How to manage a wedding?
Guide for event managers
In this blog I am going to write about what I feel are the key elements in event managing a wedding from the prospective of the event manager hired for the day along with their front of house staff.
Prior to the actual wedding day it is very important to go get all the caterers planning details for the day plus any additional information on the days program from the organizer/bride. This is like your bible for the day and lets you know everything from what is required for the set up to how key steps during the day are done and when
This is a blog to talk about how to event manage a wedding from the prospective of the catering. In event managing the front of house catering for a wedding it is rare for you to have met the happy couple or even the wedding planner prior to the day. Your main liaison will be with the catering company that has engaged you for the event.
Prior to the day you need to receive from the caterer the following
Floor plan (mainly for set up)
Contact names on the day
Initially look through all the information and make sure in general what is planned is achievable from the prospective of the timings and what staff you have on the day. If you have any questions talk to the caterer to make sure you are clear on everything.
A very important aspect is to make sure that you have the right amount of staff.
Usually a wedding reception can be broken down into 5 elements
1. The set up
2. Pre service guest requirements
3. Canape reception
4. Main sit down meal
5. After party
These are in effect 5 separate elements which need to be well planned and staffed.
The set up
When you arrive on the day you will start with an empty room. At this stage you need to keep calm and make sure you are very organised. Important things to do is to organise deliver of your equipment so that it goes to the right places, i.e. in the main room, reception room, back of house etc. Make contact with the venues management and support staff, as this helps if you need additional equipment on the day.
With the room plan organise your set up team to start getting the room ready. It is really like building a house with key steps along the way, such as putting the tables in place, clothing, laying out cutlery, glasses. As you are doing this you will also have staging guys building sets and doing the lighting and sounds. You will also have table dressers coming in to do flowers and other table centre pieces. A common problem is trying to all work around each other.
Once all these elements are completed you can get the tables in the right place and put out the chairs.
Whilst this is going on you may need one member of staff to deal with the bridal party as they may have requirements prior to the event.
As the main room is being set up you will also have to set up the reception area primarily with a bar. This may be one already in place or one set up for the day by you. This room needs to be ready first and needs to look really slick, organised and tidy as it is the first thing most guests see first on arrival.
There may also be other rooms to look after/set up such as a present room, a quite room for the bride/groom to use prior to the wedding etc.
Whilst the set up is under way make sure you talk to the lead chef, especially on timings, allegies and any special requirements which are in the plan. Also talk to the organiser and/or any MC who has been hired for the day to make sure you are all singing from the same time sheet. (Things can change rapidly on wedding planning and if not careful you can find that key people have different timings as revisions are made and decemination of information is not always consistent). You do need a quick mind for these events as requirements and timings will change as the event progresses.
Also during the set up you need to plan your staff allocations. This is easier if you know the staff but more difficult if you are unfamiliar with the staff you have. Ideally it's great if they are regulars however that is not always possible so it is important to at least have a few regulars who you trust and they will help you get through the day.
The amount of staff you need depends on the type of service you are going to do. If it is a sit down three course meal then Ideally it would be good to have one waiter to look after one to two tables. If it is a buffet then you would need fewer. You will also need to allocate jobs for the reception which will include drinks, canapes, one dedicated person to look after the Bride and Groom and a few people to stay in the main room and to make sure everything is ready.
Once all your staff are ready it is very important to have a briefing. The main purpose for this is to allocate jobs for the event and run through how the event will run i.e. what type of service are you doing (snake, fan, your own table), where the food pass is, where to clear to, how the staff should handle any questions regarding allergies etc. What people are doing during the reception. Also to inform the staff where fire exits are, toilets etc. It is also important to ask for any questions and make sure the staff know what they are doing and that there are no misunderstandings.
If you do everything in a calm and organised way then you should be ready on time to greet the guests and get the event underway on time.
Once the event has started keep liaising with the MC/organiser and the head chef in case timings have stated to slip or plans have changed. Keep moving around all the areas to make sure staff are where they should be and that the guests are happy and being well looked after. Also at the start of the event if you haven't already done make, introduce your self to the Bridge and Groom and close family to make sure they are happy and know who to ask if they have any problems.
During the event you have to continually juggle different demands. You need to make sure the staff are in the correct place at all times, react to various demands from the guests and improvise when things go slightly wrong so that the event runs smoothly.
The main things to ensure is that during reception guests receive a drink, are topped up and the canapes are getting around the whole of the room, this can better be achieved if the waiting staff use different points of entry and you also direct them to different places in the room.
During the sit down meal you need to make sure that the guests get seated at the right table, wine and water is poured and the three courses are served at the right time. You also need to make sure that the courses are cleared quickly and on time too. During a wedding there are lots of speeches so service has to fit around them. Usually it is planned when they will be and for how long however the timing and length does not always go according to plan. When this happens it is vital that you keep in close contact with the organiser and the chef.
Once the main meal and speeches are over the event will either start to wind down or there will be dancing etc until the event. The most complex parts of the event have now been achieved and you now have to concentrate on drinks service for the guests and a clearing down of the meal etc. If you organise this well a large part of the event can be cleared prior to the event actually ending.
Once guests stat to leave you can clear down remaining glasses, the bar, remove linen, fold down tables and stack chairs. All the equipment that you brought will be taken to the loading bay and put back on a van and after a short time it will look like the event was never there. Prior to leaving just make sure the venue management are happy how you have left everything and then you are ready to go home and tomorrow is another day and another event.