family style dining, part two

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Gay offered such great insight into what it means to serve dinner “family style.” Here are a few technical things about this dinner style…

*Design your floor plan to match the service style. Nearly 250 guests attended Alex and Paul’s reception. Although that’s a large party, we really wanted the reception to feel intimate and for the focus to be on conversation and feasting! That was the entire point of serving dinner family style, after all. For that reason, we grouped tables end to end and created a u-shape around the dance floor. The table set-up facilitated conversation and passing of platters.

 

*Using escort cards and place cards are a must with this floor plan! Each table seated eight people, but with tables grouped end to end, some table groupings seated as many as 40 guests. When tables are grouped in this fashion, it is really important to number each table in the group (as shown below) and to offer both escort cards and place cards. Even though each table will be numbered, without place cards, it can be difficult for guests to discern where one table ends and another begins.

 

*Vary the look of the tables. To keep things interesting and to make sure the tables weren’t a sea of sameness, which could have easily happened with this many tables, we decided to seat guests at a mix of  linen covered tables and farm tables.

 

*Don’t forget to leave some room for platters! We really labored over how much decor to put on the tables. Because dinner was served on larger platters that were passed from guest to guest, we had to be mindful of leaving space on the table. Unlike a plated dinner service, where you could literally create a “runner” of floral down the center of the table, we had to be sure to leave some breaks. We also had to be mindful of budget — long tables can be more expensive to decorate. Ultimately, we decided to group jars of flowers in threes and spaced the groupings with hurricane candles. To add a little more sparkle to the table, we scattered tea lights.

 

photography by Don Mears

family style dining

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

I’m so happy to welcome Gay from A Pimento Catering in Charlottesville. I had the good fortune to work with Gay at our clients’, Alex and Paul, wedding last year at Maymont, and she has been gracious enough to stop by today to talk about family style dining, the style in which we served dinner at Alex and Paul’s wedding. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to our guest now…

family style dining wedding

I am thrilled to share my experiences catering in the “family style.” I’ll make no secret of it: serving a dinner this way is my personal favorite approach, for lots of reasons. It’s definitely not for everyone, but for those who wish to enjoy a relaxed (not to mean informal, necessarily), gracious and more “home-y” meal, family style service – meaning that guests sit down for a meal which is presented on platters to be passed among them for self-service – is a perfect way to connect people, food and conversation.

We cater many weddings in the course of a year. Clients come to us with all manner of questions, ideas and, sometimes, challenges to overcome when planning a wedding. There are definitely many among us who feel that a plated dinner is the preferred approach to a wedding dinner. But for those who are exploring other ideas, I encourage you to consider this new, old-fashioned method of sharing a meal. I’ll highlight what I feel to be the plusses here, some of which are the perfect solution to challenges that may arise in deciding how to serve your guests a meal that all can enjoy.

Graciousness Most of us are fortunate enough to remember at least a few holiday or weekend meals when family and friends would gather around a table (a large table in my family!) to eat together. Remember the comfort you felt when you settled into a chair you knew you’d occupy for an easy while, unhurried? The pleasure of sharing a meal your host or hostess, or maybe even some of the guests prepared with care? What more perfect day to enjoy that feeling than your wedding day when (as I see it) a group of people you care specially for, a group of people likely never to be in one place together, like this, on any other day? Because the dishes are passed among guests, even those who have never met will speak to each other, connect, as they hand off the roasted root vegetables or bread.

Variety One challenge in planning a wedding meal is that the average wedding party includes a wide variety of personalities, tastes and dietary conditions. When serving a plated meal, the scope of what you serve is narrowed to what fits on a plate in a few courses – choice can be more challenging to offer. But with family-style service, one can offer more than one entrée and multiple sides – with a little creativity (who doesn’t love that?!) – and appease a wide spectrum of tastes.

Often we break up a meal and serve perhaps a pre-set, plated first course, a family-style main course and come back to a plated dessert. You can squeeze in a delicious cheese course, too, that guests can linger over at the end of a meal.

Beauty Many wedding guests find themselves seated at a round table of eight or ten guests. With family style service, you’re better off opening up and expanding your seating to larger groups of 12, 20 or more. That can be a great way to help unfamiliar guests connect and keep together large groups of family or friends that can one has to break up in smaller seatings. I love the conviviality among larger groups – conversation always seems larger, more open. These days many design and equipment rental companies keep larger tables to make this happen. Now many are renting wood-constructed, farm-style tables which I love especially, but not exclusively, in outdoor settings. They are décor in and of themselves. (…I have yet to see an unattractive farm table…)

And formality? No loss there. A family-style dinner need not mean less thorough or attentive service. Go ahead and pull out the china and crystal, too, if you like.

But one can just as easily create a less dressy table with things like wild flowers, second hand china and the likes. Or a more sleek look, with geometric or paper table runners or placemats, cool stemless glassware and textured china. The options are truly endless.

family style wedding

Cost Because of the choices open to you – food, décor, seating and mode/intensity of service – the cost can be quite variable, especially in terms of staffing and equipment rental. You’ll want to discuss all of your preferences and needs with your caterer or planner, including your budget (it’s a part of planning every event and they can serve you best when they know the parameters you’re working in).

Thank you so much for stopping by, Gay!

 

photography by Don Mears

wedding certificates

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Quaker Style Wedding Certificate

There are so many fun ways to present guestbooks at receptions, but one of our favorite ways to capture the names of guests in attendance is the Quaker-style wedding certificate. It’s better than many other versions of the guest book, in our opinion, because it can be framed and admired for years to come.

There are many ways to design a wedding certificate, from the very traditional, where the vows, date and wedding location are listed, to more modern versions that may only list the bride and groom’s names at the top in a decorative manner along with a quote or poem.

No matter how you choose to embellish your certificate, there are a few things that are standard certificate to certificate. Two lines are typically reserved at the top of the page for the bride and groom. Since in the Quaker tradition, the bride and groom marry one another in the presence of friends and family, there would not be a line for the minister on a true Quaker certificate, but you could add that line to yours just beneath the bride and groom’s signature lines.  General signature lines follow  and are often introduced by copy that reads, “as witnessed by our friends and family,” or some version thereof.

The design of the certificate above included details that were sentimental for the bride and groom: Montauk daisies to remind the bride of where she grew up and to nod to the groom’s proposal and dogwood blossoms for Virginia, where their wedding took place. It’s those sort of sentimental details that mean so much. Below, guests sign Alex and Paul’s certificate at their outdoor reception at Maymont.

certificate designed by Miss Pickles Press; image by Don Mears

 

REVEL

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I’m so happy for my friends at 57Grand and their launch of REVEL! REVEL features daily styled inspiration for weddings, parties, and home entertaining that is fully shop-able. Readers can select any item on each feature to learn more and can purchase most items instantly.

REVEL will also feature Do It Yourself columns, Expert Question and Answer sessions, and Idea of the Day suggestions for creative celebrating. Head over to REVEL today to get a peek at all of the goodness!

*new* postage rates!

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

classic calligraphy invitation

Postage rates increased by a penny yesterday. Erika at Delphine assembled a handy cheat sheet for standard postage rates of common wedding mailings. Of course, you should always take all of the pieces of your invitation to the post office to be weighed before you purchase postage, just to be safe.

 

erika’s article via think splendid; invitations by the lettered olive photographed by katie stoops & styled by courtney spencer for southern weddings magazine

 

 

pattern play

Friday, January 13th, 2012

I’m adoring the wallpaper story in the current issue of Martha Stewart Weddings, but I’m a total wallpaper junkie. Every surface in my house would be covered in paper if I had my way. Whether you’re interested in adding a bit of pattern to your invitations, creating a backdrop for a photo booth, lining serving trays, creating a unique escort card display, making drink flags or backing programs, vintage and modern wallpapers offer myriad ways to personalize the design elements of your event. There are literally thousands of ways to use patterned paper! And the great thing about wallpaper is that one roll will really go a long way toward all of your paper projects.

If vintage is more your style, Etsy is a treasure trove for vintage wallcoverings. Elements of Style (have you seen the invitation that employed a blue and white pattern from Erin’s shop?) and colleenabean are two of my favorites. Secondhand Rose is also a go-to for vintage papers, while Schumacher is a modern love of mine.

Writing a wedding brief, or how to start planning your wedding

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

merriment events richmond wedding planner

In a former life, I worked in advertising as a strategic planner. Planners are responsible for articulating the client/brand goals in a way that is compelling to the creative team (who will ultimately create the creative product) and in a way that is compelling to the audience (the people who will ultimately consume the work/the people who you want to communicate with). I think a lot about the creative briefs I used to write and how the format can be adapted to be a really useful tool for couples planning weddings. With SO much inspiration and so many ideas floating around, it’s good to focus, focus, focus. Hopefully asking yourself these questions and committing your answers to paper will help you focus your efforts and energy during your planning.

What’s the one thing we want to remember?

What’s the one thing we want our guests to remember?

We’re standing at the altar and we turn around to look at the congregation, these are the people we hope to see…

Three words that describe us as a couple…

If we imagine the look and feeling of our wedding, we’d use these three words to describe it….

These are the things we can’t live without. They’re mandatory….

Our budget is…

Now, go pick three images that match up with your vision for your wedding. Not 300. 3. They can be of anything…interiors, food, clothing. Use those three to remind yourself of where you’re going when you’re in inspiration overload.

photo of Katie and Max’s wedding by Jodi Miller Photography

neon!

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Since neon is where it’s at these days, I asked my creative friend, Katie Kelley, whose neon finds on pinterest caught my eye, to contribute some of her finds here.

 

neon inspiration

 

1. Quirk Gallery neon tote by Brandon Peck 2. Neon pink geo earrings available at Quirk Gallery 3. Small leather triangle necklace from LEIF 4. Butter London 3 Free polish 5. Vibrant yellow ballet flats from TopShop 6. Neon handpainted vintage earrings

neon inspiration

1. Adams brand “While You Were Out” neon notepads 2. 35mm Fisheye camera 3. Hot pink lace washi tape 4. Neon pink chevron favor bags 5. Field Notes notebook three pack from JCrew 6. Neon pink gift tags 7. Mini Flourescent Pink Sharpie

 

neon inspiration

1. Prickly pink cactus place card via Jessi Haack Design photographed by Gabriel Ryan 2. Absolut Mandrin 3. Cake Knives at LEIF 4. Memento Mori mini skull candle 5. Pink agate trivet at LEIF 6. Dissembled geo II 7. Electric cocktail via Pinterest

 

Craving some more neon inspiration? Visit my collection here!

inspired design

Friday, January 6th, 2012

black and gold inspirationblack and gold inspiration

Two of my favorite things — Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold and spun sugar cupcakes topped with champagne buttercream. Although I’m pretty sure the design of the latter wasn’t inspired by the former, the similar gesture of the sugar to the falling rocket in Whistler’s painting illustrates how event design inspiration can come from many places…even your favorite painting.

 

Whistler’s painting via wikipedia; Spun sugar cupcakes via the curvy carrot

wishing you…

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

See you back here in 2012!