Planning the Reception on Your Own
When planning your destination reception without the help or muscle of a professional wedding resort at your disposal, you will run into the same kinds of issues that the average bride planning a wedding in her hometown would deal with — times about 10.
Planning a great reception takes a lot of effort: It takes up your time, it can wear you down emotionally, and it could end up costing a fortune. The idea here is to circumnavigate the negative possibilities and try to remain calm, cool, and steady from beginning to end. (Reread this after your wedding for a good laugh.)
The Great Reception Hall Search
When you don't live in the town where you're getting married, how do you even begin to look for a reception site? Most brides and grooms have this part taken care of from the very beginning — the reason they've chosen an out-of-town spot is
But even then, if you've chosen a historical site, or an outdoor venue, or any other place without a functioning kitchen and a chef on staff, you're going to have to find a caterer to feed your hungry wedding guests. It might be tempting — and easy — to do an Internet search to find someone (anyone) in the area who might be able to do the job for you, but don't jump the gun.
Start by talking with your reception site coordinator (or whomever is handling your wedding); ask her which caterer she would recommend. If you're still in the early stages of planning, you may be surprised to learn that you have no choice in the matter, as some places are contractually obligated to use a particular caterer (for reasons that are varied and too numerous to get into here).
However, if you're left with wide-open possibilities, your site coordinator will no doubt be able to give you some advice on which caterer is best for elegant affairs, which caterer does a mean barbecue, and which caterer serves up killer appetizers. She'll also be able to tell you who's reputable in the area and who isn't.
Cutting Down the Caterer List
If you're choosing among three caterers, make things easy on yourself and first decide which type of food you want to serve at your reception. Uncle Joe's Roasters might be (locally) famous for their fried chicken and potato salad, but if you want to set up stations, it's a good bet that Joe isn't your man.
It may sound as though this would be an obvious decision, but you may be overlooking one thing: Do you know what your fiancé wants to serve the guests at your reception? What he has in mind may be completely different from what you're thinking, and the two of you may need to come to a happy compromise.
A big consideration when you're looking for a caterer is price. Reception costs can spiral out of control quickly, so if you're on a limited budget and the cheapest item on a caterer's menu is an $18 bowl of soup, keep on looking.
Once you find someone who meets your every need, you'll sign a contract, which will include:
The guest count
Food to be served
Setup and break-down times
Number of servers (and what they're expected to wear)
Beverages, including the bar (something we'll discuss later)
Rental fees: tent, chairs, tables, linens, tableware, glasses, chafing dishes, centerpieces, candlesticks, and so on.
The good news is that a well-equipped caterer can pretty much take care of everything for you, from setting up the tent to cleaning up after your guests. In the end, hiring a caterer can end up being more expensive than going with a reception site with its own kitchen, so again, if cost is your main concern, you may want to look into other options before committing to this type of reception.