressed formally in a black and white tuxedo look?

Decorations – Ask to see pictures of their table displays. Some caterers that do buffets or food stations will include floral arrangements and other decorations. As your wedding plans progress, talk to your caterer about your color theme so that all decorations and floral arrangements will coordinate.

Tableware and Linens – Does the price include table linens, napkins, dishes, and glassware? Ask to see samples. Remember, if you don’t like the tableware or linens they offer, most everything can be rented, but usually at an additional price!

Menu Board – A recent trend when doing buffets or food stations is to have a menu board. This when the names of the entrees and items served are scrolled elegantly onto a piece of paper displayed on a board or in a picture frame. Many guests love to know the names or what’s in those delicious dishes they’ll be eating.

Licenses – Your caterer should be licensed by the state. Most display their license in their office, but if you’re not sure, ask!

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Liquor Guidelines for 100 Guests

If you have the ability to purchase your own liquor for the reception…that’s great news because you can save lots of money! However, deciding what to buy and how much can be confusing. Here are some general guidelines for a suggested amount of alcohol based upon 100 guests:

9 Total Cases

* 3 Domestic cases
* 3 Imported cases
* 3 Light cases

5-8 Total Cases

* 3-4 Chardonnay cases
* 1-2 White Zinfandel cases
* 1-2 Cabernet Sauvignon cases

* 1-2 cases
Hard liquor

* 5 liters vodka
* 3 liters gin
* 2 liters rum
* 2 liters scotch
* 2 liters bourbon
* 750ml vermouth
* 3 liters kahlua
Others to Consider (1 liter of each)

* Bailey’s Irish Cream
* Grand Marnier
* Amaretto
* Sambuca
* Brandy
* Frangelico
* Chambord
If you are responsible for setting up the entire bar,
be sure to include the following:

* Ice
* Milk
* Glassware
* Lemons
* Limes
* Cherries
* Olives
* Lime juice
* Lemon mix
* Orange juice
* Cranberry juice
* Soda water
* Tonic water
* Coke, diet coke
* Seven up, ginger ale
* Straws
* Cocktail stirrers
* Coolers for beer, etc

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Tips for Serving Alcohol at Your Wedding

You need to provide your guests with some type of refreshments (food & drink) at your reception. However, the choice is up to you as to what you serve and how you serve it. You decide what type of alcohol to serve or you can choose not to serve any alcohol.

The bottom line is …. You should not feel obligated to provide an open bar for guests for the entire evening. It is your decision (based on your wedding budget and other factors) whether to have a cash bar, limited bar, open bar or some other variation.

* Open Bar throughout the entire reception. This is usually the most costly option. Some facilities will charge a per person rate (i.e. $15-35/per guest) or charge you based on the amount of alcohol consumed such as per open bottle, by tenths of bottles consumed or per drink.
* Another issue to consider with an open bar is the liability involved as guests may be tempted to drink more. Each state has different laws, so be sure to check with your reception facility and caterer regarding liability insurance.
* Open Bar for the cocktail reception(1 – 1 ½ hours) and cash bar during the remainder of the reception.
* Cash Bar for liquor (mixed drinks) and serve complimentary beer and wine throughout the reception. You can serve a variety of bottle beers or purchase a keg of beer.
* Be creative – instead of offering your guests the typical run of beers, try to include some of the newer micro-brewed beers. You can still offer the old stand-bys for those guests who are committed to “their” brands, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the feed back you’ll receive on being somewhat adventuresome!
* To save money on your alcohol bill, serve a champagne punch as your choice of alcohol.
* Always include a wide assortment of interesting and delicious non-alcoholic beverages. Try hot apple cider for a winter wedding, pink lemonade or fresh brewed ice tea for a summer time wedding.
* Serve specialty drinks like Margaritas, Pina’ Coladas or Sangria. For an early afternoon reception, try Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.
* Have a wine bar that serves a variety of specialty wines. These don’t have be expensive either — there are plenty of great moderately priced wines available.
* To save money, serve house brand liquors versus top shelf… (i.e. Smirnoff vs. Absolut).
* During the cocktail hour, have the wait staff serve wine and champagne on trays to your guests. First, if you have many guests, it will cut down on the line to the bar. Second, it will make your guests feel as they are receiving “top-notch service”. Third, you can save money on your bar tab when guests choose a glass of wine or champagne versus hard liquor.
* If you’re having a champagne toast, find out if the guests will see the champagne being poured. If not, it’s a good place to save some money by selecting an inexpensive brand, since most people just sip for the toast! It may enable you to spend a bit more on the wines you’ll be serving with dinner.
* Offer your guests a choice of red or white wine with dinner. Many times if wine is served with dinner, guests will be less likely to order another drink (i.e. hard liquor) which can cut down on your bar costs.
* Consider an international coffee bar during the dessert hour. You can serve Kahlua, Bailey’s, Tia Maria, Grand Marnier and other cordials that your guests will enjoy with coffee.

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Top 10 Ways to Save on Flowers & Decorations

1. Use candles for centerpieces instead of flowers.
2. Decorate with balloons.
3. Use silk flowers. They always cost less than fresh flowers, plus they can be rented!
4. Bridal bouquets can double during the reception as decoration for the head table, cake or gift tables.
5. To really save costs, have each bridesmaid carry a single bloom.
6. Make your own pew bows instead of purchasing them. See Making Pew Bows.
7. Use more greenery, tulle, and baby’s breath for decorating, and less flower blooms.
8. Use only flowers that are in season.
9. If your ceremony site is having more than one wedding that day, contact the other bride and talk about sharing decoration expenses.
10. Purchase candles, white lights, and other decorations after the holidays when everything goes on sale. After Christmas sales are great!

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12 Month Wedding Planning Countdown!

Congratulations on your engagement! It’s a time where your will, wit, organizational skills, and humor will be put to the test. Weddings take a lot of planning and you will likely spend over 100 hours on the phone, visiting with vendors, planning, and chasing after details. To help you get off to a good start, we’ve put together a complete outline of the things you’ll need to do for your wedding and the approximate timeline for getting those things done!

6 – 12 Months Before Your Wedding

____ Visit regularly for great ideas & some fun
____ Select a wedding date and time & possibly a backup date
____ Announce your engagement in the paper
____ Plan an engagement party with family and friends
____ Talk with a bridal consultant or wedding coordinator
____ Find out what bridal shows are in the area and plan on attending
____ Agree on a preliminary budget
____ Decide who will pay for what and how expenses will be shared
____ Call your church or synagogue for an appointment with the Officiant
____ Consider and ask friends and family to serve as wedding attendants
____ Start a “planning system” and system of organization
____ Start your wedding guest list
____ Start thinking about ideas/themes for your reception and catering plans
____ Determine what type of entertainment you want to have for your reception
____ Decide the type of wedding you would like to have (size, formality, and setting)
____ Think about your color schemes
____ Explore pre-marital counseling
____ Start health and fitness plan if you’re not already in one!
____ Select your reception location
____ Select your professional photographer
____ Select your videographer
____ Select professional caterer (if necessary)
____ Select Musician or Disc Jockey
____ Select your florist
____ Shop together for your wedding rings
____ Select wedding dress and headpiece, and set a date for fittings and delivery
____ Select your bridesmaids’ dresses and accessories
____ It’s time to choose a honeymoon and location
4 Months Prior to the Wedding

____ O.K., now it’s time to spend some real time at; details, details…
____ Check the requirements for marriage license
____ Select and discuss your color schemes with the florist/decorator of choice
____ Again consider pre-marital counseling
____ Reserve your wedding day rental equipment
____ Decide upon a gift registry and select your gift choices
____ Order your invitations and related stationery needs
____ Start shopping for the men’s’ wedding attire
____ Reserve your wedding day transportation
____ Research and select readings for ceremony
____ Make music selections for ceremony and reception
____ Decide upon and order favors
____ Select your baker, then choose your cake, and groom’s cake
____ Help both mothers coordinate and find their wedding day clothing
____ Review your contracts with all of your vendors and service providers (DETAILS!)
2 Months Before Your Wedding

____ Well, at this point you could be writing for
____ Have engagement portraits taken
____ Place your engagement announcement in the newspaper
____ Mail out invitations and announcements
____ Decide on the men’s wedding attire
____ Arrange and plan your rehearsal dinner
____ Purchase your wedding day accessories
____ Arrange attendant’s parties
____ Prepare accommodations for out-of-town attendants and guests
____ Consider a hairdresser and/or makeup artist and book appointments
____ Finalize all honeymoon plans
1 Month Left!

____ Final wedding dress fitting
____ Final fitting for your wedding attendants
____ Obtain marriage license
____ Have your attendant’s parties
____ Purchase your going-away outfit
____ Create a calendar of events for the wedding day
____ Make sure your accessories are in order (rings, pillow, garter, etc.)
2 Weeks Remaining!

____ Finalize arrangements with the entertainer(s)
____ Provide a list of music you would like played (or not played)
____ Make sure they fit!
____ Contact the guests who have not responded to your invitations.
1 Week to Go!

____ If you can, take the week, or part of the week off from work!
____ Make sure your marriage license is in order
____ Prepare seating arrangements, if necessary
____ Purchase travelers checks, confirm honeymoon reservations
____ Pack your baggage for your honeymoon
____ Have your wedding ceremony rehearsal
____ Instruct your wedding party on what they will be doing on the day of the wedding
____ Have your rehearsal dinner
____ Make sure all wedding attire fits properly
____ Give the best man the amounts your vendors are to be paid on the wedding day
____ Inform your caterer of the total guest count
____ Confirm out-of-town guests have transportation and sleeping accommodations
____ Check with your florist and/or balloonist to make sure they will arrive when scheduled

Your Wedding Day

____ Your primary goal today is to get married! Have fun! Forget about!
____ Relax, enjoy yourself, and remain calm!
____ Allow at least two hours for dressing
____ Allow plenty of time to apply your makeup and style your hair
____ If professionals are doing your hair and/or makeup, determine the time they need
____ If photographs are to be taken before the ceremony, allow plenty of time for that!
____ Remember to bring the rings and marriage license
____ Seat guests as they arrive
____ The groom’s parents should be seated about 5 minutes before start time
____ Mother of the bride is normally seated last
____ Take a deep breath, don’t worry, be happy and smile!

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Traditional List of Who Pays for Which Wedding Expenses

Groom and His Family

Bride’s engagement & wedding rings

Groom’s wedding attire

Rehearsal dinner

Marriage license

Accommodations for out-of-town ushers

Alcohol at reception

Wedding gifts for the bride, best man & ushers

Flowers for the bride’s bouquet, corsages for the mothers & grandmothers

Boutonnieres for ushers, ring bearers & fathers

Officiant’s fee

Honeymoon & transportation to the honeymoon

Bride & Her Family

Wedding consultant’s fee

Invitations, personal notes & mailing expense

Transportation for the wedding party

Wedding dress, headpiece & accessories


Attendants’ bouquets

Groom’s gift

Guest book

Cost of the reception

Cost of the ceremony

Photography & videography expense

Groom’s wedding ring


Accommodations for out-of-town bride’s attendants


Wedding attire; Bridesmaid dress, shoes & accessories

Travel costs

Shower & wedding gift for the couple

Shower given by bridesmaids &/or maid of honor


Wedding attire rental

Wedding gift for the couple

Travel costs

Bachelor party given by best man and/or ushers

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Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

Get married in the morning, on a Friday or Sunday and/or in the winter months.

Keep the guest list small.

Make your own veil. Most craft stores sell how-to books and supplies. You can save hundreds of dollars by making your own.

Purchase your wedding gown at a place other than a bridal salon.

Supply your own alcohol if you’re able to.

Consider not having a dinner reception. Opt instead for a brunch, afternoon tea, cocktail or dessert party.

Use silk flowers. They are always less than fresh flowers, plus they can be rented!

Decorate with more greenery and baby’s breath, and less flower blooms.

Make your own invitations. There are software programs available that can help you with this task, and you can purchase wedding desktop publishing paper.

Check out local universities for qualified and inexpensive musicians, photographers, and videographers. Professors will be able to point you to the best students in the program.

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A Bride’s Schedule for an Afternoon Wedding

An Hour to Hour Guide for the Day of the Big Event (For a 3:00pm Ceremony)

O.K. Brides, the moment of truth is only a few short hours away. You have been planning for months. Everything is taken care of; the favors, seating, transportation, and even your honeymoon bag is packed. All that is left is YOU! You should feel pampered and relaxed on your wedding day. To make sure that your wedding day is special and hassle free review this day of the wedding schedule and keep it handy. Feel free to adjust the time frames to suit your needs.

* Try not to stay up late the night before the wedding & avoid drinking too much alcohol or caffeine so you will be well rested.

8:00a – 9:00a: Rise and shine! Shake off the sleep, stretch, and get ready for the big day. Use this time to just wake up. Take a walk or relax and talk with your bridesmaids and family. Have someone brew some coffee and don’t forget to eat an energy-boosting breakfast. You don’t have to feel stuffed after breakfast, but it is crucial that you do not skip breakfast. It is important that your body gets moving. Walking will help curb your jitters and limber you up for a night full of dancing.

9:00a: This is your time. Pamper yourself by taking a bath and spending an extra long time in the shower. Don’t forget to shave, exfoliate, and moisturize every inch of your body. To make sure that you don’t forget anything it is a good idea to write out lists and stick them onto your mirror. That way you can’t miss them. When you get out of the shower put on comfortable clothes and a button down shirt. You don’t want to have to worry about messing up your hair or clothes while you are getting ready. While you are making yourself feel relaxed and beautiful, have one of your bridesmaids lay out your hosiery, undergarments, slip, petticoat, garter and gloves on your bed. Have your mom get out and hang up your dress and make sure that everything is wrinkle and stain free.

10:00a: Use this time to get a manicure, pedicure, clean your engagement ring, and get your hair and make-up done. While you are busy primping yourself whether it be at your house or at the beauty salon down the street, it is a time that you should savor. This is also the time that your bridesmaids can be getting ready. Have someone put your emergency or survival kit, your honeymoon luggage, and everything that you might need for the ceremony or reception by the door so that you can’t possibly forget it.

12:00a: Grab a bite to eat for lunch. You don’t want to stuff yourself and make yourself feel sick, but you do want to make sure that you have something in your stomach to ensure that you don’t feel faint later on. Chat with your bridesmaids and see how everything is coming along. If you are getting nervous, put on an upbeat song or tell jokes. Also, from time to time take a deep breath to relieve some of the tension you may be feeling.

12:30p: Start getting ready. Use the ladies room one last time. Now you are really beautiful, your nails, hair and makeup are all done. Have someone help you in getting dressed so you don’t smudge your makeup or mess up your hair. Don’t forget something old, new, borrowed, and blue.

* You may want to have the photographer take pictures of you getting ready, but only do so if you feel completely comfortable.

1:00p: The flowers and photographer should have arrived, if not already. Now it is time to start letting others take over. Listen to the photographer and smile big! You know that everything is ready. When you are done taking pictures, this may be the time that you want to give your bridesmaids their gifts or just tell everyone how much you love them. Thank everyone for all of their hard work.

2:00p: Depending on how far the ceremony is from where you are getting ready, allow yourself enough time to get to the church a half hour before the ceremony begins. This way, if there is a lot of traffic or an accident you have given yourself enough time to still make it to the aisle on time.

2:30p: You and your wedding party should being hanging out in a room either in your church or if you are having an outdoor wedding, somewhere inside. This is the chance for last minute touch ups of makeup and your hair. You may want to have some snacks for your wedding party. Just relax, laugh, and have fun. There is no reason to be up tight or worried now. Everything is planned. All you can do now is enjoy yourself.

You and your wedding party should assemble yourselves in front of the aisle. Try to take in everything. The ceremony has begun. Watch as your best friends walk down the aisle. Then it is your turn, all eyes are on you. Take a deep breath, garb your dad’s arm, smile and look straight ahead to where the man of your dreams is waiting for you.

The rest is as they say, “history.” You will spend the night dancing, laughing, and spending time with friends and family. Enjoy that fact that this is the only time that you will be able to spend with all of your family and friends at the same time. You should enjoy talking to everyone and expressing to them how much that they mean to you. You are now a married woman and therefore there is now something about you that shines. You are a beautiful married woman who has just experienced the best day of her life.

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Flower Girl and Ringbearer Gift Ideas

Ballet Slippers
Ballet slippers for her to wear during the wedding. As well as a small lace bag with a pearl necklace and bracelet enclosed. ~ Mandy, Goodlettsville, TN

Child’s Purse

Costume Jewelry
Peal Necklace, Bracelet, etc.

There is a Precious Moments flower girl, it’s so cute because the little girl is holding her flowers upside-down. ~Veronica, St.Louis, MO

Wedding Day Barbie

My aunt is making the flower girls’ dresses. For their gifts, she is making each of them a doll dress that matches their flower girls’ dress. ~ Rebecca, Tennessee

Flower Girl Necklace
A charming Keepsake!

Gift Certificate from Toy Store

Jewelry Box

Keepsake Books

Music Box

I bought t-shirts from a local craft store, one to fit each of my 3 flower girls and 2 ring bearers, and then bought transfer paper for ink jet printers. I then printed a picture of my fiancé and I, along with “Flower Girl” or “Ring Bearer” and the date of the wedding, and ironed them on the shirts! ~ Jennifer, Atlanta, Georgia

Ring Bearer Gift Ideas

Keepsake Books

Stuffed Animal or Teddy Bear

Disney Video

Video, Computer or Hand Held Video

Gift Certificate from Toy Store

Mickey Mouse Watch

I bought t-shirts from a local craft store, one to fit each of my 3 flower girls and 2 ring bearers, and then bought transfer paper for ink jet printers. I then printed a picture of my fiancé and I, along with “Flower Girl” or “Ring Bearer” and the date of the wedding, and ironed them on the shirts! ~ Jennifer, Atlanta, Georgia

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Groomsmen Gift Ideas

* Barbecue Tools with an apron and an oven mitt.
* Binoculars. Great gift for guys to use at sporting events, concerts, etc…
* Beer Mugs (Glass or Pewter)
* Business Card Holder (Engraved)
* Cigars
* Cigar Holder
* Calculator (Engraved)
* Cooler…. We’re giving our groomsmen soft-sided, collapsible coolers filled with a 6-pack of a local microbrew, a couple of cigars and some snacks. ~ Amy, St. Petersburg, FL
* Cuff Links
* Desk Clock
* Desk Set
* Engraved Lighter
* Engraved Pocket Watch
* Flask
* Fishing Gear/Accessories
* Golf Club
* Golf Balls/Golf Accessories
* Hunting/Hiking/Camping Gear
* Key Ring (Engraved)
* Leather Shave Kit
* Lottery Tickets
* Micro-Brewed Beer – We are giving each of our groomsmen a bottle of our own home brew. Each bottle will have a personal computerized label thanking each groomsman for sharing in our special day. ~ Amanda, Yakima, WA
* Money Clip
* Monogrammed Terry Cloth Robes
* Monogrammed Travel Bag
* Pen and Pencil Set (Engraved)
* Personalized Stationary
* Razor Set
* Sun glasses
* Silk Boxers & Socks – We gave each of our groomsmen a pair of silk boxers and a pair of socks with a note that stated, “Just wanted to make sure everyone had a pair of clean socks and drawers for the wedding.” ~ Danielle, Moscow, Idaho
* Swiss Army Knife/Pocket Knife
* Tickets to a Concert or Sporting Event
* Travel Kit
* Wallet

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