I remember a wedding I worked early on in my career as an event sales manager where a seamless event made an ugly turn filled with stress and turmoil. I recall this event being absolutely stunning, with about 250 guests. It was a gorgeous summer day on a patio with stellar views of the Columbus City Skyline. The couple I worked with was fantastic and did a great job at communication, direction and overall we worked well together. Unfortunately nobody foresaw the chaos that was to come.
Months in advance the couple along with their parents enjoyed a private tasting where they sampled the food they chose to be served at their event. Like many couples, they chose 3 different dishes as options to serve at their wedding reception. A chicken dish, a beef dish and a vegetarian option. When they sent out their invitations, they also sent the request for which (and how many of each) dish the guest would like to order in advance. This is how couples are able to order the meals needed in advance with their catering company so that the chef knows how many of each meal to prepare. Once the dinner service is started, it is up to the server to present the requested meal to each individual guest.
It is the responsibility of the couple to clearly identify the meal choice on each of the guest’s escort card so that the server knows which meal is to be served to each guest. I have seen many different identifiers on place cards including different colored ribbons attached, different colored place cards, and stamped photos to identify meal choice. The more obvious it is on the place card, the easier and it is for the serving staff to identify and quickly serve the requested meal to each guest.
In the case of this wedding, the couple provided escort cards with clear markers on each guest place card to identify those that ordered chicken, beef or vegetarian options. The couple had meticulously glued different colored charms on the back of each place card to identify the 3 different meal choices. If the guest had a red charm, their choice was chicken. If the guest had a blue charm, the meal was beef and a green charm indicated the vegetarian option. This seemed clear and effortless. What nobody anticipated however, was that the summer heat melted the glue that adhered the charms to the place cards. When the cards were unpacked by the event staff and placed on the escort card table, most of the charms had fallen off or continued to fall off in the warm temperatures. The serving staff was then required to ask each guest which meal they requested. Unfortunately most guests did not remember their original choices and randomly chose a meal type. This in turn, caused chaos for the kitchen and serving staff because although more chicken meals had been ordered in advance, more beef meals were ordered on the spot. The chef frantically scrambled to prepare more beef meals but this held up dinner service, and in the end, there were guests who’s original choices could not be accommodated because of the last minute changes.
Nobody ever wants to inconvenience or delay their guests but in this case, the uncertainty of which meals went to whom, did just that. From that point on, I have advised every couple to clearly identify their place cards and shared the cautionary tale of the time the charms fell off of the cards. If you want to ensure there is no mistaking meal choices for guests, I suggest using different colored place cards to identify the meal choices. A very obvious stamp on each place card is another good option. Most importantly, talk to your catering sales manager in advance to discuss your ideas or to get ideas to ensure your guests are easily and quickly served their proper meal choices.