June is for brides; many of them will walk down the aisle during these beautiful summer months. If you are under the impression that weddings keep getting fancier and more extravagant as the years go by, you are not alone.
Sometimes amidst the happiness of romantic bliss looms a heavy cloud of economic uncertainty that makes celebrating a little bit harder on the wallet. Whether one is hosting a bridal shower or an after-the- ceremony soiree, cost becomes an issue—even if one is not the father of the bride.
This trend can be most overwhelming for those trying to “keep up with the Jones’”. My advice is—don’t. I am all about thinking outside the box and creating new and simpler ways to celebrate that are still elegant but that don’t send people into debt; garden parties, informal get-togethers by the beach, and simpler receptions are in vogue again.
Hosting receptions in private homes reduces cost, keeping expenses down by excluding costly rental fees. Renting tables, chairs, linens, china, silverware, and glasses, remains an option depending on the budget. However, cocktail parties and buffet-style entertaining are all the rage once more.
There is always the issue of flowers, and you must allocate enough funds to cover the beautiful décor that will set the mood for the party. Groupings of flowers and fruit—set freely on vases and decorated to a minimum—are very much in fashion. Remember that less is always more. Adorn with edible arrangements, such as clusters of grapes cascading from large coupes, bowls filled with cherries and daisies –keep it simple and keep it fresh.
The highest cost for any celebration will always be spent in food and corkage, particularly if the event is catered; which brings us to the subject of friends. All of you Ya-Ya’s and Steel Magnolias out there, read on.
This is the time to re-group and come together to offer co-op celebrations for the brides amongst you. Designating and delegating, is the name of the game. There are ways to organize elegant and unforgettable bridal showers that meet the proper etiquette and the highest social expectations without breaking a single bank account.
This is the perfect occasion to allow your friends to display their talents. Think about it; all you need to do is to find each person’s area of expertise and if your friendly network includes at least a couple of great cooks, you’ve got it made. I leave all of the other details for the rest of you to decipher, but offer these tips to those among you who wish to take on the culinary aspect of these special events.
First of all, make a budget and stick to it—how you decide to divide costs among you is your own decision to make—but set it you must and you will be happy you did. Set a maximum contribution fee that makes everyone comfortable. Now you are ready to select a menu that is appropriate for the occasion. After you do that, make lists and more lists—for shopping, prepping, cooking and serving. These will be your official roadmaps for success.
If your budget allows and you wish to be more formal, consider serving individually plated meals; hire wait staff to help you serve and clean up. If your budget is small, remember that college students off for the summer are usually eager to earn extra cash, so keep them in mind. Otherwise, I suggest presenting food in more informal and cost-effective buffet tables, which if done properly, can be just as fancy as a strictly sit-down event.
The only other thing to take into consideration before selecting the final menu is the time of the planned event. Keep in mind that the food you select for a mid-morning shower will differ from food that you would select for an evening dinner party. A brunch requires a majority of breakfast foods; a luncheon should be filling but not necessarily heavy, and an afternoon tea should be equally composed of sweet and savory dishes. Cocktail parties need only great drinks and delicious hors d’oeuvres; think outside the box and plan entire menus featuring tapas, meze, or antojitos and give the celebration an international twist. Summer time is ideal for preparing a selection of cold foods that can be cooked ahead, giving you plenty of time to spend with your guests.
If you decide on a brunch celebration, prepare quiches that can be made a day in advance and re-heated at the last minute. Serve sliced baked ham with a warm Cumberland
For an afternoon tea party, offer small sized foods such as tiny vol-au-vents, cheese straws, white chocolate covered strawberries, and petite fours. Don’t forget to include scones, biscuits or gougeres as part of your offering. Tiny empanadas, fruit turnovers and savory pastries are also fit for these occasions.
For an impressive evening buffet, use silver trays as backdrops for poached salmon or fillet of beef, served cold atop a bed of arugula and surrounded by red and yellow miniature tomatoes. Present large crystal bowls of prepared salads; offer baskets of miniature rolls and sweet butter chilled over ice.
For a summer luncheon, set a plate of crostini, such as roasted red pepper with Chevre, on each table; prepare a chilled soup in advance—think of elegant vichyssoise, avocado soups, chilled gazpacho or melon soup—and serve it in demitasse cups so that your guests may sip it without the need of a spoon. If you want a hot entrée, consider making crepes or cannelloni, which can also be prepared ahead of time and kept warm until serving time, and that only need a light salad to become a perfectly refreshing and satisfying meal. End luncheons with dishes of assorted miniature desserts, such as Linzer cookies, palmiers, and lemon bars—all of which can be baked ahead and kept at room temperature until serving time.
Wedding cakes have come a long way. The latest trend is to give guests their own individual cake or decorated cupcake—so for the bakers among your group, this should be a fun task to take over.
Ask your friends to join the fun. The more the merrier, as long as one of you is the clear head of the group, responsible for directing the event. Share in the good times and build even stronger ties of friendship. Every bride deserves a celebration. With good planning, it can be done without great expense.
© Copyright Sandra Gutierrez 2007. All Rights Reserved.