Fiesta, Siesta, Repeat

I had been super excited for this past weekend because over the past month or so, I have been watching my co-worker, Brenda, put together the most adorable bridal shower for her best friend. Brenda and I share a love for Mexican food, so when she was throwing around ideas for a Mexican-themed bridal shower, I was already in love.

She totally took the idea and ran with it, and I had fun making some suggestions for a few details here and there, When I saw the photos, I was so impressed! To top it all off, Brenda and the other girls there did all of this without the bride, Kirsten, knowing. How fun is that? Take a look at some of her cute ideas:

Check out all this color! It was the perfect contrast to Kirsten’s contemporary loft in KC, and a huge component of that was these beautiful blankets that Brenda found on Amazon.

She coupled these with a collection of bright, summery flowers and succulents for the middle of the table. Then, she used galvanized chargers and bright yellow plates to create a place setting. And to add a little bit of personalization, she found matching galvanized place card holders, so guests knew exactly where to sit.

No fiesta can be complete without a margarita, and to take it up a notch, Brenda created a margarita bar. She offered lime, mango and strawberry margaritas, which were served in adorable cactus margarita glasses. The Dollar Tree is the perfect place to look for festive little adds to your party, such as glassware, that you don’t want to spend tons of money on.

After noshing on tacos, chips, salsa and, of course, queso, the menu was rounded out with this adorable “Señora Conley” cake. How cute!

As party favors, custom tanks were made for the girls and the bride. The best part? The bachelor and bachelorette party are taking place in Mexico, so the tanks can be dual purposed for both celebrations.

Buen trabajo, Brenda!

Maximize Your Venue Visit

Since I regularly give tours at the venue I work at, I thought I would share a few tips tonight on how to maximize your venue tour to ensure you get the necessary information you need as well as be able to visually understand the space as it would be utilized for your event.

1. Make An Appointment
I know it’s easy to get excited about planning an event and start cruising around town at your first free moment to look at venues; however, I would highly recommend calling or emailing ahead to get an appointment. Not only does that ensure the space you are interested in will be available and not occupied by another group, but you can also make sure the coordinator is free. Obviously, there are multiple people at venues who can give you general information about the space but usually the specific questions are best limited to the one or two coordinators who work with clients and events the most.

2. Know Your Objectives
If you go into booking an appointment with a very vague idea of what you are looking for, you ultimately might have to come back to look at the venue again. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint an exact head count, but having a rough estimate will help you two ways: knowing which spaces best fit your group if the venue offers multiple spaces, and if the venue has a food and beverage minimum or per person cost, you will be able to easily ball park how much you are going to spend. Many times rental prices vary based on date, time and availability, so having a preferred date and a back-up date is what I would recommend.

3. Gather Information Ahead of Time
After speaking with you, most vendors will be able to digitally send you some sort of event packet, pricing sheet or menu options. Make sure to look through this prior to your appointment. It’s better to come equipped with questions about things you don’t understand or can be clarified during a tour than trying to think back to your tour and recall information.

4. Gather As Much Information As you Can While You Are There
A great question to ask is if the coordinator has any photos or room layouts of an event similar to yours. It might not be exactly what you decide to do, but it will at least give you a good idea of spacially what the room is capable of offering as well as spark some inspiration for design.

5. Devote A Chunk Of Time To Viewing Venues
Not everyone has the freedom and flexibility to take off a day or afternoon from work for tours and meetings, but regular business hours are often the best times for tours. Why you ask? First and foremost, the majority of major celebrations happen on nights and weekends. If you are limited to nights and weekends only, you might have to work around other events happening that same day at various venues, which can make scheduling multiple appointments in a day challenging. Secondly, the coordinator usually has a hundred things running through his/her head about the upcoming event and as much as he/she tries to give undivided attention to you, he/she could ultimately be distracted by vendors stopping in or tasks that still need to be completed for the event.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For a Follow-Up
If you have narrowed down your list to a couple of venues, don’t be afraid to ask for a follow-up appointment. It won’t be as long as your first appointment, and if you send the coordinator a list of wants/needs ahead of time, he/she is usually more than willing to have some diagrams and mock invoices prepared for you ahead of time. This makes comparing venues much easier. If you have already book a space, I recommend asking if there is another time that the venue is hosting a similar type and size event, so you can see the space laid out in person. Most of the time venues are willing to let you come by and peruse at your leisure prior to the start of an event.

These Are A Few of Molly’s Favorite Things

Most likely, I will be singing that “Sound of Music” song in my head all evening now! But how cute is that for a bridal shower theme? As a bridesmaid in my friend, Molly’s, wedding we were enlisted by her Maid of Honor to help put on a shower including all of Molly’s favorites eats and treats.

The menu selections included a vast array of options:
-Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp
-Cheesy Gordita Crunches (yes, I was super pumped about this one!)
-Red Vines
-Swedish Fish
-Cheese, Crackers & Meats
-Popcorn
-Yogurt Parfaits
-Chicken Salad Sandwiches
-Etc.

And let me tell you, this preggo girl really appreciated the green smoothie shot in Molly’s honor instead of the typical alcoholic toast…celebratory and healthy!

Yes, it was a little random but totally Molly, and I loved each and every item. Since we used to be roommates, I had a great time looking through all the options and remembering Molly enjoying all of the food and drink selections at various times.

In addition to the cute theme, I have to give our girl Kaitlin a huge shout out because invitations and signage for the shower were beautiful. She’s a graphic designer by trade and even has her own side gig (check her gorgeous designs out at Flan De Vida Designs).

Molly and Chad’s wedding is incorporating lots of lush greenery and a neutral color palette, which is a trend I am so on board with! Kaitlin incorporated that as well as threw in a fun pop of pink to add to the shower color scheme.

It was such a fun afternoon getting to celebrate with girlfriends, enjoy delicious food and see an abundance of monograms (because what St. Louis girl doesn’t love a good monogram?). Getting excited for the wedding in October! #younglove

Photos compliments of Kaitlin Carratero & Morgan Flannery. 

 

Making the Best of Small Spaces

Sometimes renting out a venue for an event really just isn’t in the budget, and that’s OK! Hosting an at-home soiree can be just as exciting and just as beautiful. Usually, the biggest issue when it comes to hosting an event at home is space because let’s be honest, most people’s homes are not made for 30+ people.

So for today’s blog post, I’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks for making your home a little bit more conducive for hosting a crowd.

1. Create a two-tier food display.
In lots of modern-day kitchens, there is a center island or peninsula that serves as a small breakfast bar. With other counters being used for clean up, food prep or beverage service, it’s nice to be able to have more space to serve from. My suggestion? Move your bar stools and replace that area with a 6-foot or 8-foot table depending on the length of your counter. By doing so, you’ve now created a two-tier serving area that has more surface area without taking up too much more space.

2. Maneuver your furniture.
I know it sounds crazy! My husband always looks at my like I am slightly off my rocker when I ask him to help me shuffle the couch to a different room or move our kitchen table, so it’s off centered in the room, but moving your furniture can improve the flow of the entire event. Plus, sometimes it makes way more sense to spend a few dollars renting or borrowing chairs that take up less space, so all your guests can be in one area at a time versus trying to cram in extra chairs around your pre-existing furniture.

3. When in doubt, move guests out.
I know I talk so frequently about not relying on the outdoors events, but if the weather is nice and you have the yard space, use it to your advantage!

3. Invest in a few folding tables and chairs.
They don’t even have to be pretty folding chairs and tables (although, that always does help the look of an event). Just having a few tables on hand that provide space for food service, gift tables and additional eating areas plus a few extra chairs can tremendously help ease your stress in having guests over. I promise that you will use them for birthdays, holidays, bridal showers, BBQs, etc. They make a great wedding registry gift!

4. Create decorations that are multi-purpose.
Use snack food as a way to fill and decorate your tables. Fill cute color-coordinated pails with munchies, so they add accents to the table while serving as food dispensers, or hang a monogram letter that doubles as a guestbook. It not only helps for small spaces but keeps your budget down as well!

Booze Blowing Your Budget?

Let me start this blog first by saying what I tell all of the couples that I work with: Whatever alcohol you host for your guests, they will be grateful for and enjoy it. All hosts/hostesses stress about the bar; it’s inevitable. But stick to your budget, and don’t stress yourself out.

In a perfect world, yes guests would be able to order and enjoy whatever type of alcohol they would like or would normally order and have it taken care of. However, don’t force the open bar if that means you are going to have cut other details of your event that are important to you. Guests would much rather be offered beer and wine and be able to tear up the dance floor than having a full open bar and no entertainment.

My suggestion is find a happy medium. For example, offer guests beer and wine with a fun signature cocktail. The signature cocktail can coordinate with the theme of the event or represent the likes of the guest of honor. And you can control the price of the signature cocktail by using a well-grade or call-grade alcohol instead of top shelf. Unless you’re offering a drink on the rocks, guests are not going to be able to tell the difference between a cocktail that has 5 ingredients including well vodka or a cocktail that has 5 ingredients and Tito’s.

Another option is to mix and match when you offer specific types of alcohol. For example, if your venue or caterer offers a beer and wine package, a house bar package and a premium package, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to offer one of those packages the whole time. Ask them if you can create your own customized package. Most likely, they will be willing to do so. For example, you could offer beer and wine during cocktail hour and throughout dinner and then open it up to a house bar for the remaining of the event. Keep in mind most guests are going to be eating during dinner and not up at the bar (for the most part).

Other things you want to keep in mind when selecting your alcohol menu is the price of mix-ins and garnishes. If you have a cocktail that has a blackberry-infused simple syrup, that is going to cost more than a cocktail with a simple lemon twist.

Lastly, make sure to ask your caterer or venue about service fees. There will be a bartender fee whether it’s combined into an overall service fee, a per hour price, etc. And if you are simply offering your guests a cash bar option, make sure to check if there is a minimum that must be achieved.

If you follow these tips and tricks, you will be able to host a fun and enjoyable event for all without breaking the bank!

Catering Questions

Above photo compliments of Pop Wedding Photography.

As much as I love all the decorations, fluff and creative details that are involved in each event, at my current job I most regularly give catering advice. For individuals who don’t throw parties or events for large groups, catering and food quantities can be overwhelming.

Now if you’re doing a plated dinner, catering is usually pretty straight forward because the chef and the kitchen take care of quantities, food ordering, etc. But what about those parties that offer more of a mingling, snacking atmosphere? Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way!

1. If price is a concern and your event is over a regular mealtime hour, go for the full meal.
Lots of hosts/hostesses automatically decide to offer appetizers instead of a full meal because it seems like it will be the cheaper option. In all honesty, it’s usually not. If you’re inviting guests to an event, for example, from 5:30-8:00 PM, that’s over a normal dinner hour. Guests will have the same appetite they would at a meal. Therefore, you are going to have to opt for heavy hors d’oeuvres, which a lot of times will come out very similar in price as a full meal.

2. Per piece, per person, by the dozen…this language is so confusing!
Above photo compliments of Pop Wedding Photography.  
Yes, each catering company will have their own way of pricing appetizers. Per piece and by the dozen are easy to quantify in your head, but how much do you order?

Per person pricing is easy to decide on because you figure your food out by your total guest count and don’t have to worry about how much each person will eat individually.

Most per person appetizer pricing is usually roughly 2.5 pieces per person. That accounts for those guests that take an average serving, don’t eat at all and those who load up their plate with appetizers. The more variety you offer, the less of each item you will need order. I

3. Passed hors d’oeuvres are always a good idea.
As long as your group is large enough, I always suggest the idea of passed appetizers for a few reasons in particular. First, it’s a simple way to class up an event and create a fancier atmosphere. And although you usually have to pay more for the service of appetizers versus on a self-serve table, guests are more likely to eat less. And ultimately, that will save you some money. It’s true. When someone is watching you, everyone takes less food.

4. Know your guests and their dietary restrictions.
If there is one individual in a group of 50 that has a dietary need, don’t completely alter your menu for that one person. But it is polite to take allergies and dietary needs into account. I always recommend offering a wide variety of options, especially when it comes to appetizers. Offer a vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free and shellfish-free option.

When it comes to more formal meals, obviously it is a little bit harder to dodge all allergies, but it’s always polite to include a notation spot on an RSVP card or make a note on the invitation for guests to voice dietary needs when RSVPing. Most individuals who have these needs are usually pretty good about letting you know and/or avoiding them on their own at the party itself. Most catering companies will offer specialty meals for one-off instances like this.

5. Label, label label!Whether it’s a menu card at each place setting or labels on a buffet table, make sure to include ingredients or warnings about ingredients. For buffet tables, I love to use porcelain labels, such as these ones from Amazon, because you can write on them with dry-erase markers, and they can also double as place cards for smaller gatherings.

6. Opt for a dessert bar.

Dessert bars have been trendy at weddings for a few years now, but they are the old faithful when it comes to hosting an at-home event. Whether you’re filling your table with homemade treats, miniature cheesecakes or doughnuts, guests love to be able to pick and choose. And it’s another fun element to add in something that’s customizable, for example a build-your-own sundae bar or a cupcake decorating bar.

Now I am going to be honest, booze is a whole other topic that usually has THE MOST questions, but I will be tackling that in my next post. For now, happy tasting!

 

Turning Heartache Into Happiness

Photo compliments of NBC.com

Timing is rather ironic. Last Friday, I worked with a member who unfortunately had planned a visitation and memorial in honor of someone very special in her life. What I expected to be a particularly somber event turned out to be exactly the opposite.

Guests drank, ate, shared stories and celebrated the lost life of the individual in a rather boisterous way. And looking out into the sea of guests, I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect reason to celebrate. To celebrate the memories, to celebrate the good times and to celebrate a full live well lived.

*Spoiler alert: If you watch This Is Us and haven’t watched Tuesday’s episode, DO NOT read on.*

As I nestled in on my couch to watch This Is Us, the plot unfolded as a memorial for William that he had wished to be planned by his two granddaughters. Why you might ask? Because he knew that it would be a happy celebration filled with all of his favorite things. Pretty sweet if you ask me!

The day was called a “fun-eral,” not funeral, because it was to be a day filled with fun. They ate breakfast foods because that was William’s favorite, they shared stories of their fond memories and even took a celebratory walk just as William used to through the neighborhood all wearing their “old man hats.”

It’s been so refreshing to be surrounded by happy thoughts associated with funerals and celebrating life instead of mourning it. Now if you ask me, that’s quite a nice way to be remembered, don’t you agree?