Your son has found his “other”, congrats! Now, your duty, among other things, is to plan a perfect evening before THE big evening! No need to panic, chances are you have been to one or even had one when you got married. Here are some tips to make this night easy and enjoyable!
1) GUEST LIST- Plan to get together with the happy couple once they have had a chance to work out who is in their wedding party. Once you have a complete list, including who is coupled and who might need a “plus one”, add the immediate families on both sides. Then, if there are living grandparents, add them and any god parents. Ring bearer and flower girl? Their parents too if they are not already on the guest list. Then, determine if there are any ceremony participants who should be invited, the singer, musician and maybe the officiant. Lastly, are you expecting guests to travel from out of town? Usually it is customary to invite them as well, but if your guest list outgrows your budget, then cuts can start here. Once you have your magic number, you can start looking into the location.
2) LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION- Let’s say your list is about 50 guests. Now you need to start hunting for locations that can accommodate that many people on the date and time you have planned. Since most weddings happen on Saturdays, many groom’s dinners happen on Fridays. I recommend planning about 6 months -1 year in advance for the space to be available. Are you hosting it at a house or other space where catering is required? Same time line if you want to book your favorite caterer. When finalizing the space, some things to consider are how close to the wedding venue you want to be, how accessible it is to the guests, and if parking is plentiful and convenient.
3) BUDGET-Have an idea what you want to spend. However realistic it may or may not be, it is a good place to start. I always recommend finding the sweet spot per guest that you are comfortable with and seeing what you can offer to each guest for that amount. When meeting with the people in charge of the food and beverage, make sure to be up front with them. You may need to put down a deposit to save the date, but make sure you are in your spending comfort zone before that happens. Other fees to consider are room rental fees, gratuity, sales tax, linen charges, table rentals, and maybe even plate and utensil rental. What happens if you need to reduce the head count or add to it? All good things to iron out BEFORE The big day. If you are looking to cut some corners with out degrading the experience, ask about alternate days, Thursdays are a great night to get this weekend started and most venues are willing to price cut a bit more to book the event. You can also check with the wedding venue, they may offer a great rate to keep all your business if they offer a smaller space.
4) ALCOHOL SERVICE- This is a big one, mostly because of its affect on the budget and of course and no one wants a “hung over” wedding party the day of the wedding. Will any drinking be hosted, and if so, will it be limited to a drink ticket or two? Some parties are planned to offer a champagne toast for the speeches or a glass of wine with dinner. Cash bar is also an option, where guests order their own and pay for it directly. Whatever your comfort level, make sure that it is working into the budget, and in most case bar service may incur additional fees and even insurance and/or security in addition to the higher sales tax and standard gratuity charges.
5) TIMING- This is a tricky one and needs to be worked out with the happy couple. What time is the rehearsal and how far away is it? Once that is known, you can finalize timing with the dinner venue. Sometimes, guests who are not directly involved with the ceremony arrive early, how will that be accommodated? Appetizer service upon arrival is a nice touch, if it works with the budget. What time should meal service begin and is there adequate staff to make the party flow expeditiously? Once thing I like to tell the planners is to allow time for speeches and attendant gifts. Determine with the happy couple when that should be, my recommendation is after salad service but before meal service. Another great spot after dinner and while dessert service is happening. Make sure to find out who is planning to speak, typically the parents of the groom or host is on the hook for that along with the Groom himself. If this part goes on to long there could be issues with food service and your room rental time might need to be prolonged.
It always brings me such joy to help families with this special event, I love meeting their extended family during the event and watching them offer comfort, support and praise to the engaged. In my opinion, the night before is more crucial to them because it is an intimate gathering of their favorite people, the ones who will truly be there with them during the good and bad times of their union. Not to disregard the actual wedding, but a room full of extended family and friends once removed is not really that nurturing. It should be a night to remember and the planner should also be able to enjoy it! Good luck with your planning and best wishes for a long and happy marriage!
About the author…Nonna Rosa’s owner Tina Suglia has over 25 years experience in the restaurant industry and has planned and hosted hundreds of formal and casual wedding events, from engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette, rehearsal dinners to weddings. She has also planned numerous other baby showers, First Communions, Baptisms, notable birthday, retirement events and anniversary gatherings as well.