Dinner is Served – Reception Options

Believe it or not, the food at your wedding reception is one of the most  memorable parts of your wedding day. Your guests may not remember the style of the bridesmaid’s gown or the color of your centerpieces but, a good menu will leave a lasting impression.

When you select your venue, your attire and your invitations you have already made the first big decision as to what kind of reception meal you will be serving and although there are many ways to modify each of these to suit your personal taste and style, there are basically four types:

Cocktail Reception- A growing trend in wedding planning is the cocktail reception. Often it seems that the best wedding reception food is served during cocktail hour, so many couples are choosing to simply have an extended cocktail menu for their guests. This choice allows you to have many different food items to sample, and it provides a more informal atmosphere for a more casual wedding. It is crucial that you have ample waitstaff and keep the food coming. Since the sight of empty trays can leave guests wondering if that’s all there is…

Buffet – Another  informal option for the main meal is the buffet. You will choose from several main courses, sides and stations, and guests will decide on what they want to eat when their table is called.If you want to provide variety for your guests, this is a good option for you as they will be able to sample several things and eat only what they want. Since it is less formal, the buffet typically allows more time for your guests to dance and mingle.This choice can also be easier on your budget because less wait staff is needed to serve your guests.

Family Style – The style of dining  with the serving platters on the table so that all present can serve themselves. A step up from buffet since the guests don’t have to get up from the table and still less formal than a sit down dinner.With this you can also rest assured that guests with dietary restrictions can find something to eat by planning the menu carefully and taking their concerns to heart.Again, you will save money on the amount of servers needed but that is not the best part of this option. The bonus is that guests take only the food they eat and there is much less waste. They can sample a variety of foods and still not overindulge by having only small portions.

Sit Down– For a formal affair, the most obvious choice is a sit down dinner. The meal will be set by the choices you make with the caterer. Some couples offer choices (chicken or fish) but, that is not necessary. If you decide to accommodate special dietary concerns remember that once that door is opened , it is impossible to close. IF you find yourself with a small group of friends who have severe food allergies or medical diet restrictions, consider grouping them at the same table and accommodating  them that way. Again, there is nothing that says you need to serve anything to accomodate anyone’s diet whether it is for medical or other reasons. A sit-down dinner  reception relies heavily on good service to move the meal along so make sure to ask how many servers you can expect. The minimum should be one server per 10 guests but some venues stretch it to 15. Without ample servers you run the risk of the meal taking too long and taking up time that was supposed to be devoted to other things. While your guests won’t be able to walk around as much during dinner, they will get to spend ample time talking with each other at the table. Because of the extra wait staff needed this tends to be more expensive than the other options. 

As for the food itself, always work with the venue. If they are famous for a certain dish, incorporate it into the menu.Whether it is a hotel, restaurant,  banquet facility or caterer, ALWAYS insist on tasting the food they will be serving at your event.


-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago






Grooms Take the Cake!

Growing up in the Midwest, I knew nothing of a Groom’s cake until I watched Steel Magnolias for the first time. In that movie, the groom had a red velvet cake decorated to look like a giant Armadillo. It made no sense to me at the time, I just figured he was odd , like the rest of the  characters in the movie. In reality, it was probably one of the finer points of the movie that was missed on me  because at the time I knew nothing of grooms cakes, Southern Weddings or Armadillos.

The Grooms cake traditionally was a southern custom, the Armadillo is an animal indigenous to the southern part of the United States and  the red velvet cake has always been popular in the south . Add all of this together and you have a ‘bleeding’ Armadillo cake to represent the true southern spirit of the movie.  That only took me 20 years to figure out.
Since that movie came to the  big screen in 1989 there has been a resurgence of Grooms cakes spreading all the way to Buckingham Palace this past spring when Prince William used his groom’s cake to honor the memory of his mother, the late Princess Diana. This long overlooked tradition has made a full comeback! Once seen as an unnecessary expense, it is now a colorful expression of personality and in some cases (such as Prince William) a way to remember a loved one.

The Groom’s Cake is made for the guests to enjoy at either the rehearsal dinner or served alongside the  traditional wedding cake at the reception. With today’s technology and the talents of a great baker, you may have a cake so picturesque and  so artistic that no one will believe it is  a cake, much less want to be the first to cut into it. Since there are no cake cutting customs associated with the groom’s cake you may want to leave it out for the guests to marvel at for as long as possible and then box the cake slices and serve them as edible take-home favors, adding another opportunity to be creative with the packaging. Legend has it that if single women sleep with a slice of it under their pillow they will dream of their future husband.

Although the bride may also have a hand in design and creation of this cake – it is up to each individual couple to decide who handles this cake and how involved each party will be . If the bride is giving the groom this cake as a gift, she may single handedly select and design the cake for him. Realistically it is best not to get too cutesy – if you are going full-out groom’s cake it should be a reflection of his own personal masculine taste. There are no restrictions on style, shape or flavor. Rich dark chocolate, red velvet and cheesecakes are the more popular choices. The groom usually selects something that represents his family, or life or hobbies.  This is the one time when the groom can have complete control of something wedding-related. I say let him have at it but, just in case – you might want to have a private conversation with the groom and your pastry chef or baker  outlining what you both define as unacceptable. My advice is to  stay away from anything questionable. No one wants to eat a cake that looks like a dead fish no matter how much your future husband enjoys fishing, ditto for all animals portrayed as dead on a cake.

Whether he is an avid gamer, Trekkie, Wine connoisseur or Cubs (or Sox) fan,  be sure that your groom has his own cake for everyone to enjoy and keep this lovely tradition alive for future generations!

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago