Friday, December 28, 2012

A place to visit when setting up housekeeping

Just starting out and looking for kitchen items? Love to cook and looking for dipping bowls, carafes, cutting boards, glassware, barware, etc.?

If you are in the Northern Virginia area, you have access to the place restaurants buy their items. It is an Outlet store, owned by Fortessa, which sells to commercial companies. All those we have heard from love SRS. (They just changed their name from Fortessa Outlet to SRS, Sterling Restaurant Supply). Sign up for their emails. (click on Outlet)


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Working with an Independent Caterer?

If your site allows you to select your own caterer, here are some hints to help with the process.

Before you select caterers to interview, think about what food you want. Does fine food mean everything to you, or do you just want a good meal for your guests to enjoy?

With these thoughts in mind, see if your venue will suggest about three caterers. If this is not possible, ask friends, visit internet reviews such as on WeddingWire, attend bridal shows.

When you talk with the caterer, tell them:
  • where your reception will be,
  • the date of your reception,
  • the total time of the event including the ceremony, if applicable, the cocktails and the meal,
  • the number of attendees (differentiate between adults and children),
  • your approved budget, and
  • any specific requirements (vegetarian, ethnic, allergies, etc.).

Thank about what type of food you want. Steak? Chicken? Pasta with vegetables or pasta with salmon? Or perhaps you can ask if they will propose something—but give them direction—tell them what you like and what you don’t like. If you dislike shellfish or mashed potatoes, let them know up front.

Will you have a cocktail hour? Do you want passed appetizers or tabled so the guests help themselves?

What kind of meal service do you want? There are a few (buffet, food station, plated) with many variations. A buffet meal can have a plated salad at the guest’s place, the buffet tables can be separated by food type called grazing stations; a buffet can include one or more food stations, which are tables staffed by chefs for custom selection by your guests. A good caterer will make suggestions.

Find out from the site what you will need: tables, chairs, linens, tableware, other items? Do they have a staffing suggestion or requirement and a time element for set up and take down? Can you bring your own alcohol? Does a bartender need to be included with the staff? Will you need a state banquet license?

Ask the caterer to include coffee/tea, taxes, travel costs and any fees normally added to an event. You want a final tab, barring any changes made by you. The cost for catering is mostly driven by food selection, event duration, and linens (the selection of items like overlays or pintuck will increase the cost). Changing your specifications can alter the final bill, sometimes significantly. If you want the cake from them, let them know. If not, do they (or the venue) charge a cake-cutting fee? The same question for alcohol and a corkage fee.

If you have several caterers giving you estimates, you need to give them all the same specifications, or the bids will mean nothing for comparison purposes.

Choose a caterer you will enjoy working with, who understands what you want for your wedding reception.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Renting Tents, a Primer

Crystal Chandeliers
in a Tent with
a Liner and Windowed
Side Walls
Although beautiful, tents are not always an easy or inexpensive option for your event. And after researching this, I realized it is not a simple subject. Even if you are just adding a tent to an already well-equipped site for more covered space, you have many items to consider.
Look at the Trees and the
Height of the Tent. Branches may
need to be cut back.

The first thing is if the site will accommodate a tent. Look at the size and slope, if any, of the site vs. the size needed for the tent. Size decisions are based on the number of people, table and chair set up, entertainment and dance area/floor, bar as well as any other activities that need to be under the ten such as cake cutting, candy bar, or coffee. Your caterer or the tent rental company can help., or

Look also at the overhead space (power lines and trees), easy entry to the tent for guests and vendors, zoning and permits, and required electrical power for the caterer, lighting and entertainment. Tents at the perimeter are usually 8 or 10 feet high. At the peak, pole tents can be 25-30 feet tall. Frames are shorter, at 12-20 feet. Other considerations may include noise ordinances, parking access, and additional portable bathrooms. Ask the caterer if they need a kitchen tent.

If the surface is grass, you will need a dance floor. Be sure the owner of the property knows what the dance floor very probably will do to the grass. Unless the tent is installed the day of, and taken down that night, the grass will be covered for several days. Rental companies may charge a premium for same day or timed deliveries.

Whether a pole or frame, the tent needs to be anchored. Some companies will require that Miss Utility visit the property and mark the location of the utilities if stakes are used. We had a water pipe hit by a stake and didn’t know it until they pulled the stake and water started coming out. Now, we will only accept weights or barrels (but not on the grass).

If you are going to climate control the tent, you will probably be using either propane heaters or air conditioning units with generators—230v power is not available at most places. We added large floor fans just to ensure good airflow. Ask the rental company about the correct size of the HVAC units.  
Chandeliers are a
Lovely Way to
add Lighting

Lighting, can be simply up-lighting attached to the corners of the tent, or complex designs with strings, color washes, dance floor spots or monograms on the ceiling., The tent is made of inflammable material but the fire marshal will want to inspect it, ensure that exit and no smoking signs and fire extinguishers are in the proper places. No exposed flame is permitted—candle flames need to be below the rim of the glass container or votive.

Uplighting or a Wash of Color
Adds a Beautiful Dimension
to the Tent
If you order sidewalls, be sure you know if the caterer can raise or lower the sidewalls. Our tent has sidewalls on a track so they slide easily like a shower curtain, and there are windows, so it is attractive inside the tent even if the walls are closed. However, most sidewalls roll up and down. A client once ordered a second tent with huge sidewalls. We had the tent installed with the sidewalls rolled up because we couldn’t have rolled them up ourselved. Plus, with no windows, even with lighting, it would have been claustrophobic inside. Luckily, the weather was fine.

In selecting a rental company or any new vendor, I look for references from other venues or vendors. Unless the client has rented a tent before, they have no basis to judge.
Remember, if a tent put up on wet grass, the grass will still be wet the next day. as a rule, a tent should be installed on dry grass on a dry day.

Web help:

From Martha Stewart: , : If you are considering using a tent, the time to contact vendors is right after you set the date. Many tent-rental firms are full-service, providing everything that's needed for a tent wedding and reception: tables, chairs, linens, and place settings, in addition to flooring, lighting, generators, heating or air-conditioning units, and portable restrooms. Most have a showroom with samples of the choices available, as well as portfolios with photographs from previous events.

Sometimes the best advice and information comes from industry publications. In Tents magazine published by the Industrial Fabrics Association International provides a wide array of topics about tents. An article in their August/September issue is about the rental contract: What should be included in a rental contract? The article, written by Maura Paternoster, insurance risk manager at American Rental Association, discusses key points if you are thinking about renting a tent. These include deposits, cancelations, permits, site conditions, utility line concerns, weather, and deliveries (

The Tent is a Blank Canvas which allows you to Create a Room in Your Style

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whether to hire a Wedding Planner/Day of Coordinator, part II the Day of Coordinator

Whether or not you want to hire a DOC or the site requires you to hire a DOC, be sure you know what her/his job is. We have found many differences in what these individuals will do and how hard they work the event. A few new to the industry told us they had been to many weddings and thought it would be fun—they work as if they are guests. But this is hard work. I always look at their shoes—spiky or high heels are not working shoes.

This is a detail-oriented business. The person must be organized and exact. They need be accessible, especially on your wedding day—will they give you a 24-hour phone number?

Unexpected Snow was Gone by Noon

The Birkby site manager was out of town for two of our weekend weddings several years ago. Since there was a DOC for each, I didn’t think there would be much for me to do. For the first wedding, I was right—the DOC was hard working who constantly looked around and did what was needed. Boy, was the second wedding different! I took a photo of the three DOCs sitting on the bench during dinner. When I asked them if they were going to straighten up the bride’s room and help her pack up, they said that that wasn’t their job. I found out that many things weren’t their job.

So that expectations are met for each, we have a list of activities that may need to be taken care of during an event. Use this as a guide so there is clear agreement as to what will and will not be done:

Cake ready to be moved to the Gazebo
  • Confirm that programs, place cards, guest book, and other needed items are onsite, and in their proper place
  • Provide welcoming touches for bridal party e.g., if food is to be in the rooms, etc.
  • Keep upstairs rooms clean; disposed of food and other trash properly.
  • Contact vendors with day-of issues (for example, what if the cake is late?). have all phone numbers.
  • Take care of any other details including placement of flowers (work with the florist), favors, votives, place cards, guest book, etc.
  • Help bride and bridesmaids, mothers, groom, groomsmen, fathers get ready. Most planners pin on corsages and boutonnieres and tie bow-ties.
  • Keep things on schedule and throughout the event check with site manager, caterer, and DJ.
  • Line up bridal party for ceremony.
  • Queue musicians and wedding participants.
  • Straighten the bride’s dress, ensure everything is picture perfect.
  • Keep in contact with photographer. Make sure all photos requested by the bride are taken.
  • Make sure the bride and groom are served drinks and food.
  • Be sure the food service and the property are kept neat and tidy.
  • Direct guests from the cocktail area to the reception area.
  • Work with master of ceremonies (usually the DJ) for announcement of the wedding party.
  • Line up wedding party correctly for the dinner introductions.
  • Keep things moving and on schedule: speeches, dances, cake cutting, bouquet toss, farewell activity.
  • Through out the event, the planner should keep a close eye on the bride and groom to insure every detail is going as the bride and groom had envisioned.
  • Help in gathering gifts and making sure each has the card securely attached.
  • Coordinate the departure of the couple (limo, transportations) and the guests.
  • Help to clear all items from the bridal salon, groom’s lounge and all other areas of the property.
  • Pack food/cake for the bride and groom for later.
  • If the wedding is in the church, ask how the flowers are to be moved or picked up.

Chatting during the Cocktail House
We want the DOC to know the property and any rules that may influence how things are done. Good DOCs will become familiar with a new site much before decisions are made. Most will attend the pre-event meeting which develops the time schedule and define placement of activities.

Bridal Party Entering the Reception for Introductions

Monday, September 24, 2012

Whether to hire a Wedding Planner/Day of Coordinator, Part I the Wedding Planner

Are you out of town a lot? Going to school and working? Will your wedding be large or complex? Do you live a distance from your wedding site? Do you have time to visit vendors? Do you need someone to provide ideas, or someone to find specific products?

If so, you may be wondering about hiring a wedding planner or a day of coordinator. Some sites may require that you hire someone at least for that day.

Whether or not you have to hire someone, be sure you know what they will and won’t do.

Thumb print and well wishes for the Bridal Couple

Favors and place cards displayed on the Sideboard

Beautiful centerpiece with soft mint green linens

This is a detail-oriented business. The person must be organized and love being exact. They need to be accessible and responsive.

We don’t get involved as much with the WP duties, although we answer their site-usage questions, especially if they have never worked our site. We help identify good vendors who have worked the site, explain the best use of the property, give them photos of various activities, etc. But there are other decisions that need to be made.

The following list is a compilation from WP web sites:
  • Help select reputable wedding vendors (e.g., caterer, florist, limousine company, entertainment, officiant/celebrant, cake, photographer, stationer, etc.)
  • Handle all invitees and RSVPs: invitations, mailings, replies, seating lists/place cards, hotel reservations
  • Read and negotiate contracts
  • Understand and stick to your budget
  • Know and follow your style, colors, and theme and they need to have a good sense of current fashion (you need to click with this person)
  • Advice for the wedding reception (new trends and ideas for seating, favors, table decor)
  • Prepare a detailed time-line schedule
  • Design a floor plan, site plan
  • provide advice on the wedding ceremony, possible scenarios for the procession and recession, music
  • Conduct the ceremony rehearsal
  • Organize/orchestrate the wedding reception activities (receiving line, speeches, first dance, bouquet toss, cake cutting, etc.) see part II for the DOC
Be sure to know:
  • the time they work the of day the reception
  • if they work alone or with an assistant
  • who is your primary contact, if not her/him who is, who present you with ideas, will work that day
  • which non-wedding day activities (rehearsal dinner, reception, post-activities, etc.) they will be involved with
Be sure you see all vendor contracts including the prices. If you don’t, you may pay an surcharge to the WP and not know it. WPs should attend the primary meetings the bride has with venue and caterer, and offer to have you present if they are meeting with your vendors.

Before you sign a contract, be sure you know what is and is not included.

Children at the Wedding Reception--Some hints and Ideas to Make the Evening More Fun for All

Understand that children get bored at adult-centered events; chatting with friends and meeting new people may be enjoyable for you but that will not hold their interest long. Most experts say that if you are going to have kids at the reception, provide a room or area and kid-friendly entertainment for them. If they are bored, they may misbehave and upset the good time of others. On the other hand, if no one is designate to watch them, they may hurt themselves or the venue.

Ask your caterer for kid-friendly fare and beverages. Or order a pizza or other foods the children will like. Make sure that the kids’ meals are served in a timely manner.

Kids need stimulation so provide something they will enjoy and make plans to keep them entertained. Bring coloring books, crayons, and other activities that might keep them amused for a few hours. Ask the parents to bring their favorite games and movies. Check out for a cute idea for a customized coloring book.

Plan activities appropriate to their ages:
Have an array of board games and possibly a movie already to go
Short activities for kids should be planned
Offer individual or group bags with coloring and craft packs
Ask any guest with children to also bring favorite toys and games
Bring video game systems – be sure you have a TV available
Consider games such as Twister or even incorporate fun dancing tunes.

Don't expect that the children will participate in these activities on their own. Instead asked the childcare providers to encourage them to help the kids to get started in their activities. 
Remember to have a good ratio of children to childcare providers.

For favors, send them home with candy or a small toy. Just make sure it is age appropriate.

Keep in mind that your wedding should be a joyous occasion for you and your guests. Children at weddings can't always be counted on to behave. Babies might cry during the wedding ceremony and young children can fidget and ask questions. In many cases parents can manage their children, but what about those who can't or won't? If children are invited to your wedding, but sure your nature and temperament allows for these little interruptions.

Here is one of our favorite stories about a ring bearer: As the little boy takes the rings up the aisle, every few steps he turns around, makes a ferocious face and growls at the crowd. The crowd laughs hysterically but no one understands. Later, when he's asked what he was doing, he seriously answers, "Being the ring bear!"

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