Reception Dining Guide Part II

By Stephen Coffelt and Lauren Settle

We’re back with the second installment of Stephen & Lauren’s Reception Dining Guide!  Last week covered three steps to take when planning and budgeting for the menu, so check back here if you need to refresh your memory!

While looking for the perfect venue, consider what format of food service you would like to see at your reception. The catering format can play largely into your budget and overall flow of the reception, so it is important to devote considerable thought to this planning step prior to signing a contract with a venue. The standard formats for you to consider are heavy hors d’oeuvres, buffet dinners, family style dinners and plated dinners.

Heavy Hors d’oeuvres

These typically begin with guests being offered butlered food items as they await the arrival of the bride and groom. Following the cocktail hour, a combination of multiple food displays open and your guests can enjoy a unique eating experience consisting of miniature food items that require no more than one utensil to enjoy. This format allows endless possibilities of what foods can be served. Some stations can be attended by chefs to create food items to order. No matter what foods you decide to offer, your guests are encouraged to mingle and socialize as no formal seating is planned. This format requires seating for 50% to 75% of your guests and should be considered if the venue you are looking at cannot accommodate seating for all of the attendees. Dependent upon how elaborate your food selections are, the heavy hors’ d oeuvres format can be a little more budget friendly as you will not require as many tables, linens, chairs and flatware. Heavy Hors d’oeuvre formats also allow the greatest flexibility if you do not have a coordinator onsite to keep a strict timeline.

Wendall Powell Studio_126

Wendell Powell Studio

Buffet Dinner

Buffet Dinners begin with guests being offered either butlered hors d’oeuvre options or a display of stationary hors d’oeuvre options during the cocktail hour. With this format, each guest will require a place setting. You will be required to designate each guest by table or a more formally assigned seating. Guests are invited to the buffet by table number or a creative table designation, and long lines can be prevented as guests can stay seated until their table is announced. Planning a buffet dinner allows your guests the options of assorted proteins, salads and sides. You do not have to have just one long table in this format although that is the most standard display. You can creatively incorporate aspects of other food formats by planning a preset salad or appetizer at each place setting prior to the buffet opening. A day of coordinator is beneficial for this style food service so that guests know when to go to the buffet and your timeline of events is promptly kept. Rental requirements for this format will increase from a heavy

Hors d’oeuvre option, since you will require more tables, linens, chairs, china, flatware, napkins and all of the other items associated with seating all of your guests.

Don Mears Photography

Don Mears Photography

Plated Dinner

This format begins very similar to the other formats by offering your guests a cocktail hour. Plated Dinner formats are best executed by creating a seating chart. Typically wine service is offered by wait staff as your guests sit for dinner. The standard Plated Dinner Reception consists of a three course dinner with the third course being a traditional wedding cake. However, you may offer as many courses as your budget allows. A day of coordinator is suggested with this format to adhere to the timeline as a plated diner can take more time for your guests to enjoy.


Family Style

Family style receptions are a creative combination of the previously mentioned formats. This format begins with a cocktail hour. Family Style Receptions also require seating for your entire guest count, but the formality of assigned seating is not necessary. Long rectangular tables and large outdoor tented spaces best suite this style of service. As guests find a place at the table, a sense of community and family is formed. Depending on the menu, guests can begin their meal with a salad or an assortment of appetizers to start. For the second course, buffet options are served tableside to your guests on platters. They are asked to take a portion and pass it down to the next person, breaking bread with strangers and ending the meal as friends. This style of service is very symbolic of celebrating the union of two people who have now become one family with their loved ones by their side.

Once you have selected your catering format, the last step is to review your prospective venues. What comes included in your selected venue? Inquire about tables and chairs for your estimated guest count and who is responsible for setting them up and breaking them down. Can the prospective venue accommodate seating for the ceremony and reception, or will you need additional rentals? Do they offer an onsite working kitchen to accommodate your desired menu or will you need to supply a temporary kitchen? By asking these standard questions in advance, you will be better prepared to understand were to allocate your wedding budget. More importantly, you will be able to plan the perfect menu based on your venue.

Stephen Coffelt and Lauren Settle are both full time event planners for A Sharper Palate Catering & Events. For more information, please visit

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Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: Ashton Creek Vineyard & Event Center

It's always exciting to introduce a new venue!!  Meet Rachel, the director of marketing and events for Ashton Creek Vineyard and Event Center!

Tell us a little bit about your company!

We are a family owned and operated event center located in Chester. We specialize in all types of events, and though we are currently under construction we have an anticipated opening date set for April 2015.  We are happy to announce that we are officially booking events for 2015!

How did you get started in this business?

It all started a few years ago as I was helping my sister plan her wedding. It was then that my family and I realized how few options we had in our area of venues to choose from. We thought, "Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a place where people could come together to celebrate all types of events?" At that time we had already planted a small ...

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Reception Dining Guide Part I

By Stephen Coffelt and Lauren Settle

Congratulations on your engagement! You have dreamed of the day when you get to share a lifetime commitment to your fiancé surrounded by all of your family and friends. There are many steps to consider in the planning process as you embark on your wedding journey. By considering these helpful menu tips, you will be able to create a beautiful wedding experience that you can be proud of and spend the rest of your life reminiscing about.

Step 1: Estimate a guest list of loved ones who will be invited to your wedding. This will assist with narrowing down your venue options and establish a realistic budget for the event. Richmond offers a great selection of beautiful wedding venues, but be aware of occupancy restrictions. Based on the number of guests you decide to invite, you may limit your options of the food service formats to choose from.

Step 2: Consider the ...

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Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: DJ mFace

Today, we're pleased to introduce you to Matthew Davey, otherwise known as DJ mFace or the bow tie guy.

Tell us a little bit about your company!

I'm an entertainer one who brings both professionalism and a lot of energy to a wedding, all at a competitive value based on my experience and quality of service.

How did you get started in this business?

In high school, I had a lot of parties (some the parents probably weren’t proud of) and made mixtapes for friends. I turned that knack for entertaining and song selection into a career.

What differentiates you from other businesses in your field?

I approach every event from the viewpoint of the guest. Having attended many events in the past, I'm always taking mental notes as to what people think about how DJs control a party. I also wear a bow tie and was raised by a family who really like to party. That helps me do my job ...

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Lounging Around: Ways to Incorporate Upholstered Seating into Your Ceremony and Reception

By Morgan Montgomery

Planning a wedding ceremony and reception that is both practical and visually stunning can be an overwhelming task. There are always new trends to watch for, location considerations to keep in mind and the overarching desire to make sure that you have provided a comfortable environment for your guests. Utilizing upholstered seating options throughout your day is one of the newest ways that couples are personalizing their celebrations, and we’ve rounded up some of the best ways to do just that!

Ceremony Seating

One of the hottest new trends in ceremony seating is providing all upholstered pieces for your ceremony. Typically, a variety of sofas, armchairs and settees are set in rows just like chairs would be, but they provide a more intriguing overall picture. (and much more comfort!) Nervous about it being too mismatched? Work within a particular color palette to keep the scene from feeling too cluttered. Our favorite color combination is neutrals ...

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Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: English Tea Paperie

Meet Chloe Minyon, the owner and creative director of English Tea Paperie!

Tell us a little bit about your company!

I create completely custom and bespoke wedding invitations and papers that speak to the individual personality of each bride and groom.

How did you get started in this business?

When searching for my dream wedding invitations (both in the US and the UK), I couldn’t find what I was looking for, especially within my budget. Having been an art school student, I decided the only thing to do was make my own! A few years later, I put my talents into creating a line of illustrated stationery and opened an online store. The store became my life for many years, but I knew something in my business plan wasn’t right and, I wasn’t living out my life purpose. After much discussion with friends and family and some serious prayer, the bridal world became very clear. When the Lord creates a ...

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From Man’s Best Friend to Best Man

By Melissa Desjardins

A pet plays a significant role in a couple’s life, and for many pet parents, family festivities would not feel complete without their pet’s involvement. Have you been to a wedding with a pet involved? It’s always a crowd pleaser when a dog, fresh from the groomers, trots down the aisle in a sharp new tux or a sparkly pink tutu. It’s no wonder that many couples are now including their pets in their big day! Here are some tips for customizing your wedding to include your furry child!

First, choose an appropriate role for the dog depending on his or her behavior and temperament. An energetic puppy might need to be on a leash held by an usher or ring bearer, while an older, more relaxed dog may be free to lounge during the ceremony.

Other tips to consider:

Is your pet good around a large crowd and crowded areas?

Does your dog have separation anxiety ...

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Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: Shady Acres Bed & Breakfast

We are very excited to introduce you to Gail Olberg, the owner and innkeeper at Shady Acres Bed & Breakfast.  Shady Acres is a small, intimate country getaway located conveniently off of I-95 just north of Richmond.  Read on to learn more about this rustic wedding venue, B&B and honeymoon spot from Gail herself!

Tell us a little bit about your company!

Whether your event is casual or opulent, we can help you plan and achieve your vision with a personalized elopement, wedding or vow renewal ceremony.

Our country setting offers an intimate, relaxed atmosphere capable of accommodating up to 150 guests in an outdoor venue where creativity can be maximized.

How did you get started in this business?

My husband, Ralph, and I love having company. Our home has always been where people gather for holidays and other events.

We used to live in an area where the Chamber would put out a request for people to open their ...

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5 Planning Tips for Your Destination Wedding

By Beverly McLean

Travel choices for today’s vacationers increasingly trend toward unique and authentic experiences. When it comes to planning weddings and honeymoons, engaged couples are no different and frequently consider destination weddings to make their special day distinctive.

Planning Tips for Your Destination Wedding

Choose your destination carefully – There’s a lot more to picking a wedding location than finding a dreamy resort. First, what setting do you want for the nuptials – a white-sand beach or verdant mountains, an Italian villa or maybe a cruise ship? Next, consider the weather patterns there. You can never guarantee perfect weather, but you might want to rethink a Caribbean beach wedding during hurricane season! The travel convenience and expense of getting to the destination are major considerations as well. If it takes a connecting flight, a boat ride and an expensive taxi to get there, your great-aunt Ida might not be able to attend.

Before you make a final location ...

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Richmond Wedding Vendor Spotlight: Capt. Rob’s Pigalicious BBQ Catering

If you want some authentic Southern food for your wedding reception or rehearsal dinner, look no further than Capt. Rob's Pigalicous BBQ Catering!  We're excited to introduce you all to Rob Wilhoite, the owner and pitmaster, who has an obvious passion for his craft.

Tell us a little bit about your company!

We are a catering only BBQ company. We feature award-winning meats, sides and desserts. This is southern comfort food at its finest. We can do food for any event during the wedding process. We can do offsite cooking with an onsite buffet or for an over the top experience, we can do the cooking and buffet onsite. We can serve groups from 30-300 people.

How did you get started in this business?

I grew up in my mom’s and grandma’s kitchen. The Wilhoites were the present day Walton’s -- three generations under one roof. I have a food service background and culinary certificates from the University of ...

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