Where to Start?

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The first two steps—selecting your menu and choosing your helpers—go hand in hand. Each will affect your decision about the other, so consider them together. Chapters 2 through 7 contain plans for a wide range of receptions. As you decide which plan you want to use, consider your helpers’ abilities and the amount of time they can devote to the cause. Also think about matching your reception’s style and mood to your wedding’s style and mood. For example, if yours will be a very formal, elegant wedding, you may want to use the Ultimate Reception Plan, while the Basic or Backyard Barbecue Reception will perfectly complement a casual wedding in the park. Be sure to keep your budget in mind as you’re deciding on your plan—the fancier the foods, the more you can expect to pay for your reception. After you’ve settled on your plan, match your helpers with the job descriptions within your plan. You may want to get their input on which jobs they feel most capable of, but before you ask, narrow down their choices according to what you know of their abilities. For example, if you know your cubicle mate at work couldn’t identify a wooden spoon if it whacked her upside the head, don’t give her the whole list of jobs to choose from because she might see your reception as a great opportunity to jump into the wonderful world of cooking. Instead, give her the option of making the punch (open a few cans and add ice!) or putting together a fruit tray. Conversely, don’t squander the talents of your Pillsbury Bake-Off-winning buddy by asking her to be in charge of the coffee. As you mull over your list of potential helpers, look for one— preferably the most organized and dependable—to ride herd over your reception committee. He or she doesn’t necessarily have to be responsible for preparing a menu item (although they certainly can); this person’s job is to coordinate the effort and make sure that the reception preparations run smoothly. Now, you may be thinking that you don’t really need anyone to handle the reception. Don’t try to wing it alone! With a reception coordinator, you still maintain control—you decide on the menu and choose your helpers—but you have someone else to handle the details (green grapes or red? Romaine or iceberg lettuce?) that, piled on top of all the other plans you’re stressing about, could send you over the edge. As you divvy out jobs, write your helpers’ names and phone numbers in the appropriate blanks on the job description pages, and fill in the blanks for the date, time, and place of the reception. You’ll also find a place to write the number of guests you’re expecting to attend the reception—this is not necessarily the same as the number of people you’ve invited. There is a strange and mysterious formula you can use to calculate how many guests will actually show up: Take the number
of people you’ve invited and multiply by .66. Now, multiply that number by 1.15 and viola! (Example: 300 invited x .66 = 198 x 1.15 = 228 guests.) Who knows why this formula works, but it does. While it’s not an absolute necessity, you may want to get your reception committee together at this point. Introduce your reception coordinator and encourage your team to call her or him with any questions or concerns they may have (assuming this is okay with your coordinator). Put together a packet with the following items for each team: photocopies of job descriptions with the blanks filled in, copies of any diagram, photocopies of Chapter 9, and photocopies of the entire reception plan. Leave the originals in your book so you’ll have a record of who’s doing what. The job descriptions are self-explanatory and very easy to follow, but give your teams a few minutes to look over theirs and ask any questions they may have. If your reception will be held in an unfamiliar location, you may want to provide a map and/or written directions along with the job descriptions. In addition to bringing your reception helpers together so they can meet each other and get an idea of the big picture, this meeting is a good time to ask for input on the topic of obtaining the food for each team. You’ll notice each job description contains a shopping list for the menu item’s ingredients. You can handle getting these items in one of three ways. You can ask each team to purchase the items on their individual lists and then reimburse them. Another option is for you or your reception coordinator to go on a massive shopping trip to purchase the items on every shopping list, and then deliver each team’s groceries to them. This works well if you want complete control over how much money is spent, you’re picky about the brands used, or you only trust your own judgment on the quality of items purchased. The third option is to ask your teams to purchase the items on their list and suggest that this be their wedding gift to you. Many brides would feel uncomfortable making a request like this, but if you’re so inclined and don’t think your helpers would be offended by your boldness, go ahead and ask. (If you do this, remember that some of the menu items are far costlier than others. A helper who could afford two cans of coffee may not be able to afford the ingredients for chocolate-dipped strawberries for 200 people.) That’s it! You now have everything in place to put on a spectacular reception and still stay within a reasonable budget. All that’s left for you to do is rent, borrow, or buy any dishes, furniture, or equipment your plan calls for (see Chapter 9), order your flowers and wedding and/or groom’s cake, keep in touch with your reception coordinator to make sure things are going smoothly, and go shopping for some great gifts for the generous people who are giving you their time to make your self-catered reception a reality.