Katie and Max’s May wedding at home last May on the Northern Neck was truly full of heart. From the brightly colored heart confetti that accompanied their letterpress invitations, to the hearts throughout the reception…along the walkway to the ceremony on the waterfront, handmade muslin hearts on each place setting, brightly patterned hearts on escort card tags…so much love was put into this celebration. Happy Valentine’s Day!
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
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…
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.
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
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.
Hope you have a lovely weekend! My mom and grandmother are coming to see the baby, and it will be the first time that Birdie meets her great grandmother — so exciting! Before I dash off from the internet for the weekend, I had to share this color palette that I’m dying over right now. A mixture of cerulean, teal, emerald green, grellow (as young house love would say) and a few shades in between, this combo is bright, fun and totally modern. Hope you have a lovely weekend. xo
The Virginia Center for Architecture is such an inspiring space. Built in the early 1900s and positioned prominently on Monument Avenue, the Tudor style mansion really is full of grandeur. Given the scale of the space, its soaring ceilings, ornate architecture detail and its strong features (dark wood, beautiful stone work), you really could go wild with the scale of decor at an event. Tall, focal floral arrangements would be very much at home here, along with colors that complement the space — shades of gray, lavender, green, creamy whites.
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!
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.