Dinner to Remember
little planing and foresight, the blissfully betrothed can
ensure a reception meal to suit the ceremonyand, more
importantly, the couple
end up at the back of the prime-rib line. After eyeballing
the pasta station and deciding that the line pace there is
glacial, I ease over to the carving station just as Table
8 is called, and suddenly 12 enormous people have clustered
in front of me, plates in hand, each drenching an outsized
chop in all available sauces.
have to be that way. The wedding dinner is probably the most
variable element of that special day, and it defines the look
of the occasion. A feast for 400 in a capacious catering hall
is very different from dinner for 40 in a restaurantor
catered at home.
to success is your involvementyour leadership, in fact,
because the more you entrust to others, the more it will look
like every other cut-and-paste affair.
not to disparage the work of the planner or caterer or other
wedding professional, who should ensure that the event runs
smoothly, but its up to you to add the individual touches
that make this your wedding and nobody elses.
as one who has had to prep, cook and serve 200 orders of chicken
Florentine for a wedding reception, Im amazed that the
food ever emerges in decent shape. Time is the killer. Moving
all that food through a limited amount of stovetop and oven
space, plating it with a limited number of cooks and serving
it with a limited number of servers creates bad bottlenecks.
planning a reception for several hundred, then your best bet
is a catering hall with the facilities and experience to accommodate
such a thingpreferably one youve previously seen
in action. And not just for dinner service: Sending out a
banquet is completely different from dinner for four. If you
need to offer a vegetarian entrée, make sure the kitchen
can handle that. Ive seen abysmal meat-free fare from
supposedly reputable places.
be choosing food from different pricing schemes, but dont
cruise the upper limit of your budget. Leave room for surprises.
You may want to bring in a cake from elsewhere; you should
pay for a round or two of wine. And dont serve plonk
for the champagne toast.
are more homespun alternatives. A friend describes a potluck
supper for about 350 peopleshes not sure because
no RSVP was requiredthat was low-key and relaxed, held
in the reception hall at her church. That way, we were
able to invite everybody we wanted to, she says.
easy to get caught in the maelstrom and go mad. The best piece
of advice I was given was to never lose sight of the fact
that the wedding is about the bride and groom, and no matter
who is footing the bill, its they who get to call the
shots. In fact, the advice served me well through two weddings.
first one, with a guest list of about 60, we opted for a restaurant
not far from our apartment. Restaurants love weddings because
they offer good profits, but again you need to take the initiative
in planning the event. And, again, your experience as a dinner
guest wont necessarily be the same as a banquet guest,
but you should acquaint yourself both with the chef and the
staff who will be serving you. Ask lots of questions; find
out if your philosophies are in sync.
probably not the occasion for a rarefied menu. Truffled duck
confit may be wonderful, but its costly and takes forever
to make. Your chicken and beef favorites are likely to emerge
from the kitchen in the most reliable form.
service gives you more leeway in accommodating your guests,
but it also puts the biggest bottleneck right on the floor
(and probably at the prime-rib station). Make sure the traffic
can be handled well; you dont want people cooling their
heels on line or at their tables. If you havent attended
many such events as a guest, get recommendations from friends
you trust, always keeping in mind that most of your friends
secretly think that the Olive Garden serves good food.
options abound, from Saratogas elegant Canfield Casino
to a picnic area at Thacher Park. Most caterers have an on-the-road
option that should include tables and dinner service.
your party, the more leeway you enjoy. Keep it under, say,
20, and youre in the realm of ordering off the menu.
Or doing it at home. And dont overlook the idea of having
your home-based wedding professionally catered.
there were statistics that related the success of a marriage
to the success of the wedding meal. My gut tells me theyre
in direct proportion, so make the event culinarily memorable.
And be sure to invite me.
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