Special/Signature Issues » Bridal Style

Ode to Autumn

When selecting decorations for your event, take advantage of the season's natural beauty and set the scene with rich-colored mums, cheerful sunflowers, bright Gerbera daisies, regal hydrangea blooms and white, coral, peach and yellow roses. Add some interesting variety with pumpkins and gourds, straw and leaf accents, or pitch a huge tent under the stars, string up some festive lights, and hang some decorative lanterns from the trees. For your menu, select delicacies of the season such as a red beet puree or some creamy pumpkin soup. For heartier fare, consider serving traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as oven-roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and homemade pumpkin pie. As a finishing touch to your festive ode to autumn weddings, serve warm apple cider or fanciful cocktails, such as chocolate or green-apple martinis.

Menu Matters

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. Now that you've set the date and sent out your wedding invitations, it's time to start planning the menu for your reception. Nonsense, you might think. Your wedding is light years away and you've got more pressing matters on your mind such as what gown to wear and what to do with your hair.

While chicken breasts and ice sculptures might not seem as important at the moment, the truth is that the best caterers often book up quickly - sometimes as far as a year in advance. So, to ensure that you get the caterer of your choice, it really is the ideal time to start researching your catering options and make some menu decisions on the following details of your reception:

Your budget. First and foremost, be sure to establish a catering budget before making any plans. Use this budget as a guide when determining all of your catering needs. Caterers typically charge per head, so divide the number of your guests into your budgeted amount to keep expenses within your price range. Once you've selected a caterer, be sure to discuss with them any clever and creative ways they can help keep your expenses to a minimum.

The time of your reception. As the time of day typically dictates what type of food should be served, it's important that you decide as soon as possible when your reception will take place. Dinner is the most popular choice, with breakfast and brunch being two less expensive options. Lunch, tea, cocktails or dessert receptions are also affordable alternatives to a full-course meal.

Style and presentation. Based on some of the other factors of your wedding such as theme, fashion, and location, you need to decide how you'd like your food to be presented. Will it be a formal, staff-served sit down meal or a casual, self-serve buffet? Do you want your guests to mingle on the way to strategically placed food stations or enjoy the luxury of passed hors d'oeuvres? Courses to consider include appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, soup, fruit and cheese, salad, pasta, seafood, meat and non-vegetarian entrees, and desserts other than your wedding cake.

The type of food served. In keeping with the overall theme or style of your wedding, you may want to serve food that is seasonal, regional, or ethnic. In addition, it's good to keep your guests' religious needs and personal preferences in mind when making your selections. Regardless of what you serve, variety in taste, texture, temperature, appearance, and color is the key to keeping your food interesting and appealing.

Beverages. With the diverse needs and ages of your guests, it's best to offer several choices when it comes to drinks at your reception. Popular beverages to choose from include an open or cash bar, sparkling apple cider, beer, wine, water, lemonade, champagne, soft drinks and cocktails.

Location. Where your reception is held may affect the menu that you offer or the caterer that you use. Some hotels and banquet halls require the use of their in-house catering or kitchen services, while others with more remote locations may have limited cooking or refrigeration facilities.

Once you've given your menu some thought, it's time to start contacting caterers. If you don't already have one in mind, consider getting referrals from trusted family and friends, especially those who have married recently or entertain on a regular basis. See if your favorite restaurant offers catering services or if your trusted hair stylist, florist or photographer has recommendations. Once you've identified a few caterers who interest you, schedule an appointment to meet with them to brainstorm on the menu and to learn more about their prices and what they include. Try to schedule tastings as part of these interviews. Be sure to get referrals from them and then follow up - not only with the caterers' former clients, but with screening agencies such as a Better Business Bureau or a local chapter of catering professionals.

Finally, to ensure that both you and your caterer have a complete understanding of the services to be provided, be sure to put everything in a written contract that is signed and dated by the two of you.

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