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Wedding Catering Chat with Danielle Couick, Thursday, November 13 at 11 AM
Planning a wedding? Want expert advice? Thursday, November 13 at 11 AM, we'll be hosting a live online chat with Danielle Couick of Windows Catering. Submit your questions now.

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Published November 7, 2008

Arlington, VA
My fiance and I are looking at an August wedding next year and are on a bit of a budget. What do you recommend for budget conscious folks who want great food? This question might be a bit general, but she's the expert in all of this and has asked for my input! Thanks for taking questions!
First, congratulations! There are many different ways of saving money on your wedding. I would suggest sitting down with your fiance and figure out what are the more important items for you two. Other ways of saving money on your menu, consider an afternoon brunch or lunch.  Guests tend to eat and drink less in the afternoon and you aren't compromising great food! 
Arlington, VA
I went to your website and your food looks great, but I have a BIG Italian family will you make your foods in more generous portions?
I have a lot of clients that are concernced with portion size. If you are worried about running out of food on a buffet, I would express your concern to your caterer, so you can perhaps add a few more servings. It may cost you a little more in the end, but you shouldn't have to worry whether your guests got enough to eat. Another option may be to do a plated meal and discuss portions with your caterer. Select more filling items for your guest or bulk up on the hors d' oeuvre selection during cocktails. 
Washington DC
I want a very casual dining experience at my July wedding. What are some heavy hors doeuvres you would recommend? I'm looking for something that guests can easily snack on while continuing to mingle but will fill them up through the evening reception with no formal dinner/buffet.
Cocktail stations are always very popular. They can provide enough food for dinner without having the formality of a sit down. I think anytime you can work your personality, heritage or family traditions into your menu- the better! Sliders are of course very popular right now, you can do a slider station... if your family is from a coastal region, you can work in a seafood station, crabcakes (a Maryland staple), lobster rolls if you're from Maine, etc.  For me, I'm from the South, so I might have a shirmp and grits station served in martini glasses or fried green tomatoes! 
Arlington, Va
I'm getting married next fall and we're starting to figure out the catering. My mom makes a killer eggplant parmesan that the whole family loves. Is it normal to give a caterer a family recipe and ask them to recreate it? Thanks!
This is actually a really common question, and I always approach it delicately. We are happy to try and re-create a version of moms' eggplant. Please keep in mind that it will probably not come out exactly as mom make. There are a lot of different factors to take into consideration, making it for 150 people can translate very differently than the recipe for 8 that mom makes. There is also preparation and travel time to take into consideration. If it is very important to you that you have this at your wedding i would just express this to your caterer and have them make it for you and try it. If it isn't exactly right perhaps you could have mom make it for a shower or even the rehearsal dinner. 
Washington, DC
How popular are signature cocktails? I know that they were done a lot in weddings recently, but are they on their way out?
I don't think they are on their way out at all. I think they are becoming more creative! Signature cocktails can be a lot of different things to people. Some brides and grooms choose not to serve hard liquor at the bar and instead will offer one or two signature drinks to be passed during cocktail hour or to offer at the bar. Signature drinks are also a great way to tie in your color scheme, your ethnic background, your favorite drink that your groom bought you on your first date, etc. The options are endless, you can also ask your caterer to create a special one just for you! 
Bethesda, MD
What's the best way you would suggest for my fiance and I to personalize our wedding when it comes to the food? Thank you!
Whenever I meet a bride and groom for the first time I ask them a lot of questions about their personalities, places they like to eat, favorite meals they cook at home, where they are from, their families, what they love and what they don't like so much. These are the details that help me create menus specifically for them. Each menu we write is customized to detail these things. I would suggest talking to your fiance about what is important to them and make a list. You might be surprised how involved the guys are when it comes to the menu. :) You will also find a lot of things that might overlap for the two of you which you can discuss with your caterer. Your personality should definitely be reflected in your food.
Washington, DC
My fiance and I are big appetizer/dessert fans. Well actually he loves hors d'ouevres and I love anything sweet. Would it be considered rude to skip dinner and serve heavy hors d'ouvres and lots of desserts?
I don't think it is rude at all to have an hors d' oeuvre/dessert reception. You should just make sure the timing of your ceremony and reception are appropriate for this type of service. If your reception starts at 8:00 or later, guests will have time to eat prior to their arrival. If you want your ceremony at 5:00 and cocktails at 6:00, your guests will more than likely be expecting a larger meal. Your invitation is the perfect place to relay this information to your guests. "Ceremony at 7:30 pm... Dessert Reception to follow"....
Washington, DC
Why do people tend to choose a buffet over seated dinner or vice versa? Is one more affordable?

This is a really great question and i think I address it every time I speak with a bride or groom. I think brides and grooms tend to gravitate toward a buffet because they heard somewhere that it is less expensive. In fact, a plated meal can end up being less expensive depending upon your menu selection and guest count. With a buffet, you typically need less staff, but you will need more equipment, linens and possibly floral if you want a centerpiece. Your menu costs can also be higher because your traditionally need larger sized portions (which can sometimes mean more waste). Plated meals require a little more staff but less equipment, so the cost difference can be wash. The cost breakdown also has a lot to do with your guest count. Larger guest counts (200+) can usually do a buffet dinner at a lower cost. 

If variety is a concern, then a buffet might be a better option, as you can usually offer 2 to 3 main course options and sides. if you like the formality of a seated dinner, then talk to your caterer about a dual entree.

Hyattsville, MD
What do you think about having special food for kids? Is that necessary?
If you are planning on having children at your wedding I think it is very important to accommodate them. Depending on how many kids you are having and your type of service you can do a special kids meal or buffet. if your venue allows for it, you may be able to set up a special "kids room" and provide them with activities, movies, special foods and a babysitter. This is going to make your event that much better and parents and kids will both be able to enjoy the festivities! 
Frugal
Hi Danielle, what are some money-saving tips you can give my fiance and me? I'm sure a lot of people are asking you the same question, but it makes sense right now!
You are right, budget is definitely a concern for folks right now. As far as money-saving tips go, there can be a ton of answers. In terms of catering you could consider seating more people at larger tables, for example, if you have 120 guests, consider 10 tables of 12 instead of 12 tables of 10. You will save money on two centerpieces, two linens, two tables, and depending on how your caterer determines your staff you might be able to save on a waiter. You could also include the pricier menu items (crab, filet, etc.) in your passed hors d' oeuvres and serve a less expensive main course option. 
In your opinion, what's the toughest dietary restriction (vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant) to take into account when planning a menu for a wedding reception?
We can accommodate any of the above mentioned, but it is very important to relay these restrictions to your caterer beforehand. Most of these can be handled appropriately and your guests will be much happier to know that their dietary specifics were thought of in advance. Vegetarians, and vegans for the most part,  are a lot easier to accommodate on-site than lactose or gluten free. Kosher would definitely need to be addressed beforehand. 
alexandria, va
What would you recommend as catering choices for appetizers that give you the biggest bang for your buck?
If you are in love with crabcakes but your budget doesn't allow it for the main course, passing them is perfect! Also, I have a lot of clients that would serve cheeseburgers, corn dogs and grilled cheese for their main course if their parents would allow, but can't- so hors d' oeuvres are a great place for these comfort food faves! We even have some great twists on the classics, lobster lollipops, gorgonzola and mashed potato cigars, and our mini- cheeseburgers are awesome! 
Washington, DC
What tends to be the most popular food you serve? Crab cakes? I am hoping to be original, but also want to get food that will be well received by majority in the crowd.
When it comes to your menu I would suggest serving what makes you and your fiance happy. If they are foods that you and your families love then your guests should also be happy. it is also nice to offer something that might be a little different to your guests instead of the traditional crab cake and filet. The more interesting and personal your menu is the more involved your guests get. 
Washington, DC
I am part of a committee that will be hosting our college's local bi-centennial celebration in February. We are on a limited budget, but want to wow the guests with our food choices. Any good options to share for low-budget catering items?
I would speak with your caterer about the specifics of your event. Can you do a cocktail style reception or does it need to be a seated dinner? I would also explore several different caterers to see what they have to offer within your budget. You may find that one is a better fit than others. But you will also want to take quality, presentation, service and of course taste into your final decision. 
Arlington, VA
I am planning a late night cake and champagne reception for my wedding. Do you have any suggestions for the anti-cake people? We do not want them to go hungry and were thinking about a fruit and vegetable platter and some ethnic cuisine appetizers.

Anti-cake people!? Who are they? ;)  I guess there are few of them out there. As I mentioned above you could offer some savory passed hors d' oeuvres in addition to the cake. If you prefer stationary options some savory desserts could work well, a fruit and cheese display, fruit display, etc. 

Washington, DC
Do caterers do fusion food - for example, I am a woman of Indian descent marrying a white male. Where could go to have food that pleases both sides of our families? Mine is picky and would want mostly vegetarian Indian food, his is picky and would want meat & potatoes! Do you have recommendations on how to do this - one company that does "fusion" food or two different caterers? An Indian buffet with American "stations"? What about venues that will allow Indian caterers?
Some certainly do. We can offer quite a few different fusion options. I have also done a couple of Indian weddings that presented a similar situation. Your venue will dictate a lot of what you can do about this. We've worked with several Indian caterers that provided the Indian cuisine and additional chefs for preparation, while we did the American style cuisine, service, linen and equipment. Please keep in mind that your venue might have restrictions or a preferred caterers list, so you will want to speak with them first. But there are several different ways to ensure all parties are happy. 
DC, 20009
My partner and I are thinking about a commitment ceremony in mid summer at NW home. Are there ways to make a ceremony fun, maybe themed but still respectful of the commitment we are thinking of making? Thoughts?

Your ceremony should reflect you and your partner. If you are a more laid back couple then your ceremony can reflect that without compromising the integrity of what you are committing to each other. Perhaps your floral can have tones of your event theme without being over powering. If you choose something tropical with a tropical menu, you could both wear brighter colors, or linen, and white. The best part about a wedding is that it is allowed to be exactly and anything you want it to be! 

 

Thank you everyone for all of your questions! If i wasn't able to get to you or you would like me to elaborate, please feel free to call or email me. Congratulations and I wish you all the best of luck!

 

Danielle Couick
Senior Wedding Planner

703.752.9411

dcouick@catering.com

www.catering.com 

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Posted at 11:32 AM/ET, 11/07/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Chats