Finishing Touches and Planning for the Unexpected

You’re getting married tomorrow and your weather app is predicting thunderstorms, but your coordinator hasn’t broken a sweat. How does All Occasions Catering stay cool under pressure? We sat down with the team to dish on the final days leading up to your shindig, and how to stay calm during a frenetic time. 

Planning an event months in advance requires a bit of a crystal ball in terms of guest count, what foods will be in season and available, costs of operation. But one variable that cannot be accurately predicted is weather. How do you and your clients plan ahead for the unknown?

As we all know, Wisconsin weather can seem like a playlist set on “Shuffle.” With less than a day’s notice, we can see shifts from scorching heat to torrential downpours. During your final walkthrough with your venue, you ideally should be going over a rainy day contingency plan, in case Mother Nature chooses not to cooperate.  Long before this date, as the caterer, we ask about your timeline in regards to your ceremony, and how we will need to adjust our day in the event of rain. Generally with enough proper foresight there are already options in place – for instance some venues will move a ceremony indoors into the reception space, necessitating a room flip instead of the preset for linens and china. On the scale of things, weather is easy to work around and is nothing that we, nor should our clients, stress about.

How do you handle unexpected guests, schedule changes, pivoting last minute to accommodate the client?

When putting the finishing touches on an event, the most important thing to remember is to keep your vendors updated! You might think that a measly three guests we weren’t previously aware of shouldn’t matter, but it truly does affect our prep team and supplies list. However, in order to help minimize these last minute surprises, we plan a Final Details Meeting within 14 to 21 days before your event, just to make sure we have enough time to order in additional needs and schedule our staff appropriately.

It is rare, but every now and then we do cater an event at which extra guests show up without warning.  As our rule of thumb, enough food is sent to the venue with our team to account for people wanting seconds, and oftentimes that buffer is enough to cover those unannounced hungry mouths. 

Pro tip: We suggest a deadline for RSVPs of no later than four weeks before your event, allowing for 14 extra days to chase down those invitees who have not yet responded, just in time for your Final Details Meeting.

Two weeks prior to the event, our clients can no longer decrease their head count, however they can increase the count, by no more than 10%, up to seven days in advance. So, say for example your final guest count is 100 at the 14 day mark, which is when your final details and payment balance are due.  Then 10 days before your event, two families of five each reply they will be attending after all, for a total of 10 extra people. Great! The more the merrier, within reason. Our kitchen still has time to add those additional guests and order the extra food.

In terms of schedule changes, it is actually quite common for an event’s timeline to run a bit off course the day of. Many bullet points in the itinerary are flexible, it just requires a little creativity to make everything run smoothly. For example, we’ve seen on occasion a wedding ceremony run a little long, but the couple wanted to stay on schedule with dinner, so we cut the cocktail hour a bit short. Simple shifts like this along the way are normal and we can certainly accommodate. 

Nerves can be high when you are down to the wire with an event. What sort of reassurance can you give to party hosts in the final few days that you are organized and ready to execute?

Almost all of our events go as planned, so our clients should be reassured hiccups are rare. Miscommunication is usually to blame for any hitch in plans, or an act of God (see all of last year!). To help minimize these, our Final Details Meetings are geared towards not only finalizing your food, china and linens selections (if applicable) but also the timing and rollout of your day. 

What can your clients expect in the Final Details Meeting?

When scheduling the meeting, we send ahead a list of topics that we will be discussing and questions in need of answers. Generally these questions involve the room layout with labeled table numbers, if any guest has any dietary restrictions, and your final head count. Much of what we need to know has already been determined by the signed contract, so this meeting mostly buttons up the variables we wouldn’t be sure of until a couple of weeks prior to the event.

From there we will drill down to even more precise detail. For a plated meal or family style dining, these come with their own specific questions involving the seating chart and number of people per table. Suppose we are also providing bar service, this is when we would square away the recipe for a designated specialty cocktail. Any final necessary site visits are arranged, Ts are crossed, and Is dotted. 

What other comments would you like to add?

At the end of the day, you’re getting married, or celebrating something special, and you’re in a beautiful space enjoying the people who care about you most. We like to tell people who are feeling any strain that nothing can happen on your big day that can’t be fixed. A piece of clothing rips? Grab that sewing kit from the bathroom baskets you put together the night before. The Wedding cake is melting in the heat? Let’s cut the cake now and have dessert before dinner! Rest assured, your day is going to be amazing. Everyone at All Occasions Catering is going to help make it so.