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Say I DO and I Do Not By Breaking Mainstream Wedding Rules

I have been a wedding caterer for more than two decades, and one thing I can tell from the moment a couple walks in the door is whether they are asking me for the wedding of their dreams or the wedding of their parents' dreams.
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weddings golden rings on white...
weddings golden rings on white...

One of the fringe benefits for having been a rebellious teenager was that while my life was rocky for a spell, I was rewarded with just that: my life.

In my case, that meant I wasn't going to be a nice Jewish girl married to a doctor. I was instead going to be writer, painter and rebel anti-caterer! Who um... helps other women (and men) marry a doctor!

Works for me.

I have been a wedding caterer for more than two decades, and one thing I can tell from the moment a couple walks in the door is whether they are asking me for the wedding of their dreams or the wedding of their parents' dreams.

In fact, the first question I ask every couple I meet is, "What is your dream wedding?"

Not your mom's, not your dad's, not your sister's, not your florist's, not your DJ's. What is YOUR dream wedding?

"I heard you could do multi-ethnic foods. I'm Swedish, and my groom's from Korea. We love the idea of food from both!"

This sounds like my kinda couple.

"Um ... well, I read that we should ask guests what they want to eat for dinner on the wedding invitations. ... We love beer and barbecue, but my mother feels it's not elegant enough."

This bride is about as close to her dream wedding as Pittsburgh is to China.

I celebrate a woman's right to choose... HOW SHE WANTS HER OWN WEDDING!!

I counseled the beer and barbecue bride to do the wedding toast with her favorite Brooklyn beer and to serve all-day barbecued brisket as one of her entrees. I also gently suggested that the whole taking orders in advance thing is, you know, HORRIBLE! That instead we could serve the food tableside so the guests could choose what they want to eat while it's right there steaming in front of them!

Her face went from sullen to radiant. "Beer for the toast!!"

The Swedish and Korean couple, by the way, got gravlax with radish kimchi.

It was super tasty, but not quite as tasty as the jerk chicken on latkes we made for a couple of grooms, one Jamaican, one Jewish. Those boys celebrated marriage equality with the YUM factor! Yeah, baby!

The next question I ask is, "What is your budget?" Then I do my best to make the two meet up.

But honeys, let's be realistic. If your budget is $30 per person, you are not going to have a filet mignon supper in a ballroom overlooking the East River. You are looking at corn chips and salsa in a Taco Bell overlooking 195.

Be up front about your budget! Why waste energy on a plan you can't afford?

Besides, you might be surprised by the creative ideas that can percolate while trying to make a low budget work. A bowl of pretty apples for a fall wedding instead of a floral table centerpiece, a tower of donuts instead of a wedding cake, a bar featuring beer, wine and two awesome signature drinks instead of a full bar.

One couple fell in love with a wedding venue that only held 160 for dinner when they were expecting 220 guests and were therefore considering renting a soul-less space perfect for a corporate Christmas party until I announced, "Forget a sit down dinner! Let's do a floating supper!!"

I did my first floating supper in the early '90s when I had to cater a party for 700 in a space that only held 500.

"Why don't we break down the dinner into miniature? We can pass it all on small plates or in Chinese food containers. Nothing will require a knife, and we only have to do half seating!" I announced, feeling as though I'd solved the problems in the Middle East.

Not only was it fabulous, but it saved a fortune in rentals for silverware, tables, chairs, linens and more. The couple in love with the gorgeous rustic venue with 40-foot-high barn ceilings got to have their wedding and save a nice chunk of money, too!


My favorite wedding rule to break is any rule that starts off with "Well, everybody says I have to ... " Peer pressure was a bad idea in high school, and it's a bad idea now!

The last and most important piece of my Jewish mama wedding advice: HAVE FUN!!

For crying out loud, this is your wedding, not your funeral!!!! But if you need a caterer for that ...