Monday, June 1, 2009

Wedding Planning Guide: Planning the Reception (Part I)

Q. What questions should you ask when talking with a caterer about services for a wedding reception?
  • Does the caterer offer a wedding package? If so, what does it contain and what does it cost?
  • Are substitutions permissible? What food and drinks will be served at the cocktail hour and later in the reception?
  • Will brand-name liquors be served? If not, and you prefer that they are, what is the cost difference? May leftover liquor be returned and credited against the bill?
  • If you want an open bar for the cocktail hour and/or the reception, what is the cost?
  • What are the arrangements for champagne during the reception?
  • What does a sample place setting consist of?
  • Will you be able to observe a party arranged by the caterer before your reception?
  • Will the caterer provide the wedding cake if you decide not to use a bakery? Will you be able to sample a wedding cake beforehand, if so?
  • How many servers will there be?
  • Are gratuities included in the total package?
  • Will the caterer arrange for floral decorations if you are not ordering them from a florist? If so, does he have a book of floral arrangements from which to select?
  • If you choose not to have floral decorations for the tables, are candelabra or other centerpieces available?
  • Is insurance against china and crystal breakage included in the costs stated? If not, is it available and at what cost?
  • Is there an option to extend the reception an extra hour? At what cost?
  • At what time do servers go on overtime pay?
  • Are there coat-check facilities and is there an extra charge, if so?
  • How will tables and chairs be set up?
  • Do you have a choice of table linens?
  • Will the caterer provide printed directions to the catering hall for you to include with your invitations?
  • What is the deadline for your guest count?
Be absolutely sure that every service to be provided and the total itemized costs are given to you in a contract and that you read it carefully for loopholes before you sign it.

Q. Although gratuities for the servers and bartenders are included in the caterer's fee, do I also tip the caterer?
A. It is not necessary to tip the caterer, as he or she is the owner of the business.

Q. My reception will be held at my parents' club. The manager has helped with all the arrangements. Do we tip him? If so, how much?
A. If the manager of your parents' club has assisted with the arrangements, then a tip is in order. The size of the tip would depend on the amount of extra effort, beyond his usual duties, which he made on your behalf. It might be anything from $25 to $100.

Q. What is a groom's cake?
A. One type of groom's cake is a fruit cake. Slices are cut and put into individual white boxes, tied with white satin ribbon and decorated with the combined initials of the bride and groom. These boxes are placed on a table near the door, and each departing guest is expected to take one as a memento of the wedding.

This tradition has become prohibitive in cost for many people and has consequently become less prevalent. It is, however, a lovely custom and providing the cake could be a thoughtful and unusual wedding gift (after consulting with the bride) from a family friend who is skilled at baking. When made as a gift, the individual pieces may be wrapped in white paper and tied with white or silver ribbon.

Another type of groom's cake is a chocolate cake that is placed on a separate table from the bride's cake. It is not cut by the couple or served as is the bride's cake, but is sliced by a waiter so that guests who prefer chocolate cake are free to help themselves. The groom's cake, like the bride's cake, is provided by the bride's family.

Q. When should we visit the florist and how do I know who pays for which flowers?
A. Flowers for the church, the reception and the bridal party are ordered as soon as the details of your wedding have been planned, including the date, type and the colors of the bridesmaids' dresses.

In some areas it is customary for the groom to buy the bride's bouquet. When this is done, the bride's going-away corsage may form the center of her bouquet and it is removed before she throws the bouquet to her friends.

The groom provides the boutonnieres for all his attendants, the two fathers and himself, although the bride's mother often gives her husband his boutonniere, even though it may be ordered with all the others.

The bride traditionally provides the flowers for the church and the reception. Ask the florist if there is a wedding package. Be sure to ask, too, if there are extra delivery charges, and if these charges increase for deliveries to more than one location—such as to your home, the church and the reception site.

Q. Are boutonnieres the same for all men in the bridal party?
A. No. The ushers almost always wear carnations. The best man and the fathers may wear white carnations, too, or they may be given a gardenia. The groom generally wears a different flower from those of the other men, such as a sprig or two of lily of the valley, a gardenia if the others are not wearing them or stephanotis.

Q. What flowers are appropriate for the bride and her attendants?
A. The flowers should be in keeping with the character and formality of the wedding and may be as simple as a single rose or as elaborate as a full cascade. Consult with your florist on such things as appropriateness, cost and seasonal considerations.

The bride's bouquet is almost always made up of white flowers, unless she is wearing a pastel dress or has been married before. In that case, the flowers would be of the same color or a shade which would complement her gown. White orchids, calla lilies, gardenias, stephanotis and lilies of the valley are among, the most popular choices with an elegant white gown.

Be sure the style of the arrangement complements the style of your dress, and that the textures of both are complementary, too., For example, camellias and gardenias, with their shiny, dark leaves, are beautiful against a satin or brocade dress, while eyelet and cotton are better complemented by daisies or sweet peas.

The bride who is marrying for a second time may carry a simple bouquet, wear a corsage or carry flowers pinned to her purse or prayer book. They may be white or a color complementary to her ensemble.

When the bridesmaids' dresses are all of the same color, so are their bouquets. The maid of honor's may be of a different color, but the style should be the same.

Flower girls sometimes carry a little basket filled with rose petals which they strew in the bride's path.

Others carry a tiny old-fashioned bouquet or a small basket of flowers. The bride's attendants sometimes wear flowers in their hair, too, but they should be able to last the duration of the ceremony and reception without wilting or turning brown at the edges. This is the one place where silk flowers may be used, but they must be in keeping with the flowers they carry.

Q. What decorations can be used for a church wedding?
A. Your decision really depends on several factors, such as the size and style of the church itself, the s formality of your wedding, the cost and the regulations practiced by the clergyman or church.

A large church with high ceilings needs many tall floral arrangements to have them show up at all. Even in a small church, remember that the flowers are seen from some distance and bolder flower varieties in simple, clear arrangements show up better than small blossoms.
Church flowers are generally white and, if possible, coordinated with the bride's flowers. This is not mandatory, however. They may also be of a color that blends with the dresses and flowers of the bridal attendants.

Many weddings have two arrangements of flowers on the altar and/or a spray on either side of the chancel steps. In addition, a cluster of flowers, a cascade of greens or a fall of flowers arid ribbons may be used to decorate the ends of every pew, the reserved pews or merely the last of the reserved pews from which the ribbon will start.

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