As a caterer, we're often asked a lot of "shoulds." What food should I serve? How many people should I expect to come? When should I send out save the dates? We enjoy answering those questions, but sometimes it's the "should nots" that make the difference between a wedding that people are talking about for years and one that gets people talking.
We asked the entire MCL Catering office to share their bad wedding experiences (both as guests and hosts). Below is a list of the wost offenses and a road map for what not to do at your wedding reception.
1. Don't run out of food. Several MCL staffers reported attending receptions or parties where the food was less than plentiful. At one wedding, the bride and groom had to order pizza half way through the reception. Another MCL employee described hiring a friend to cater his wedding, only to be asked to chip in and help the day of! And as if that wasn't bad enough, he didn't even get to enjoy the fruits of his labor--the food was all gone before he and his new bride were done with pictures.
2. Don't skimp on the service. Weddings are expensive, so it's easy to try and do more with less. But one buffet line for 300 guests is a savings move we don't recommend. This was the experience one MCL employee ran into when a sibling got married. "It took an hour and a half for my grandparents to get their food," she commented. "It was a beautiful day, but years later, the first thing anyone mentions when we talk about the wedding is how long it took to eat!"
3. Don't serve messy food. While you're taking the time to make sure there is enough food and that guests don't have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to enjoy it, double check that your menu choices reflect the tone of your wedding. An MCL team member recalled a friend's elegant, evening wedding where she was served wings, "I was sitting in a fancy dress, gnawing on a wing and trying to keep barbeque sauce off my outfit. I felt ridiculous." This menu might have worked for a casual, backyard wedding, but failed when paired with an upscale venue.
4. Don't overlook or experiment with the entertainment. We're not referring to a bad DJ, although that can tank a reception too, we're talking about over-the-top choices that seem unique and fun, but only leave guests feeling awkward. For every humorous, viral video of the wedding party dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown, there are hundreds of cringe worthy moments where guests are forced to watch in horror. Take this experience from one of our marketing staffers, "The groom thought it was a good idea to sing to his new wife," she said. "It was not. We all sat there embarrassed for both of them and wishing it would end ASAP." Another employee recalled attending a reception with an uncomfortable slide show. "It was clearly a high school graduation video that had been re-purposed," she said, "but no one had removed the pictures of him and his ex-girlfriend! So guests were treated to a lot of prom and vacation photos where the groom was kissing someone else."
5. Don't have a "B" list. Or more importantly, if you do have a second guest list for people who were only invited because your top choice was busy, don't tell your B-list guest that! "Not only was I invited last minute via Facebook and under the guise that the hosts had lost my address," said an MCL employee, "but the groom had the gall to tell me when I arrived at the ceremony that the only reason I had been invited was because other people had turned down the invitation." If you can't afford to invite everyone, you need to scale back on the wedding. Consider a cake and punch reception or hors d'oeuvres instead of a full dinner. A tiered guest list should not be an option.
6. Don't forget the vegetarians. Speaking of guest comfort, make sure you have at least one vegetarian entrée option for any herbivores you may have invited. Meatless pasta dishes appeal to everyone and mean your vegetarian friends will have the energy to dance the night away. They'll thank you for not forcing them to survive the evening on nothing more than potatoes, wedding cake and Jordan almonds.
7. Don't confuse your guests. The people who attend your wedding expect certain rituals and customs. When those expectations aren't met, it can cause a great deal of confusion. It's fine to throw convention out the window and provide a unique experience for your guests, it's not OK to expect them to figure out the new agenda on their own. "I went to a wedding where no one new what they were supposed to do," shared one MCL employee. "There weren't any ushers and the wedding took place in the same venue as the reception. Arriving guests didn't know if they should take a seat and there wasn't a program to follow along with...it felt really disorganized." Make sure your wedding party is aware of the day's schedule and that they are prepared to walk guests through any deviations from the normal routine. If you're going to change things up, use signage or a program to help guests follow along and anticipate what's next.