Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wedding at the River Bend Resort

Like many weddings this summer, bees were the theme here - "Meant to Bee" specifically. Table centerpieces included honey comb candles, personalized honey jars and yellow tulips and white, black and yellow color scheme visuals everywhere.

The brides family was a treat and the mother-of-the-bride a personal friend. The bride being the youngest in the family (and the last to marry), this was quite the affair to remember. The menu included one of our famous "Cascading Fruit Display" complete with chocolate fondue in addition to a traditional buffet complete with a served Caesar salad and bread baskets with a bistro dipping oil. It is always a wonderful touch to serve a portion of the meal (if not all of it). It spaces the meal out and prevents a back log at the buffet line. People don't eat at the same rate, so serving the salad automatically spreads out the flow at the buffet.

River Bend Resort is one of the up-and-coming wedding venues in our area. Located in Harrisburg along the river, they specialize in RV stay overs. They have a small hotel, but the RV slots far out number the rooms there. Located near the large RV manufactures of Junction City, their goal was to be the main stop over for those needing repairs. They have included in their riverfront resort a full service restaurant (but no catering services) and two large but connectible reception halls. They have a beautiful facility and, while we were the first caterer to use it, they were well equipped to handle us.

Check out their website at


Something to think about when planning the catering for your wedding or event, is "what facilities does the venue have?" Often times, as in the case of the River Bend Resort, the facility has no kitchen facilities - no ovens, no sinks, no running water and no stove tops. This may limit your choice of caterers if they are not equipped to cook on site or not sufficiently close to the venue to transport already cooked food without it being overcooked. There are certain entrees to be leery of and ask a lot of questions if you are considering these.

For instance, never transport a pasta dish. Pasta is something that should be cooked on site or not at all. Noodles don't hold up well and quickly turn to mush in any kind of liquid or heat. Beef entrees are another item to be careful of. Be sure to request that the beef entree be served in the medium / medium rare range. Either a caterer will be equipped to grill beef on site or they will account for under cooking the meat for the proper temperature. Well-done or overcooked entrees are the earmark of a stale fundraiser and should never be a part of a bride's special day.

One more thing to note - There is a reason chicken is the dish of choice for large events (fundraisers not with standing). Not only is it one of the more cost effective dishes for budgeting reasons, it holds up well under even the most extreme conditions. As long as steps are taken to assure the chicken stays moist, it can hold longer than any entree I have ever seen.

If you have a specific caterer in mind and are not set on a menu, ask your caterer's advise on menus that transport well or could be prepare on site. He or she will know from experience what works well and more often than not, they'll have an entree they specialize in.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wedding at the Blue Rooster B and B

This summer we had the opportunity to cater a wedding at a new venue site for us - The Blue Rooster B and B in Lorane. The B and B is maintained and run by Nancy and sees quite a bit of traffic from King Estate which is just down the road. As one of the few B and Bs in the area, Nancy has quite the monopoly on wine tourists along Territorial HWY.

The grounds were gorgeous! Manicured lawns and flower beds. A large pond and backed by acres of trees with a view down the valley. A huge old barn with re-finish floors for events and several live birds nesting in the rafter. With her unique setting and low prices, Nancy always books out with weddings between Labor Day and Memorial Day and is, in fact, already booking into next year. With this venue site, the bride and groom are responsible for renting and bringing in EVERYTHING needed for their event. A nice thing Nancy does for the wedding party is rent the facility by the weekend not by the day. This cuts out the need for the wedding party to break everything down the night of the wedding or to be rushing around like crazy the day of setting up. Much less stressful.

Like all couples, this bride and groom were working within a very specific budget. Our initial consultation revolved around the different pieces of the reception and what I should / could do as the caterer and what they might look into doing themselves to save money. First up was the bar.

Alcohol is a huge expense for any event. This bride and groom decided they would be better served to hire an individual with an alcohol permit (as the site requires) and purchase the kinds and amounts of beverages they wanted themselves rather than doing it through the caterer (me!). There are pros and cons to doing this. The biggest plus is the potential money they saved by buying the alcohol themselves as they may know someone and get a good deal. With open bars, caterers charge by consumption and this charge is added to the final total on top of which gratuity is figured so they also saved a little there as well. In the end, I don't know how much money they actually saved paying a bartender separately and buying the alcohol themselves.

They chose to handle the rentals of china, tables, chairs, and linen themselves as well rather than go through me. Again, the only cost they saved here was the additional gratuity that would have been generated from a higher final total due to rental fees. If they picked up and returned all of the rental equipment themselves, they could have saved quite a bit of money as rental companies charge an arm and a leg for deliveries. It was a lot of work for members of the family and the wedding party to do on the wedding weekend though. By taking care of the rentals themselves, they also took responsibility of clean up and set up of all rental equipment. Not so, if the caterer handles the rentals.

We were able to put together a very attractive menu that stayed away from BBQ at the bride's request. To save money, we split the entree down the middle doing Smoked Tri Tip for 100 and Roasted Garlic Chicken for 100 rather than enough of each for all 200. In this case, it worked
quite well, but then again, we always bring extra! We also prepared several appetizer trays at the Mother of Bride's request which were served just after the ceremony while pictures were being taken. It was a beautiful display, but not quite enough for everyone. The bride and groom took care of the non alcoholic beverages themselves as well, so the meal was quite literally all we handled for this event.


We did our best to clear tables and pick up glasses before we left but, with the family handling the rentals, we didn't stay long after dinner. This was the first wedding I had done where the bride, groom, and assorted family took so much of the work onto themselves. I am a money saver too, so initially, this made sense to me. Now, I am not so sure. Here's a few things to consider when you or someone you love is thinking to save money by 'doing it themselves.'

This is the big one and the one couples and families often deem an acceptable sacrifice in order to save money. Weigh it carefully! Should the Mother and Father of the Bride be shopping for foods, beverages, utensils as well as decorations right up until the day of the wedding or even cooking for the event in their own kitchens. And what about set up and clean up? The wedding party and family should be able enjoy their time at the reception, not jump right into tearing everything down and hauling everything away once the final guest takes off.

I think buying food / alcohol yourself gives the impression you're saving money when really not. The costs are just not going to show up all nice and neat on a catering estimate. Same goes for rentals. All couples save themselves is a little bit of extra gratuity from the rental fees by not going through a caterer for rentals. But they are costing themselves a lot of time and effort in set up, clean up and tear down of said rentals. All I do as the event planner when handling rentals is pass on the exact fees the rental company will charge me.

This isn't one most people think of. Quality is in the details. In general, professionals do a better job than amateurs. Having a professional catering company in charge of the reception from set up and food and beverage service to clean up and tear down will ensure a top notch experience for all of your guests. Thing also won't fall through the cracks like they do when volunteer friends of the family are in charge. For instance, the coffee will get made, the punch bowl refilled, the bar glasses collected in glass racks, trashes emptied, cake passed, and the cake plates and forks in place for the cake cutting. Details really, but these are all details the Mother of the Bride or event the BRIDE doesn't / shouldn't have to be thinking about on the day of the wedding. If you can't delegate a non family member to do these, I think you need to hire someone (like your caterer) to do it for you. Just a few thoughts!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Valentine Wedding

Valentine's Day. The lover's holiday. A day for couples. And a very busy night!

Valentine's Day is one of the biggest nights of the year for a restaurant. I know that it is often our biggest grossing night of the year with small tables of two going all out with appetizers and desserts. This year, this very busy night was proceeded by our first ever wedding! We've hosted several wedding receptions in the past year, including my own. And while there may have been people married at the ODB in the past, this was the first wedding WE have ever hosted. Once I receive the pictures from the bride and groom, I will post those as well.

It was a small wedding of about 40 that fit perfectly in our banquet room for the ceremony. We put the buffet in the hallway (where the gift shop was up until the night before) and had the banquet room set with rows of chairs for the ceremony. The family did a beautiful job decorating with simply bouquets and candles. A lovely touch I notice was a white carpet (like red carpet) for the bride to walk down the isle on. After the ceremony, the bride and groom went outside for pictures followed by the rest of the guests so we could set up tables where the ceremony had just finished. We had lots of help from the family. It was definitely not the smoothest transition, but the timing worked out well with picture taking. And it was what the bride wanted. There was even a little space left for a dance floor near the DJ. It was a lovely, intimate wedding. The only thing we were unprepared for was a cash bar, but we worked it out without the wedding guests being the wiser. More later!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why a Wedding Co-ordinator

Why a Coordinator

This is a question every bride and groom must ask themselves. When it comes down to the practicality of budgeting for a wedding, a professional wedding planner may seem like it is not an option for many of us. Here are a few considerations to take into account.

Vendor Referrals

I have worked with many professionals in the area of events. I know who has the best prices, who has the best quality and who can get exactly what you're looking for. Take the guessing game out of the picture with a vendor I recommend. I guarantee I have worked with them and have been impressed by their product.

Budget Development and Management

I have worked with every conceivable budget under the sun. Whether your budget is large or small, I can offer advice on vendors and make sure you get the most out of your money. Don't let money can be an additional stress on relationships. Together we can decide what aspects of the big day are the most important and go from there.

Contact Person

I will be the contact person for all vendors. I will solicit estimates and set up tastings or site inspections. Vendors will come to me with questions and problems that arise on the day of and prior to your event. I will coordinate the timing of all vendors from rental deliveries and catering staff to signaling the DJ and minister. This is the one most important service that ensures you can enjoy your day. Let me be the problem solver not you.

Details, Time, and Energy

"How hard can it be," you may say to yourself - a thought you'll look back and laugh once you're in the thick of flower colors and invitations and catering bids. The biggest mistake I see brides make is to try to do everything themselves. Unless you are one of those people who love details, planning an event the magnitude of your wedding (even a very small wedding) will drag the life out of you. Even those of us who excel at organization and taking care of details, will lose sight of the bigger picture - GETTING MARRIED! Time is precious and getting lost in the details of your event should not take away from your special day. Weigh the costs of time and energy - both yours and your family's - against the cost of a wedding planner. Too many times have I heard a mother-of-the-bride say in exasperation, "I wish we'd hired a wedding planner!" I know the ins and outs of weddings. Let me take of the details and you just relax and enjoy the day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Economic Options

Weddings can definitely be expensive events. While money should not be what its all about, it can feel like money (or the lack there of) is the determining factor in many of your decisions. Below are the result of an email conversation I had with a good college friend who had recently gotten engaged. She was frustrated with even finding a PLACE to get married. If you're thinking venue and catering or not right now, this post is for you!

Weddings cost a bundle no matter how you look at it. Either you pay someone to do it (cook, clean, decorate, etc. . .) or you pay for it with time and energy and do it yourself with the help (hopefully) of friends and family. Having been a caterer for years, I would not recommend using one if cost is an issue. Often food/catering costs will be in addition to facility rental and equipment rental fees. Very spendy and you pay gratuity on top of food costs. That being said, food preparation and service isn't necessarily the thing you want vital family or bridal party members tied up doing the day of your wedding. It's incredibly time consuming and takes longer the less experience your helpers have. The way I see it, there are two cost effective options for food /venue:

1) Have friends and family doing food UP UNTIL the day of the event and then spend a little extra on a few staff people to actually put the food out, stock the buffet, and clean up. Still a huge drain of time with shopping and prep plus requires someone to direct the staff the day of.

2) Or my favorite - utilize a facility that has everything on site already such as a restaurant. Too often, wedding venues cost a fortune and include little beyond the use of the site. With our restaurant, what I do most often for brides, is offer them a wedding venue where they can have the ceremony and the reception (cut out a site rental fee right there) that also includes most of the basic equipment rentals. Restaurants obviously already have tables, chairs and china. Rentals would be limited to arches and possibly ceremony chairs if desired. Restaurants may have a fee for renting out part of their space, but more often than not, they are just looking to
make money off of the food and alcohol. What I do at my place is what's called a 'Food and Beverage Minimum.' Meaning if the cost of food and beverage for the event meets the minimum set for the day and time scheduled (obviously a weekend has a higher minimum than a weekday) then there is NO FACILITY RENTAL FEE! I am sure there are places in Portland who do this.

Other cost cutting options to think about
- Time your wedding so it doesn't center around a meal time. Mid afternoon weddings are too early for dinner and too late for lunch. You could get away with lighter food. Late weddings (after 7) could get away with just doing desserts for their guests. You just notate it in the invitation: "A dessert buffet will be served following the ceremony at _____."
- Don't include alcohol service. Instead, have a cash bar where people can pay for their own alcoholic beverages. Bar costs add up faster than any other if not controlled. It is perfectly acceptable to ask people to pay for their own liquor these days. Again, just notate it on the invitation so your guests are prepared with money. If you want to provide something, do
drink tickets that way consumption isn't

Hope this helps a little!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spetember Wedding at the ODB

As some of you may have noticed, that on September 13th, we closed the restaurant for a private event. A young couple from our area got married at a local church and booked the ODB for their reception! Aside from the 3 Perkins weddings last year (3 of us daughters got married within 6 months of each other), this was our first large, in-house wedding reception.

It was a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon with a light breezy. Not too hot and not too chilly. Perfect for the outdoor seating necessary for a group the size of about 150. We could have easily sat 50 more for an even 200 guest event utilizing our backyard and front patio. I look forward to doing more of these next summer.

Foodwise, this is a much easier event for us than would be a catering at another location of the same size. All work aside, the catering aspect of the ODB is where we'd like to grow. However, it became apparent to us that we really need to promote weddings here at the restaurant. When an event is in-house, you have all your tools right there at hand and everyone knows where they are. Unlike a catering, where you have to pack, load, unload, find, repack and put away ALL of your equipment every time. (That's why you have professionals.) We also had a level of familiarity with the location (our restaurant) that is not even possible with off-site events. We were able to utilize our regular staff rather than calling on part time caterers because we did not have to staff the restaurant AND an off-site catering. All in all, it was an incredibly successful event at every level.

The happy couple chose to go with a light brunch buffet for their meal option. The menu included Quiche, Crepes, our Cinnamon French Toast, Roasted Red Potatoes, fresh Fruit Display, an assortment of fresh Pastries and delicious salads. We also provided a mimosa bar which was the hit of the day. We learned the hard way where not to put the receiving line - next to the buffet! The key to handling a large volume of people is handling the traffic flow of said people.

The restaurant was beautiful for the big day. The bride's colors were white, pale green and gold. White linen was everywhere. Each table was decorated with an elaborate centerpiece consisting of a tall candle surrounded by green fruits and vegetables on a gold plate and topped with gold ribbon. It literally took 3-5 of their people 3 hours to get them all done! The cake was a unique creation made by the mother-of-the-bride. It consisted of 3 simple round cakes tiered atop vases and covered with spun sugar. Beautiful!