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?

All Falling Into Place

When you throw a surprise party, you as the host are always more suspicious that the guest of honor suspects something than they are. A few weekends ago, I threw a surprise 30th birthday for the hubs, and I played the anxious, nervous role to a T! I wasn’t so much anxious about the party itself since it was a casual get together at our house, but I was anxious about Ryan finding out and the details not all coming together.

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Somehow, most likely thank you to my wonderful friends and family who assisted me in the process, we were able to pull it off without a slip up! Here’s how it all went down.

Ryan made me promise I would not throw him a surprise party (oopsies!) But my original plan was to rent out a space in Columbia that had pool tables since Ryan loves to play pool. Well, the more I looked into it, it seemed silly to throw a bunch of money into a room rental fee when instead, it could go toward buying a pool table for our own house.

img_0441So, I strategically spent time researching pool tables, and without Ryan having any idea, purchased a custom pool table for our home. Then, I sent out digital invites (to make sure guests could easily contact me and I wouldn’t have a paper trail), and the party was born! The recipe for the perfect Ryan party was a chill atmosphere, AKA our home (which is what made me feel ok about breaking the surprise rule because at least it wasn’t in public), throw in some of Ryan’s favorite foods, some entertainment and a whiskey tasting, and walah! The perfect 30th birthday for my hubs.

My wonderful mom and sister were able to come in town img_0443for the shindig, so we told Ryan they were just coming to visit and see the house since they hadn’t been there since we moved in. On Saturday night, we told him that his family was coming over for cocktails and appetizers, and he believed the whole thing.

The real help were a group of friends who convinced Ryan to meet up with them after work for a few drinks since one of his friends was in town. That was the key piece to keeping him out of the house while we decorated, food prepped….oh yeah and had a pool table installed in our basement.

Ryan came home Saturday night expecting to find his nephews and his brother-in-law in the basement only to find a big group of his friends and family there to celebrate his big 3-0 and a brand new pool table, which I have had the privilege of playing with him every. single. night. At least he was surprised and appreciative, right? That’s a success in my book. Happy Birthday, Ry!

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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!

Wedding Registry Items: Party Style

I’ve recently had friends ask me items they should include on their wedding registries. And yes, I have some very practical answers: a good-quality knife set, a spare set of sheets, mailing labels, etc. But I also have some fun and oh-so-necessary ideas for entertaining. Plus, gifts are that much better when they aren’t something you would necessarily purchase yourself.

1. Mud Pie’s Salsa Spoon Set

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Because yes, tacos are always a good idea. My aunt got me and my sister a set of these adorable Mud Pie serving spoons. We love to get Mexican together when I am back in town visiting, so it was a fun and personal touch to have these for my own kitchen. Mud Pie has some adorable gifts, and you can find their seasonal products locally at Southern Rose.

2.  Personalized Barware


Well, I should warn you (in case you haven’t realized yet), I am a huge monogram girl, so when Ryan’s cousin had barware personalized for us, I was instantly in love. I unwrapped the gift to find a set of stemless wine glasses and a set of rocks glasses. It was a super sweet gift and perfect for us since I am a champagne girl and Ryan is a whiskey guy. But after we opened the boxes, we realized Jen had gone the extra mile and personalized them with an “R” etched on each of the wine glasses and an “R” and “Ruprecht” on each of the rocks glasses. So stinkin’ sweet! And they have by far been one of our most-used gifts (not sure what that says about us….)

3. Folding Chairs & Table

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I know, I know. I sound like your mom. But really, especially if you’re in an apartment or a small starter home, it’s nice to have the option of additional seating. Folding chairs might not be the cutest things, but they are completely practical and super important for hosting a house full of guests. Plus, you never know when an additional table will come in handy (garage sales, crafts, gift wrapping, etc.)

4. Kate Spade Food For Thought Placemats

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Very few of these designs go with my normal day-to-day kitchen decor, but I love having these animated placemats to pull out for special occasions. The “Eat Cake For Breakfast” mats are perfect for a brunch or friend’s birthday, and I somehow manage to keep the “Be Merry Be Bright” placemats out around the holidays, even though glitter and Ryan don’t get along very well. I tend to have the most luck finding Kate Spade houseware items at Dillard’s here in Columbia.

5. Liar’s Dice

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The possibilities are endless for registries! Think outside the box, especially if you already live with your future hubby. Games are a great addition and offer an affordable gift option as well. One game that our family has become particularly fond of is Liar’s Dice. It’s similar to the card game BS. It’s the perfect ice breaker for a party, and it gets even more fun when drinking and higher-stakes betting is involved!
Side note: Amazon offers wedding registries, which allows you to broaden your items a little bit more than sticking to department stores. 

6. A Drink Tub

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If you and your guests are outside enjoying the patio, it’s great to have a way to serve and chill your beverages without having to run inside to the fridge constantly. There’s tons of freestanding, table top and various metal drink caddies and tubs. I registered for a beautiful hammered metal tub like this one from Pottery Barn. True story: I had to leave the majority of my shower gifts from my Wisconsin shower at home with my mom until she drove down to visit me, but I was so excited about the drink caddy that i actually put it in my suitcase and packed my clothes inside and around it just so I could get it home to use it. Ultimate packing challenge accepted!

Born to Hand Jive Baby!

Each year the country club hosts a member appreciation party, and since Brenda, my fabulous co-worker, has come on board as the membership director, the party has gotten bigger and better every year. Between some of my ideas and her ability to execute, we took a lot of big ideas and made them a reality for this year’s party.

This year’s party was centered around the ’50s and ’60s and had lots of elements from the Grease movie, including Rydell High prom with a king and queen, a diner, a drive-in movie theater and snack shop.

The end result? A huge hit and some very happy members. Check it out!

dsc_0158Vintage cars flanked the front doors to set the tone right as guests entered the building.

dsc_0163We highly encouraged everyone to dress their part, and the staff definitely got into the fun with 100% participation! You just can’t have a gymnasium without bleachers, right? Thanks to Joe Herzog and his crew and Wilson’s Fitness, we were able to make the ballroom feel more like a gym.

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Although not good-for-you food, we featured traditional diner selections: sliders, hot dogs, fries, chili and root beer floats.

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We even crowned a king and queen after members nominated and cast votes for the winners!
dsc_0184Those streamers? Yes, they took forever to put up! God bless prom committees who hang much more than we did!

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Almost all the guests danced the night away, including rocking out to the infamous hand jive! All the spectacular lighting was thanks to that dancing fool on the left 🙂 Thanks to SW Productions for all your help creating a great ambiance for the space.

 

And we rolled in real motorcycles to have on display thanks to Mid America Harley-Davidson. It’s not everyday you see this happening at my job!

So the moral of this post is there is never an idea too big to accommodate as long as you have a great crew helping you and some creative ideas!