Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wedding Week, Day #7 - Food and Drink Advice

If this had been slathered with fondant, I would have refused to eat it.

Advice #1: Do Not Have Fondant Icing on Your Wedding Cake

Although it looks good, fondant (Wikipedia calls it an "icing-like substance," not icing) tastes like a mixture of ground-up cardboard and sweetened silly putty. If you absolutely have to have a fondant cake because of the way it looks, make it one that no one actually has to eat, and have sheet cakes with better-tasting (real) icing for people to eat. Seriously - no one wants to eat a fondant cake. No one.

Advice #2: If Serving a Meal, Serve a Real Meal

One consistent complaint I've had about several weddings I've attended (and that I've seen repeated ad nauseam online) is that the food served at weddings is often sub-par catered fare. Here's how we avoided that.

We ended up having 3 large, semi-public, semi-organized parties to celebrate our marriage: 1) the rehearsal dinner (open to family, wedding party, and out-of-town guests, as usual), 2) the reception at the church right after the ceremony (open to everyone), and 3) a dinner and party at a local restaurant for family, close friends, and out-of-town guests a couple of hours after the reception at the church.

Since we had a lot of friends coming from far away to our little Southern town for this wedding, they wanted to have a taste of the South while they were visiting. We weren't terribly excited by this - but our wedding wasn't all about us. So, Ali's mom organized a bunch of proper Southern ladies to whip up a huge, traditional, home-cooked Southern feast for the rehearsal dinner. The food was a smörgåsbord of home-cooked deliciousness at almost no cost.

My mom (with the rest of the female members of her family) catered the reception right after the ceremony. This was probably the most traditional food of the weekend, as it was somewhat standard reception fare, but they did a great job - and people were walking around and interacting with each other and us, rather than being trapped at a table trying to cut warmed-over chicken Kiev with a butter knife and making small talk with people they don't know very well.

As an added bonus, we gave our mothers near-free reign to organize the above parties as they wanted, so they got to put their touch on the weekend, and we had a lot of responsibility lifted off our shoulders - a serious win-win!

With our mothers taking care of those two parties, we focused most of our attention on the party we cared about most - the semi-formal sit-down dinner and party that went from about 6PM until well past midnight. To put together an awesome event at a reasonable cost, we contacted a local restaurant (thanks again, Matt!) and promised them that we would spend at least a certain minimum amount on food and drinks if they would close the restaurant to everyone but us. It was a smallish restaurant, so our ~80 people just about filled it to capacity.

Part of our mostly pre-decorated dinner/party venue.

This was fantastic on several levels - we got to pick a fun, dynamic venue that needed almost no additional decorations, instead of having to (pay to) decorate a relatively sterile event hall. We didn't have to rent anything for the dinner - not the venue, silverware, tables, chairs, glasses, napkins, etc. - all the stuff that adds up to serious cash if you're having an event catered in an event hall. All we paid for was the food and drink. We worked with the chef beforehand to come up with menu options that were personally meaningful to us and that everyone would like. Everything was cooked to order and delicious. And speaking of food, this brings us to:

Advice #3: Have Plenty of Alcohol

Pay for everyone's food, and have plenty amount of alcohol available (unless there are strict religious reasons not to) - your guests are all there to celebrate with you; they're giving you gifts; you're only going to do this once (you hope); and good food and alcohol really aren't that expensive. If you really can't afford to do this, then just don't serve dinner or make alcohol available - go with hors d'oeuvres alone.

You may have to look around a bit to find the right restaurant to host this kind of event (and that will only charge you for food and drinks). In this economy, however, you should be able to find a restaurant that will do this for you (city-dwellers, you may have to look at smaller restaurants out in the 'burbs) - and you'll have a much better time (and much better food) at much lower cost if you arrange a dinner and party in this way.

Aside from the ceremony, our dinner and party was the most important (and most fun) part of the whole weekend - everyone had a fantastic time, and it didn't break our bank, even though it was the most expensive part of our wedding. But for us, celebrating with our family and friends was the most important part of our wedding - so that's where we put a plurality of our money.

With Wedding Week here at The Angry Bureaucrat, you'll get a little more than you expected - we'll have an eighth and final post of sage wedding advice tomorrow.

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