Plan Your Wedding Reception Menu with Less Stress

Planning a wedding reception is second only to the main event, but no less important for newlyweds and their guests. Larry Roberts, co-owner of Sugar and Spice Catering in Parkville, and Erin Dolan, Trezo Mare’s Events and Promotions manager, offer practical notes on how to plan the reception and menu with minimal stress.

Have Your Cake

“When selecting a cake decorator or caterer, look at reviews,” says Roberts. “Ask friends who they used.”

Ask questions about details and lock in pricing.

“Make sure you know what's included. Insist on a tasting,” adds Roberts. “The wedding catering business is famous for advertising one price only to ask clients to pay 50 to 60-percent more once you’ve gone for a consultation.”  

Plan Ahead

“We book weddings and rehearsal dinners one year out, but I recommend that the bride and groom to-be secure their location as soon as possible,” Dolan advises. “Many spaces are reserved quickly, especially May through July.”

Dolan begins the planning process 90 days before the set date.

 “We discuss table set-up, conduct a food tasting and answer client questions,” Dolan says.

Sugar and Spice books up to 18 months ahead, but has catered large receptions with as little as a few days notice.

“This is usually when a caterer or cake decorator defaults,” says Roberts. “I recommend planning eight to nine months out, so you have the venue and services that you want as opposed to what’s available.”

Table Talk

Figure out the budget and preferred meal service – buffet, plated meal, passed appetizers only – in advance. This preparation guides catering discussions with prospective vendors. Ask for options and a detailed list of provided services within budget.

Sugar and Spice’s full-service buffet prices range from $13.50 to $16.50 per person, plus a 17.5 percent gratuity and tax. A typical meal includes a selection of two entrees with sides and non-alcoholic beverages.

“At that price point, the food would be served on clear hard plastic plates with Reflections silverware,” says Roberts. “All serving pieces and staff would be included.”

Appetizer options vary. A basic vegetable tray for $48.50 feeds up to 50 people.

“We do passed appetizers for $40 per hour per server, plus the appetizer cost,” he says. “For instance, stuffed mushrooms would be $1.95 per person, plus the cost of the passer. We have a large selection at all price points.”

Trezo Mare’s offers two buffet options at $30 and $37 per person, but can adapt to a client’s budget. The restaurant’s three-course plated dinner starts at $35 per person, and a four-course dinner runs $40 per person. This menu includes non-alcoholic beverages and bread service.

Parties over 20 require a set menu. Clients pre-select the proper quantities per course. Dolan then works with the couple to create a personalized printed menu. The menu lists pre-selected course options that guests will choose from that evening for dinner. Parties under 20 at Trezo Mare may order from the normal dinner menu.

Trezo Mare also offers a cost-effective Receptions/Catering appetizer-only menu.

Raise a Glass

Roberts recommends buying from Gomers in Parkville for a less-expensive approach to providing alcohol.

“Gomer’s is the expert. They deliver and take returns on what’s not used,” says Roberts. “That way, the bride isn't paying a middleman. I provide bartenders at $28 per hour.”

Wine is a smart choice that sidesteps the expense of spirits served at an open bar.

“For large groups, I recommend our house cabernet and chardonnay. Both are Coastal Vineyards from California, and nice middle of the road wines to appease large groups,” says Dolan. “They are also very cost-effective at $21 per bottle. We only charge for those that are opened, and only open them as needed.”

Preparation is essential to planning a successful wedding reception with minimal stress, no matter the budget. Develop a checklist to review, if not working with a wedding planner, and be proactive.

“The main tip I would give to a bride and groom to-be is to personally visit the venue,” says Dolan. “Ask questions to ensure that all expectations can be fulfilled. This is a big day for a couple. We want to ensure that it is perfect from start to finish.”