"Do we have to have a champagne toast?" asks the groom. "My bride-to-be hates champagne."
Taking one look at the groom, a Brooklyn hipster with a bushy beard, wearing what looks like an old man's fishing cap to complement his vintage Metallica T-shirt and faded jeans, I know the answer immediately.
"Why don't you toast with beer?"
"Hell, yeah!" crows his bride. She is a vision in horn-rim glasses, with crayon red hair and an aqua marine blouse. "Now we're talking!"
Any day that I meet clients, answer the phone, check my email or glance at my iPhone, I am bombarded with questions from VERY anxious brides- and grooms-to-be. It kind of goes with the wedding caterer turf. I've come to think of myself as sort of like a doctor.
I recall one wedding in particular when the bride, an elegant Grace Kelly-like vision, stood alone on her dance floor in a moment of reflection, as the cameras snapped around her, she tossed her head back and chugged a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Now that's rockin' elegant!
Anyway, that's right! I'm a love doctor! Or a wedding doctor, anyway. My patients are every bit as nervous as ones in ER waiting rooms.
Weddings can be scary and overwhelming. So I take a deep breath and try to be kind, or at least funny.
Let me regale you with just a few of the questions I was asked in the last few days.
"How do we deal with guests with food allergies?"
"Don't invite them!"
Just about half the universe is gluten-free these days. Vegan, lactose intolerant, no nuts, no sesame. I once had to face 200 die-hard meat and cheese eaters from Wisconsin and feed them a vegan, gluten-free supper in honor of the bride. Now that's love! After that, nothing fazes me.
So long as there are no sneaky allergens, all is okay. An item with nuts must be obvious, not a dressing with hidden peanut oil. Don't hide those sesame seeds. Celebrate them! Folks with allergies should, I said SHOULD, know enough to ask, but if the salad is in a vinaigrette using champagne walnut vinegar? Even the waiter serving it may not know. You gotta shout that from the rooftops or at the very least, garnish with a walnut! Make sure your caterer keeps all potential allergens uber obvious.
"Do we have to serve a full bar?"
Not at all! Save the money and serve beer, wine and a few signature drinks or a basic bar, vodka, gin, scotch, whiskey, beer and wine. This is not the Rainbow Room. You don't need everything under the sun at your bar. Your cousin from Long Island can have Kahlua and cream some other night.
"What do I do? I have five kosher guests?!"
Bring their meal in from a kosher caterer. Comes with plates and silverware, end of story. If you bring in kosher wine for them, be sure to get a kosher corkscrew, too. I learned that one the hard way. OY VEY!
"How do I know what to rent for my wedding? My space is just an empty hall!?"
You don't! It took me five years to perfect placing a rental order. I would never expect a bride or groom to know what do order. Heating cabinets, coffee machines, a slop bucket and strainer for sanitation, cocktail shaker sets, water pitchers, bar mats, bussing trays, ice tubs for chilling wine, heating fuel for the heating cabinets to heat the food, these are just a few of the many things needed to rent besides the more obvious, plates, glasses, tables, chairs napkins and linens. Get your caterer or party planner to place your rental order for you, and stop worrying! Life is too short!
"Is family-style cheaper than a sit down dinner?"
Well, first of all, family style is a sit-down dinner, and the answer is yes and no. You can get away with less staff for family-style then a fully served meal, but your rentals are more money. If each of your 15 tables has a bowl of couscous, a bowl of barbecued vegetables, a tray of Moroccan lamb, and a tray of salmon in pomegranate glaze. Well that's of lot of bowls and trays, not to mention utensils.
"How will the guests know the buffet is open if we don't announce it?"
Trust me on this one, there is a superhuman force known as BUFFETISOPENITIS. The second there is the smell of hot meat wafting through the dance floor, they will know. I have never had to coax wedding guests to the buffet.
"Do we have to do a first dance?"
There is no wedding police! If you are nontraditional and don't want to do a first dance or a toast or have introductions, you don't have to. It's your wedding! Get all the guests on the dance floor for a rocking spin of "Don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation" by Joan Jett instead!
"Do we have to cut a cake?"
There are lots of cool alternatives to a wedding cake. I have done towers of donuts, Rice Krispie treats, Yodels, Girl Scout cookies ... Many times, I've just skipped the whole idea all together and just done a killer dessert table or a buffet of pies. PIES RULE!
Sometimes it's fun to do something very traditional in a very untraditional way, too. Like the aforementioned beer toast. Or the cake as a tower of Twinkies.
I had a fantastic couple a while back who decided that their first dance would be a sword fight, A REAL SWORD FIGHT! Fabulous, and luckily no one was hurt. But hmmm, not sure I would recommend that one.
"Do we have to serve ice cream with dessert? We love ice cream. Can we greet the guests with ice cream before the reception even starts?"
Why the hell not? Wave your ice cream freak flag all over your wedding! It can be a fun greeting pre-ceremony, then have a gastronomic break until the post-ceremony cocktail hour. That way you're not serving ice cream and sushi at the same time.
There is nobody in the world exactly like you, and your wedding doesn't have to be what anyone else wants. Unless your parents are paying for the wedding; you may have to appease them ... a little, but you know, other than that.
Have fun with it. Find wedding professionals who don't care about imaginary wedding rules more than your joy.
And just for me, maybe lay off the caffeine till after the wedding.
Good luck, and rock on!!