Take heed, future engaged couples. If I had to do it all over again, I would not make the following mistakes.
1. Hiring someone I know to provide a paid service.
Make sure the organist is not your second cousin, you didn’t used to work for your caterer or the DJ is a guy you went to high school with.
Case in point. When I was in high school I worked at a coffee house that was on the first floor of a concert venue in my small town. I made, served and sold coffee and sweets for jazz concerts in the coffee house and played hostess for larger concerts upstairs. I got the job through my French tutor, who owned the venue with her husband. Tres bien!
If there was a concert that was large enough to deserve more than just coffee and dessert, the venue generally contracted the food to a husband/wife catering team who did a lot of business in the town and in the county. The catering couple were known for their savory European-style food and made the very best Linzer torte cookies. They catered for many venues in town and did a lot of private parties. My parents hired them for all our graduation ceremonies – high school and college.
So of course, when I got engaged, there was no question who I would hire to cater the affair. It would be Mrs. X. She had the date open and money was put down on the deal.
I should have gone with my gut after calling Mrs. X to make a first appointment and getting very little response. It was a sign. Finally, when home over Labor Day, I got a hold of her. She met with us at our reception site and blew right through an agenda for the day and food choices. She gave us some menus and said we could do a tasting over Christmas and to email her with our thoughts on her food offerings.
We emailed her right away and asked what she thought about how they all went together. We heard nothing back. Another email and two calls later, still nothing.
Finally, in November, I caught her on the phone in her kitchen.
“Right,” she said. “I can’t do a tasting at Christmas. I’ll be out of the country for five weeks.”
Even after Christmas we didn’t hear from her. I kept calling and emailing.
Then, at the very end of January, with four months left to the wedding, she emailed me from Europe with some bad news. Emailed. It was like breaking up on a Post-It.
She was unfortunately not going to be able to cater our wedding due to a litany of issues and she put me in touch with another caterer she wasn’t totally familiar with, but thought could handle our wedding. Turns out, that caterer had never hosted a party with more than 60 people.
2. Not getting it in writing and sending a check willy-nilly.