Westchester Wedding Guide From the Pros for 2012: Local Wedding Vendors Share Trends and Favorites for Catering, Locally-Sourced Reception Dinner Options, Cocktail Hour Ideas, and Signature Drinks
The Meat (or fish...) of the Matter
Gone are the events at which guests feel like they’re chained to their seats for course after course, conversing with the same 10 people all night. Couples now are designing menus that loosen things up a little.
ON THE RISE Call it a function of a rotten financial climate or just a change in taste, but couples in Westchester are opting for looser, less formal affairs. “Given the economy, there’s definitely a trend toward frugality, while maintaining the style, appeal, and elegance of what can be offered with a wedding in Westchester,” says Josyane Colwell of Le Moulin Event Planning & Catering in Irvington. What does this mean? “People want less complicated affairs,” says Rob Feiner of Myong Gourmet. “They want lounges with leather sofas and chairs, low tables, and a lot of passing hors d’oeuvres.”
In addition, local couples want their guests to feel good about the food they’re eating. “Many brides and grooms want locally grown fruits and foods,” says Leon Drogy of The Mansion at Colonial Terrace. “They are more conscious and interested in healthy alternatives versus fried foods.”
ON THE DECLINE Conversely, stuffy, rigid, and formal celebrations are out. “The catering trend that is most on the decline is sit-down formal dinners,” says Craig Pellis of Silver Spoon Catering in Mount Kisco. “Events are now designed so that people have the most opportunity to mingle and to talk with their friends.”
This means fewer “big moments” in receptions that make everyone stop talking, mingling, and dancing. Out? “Champagne toasts, long speeches, garter throws, and bridal-party introductions,” says Gary Stone of Corner Stone Caterers in Rye.
MOST MEMORABLE REQUEST “One wine from every state in the Union”
—Peter X. Kelly, Xaviars Restaurant Group
“We were asked to make a kids’ cocktail that changed colors, so we encapsulated a blueberry concoction into a red drink that turned purple as the kids drank it. It was odd, but we did it!”
— Rob Feiner, Myong Gourmet
“The most creative innovation is hors d’esserts, where we pass desserts. People love that they can choose a mini ice cream cone or other bite-sized confection, without having to leave the conversation they’re having.”
— Craig Pellis, Silver Spoon Catering
BEST FOOT FIRST When designing the overall menu, couples are looking for “local, farm-to-table, sumptuous,” meals, says Peter Xelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group. But that doesn’t necessarily come in the form of big farmhouse dinners. In fact, the cocktail hour is getting the most emphasis—and is the place where brides and grooms take more of a risk, since the variety means they don’t have to worry that someone will go hungry. “People are looking for creative hors d’oeuvres with unusual presentations, then safe entrée selections,” Stone says.
“Cocktail hour is what a lot of people place the focus on,” Feiner says. “We always give them a little extra. The hors d’oeuvre is a statement that sets the tone for everything to come.”
Some popular hors d’oeuvres:
Sushi ∙ Savory Cupcakes ∙ Pulled Pork ∙ Baby Lamb Chops ∙ Vietnamese Veggie Rolls ∙ Artichoke Wontons ∙ Fish Kebabs ∙ Grilled Tuna Wasabi ∙ Champagne-Marinated Shrimp
THE MAIN EVENT In Westchester, couples are choosing to forgo sit-down dinners, buffets, and family-style dining in favor of heavy passed hors d’oeuvres and food stations. “People are choosing ‘action stations’ such as carving stations, crêpe stations, and make-your-own salad stations,” says Pellis. “People prefer more finger foods. They use small plates so they can have many different types of food.”
“Stations are popular and cost-effective,” Feiner says. “Full sit-downs require more servers and, with the budget in mind, stations provide an alternative.” They also give guests perfect excuses to get up from their tables, mill around, and chat with other guests.
“And you can add a super-casual station,” Stone says, “like burgers or ice-cream sundaes.”
For those sticking with the traditional sit-down affair, something else gaining in popularity is serving a “duet” entrée, which are “plates featuring two proteins,” Stone says. No more “chicken or fish?” Serve them both on a plate and let your guests decide in the moment which one they want to eat—if not both.
FROM THE PLANNERS “There are more planning logistics involved to pull off a successful cocktail reception, to keep the flow of the event going and remain interesting throughout the night,” says Sarah Lusardi of NY Engagements in White Plains. “But it makes for a great party atmosphere with plenty of mingling, dancing, and enjoying multiple flavors throughout the event. When it’s done right, you’ll have the most discriminating traditionalist raving about the unique concept.”
“Couples are looking for a quality food experience. Whether opting for a farm-to-table, classic French, or even the increasingly popular comfort-food menu, couples are approaching their selection process with more knowledge and sophistication than ever,” says David Bowen of Bowen & Company in Hastings-on-Hudson. "And, as the producers of the James Beard Awards, we are ultimate foodies, so we’re excited about the new trend of staging food trucks for the cocktail hour or after dessert as guests are departing.”
HAVE A DRINK Featuring a “signature drink” on the menu is still the rage, be it pear vodka and St. Germaine topped with Champagne (Corner Stone Caterers) or seven different types of Bloody Marys (Myong Gourmet). “We recently catered a wedding reception in which the groom was an avid golfer, and we were proud to surprise him and the guests with the Sand Wedge during the cocktail reception, which was a drink very special to him and a gift from his bride,” Colwell says.
ADVICE FROM CATERERS “Make sure you trust the caterer that will ultimately be charged with satisfying your guests.”
—Peter X. Kelly, Xaviars Restaurant Group
“Do not presume it gauche to request entrée selections be chosen by your guests on your reply cards. This can help to seriously cut down on the overall food cost for your reception. Also, leave a line for guests to request special menu items for those who have, food allergies or special diet restrictions. And do communicate all of this information to the caterer as far in advance as possible so that you don’t have any surprises at the end of the event.”
—Josyane Colwell, Le Moulin Event Planning & Catering
“Think about having a signature cocktail and then offer guests only wine and beer, or a scaled-down bar.”
—Rob Feiner, Myong Gourmet
“Duet plates lower labor costs. And three courses are plenty—and they allow for more dancing time.”
—Gary Stone, Corner Stone Caterers
Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill Mansion
Avril Kaye, Inc. Caterers
Caperberry Events Catering
Corner Stone Caterers
Dinner in Hand
Events by Xaviars
Jean-Jacques’ Culinary Creations
Le Moulin Event Planning & Catering
The Mansion at Colonial Terrace
Matt Miller Culinary Productions
Nisa Lee Signature Catering & Event Planning
Pasión Catering—Food by Rafael Palomino
Silver Spoon Catering
Standing Room Only
Susan Lawrence Catering