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Be picky about a wedding caterer

Look for knowledgeable person or company who treats you with respect.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 12:01 am

In my last article, I promised I would talk a bit about weddings this week.

Volumes — tomes — have been written about this important time in a couple's life. A whole industry has sprung up around weddings as well as countless TV shows (not all worth watching) and movies.

After you pick the day you want to be married and secure the church, temple or place for the ceremony and reception, the next thing you want to get right on is your caterer. We often get booked over a year in advance for weddings, so please call your company as soon as you can.

What do you want to look for in a caterer? Someone who treats you and your day with respect and seriousness, and who gets back to you promptly. You want a person with knowledge and calmness. You will want to have a tasting to work out the idiosyncrasies of the menu.

I immediately cross a person or company off my list who treats me as if they are doing me a favor or if they have too standard of a package. You know the feeling, and you should just move right on to the next person on your list if you get a bad vibe.

You will want one of the higher-ups to be there that night, overseeing the servers. I have worked at several weddings, serving beautiful desserts, where the catering company had servers who were drinking in the back, smoking at every chance they could get or had several slackers.

At one event, even the person in charge was the first to pop a beer as they were setting the table up. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior for any event, let alone a wedding.

On another note, this is not the norm, and most vendors want to give you the night of your life. Work with your caterer and planner and build up trust. When a caterer tells you that you need so many servers, this is not a place to skimp. The food, the celebration for your guests, is tantamount. You want great servers and the correct number.

You also need one good bartender for every 90-100 people. A great bartender is going to run approximately $20 per hour in Fort Wayne. Not all bartenders are created equal, so that should be one of the first people you secure. Word of mouth is the best, or word of your caterer or wedding planner.

Next, get your band or DJ, if you are having music.

Get your cake maker. A cake is generally priced by the slice and can run from $3 to $8 a slice, depending on if you want fillings and how fancy it is. It is a trend to make a “dummy” cake for presentation. This is a fake cake decorated to the nines. Then another cake is made for cutting for the guests, often less fancy.

I am not sure why this trend is happening, so please email me if you do. I was told because the smaller cake is easier for the servers to cut and serve. I personally do not like this trend, and the cake maker I recommend does not do this. It seems like an added expense.

A groom's cake is fun, but this is where you could cut if you are being frugal.

Some great places to start for ideas are: Martha Stewart (of course!); Pinterest; the book “Colin Cowie Wedding Chic” as well as his website, www.eastonevents.com; Sylvia Weinstock's website, www.sylviaweinstock.com/index_fl4.html; wedding magazines; and a whole slew of websites.

Do not watch “Bridezillas” (on WE tv) and fill your head with that nonsense! I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal where a reader was sent a horrible note from a bride and groom because they thought her gift was too “cheap.”

Remember, while most guests will give you a wedding gift, it is a gift, not an obligation. Some things will be exactly what you want, some will be homemade, some might be re-purposed and some might be a “whhhhhhat?” but all are gifts and deserving of your heartfelt thanks.

I know you have great manners and will write thank-you notes to everyone. Please handwrite them and absolutely do not email them. If a lot of your guests are co-workers, don't hand them their thank-you notes or put them in their work mailbox. That is uber tacky. A gift is deserving of a stamp and a thank-you note received in the mail. You have a year, technically, but the sooner, the better. It looks more caring, and you don't want that chore looming over your head for 12 months.

Please email The News-Sentinel with any questions about this fun and stressful time in your life, and I'll get back to you. Have a wonderful wedding and enjoy your festivities surrounding it.

Let the people you hired handle the stress, and you just relax as much as possible and take this time in. Be thankful, be grateful and have fun!

Laura Wilson, owner of La Dolce Vita in Roanoke, is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She answers questions in The News-Sentinel every other Tuesday. Have a question for Laura? Submit it to clarson@news-sentinel.com or call 461-8284. We’ll pass on questions to Laura. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.