We met other fantastic wedding industry vendors including our new go-to for Vermont floral design, Alan and Wayne from Wildflower Designs and a new planning partner, Amy and Eric from Storied Events. Great people.
Picture courtesy Closed Circle Photo
Of course, we toured the property's fantastic venues for weddings and are very comfortable putting our trust in them with our clients. They even have a venue built into a cliff, the Cliff House, which requires that guests approach via gondola - no cars! Amazing!
Cocktail party style weddings are very trendy right now, particularly with couples who want to do something nontraditional. While sit down dinners are great, they are not for everyone. This style of wedding can work extremely well - or it can be a disaster. Keep these tips on mind to avoid the pitfalls of such a wedding.
1. Feed your guests - a lot. Just because it's a cocktail party style event doesn't mean you can skimp on food. Whether you have passed hors d'oeuvres all night or some good stations mixed in, keep the food flowing. Your food budget will probably not be less than a typical sit down dinner, so get that idea out of your head! Your guests may be drinking more of the hard stuff since there's no tableside wine service with dinner so you have to keep them well fed. The last thing you want is guests bad-mouthing you because they had to go out for pizza on the way home from the wedding.
2. Provide enough seating. I suggest seats for at least 50% of your guests. These seats can be lounge seats, small cocktail tables, bar seating, picnic benches or whatever floats your boat - but at some point each guest will want to sit so don't leave them hunting for a chair. If you have many guests over the age of 60, then provide even more seating.
3. Provide adequate flow. Just because it's a cocktail party doesn't mean there shouldn't be a first dance, toasts, a cake cutting or other forms of entertainment. You may have some wallflowers in your group who need conversation starters and those elements do just that. Don't let anyone get bored or the party will end early. I promise.
4. Be aware of time. Most wedding venues rent for a 5 hour reception. Your guests will start to lose steam at the 3-4 hour mark unless there is dancing - but many cocktail party style weddings don't have dancing. Don't tell the guests this, but plan for a 4 hour reception and make a game day decision to keep the party going if guests are still having a blast. Tell your vendors that this could be a last minute decision and assign your wedding planner or friend to make the call so you don't have to worry about a thing.
5. Communicate with your guests. Let them know it's a cocktail party rather than a sit down dinner by using the term 'cocktail reception' on your wedding invitation. This sends a signal that they may get less food and that they may want to wear more sensible shoes because of all the standing around. Help everybody by managing their expectations.
Are you planning to host a cocktail reception instead a formal dinner?
(photo by Katje Hempel)
I'm normally one to say something like "screw the rules and reinvent the wedding" and we do - every day with the gay weddings we produce. But anyone who knows me knows my obsession with wedding ceremonies and the wedding flow, so I really do believe a great wedding should follow some simple rules because, no matter how beautiful your 20 foot bar is, it makes no difference to your guests if they are waiting in line 20 minutes for a cocktail.
My rules for planning a fabulous gay wedding:
1. Care about the ceremony and put some thought into it. After all, if you really think about it, gay weddings change the world and it all starts with the celebration of marriage.
2. Think about the guests' experience. How do they know where to go, where to park, where to walk? What is the first thing they see, hear, touch, taste, smell and experience when they enter the space? How do they feel welcome and accommodated?
3. Hire enough bartenders and order enough food. Cocktail hour is the busiest time of a wedding. If you don't have enough bartenders, your guests will get annoyed. If you are afraid that there will be a huge line at the bar, then have servers passing some drinks to guests. Order enough food so that the guests aren't waiting for food to come out of the kitchen and the hors d'oeuvres don't run out before cocktail hour is over. Don't skimp!
4. Make your wedding interactive and provide conversation starters, particularly if you pass on wedding traditions. Don't just have dinner and dancing but add enough elements so your guests aren't bored.
5. Be Yourselves. These rules can be interpreted and personalized any way you want - it's your wedding and your expression of your relationship and now, marriage. It's not your mom's or sister's gay wedding. Follow your heart and your instinct and put your own stamp on the experience.
Do you think these rules are too strict? What rules are you following for your own wedding day?
(one of the happy couples that followed my rules - photo by Closed Circle Photography)
Remember - these are an area where you can personalize the guest experience. Don't feel limited by the venue's wine list. Don't be afraid to ask for something off-list and find out what the fee is to bring something special in.
If you are lucky enough to bring your own bar to the wedding, the sky is the limit! Consider a wine, beer or signature cocktail that goes along with your wedding theme. Our July 3 wedding included a Liberty School Cabernet, for example.
I encourage my clients to try wines and experiment with signature cocktails at home. It's fun and good engaged-couple-bonding. We had a small signature cocktail tasting party during our wedding planning and it was a blast.
What signature cocktail will you be serving at your gay wedding?
- There is usually no room rental fee.
- There is often a great chef with delicious, locally grown and seasonal food.
- Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes and styles - they're not generally a "blank canvas" so if you like their decor, you can save money on wedding design.
- The bar tab is on consumption so the party can theoretically go all night (or til the restaurant closes) so the wedding doesn't have to feel rushed.
- There is often no good place to have the ceremony onsite.
- Many private dining room coordinators aren't experienced with weddings so there may be a learning curve.
- There is often no dedicated outside area if you require one.
- Many private dining rooms don't have windows.
- Most private dining rooms have a maximum capacity of around 50-60 guests so you may be limited in choices unless you would consider a full restaurant buyout (in which the restaurant closes for your party).
Warning: this post is going to make you hungry.
Recently I've had an increasing number of clients, gay and straight, opt for a wedding dessert other than wedding cake. Now, this is not to say that wedding cakes have gone the way of the dinosaur - far from it - but about 1/3 of my clients are mixing it up a bit.
With cupcakes (the obvious substitute)...
Or strawberry shortcake...
Or miscellaneous cakes from their favorite bakeries:
Photos by, top to bottom, Michael Manning, unknown, Closed Circle Photo and Derek Goodwin.
What's your favorite wedding dessert? And are you planning a cake/pie/cupcake cutting ritual?
One of the tricks about this is that sometimes wedding menus aren't set until right before the wedding day - in order to truly work with what is local and available that week. I worked with two wonderful guys from Manhattan who chose one of Boston's top restaurants for their wedding. But because the menu was seasonally changing and they weren't able to make a final trip, they sent me in the Tuesday prior to choose between their possible entrees. Yum!
The great thing about seasonal dishes is that they put everyone in a good mood. Right now strawberries are everywhere and who doesn't love a ripe and juicy strawberry - nothing quite says summer like it. And I think there's something sexy and mildly suspenseful by seeing a wedding menu that simply says "seasonal vegetables."
Some of the local sources for seasonable veggies include Northeast Family Farms and Verrill Farm. Verrill Farm has this great chart which tells you what's in season when. But any great chef - be it at a restaurant, caterer or function facility - will know exactly where to source their produce and create a sexy seasonable menu for you and your guests.
I am grateful to have clients who care about this stuff and have chosen some of the following amazing-sounding dishes from menus this wedding season: Chef's choice grilled seasonable vegetables drizzled with balsamic reduction; asparagus and leek soup; warm butter poached shrimp with curry, asparagus and almonds; green garlic lentil salad with pea tendrils and basil pistou; spring vegetable bouquet; peach and raspberry pie; sour cream crumb cake with fresh berries, raspberry vinegar gastrique and vanilla bean frozen yogurt.
What's your favorite seasonal dish? Is there a great restaurant you think I should try for fresh, seasonal food?
That's what one of my grooms said on Saturday during his toast to his friends and family. These guys were from LA, and given the recent court ruling upholding Proposition 8, I think they must have been psychic to plan a wedding in Boston.
We had a lot of fun together. I was first called on a Saturday about two months ago, and at the time they didn't even realize that I specialized in gay weddings. They already had a room block for their guests at the fabulous Intercontinental Hotel (many of my clients stay there), but needed help with everything else.
The first time we met was when they were in Boston on a three hour flight layover to apply for their marriage license. I met them at Cambridge City Hall, and helped them apply, then zipped them over to visit Old South and First Church in the Back Bay, then zipped them down to check out Radius Restaurant, my suggestion for their reception space. We dashed in and out of these places before I dropped them at the airport terminal and returned their rental car. A madcap three hours, but they loved the carefully selected options and did settle on Old South and Radius.
At this wedding, Jen did the flowers - all white and ivory at the ceremony - very classic, and ivory mixed with red and burgundy at the reception. She did a really spectacular job and her altar arrangements were particularly stunning and really fit the space well.
Saturday was great! The weather was perfect and things went very well. Their 35 guests were transported via trolley from the hotel to the church and then from the church to Radius. The grooms arrived via limo and stayed behind at the church for formals. They were pleasantly surprised by the support from strangers on the streets of Boston (we really are a friendly city, despite rumors to the contrary).
Radius, as always, was flawless. The guests enjoyed a four course food and wine pairing, plus wedding cake. There was a live jazz with an amazing female vocalist, a caricature artist, and a lesbian tango performance! One of my favorite parts was when the grooms made their Grand Entrance to the jazz band performing "I'm Coming Out" which they learned for my grooms. Thanks, Harry! I also loved Patrice's rendition of the Beyonce version of "Ave Maria" - amazing!
All in all a very classy wedding, and the grooms and their guests were thrilled. They have such an amazing support system and themselves are tremendous guys I was fortunate to work with. Together 25 years, they met on a street corner in Dallas as young students and it was love at first sight. Such stories of love are what makes my career a blessing.
Photos to come as soon as I have them!
I seem to be seeing succulents everywhere lately, even when we had lunch at a sandwich shop over the weekend. And I love them. One of my favorite Boston-area floral designers, Sarah from Spruce, often uses them when my clients are looking for a modern look. And I recommended them to a day of coordination client whose reception is in a funky space.
From Wikipedia: Succulent plants, also known as succulents or fat plants, are water-retaining plants adapted to arid climate or soil conditions. Succulent plants store water in their leaves, stems and/or roots. The storage of water often gives succulent plants a more swollen or fleshy appearance than other plants, also known as succulence.
Without further ado, some succulent love!
We had a signature cocktail tasting party last month and invited a few friends over to help us choose the perfect cocktail to serve our guests. We weren't sure what theme to work with - the Irish theme or the color scheme (one of our colors is navy). We ended up making and serving a bunch of god-awful tasting drinks, including some with curacao and coconut rum! Never again! But it was a great excuse for a mini party...
We settled on the Wild Irish Rose, and tried several iterations of our own creation...try it out for yourself - you'll never taste the Jameson's.
In a cocktail shaker, combine the following over ice:
1/2 oz grenadine
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake and serve straight up in a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim. Delicious and pretty in pink - though that's the only pink you'll see at our wedding.
I am sometimes a bit ridiculous, so as our cocktail hour begins and these drinks are passed to our guests, the Irish band is going to perform My Wild Irish Rose. Very likely no one will get the reference but Jen and I, but no matter.
So, what's your signature cocktail? I'm always looking to try new cocktail recipes, especially on our deck in the summer.
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