Finding the Love (for Wedding Pros Everywhere)

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I am a wedding caterer.

This may sound FUN to some folks, but after 27 years of nervous brides, grooms who wonder if there can possibly be enough beer, fathers who really don't want to let their baby girl go and take it out on the caterer by demanding a dozen addendums to the contract, mothers-in-law who wonder if this "shana madela" is really good enough for her son and therefore demand a menu longer then the Bible, older sisters who are angry because they were supposed to marry first and satiate themselves by second guessing the bride's choice of hors d'oeuvres until they drive her full scale mental and she already had a good head start, aunts from Ohio who announce that they will be bringing all the wedding desserts with them on the plane and wonder why the pastries got smashed in their checked luggage (Hello, have you ever been to an airport?), and that's just the family.

There is also the party planner who has never planned anyone's wedding but had a really great wedding (or so she thought) and thought to herself, "I could do that!" So she printed up business cards and managed to snag my bride as her first client. Newby Planner has no idea what she is doing, and compensates by demanding unnecessary meetings. Meeting No. 7 was dedicated to a lengthy debate over whether the toast should be with champagne or prosecco. The three hours of my life lost to this waste of hot air could have been resolved in one phone call and three words: "Prosecco is cheaper. "

There is the location manager, who produces an end-of-night checklist to rival NASA: "Caterer to sweep and mop floor, clean debris from bathrooms, remove all garbage, wipe spills, all items such as chairs, tables and garbage must be lifted and carried not dragged, walls cleaned of any spatters such as oil or vomit, kitchen area to be cleaned, refrigerator to be emptied of all perishables, any violation to result in a $400 cleaning fee by caterer."

After getting through the 15 menu changes by the nervous bride and her family, talking her out of hiring her brother's friend from college who wants to DJ because "he thought it would be cool" and hiring a DJ who actually knows how to DJ, refusing to have a 9th meeting with Newby Planner to discuss whether the wedding cake should be presented at 10:00pm or 10:15pm, it is now time to cook.

It starts to rain; monsoon is a better word. The meat delivery that is supposed to arrive at 9am arrives at 12:35. The produce order crawls in the door at 1:15. All the salad boxes are soaked. The construction workers next door building the new luxury high rent building, poured the concrete water from their mixing buckets down the storm drain; now the storm drain is clogged and the rainwater has nowhere to go but in our basement. Half the kitchen staff is waiting for late deliveries, the other half is in the basement mopping.

After three days of, butchering, fileting, dicing, chopping, searing, grilling, simmering and frying, it is time to load up the food and head to the wedding.

The wait staff arrives three hours ahead of the guests to carry, not drag, the tables and chairs, dress them with table cloths, glasses, napkins and silverware. The kitchen staff arrives to unload, but despite the NASA clean-up list, the event space kitchen is so filthy that none of the food can be unloaded until we clean it with bleach and water.

All of the tables are set, the ceremony chairs in place, the bar fully stocked and ready to go, just as three dozen of the weddings guests who are supposed to arrive at 5:30, walk in at 4:45 and demand cocktails.

Newby Planner races into the kitchen, screaming, "Open the bar!"

"Did you forget that meeting No. 5 was dedicated to the bride's decision that the bar be closed until after the ceremony and that only sparkling water be offered?"


The rest of the guests arrive by 5:45 and drink their sparkling water. The ceremony goes off without a hitch, and it's time to feed these people.

We send out an enormous array of hors d'oeuvres, roughly 16 hors d'oeuvres per person, and also unveil a 16-foot long grazing table of cheese, fruit, smoked meats, pate, pickled vegetables and freshly baked breads. There is enough food in this cocktail hour to stuff not only 100 wedding guests but also the horses they rode in on, should they arrive on horseback.

The bride's mother comes into the kitchen screaming, "My husband has not been given any food, and he is very upset!"

I wanted to say, "Is this the same husband who inhaled 6 shrimp, 3 lamb kabobs, 2 mac and cheese fritters and 3 mini fish tacos?" but instead I said softly, "I'll take care of him right now!" and immediately prepared a pu-pu platter that I hand-delivered to Hubby.

"More food?" he said baffled.

"Eat a little more; it makes your wife happy."

"How do you stay so ... nice?" Newby Planner asked. She had finally decided to take a Xanax (praise the Lord).

If I were a caterer who specialized in drop-off lunches for office parties or film shoots, I might be able to get away with being a little, shall we say, testy.

But I am in the business of love. A wedding can feel like the most important day in someone's life. It is a day they may have dreamt about since they were children, a day they will show photos of to their grandchildren. This is the day to be reminisced about for decades.

This is not the day anyone wants to know that their caterer is tired, annoyed and her feet hurt.

So I reach inside my heart and pull out my own little girl, the little girl who still believed in fairy tales, the little girl who was floating on butterflies when Cinderella landed Prince Charming, (okay later on I might have preferred Cinderella to land her fairy godmother), but I digress. The point is I find that inner love button, and push it, big time!

The fringe benefit to pressing my love button so I can stay kind and not harpoon the bride's brother with a shish kabob after he entices an entire table to do shots instead of prosecco for the toast, is that I feel the love, too, and so do my staff, who in turn pass it on to the wedding guests.

It's a domino love fest.

And yes, sometimes I do just have to stick my head in the refrigerator and scream.