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?

Valentine’s Day Fail

Yes, I had the ultimate Valentine’s Day fail this year. This would definitely fall in the “oh my gosh” category of this blog. I tend to be someone who over celebrates everything (shocking, right?). I wanted to do something sweet for my co-workers, but I didn’t have elaborate plans for a homemade gift or sweet. So while I was at the grocery store, I picked up a tray of cupcakes. Hyvee makes great cakes, so I knew they would be delicious, and they were beautifully decorated in reds, whites and pinks.

I was on a roll for the day enjoying my day off and checking things off my list when all of a sudden, the car in front of me slammed on its breaks, and everything went flying. Yes, including the adorable cupcakes I had JUST purchased.

Originally I contemplated just writing a cute poem to explain the situation and bringing them to work as is. But then they kept staring at me, and I couldn’t do it. So, here is how I made lemonade with the lemons that life threw at me!

First, I unwrapped each cupcake and cut the top off. Then, I pulled apart each individual cake and added a dollop of frosting in the middle. I rolled them into balls to start my cake ball conversion.

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I am also posting my work space as I was creating the balls because I feel like every food blog I see, each step is so properly styled, and the cooking surface is spotless. Well, this my friends, is reality. This is what my work space looked like:

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Next, I tossed the cake balls onto a flexible cutting board and cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer for 30 minutes. I tidied up my space and worked on some other Valentine’s treats in the meantime.

Once I pulled out the cake balls from the freezer, I melted vanilla almond bark and gave each of the cake balls….a bath in chocolate….for lack of a better phrase. Since some of the crumbs from the cake ended up in the chocolate, I also melted a small portion of milk chocolate and drizzled it on top since the cake balls weren’t stark white.

image4 And yes, I also rinsed off each “Happy Valentine’s Day” pick and used them to decorate the cake balls. Note to anyone who tries this: if you are mixing in hot pink and red frosting, you might end up with pink tinted hands.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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Bubble Bath Baby Shower

I have to brag on my mother-in-law, Trish, on today’s post because yesterday she threw the cutest baby shower! This woman is incredibly crafty and loves to host these kind of parties, but I was so impressed with all her ideas!

She put together a bath time theme shower for the mamma-to-be and her baby boy. The best part about the shower was the fact that she used gifts to decorate for the shower and got double the bang for her buck. Here are some of the adorable ideas she had:

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The signature drink was this delicious punch made with Tropical Hawaiian Punch and pineapple juice. Together, they created this beautiful teal blue color, and she threw a couple of rubber duckies in it to make it look like bath water. Plus, she turned a cake stand into a punch bowl (how does she think of these things?) She flipped the cake stand upside down and stuck the handle of the cover into the base of the cake plate. Wala! Punch bowl.

In addition to the punch, bottled water was served in a traditional beverage tub. But to incorporate the theme, she stuck a roll of paper towel behind the tub and draped a duck towel over it…definitely stealing this idea!

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This diaper tower was the center of attention when you walked into the room and was part of Becca’s gift when the shower was over. She told me her trick is wrapping boxes with blue wrapping paper and lining that with diapers. It’s easier to use the diapers after it’s taken apart because they aren’t rolled up and rubber banded like most diaper cakes/towers.

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Trish also incorporated bath items into the table centerpieces, which consisted of buckets filled with blue tissue paper and white Styrofoam balls for the water and bubbles and then filled with bath time necessities. She flanked each bucket with a fish bowl filled with blue gems, water and rubber duckies.

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The theme and decor were a huge hit for all the guests, and Becca left with all the things she needed for baby bath time. I’m keeping this theme in mind for when it’s my turn to host!

A Change In Light Can Make Everything Right

Above image compliments of Catherine Rhodes Photography, lighting compliments of Exclusive Events

Lighting is everything. Am I right? Lighting effects photos, how good your makeup looks, the mood of a room, and it can transform any event space. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a few events the incorporated a lighting professional into their vendor list.

A colored uplight can completely transform a space like you see in the photos below. The venue goes from a large, stark room with harsh lines to a warm and more dramatic feel.

                        BEFORE                                                            AFTER

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Photos and lighting compliments of SW Productions

Lighting can add cohesiveness to the space by using one of the accent colors to compliment the other decorations.

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Lighting compliments of Complete Wedding + Events

It can also be utilized to highlight an architectural details or draw attention to a particular piece.

11986469_813051125474827_5414944666708549998_nLighting compliments of Exclusive Events. 

Lighting can be used as the wow factor, especially outdoors on a patio or inside a tent like this photo below:

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Photo compliments of Lindsey Pantaleo and lighting compliments of Exclusive Events.

Or, it can add a little personalization to an event.

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Lighting compliments of SW Productions

Now this is a totally different type of lighting, but fireworks are never a bad idea! There’s nothing like a big bang to the end of a fabulous evening.

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Photo compliments of Silverbox Photographers and fireworks compliments of SW Productions

Regardless of how you use lighting at your event, it always has a huge impact that never disappoints. Even if it does take up more of your budget than you would like to, it usually adds enough style to an event that you can eliminate some decor from another area. That is if you need to squeeze it into your budget….totally worth the expense!

Free, Convenient and Totally-Worth-It Workouts

Well, let’s state the obvious: no, I am not a fitness coach. In fact, I have a hard time keeping myself motivated to workout and eat healthy. But I’ve recently become obsessed with some online workouts, and I wanted to share them with you!

popsugar-6When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, I grabbed an easy-read book at the airport titled “Power Your Happy.” It gives insight into Lisa Sugar’s life and how she created the online pop culture source PopSugar. If you’re a go-getter girl who is searching for success, life balance and the opportunity to have a family all at the same time, I definitely recommend the read.

Anyways, I dabbled a bit on PopSugar’s website, but I had never really considered it a go-to. That was until I discovered their workouts. They are amazing! First and foremost because they are free. I had recently contemplated paying for Beach Body workouts, but these online workouts kicked that idea to the curb.

Now you’re probably wondering why the heck I’m endorsing a workout website on an event planning blog. Well, let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what event you’re attending, everyone wants to look their best! Whether you are the bride who is the center of attention, headed to a high school reunion where you haven’t seen people in years or just want to look back at the photos and be proud of your shape, working out is a necessity.

And if you’re anything like me, time and money are two of the things that get in the way of having a killer body. So, these are the reasons that I love PopSugar workouts:

1. They’re completely free!

Yup, you heard me. Zero dollars. All you need is a laptop (which i often hook up to my TV through an HDMI cord) and yourself. There are some workouts that require a small set of weights or a mat, but for the most part, they use your body weight for effective workouts. They even have some workouts that you can adapt or take to the gym to utilize while on an elliptical machine or treadmill. So if you already have a gym workout, you can still use them to mix it up and keep muscle memory guessing again.

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2. The workouts are quick yet effective.

Even if you just Google “PopSugar workouts,” before getting to the site you can click on the timeframe you’re looking for.

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When you have a hectic schedule or just not feeling the hour and a half commitment to get dressed, drive to the gym, workout and drive home, here is your answer. My favorites are the 30-minute workouts, or I like to mix a 20-minute strengthening workout with a 10-minute cardio blast.

3. The variety.

There’s a little bit of everything on this site. There’s high-intensity, fat-burning workouts that will leave you dripping in sweat. These are my favorite to do when I’ve eaten my energy-packed foods all day and work hasn’t completely drained me.

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There’s yoga and Pilates videos that are a little bit more low key. I love doing these workouts in the morning when I want to get some fitness in prior to work, but I don’t have the energy to jump around (did I mention I’m not a morning person?)

popsugar-4And lastly, there’s tons of celebrity trainers that know how to kick your booty while keeping the workouts exciting and different. My personal favorite is the workout with Selena Gomez’s personal trainer. No wonder that girl looks so good!

So if you find yourself saying you don’t have time to workout or you don’t have the money to spend on a gym membership or a subscription to a workout program, the PopSugar workouts are the answer to your prayers. No go knock ’em dead at your next event, and I hope you feel your absolute best!

Note: All photos in the blog post are images from the PopSugar website.