Guest Blogger: Hugh Groman Hospitality Expert and Caterer, How to put your guests at ease, while making it easy for yourself.
I’ve known and worked with Hugh Groman for quite a few years. His food is absolutely elegant and delicious. In addition to catering, Hugh has the talent and know-how to design and plan spaces transforming an empty space into a wonderland of mood using color, lights, accessories, design and textures. (Photos in this post were taken at events catered by Hugh.)
Hugh has generously shared some tips on how to host a wedding (or other celebration or corporate party) making it great for you and your guests.
“As a caterer, I’ve seen many couples preparing for their weddings. I’ve seen people have an easy time of it, and I’ve seen people make themselves miserable.
Here are some of my tips for how to put your guests at ease, while making it easier on yourself!
Put your guests at ease:
1) The food and bar are magnets: Place the bar where guests can get to is easily. Then put food a good distance from the bar so it doesn’t create an overcrowded space.
2) Consider having your bar open when guests arrive before the ceremony. People have often traveled or have had some kind of stress leading up to getting to your event. It’s fun for them to be able to have a quick drink to take the edge off.
3) Menu planning: Don’t make the menu too heavy. When guest overeat heavy food and drink a bunch of alcohol, it exhausts them. You want the energy to be high at your event, so plan a seasonal mix of vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. Don’t have too many gluten based hors d’oeuvres and dinner items. Cheese table for hors d’oeuvres. Make it easier on yourself:
1) Don’t let perfect be the enemy of wonderful. Embrace the fun elements of planning your wedding. Make choices that excite you. Don’t worry for one second about things going “wrong.” Just focus on planning a wonderful event for you and everyone else.
2) Don’t blow your budget on the venue. The cost of the venue should be a SMALL part of your whole budget. Don’t commit to a venue that eats up more than 10% to 20% of your budget.
(This is San Francisco’s Historic Green Room decorated for a party by Hugh Groman)
3) Don’t let your friends’ and family’s opinions lead you down a path you don’t want to go on. Let’s say you both don’t like cake. You have permission to not have a cake! You don’t need a small ceremonial cake. Whatever dessert you have can cut be cut up ceremonially. If your mom says “but you HAVE to have a cake.” it doesn’t actually mean you need to have a cake.
(Maybe you’d rather have creme brulee or fudgey cookies.)
4) You don’t have to do table seating assignments. I have found that 50% of people prefer to have an assigned seat so they know where to go and who to sit with, while 50% of people are annoyed at being assigned to a table they didn’t want. So, in the end, you can’t make it perfect for everyone. Skipping the table assignments saves you a ton of time and agony trying to socially engineer your event, plus you don’t have to make table assignment cards. Also, guest count changes happen up to the last minute, so inevitably, you have to “redo” the whole map the day before your big event, at a time when you’d much rather be doing something else.
5) Don’t feel obligated to take care of everyone’s idiosyncratic needs. Just because Uncle Jimmy always drinks scotch doesn’t mean you have to have scotch at the bar. (Uncle Jimmy can bring a flask!)6) Buffets are easier and less expensive. While a plated meal might seem “fancier”, a buffet is usually less expensive for the hosts; allows people to choose what and how much they eat; and gives guests the chance to get up out of their table and socialize with more people. You may be afraid of long lines, so make sure that there is a line for each 40 guests. Double sided buffets go twice as fast!
7) Choose vendors you trust, and then TRUST THEM! Let your vendors guide you. Feel free to communicate what you want and need early and often, but then trust your vendors to handle it. If you trust them, they will enjoy the process more, and will be more likely to go the extra mile for you.
8) Online invites vs snail mail invitations: Sure, it’s classier to mail out invites. However, think of how much work it is to collect up all those snail mail addresses, how much time it takes to design and print the invites, the cost, and the time it takes to stuff and send out the invites. If you want the process to be easier, you have permission to use the internet to invite your guests. 🙂
9) Skip the gifts for guests if you want! Most people don’t care about a bag of Jordan almonds, or a jar of preserves. If it makes you HAPPY to choose and purchase and assemble a custom gift for your guests, then go for it! But if it feels like a drag, you have permission to SKIP IT! One more expense saved and more time saved.”
Hugh Groman’s love for simple, vibrantly flavored food and attention to detail has made him one of the leading caterers in the Bay Area. Established in 2001, The Hugh Groman Group has catered events both large and small throughout the Bay Area including events honoring notables such as Barack Obama, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Nancy Pelosi, Laurence Fishburne, Sally Ride, Arianna Huffington, Harry Belafonte, Harrison Ford, Malcolm Gladwell and Gloria Steinem.
He launched Hugh Groman Catering because it allowed him to be creative, project-based and work directly with clients. Hugh Groman Catering is a certified green business by the County of Alameda. In July 2007, he launched Greenleaf Platters, an online service delivering high quality party platters throughout the Bay Area. Most recently, in July of 2011, Hugh and his team opened Phil’s Sliders, a yummy slider restaurant that is the love child of In n Out burger and Chez Panisse. He applies his creativity and love of food when creating menus and recipes and counts among his influences, Tom Colicchio for his aesthetic, commitment to freshness and simplicity and aversion to “tortured food” and Danny Meyer for his business acumen and unwavering dedication to high quality in all areas of his restaurants.
Contact Hugh at (510) 647-5165.
Hugh Groman lives in Berkeley, California with his husband Noah and in his spare time enjoys playing with his doggies, boot camp, reading in his hot tub and watching the Real Housewives of wherever!