Whoever thought that wedding catering was all hearts and flowers was wrong! Wedding catering is stressful, frenetic, pressurised, BUT…… immensely rewarding. There isn’t a single wedding that I have catered that I haven’t looked at the bride when she arrived and shed a little tear of joy, the pleasure in knowing that 18 months of meetings, menu changes, budget negotiations, changes in numbers, the increased number of dietary requirements discussed has come to fruition and we, Bites to Banquets Wedding & Event Catering are going to be a part of something really special, and help to make someone’s day a magical one! And the best bit about it for us? We are a small unit, one Chef, one ‘me’ and as many staff as is required, so it is a personal touch from start to finish, just how we like it to be. With the wedding season upon us, wedding bookings for the next 2 years are filling up already and the preparations are already in full swing.
18 months earlier – The enquiry comes in often there is a list of what the ideal menu would be, this invariably changes, oer a period of months, as do the numbers. So, with the venue booked, the date set, the menus are sent off, and the discussions start. 18 months worth of meetings and liaisons begin. check out the venue, the facilities, are they adequate for the menu and service which is being decided on? Can we put them in touch with Our Partners Do they want co-ordinating linen, will the bridal colours change? How many children will be present, is the menu suitable for children, if not, did they want a specific childrens’ menu and are there specific dietary needs we should be aware of. Then of course there are the timings, how do they want it served, other service suppliers we need to consider….. so much to discuss, arrange and agree and then.. with all that sorted…
Approximately One Week to go! – All the sundries, such as glasses, linen, outside bar, has all been ordered, booked and organised and is starting to arrive at the unit ready for transporting for the day. All food product, meat, vegetables, desserts and product to produce the menu is ordered to arrive the day before the wedding ready to start ‘prep’ Any prep that can be done safely and without compromise is done and checklists are starting to get smaller. We don’t simply pitch up on the day and cook… Ready Steady Cook it is not …hahaha.
Two days to go! – Canapes need to be made and chilled down ready to be finished off on the day, Mini Profiteroles are made ready to be filled with Duck and Orange Pate, Mini Yorkshire Puds are made ready to be filled with Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream, toppings and fillings need to be made for other Canapes and chilled ready to assemble. No need to worry though only 4-5 canapes each, for 100 people EASY!!!! Not forgetting all the other prep that is required before the actual day. It is vital that as much prep as you can do, is done, you can never anticipate how workable the kitchen/kitchen tent is going to be despite having seen the venue several times over the last 18 months!!, it is not your kitchen!! We once designed a menu around photographs of a kitchen and the assurance that there actually was one…. only to discover a month before hand when everything was arranged, agreed etc, that there was a wash basin, an wall water heater – remember the old ‘geysers’ yep.. one of those, and a worktop. So we took everything, fridges, freezers, tables, and you know what…… we did it, we pulled it off with style and it was a brilliant day!
One day to go! – So… having spent the day before doing as much prep as you can, it’s time to get as much as you can to the venue, so everything you need is waiting for you when you arrive at the crack of dawn the next day. This can give you an extra half hour in bed and when you are about to face an 18 hour day or more, believe me it helps! This will be a single trip you would think… WRONG! No matter how many weddings we cater, we always end up making several trips. We either forget something, despite having several lists, or the parents/bride/groom ask if we have a certain thing that they hadn’t thought about and we hadn’t asked about, usually a cake knife – thankfully we have a beautiful Silver cake knife and slice which we keep to hand, a bit of White Organza ribbon in a bow on it and ‘bobs your uncle’!!
Wedding day arrives! – So… whether the venue, is a country estate, a manor house, a marquee in a stunning setting, a beautiful barn in the Derbyshire countryside (remember the wash hand basin and geyser) or a stunning town hall, we have catered them all, the day remains the same. I always say guests remember how the Bride looks first and then the food so, to ensure we give the Bride and Groom and all their friends a Wedding Breakfast to remember we need to make sure it is ‘spot on’ and so we start ..
6am – Up, showered, dressed and off to the unit
7am – At the unit – Check off the list EVERYTHING required, that hasn’t already been delivered, and check it into the van. Food, equipment, cleaning products (we always make sure any catering area is left spotless!) make sure we have got some extra veggie meals, some plainer meals, and a carton of home made soup!, there are always going to be some people who can’t/won’t eat what is provided and have not let the bride and groom know, we like to be ready for any eventuality.!
8am – Van loaded – check and double check and a quick coffee whilst we do it!
8.30am – Set off to venue
9.30am – Arrive and Venue – Start unloading the van, it’s at this point that the bride’s parents usually decide to tell us something has changed, uncle Fred has told them he can’t eat a certain thing, (thank god for the spare meals!) The caretaker who knows how the ‘gas system’ works isn’t available so we need to work it out ourselves! – thank god we’ve see a few of these! The generator to power the electric in the marquee catering tent doesn’t have enough sockets.. or the florist has arrived early and needs to start putting the flowers on the tables … NOW.. as she didn’t realise she had so little time!, so whilst I leave hubby to the kitchen, I make a start on covering the tables, laying them up, placing all favours, name places, all the while working around someone who hadn’t given herself enough time to do her job!!
12.30pm – Mis en Place Done! – Tables are laid, glasses, favours, decorations are placed – Time to set the arrival drinks table out and make sure all arrival drinks are chilled, Canapes are looking inviting and we are almost ready for “The Girls”. We have an excellent bank of staff, and are regularly complimented on the service we provide, always remember, good staff are hard to find so make sure you treat them well!!!
1.30pm – a Quick sweep round before “The Girls” arrive, check that the table is laid properly, no cutlery or glasses missing on place settings, all place names set, tables looking wonderful and it’s time to get into the kitchen to see how the ‘Chef’ is getting on.
9.30am-1.30pm – Wow..The Chef has been busy … peeling, prepping, setting out, cooking, stressing, and sweating! But…. It all looks and smells absolutely fantastic.
1.30pm – Time to grab a sandwich and a coffee!!!
2.00pm – “The Girls” arrive – and are briefed, table service order is discussed, dietary requirements are noted, they are briefed on exactly what is in the Canapes so when asked they know, a note is made of where elderly/children/disabled guests are sitting and the staff are asked to check around the room to make sure I have not forgotten anything! Almost ready!!!
3.00pm – Wedding party arrive and the arrival drinks and Canapes begin to flow, as I said earlier, it is imperative that we have attentive staff, and that we make our staff aware of who certain guests are. From here on in, I am back in the bowels of the venue, back to the kitchen to help plate up, ready for service, and blubbing like a baby having seen the bride!
3.30pm – All systems go!! – Arrival drinks and Canapes are done…Service has started! Plating up starts, and it’s all systems for for “The Girls” service is carried out, table by table, professionally, and efficiently – all goes smoothly, until one of the guests can’t remember what they ordered! So they get what they prefer on the day, thank God for the extra meals!! – Clearing, starts, and I am in the kitchen scraping plates, piling them into the sink ready to wash, for course after course during which time I am also helping with the plating up for each course, until the end of the service…..The beauty of owning the business…. I get all the best jobs!
5.00pm – Service is almost over– phew it’s sweaty, work and I have already been on the go for 11 hours! It’s time to clear down, and all hands to the pump! Tables are cleared, pots, pans, crockery cutlery are washed, unless of course it’s in a marquee and it is all washed the following day, but no worries it usually only takes 6 hours if it’s done en masse!!! Kitchen is cleared, and the evening buffet is prepared, or the Hog roast which has been roasting for 6 hours ready for the evening is prepared!!.”The Girls” are everywhere helping with clearing whilst 2-3 of them are working on the bar serving drinks for the afternoon/evening event.
7.00pm – all cleared – Buffet done, and Waitresses go – bye girls see you again soon thanks for being your usual brilliant selves!
8.00pm – Evening Buffet served – I am back ‘out front’ having cleared the kitchen, helped with the evening buffet and laid it out, now it’s time to run the bar- why? Because it’s a free bar and the Bride and Groom would rather not allow guests to help themselves!!!! Not so bad, bar closes at midnight… except it doesn’t!! how many weddings have you been to where the bar is meant to close at midnight but because it’s free it’s still going on at 1am!
1am – Bar desperately trying to close!!!!
2.30am – Home, showered drop into bed!
A 20 HOUR DAY – DONE!!!
The following day – go back to venue, get remaining tables cloths, and all stuff you could not remove at 1am – spend the rest of the day, aching, and patting each other on the back, ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT “YOU DID GOOD”
A happy but very tired caterer – happy bride and groom – We wouldn’t have it any other way and that… my friends is a day or several.. in the life of a wedding caterer.
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