Behind the Scenes: A Life of a Vendor

Quite a while ago, I wrote a post about what it’s like to be on the vendor side of the fence when it comes to wedding planning and executing. Since that time, my career path has changed pretty drastically. I am now a full-time wedding and event coordinator for a local catering company. The account that the company is contracted for is one of the larger colleges in the Pittsburgh area, and the venue at the college holds between 50 and 70 weddings a year. If you’re thinking, “But there are only 52 weeks in a year, you dope,” I am here to tell you that Friday and Sunday weddings are definitely A Thing in this region.

I love my job and it’s kind of a dream come true for me. When my friends will ask me what all my job entails, my short, jokey answer is, “I plan shit and tell people what to do.” The response is almost always, “That is perfect for you.” It wasn’t until fairly recently, though, through communication with BM Y, that it hit me: I’m a vendor.

Since that thought took place, I’ve been sort of writing this post in my head. I thought that it might be helpful for those in the planning stages to have a sort of behind-the-scenes glimpse into what a vendor does for your wedding. Mr. Palm Tree consistently comments that he would never think to inquire about so many of the things that I handle on a daily basis, but he would expect them to be done.

In the months/weeks leading up to your wedding reception…

My position, in short, means that I handle all food, beverage, and linen details for your wedding. I schedule taste tests within six months of your wedding date. During your tasting, as you, your spouse-to-be, and two guests sample the amazing, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal food that our company has to offer (I’m only slightly biased ;) ), I inquire as to the details of your wedding day and make sure that you’re on the right track. Our venue is BYOB, so I remind you that you have to fully stock two bars. I remind you of other details, for instance: if you want wine service during dinner you must bring enough wine to have some set aside for service as well as wine to be featured at the bars, you cannot bring in any outside food or beverage other than the alcohol and cookies (this is Pittsburgh, after all :) ), and if you planned to feature food/beverage items as favors they must be completely wrapped. And I remind them that nobody can self-serve alcohol so if you planned to use wine bottles as a part of your decor they must be empty or remain unopened. I explain that all drop-offs and deliveries must take place the day before your wedding and that we will confirm a time during the week leading up to your wedding. We discuss things like the amount of hors d’oeuvres you want to feature, and I ensure that it appropriately corresponds with your guest count.

We will discuss colors and how you would like to feature your wedding colors in your linen selections. I explain how billing and payment works and provide you with your due dates: menu must be finalized two weeks prior to your wedding and your final count is due one week prior to your wedding. We discuss your basic timeline of events.

We have open, unlimited communication throughout your entire planning experience. You have my cell phone number and my work number, as well as my email, and I encourage you to use it. I am happy to help with any questions, even if it may technically be outside my range of direct expertise. I stay in touch regarding reminders for your due dates.

Random Tidbit of Advice #1: One thing that I often point out to brides and grooms is that if you cut your cake later in the evening, that means my staff will be forced to serve it later in the evening. This means that dinner service could be longer than the typical estimated hour. I often recommend one of two options: cutting the cake immediately upon your grand entrance, so that my staff can remove it and cut/plate it OR providing sheet cakes so that my staff can cut and plate your cake ahead of time. One of my favorite situations occurred during a wedding in September, where the bride and groom had a fake tiered cake, except for the top layer, which they cut into, that was able to sit on display all evening; they also provided multiple sheet cakes to be served. Cost-effective AND efficient.

Random Tidbit of Advice #2: If you plan to visit tables throughout dinner service and you are having a served/plated dinner, I recommend that the couple have all of their courses served at once. This ensures that they will finish eating before the rest of the guests and they actually can visit with their guests without taking too much time from the rest of the reception.

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Personal photo | From a wedding in mid-October

In the days leading up to your wedding reception…

I compile your final event order, which includes all of your food and linen pricing. I explain how and when payment is due. We arrange for the deliveries and drop-offs to take place the day before your wedding.

When you arrive to drop everything off, I am there to take all of the items. This includes all alcohol, cookies, your cake knife and server, personalized champagne flutes, place cards, centerpieces (if they are not done by your florist), table numbers, your card box, bathroom baskets—basically any and all reception details that are not handled by another vendor such as your florist or baker. We go through a checklist to ensure that all items were received, and we discuss any details about how items are to be displayed/assembled.

In terms of behind-the-scenes action, I spend this week getting my staffing assignments in order as well as finalizing the timeline. My staff works in groups of two, so I will split the floor plan accordingly and assign each pair to their tables. Outside of dinner service, I assign my staff to various other positions: passing hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, watching and replenishing the table featuring the stationary hors d’oeuvres, clearing glasses and discarded napkins/plates during cocktail hour, barbacks, cookie table attendants, candy table attendants, pouring champagne and water during final set. The entire evening has to be planned out in advance for it to run efficiently and on time. By the time the staff arrives on Saturday, every individual will have a specific job to do for the entire day/evening. Nothing will be left unattended or forgotten. The entire staff will be aware of the timeline and where he/she is supposed to be and what he/she is supposed to be doing at any given point of the night.

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Personal photo

On the day of your wedding…

I arrive at the venue between 11:00 AM and noon. I am the only one there at this point and my staff arrives in staggered shifts: some at noon, some at one, some at three. They begin by putting all of the linens on your tables, creating your place settings (flatware and glassware), folding napkins, etc. Once all of the table details are completed, they work on your cookie table and any other details—your place cards, the hors d’oeuvres tables—as well as ensuring we are ready from the catering standpoint. The latter includes items like filling all of the creamer caddies for coffee service, flipping the water glasses so they are ready to be served, counting the appropriate plates for the culinary staff, cutting the cake if possible, etc. The bartenders are setting up the bars and dividing the alcohol accordingly. I make sure that if there is a signature drink, they are aware of it and the recipes.

I am bustling around overseeing all of this as well as attending to finite details, such as assembling/placing centerpieces if needed or putting together the family table, which features pictures of your parents and grandparents at their wedding. I also work with the other vendors who may show up, such as your DJ, your florist, and your baker, to ensure that they are on track. Right before cocktail hour, I have a pre-shift meeting with my staff to ensure that we are all on the same page, that everyone is aware of the menu and his/her duties.

Random Tidbit of Advice #3: Be specific with any instructions that you may have. It was touched upon in my last post, but even though I am a seasoned professional and my staff is full of hard-working individuals, we are not mind readers. I recently had a wedding where the bride wanted me to place origami figurines out at each table. The origami were different shapes and sizes, however, and I wasn’t sure if there was a rhyme or reason as to which item went where so I had to use my best judgment. To my knowledge, this did not end up being a problem; however, it could have easily ruined the bride’s vision of her tablescape. Detailed instructions are ALWAYS better than no instructions.

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Personal photo | Sealed wine bottles! PLCB can’t come after us. ;)

When guests begin to arrive for the cocktail hour, I am between the two rooms (the venue has a separate space for the cocktail hour and the reception) overseeing all of the goings on as well as checking in with the culinary team to ensure that they are aware of the schedule and any changes. When the wedding party arrives, one of the bars in the cocktail-hour area closes and moves into the ballroom, and my staff works to move all of the guests into the reception area. Once the cocktail-hour area is cleared of guests, the wedding party enters and is treated to freshly replenished and served hors d’oeuvres as well as a private bar. After this, the DJ, the venue’s coordinator, and I work together to get all of the individuals lined up for the grand entrance.

My staff works to clear the area of any trace of the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails as well as getting ready to begin dinner service. During dinner, I am overseeing the staff and ensuring that proper service details are being attended to—things that may seem superfluous but are incredibly important to both the company for which I work as well as the guests. We have received so many comments on our attention to proper service. My staff works throughout the entire evening to attend to their assigned tables, even well after dinner is over—they are constantly refilling drinks, clearing place settings, and replenishing the cookie table.

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Personal photo | It’s not a Pittsburgh wedding without a cookie table! This is one of the smaller ones we’ve had, believe it or not.

At the end of the evening, I ensure that all of the belongings are returned to the designated individuals. The venue’s coordinator and I go through the checklist to ensure that nothing is left behind, and my staff helps load the items into the necessary vehicles. We are there often an hour or so after the reception has ended.

When I return to work on Monday, the process starts again for the following weekend’s wedding.

I truly hope this does shed some light on everything that occurs in preparation for your wedding day. So much effort and hard work goes into a wedding and not just on the couple’s part—so many different people/teams have to come together to ensure that everything is the way it should be. It takes hours of preparation and dedication.

Are there any items that you think I missed, hive? Are there pieces of information or tidbits that you’d like to know?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Palm Tree

Birthday:
March 20
Location:
Pittsburgh, PA
Wedding Date:
May 2013

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  1. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:06 am

    I love this! Great tips! I used to work for a catering company, and people who haven’t worked in the industry just don’t understand the other side of it. You don’t just “show up” for the wedding that day, there is a ton of preparation that goes into even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential things.

  2. Member
    x0jlynn03 2134 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:58 am

    I think you have my dream job.. I’m jealous.

  3. Member
    x0jlynn03 2134 posts, Buzzing bee @ 11:04 am

    I have a simple random question.. do you have any days off during the week? With having weddings possibly Friday & Saturday, when do you get a breather?

  4. Member
    valardohaeris 151 posts, Blushing bee @ 11:25 am

    This is such a great post! I used to work at a hotel, so I got to see a little bit of what was done for weddings, but I’ve always wondered how things are done behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Member
    ecjohnson 147 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:42 pm

    I am currently a teacher, but I enjoyed planning my wedding, love reading about weddings, just love weddings in general that I have thought that maybe some day I would get into the wedding planning business. However, I just CAN’T grasp the concept of having to work so many weekend nights! My husband works awful weekly hours and so weekends are our time together. Is it as bad as I am imagining?

  6. Member
    texasaggiemom 595 posts, Busy bee @ 8:13 pm

    The timing of this incredibly informative post could not have been better – we have all our final vendor meetings on Monday! Thanks so much for the insights. And how did we miss out on the “cookie table” concept down here in the south? Do they still have cakes? Or is it cookies in lieu of cake? I love all the “foreign” customs I learn on the Bee!

  7. Member
    lealorali 4827 posts, Honey bee @ 5:31 am

    This was so interesting!!! You are a real expert :)

  8. Member
    NatureBride2015 50 posts, Worker bee @ 10:46 am

    Thank you for sharing! You sound like an amazing person to work with!! Any bride would be lucky to have such a detail oriented person on their side :) Kudos to you!

  9. Member
    Mrs. Rubber Stamps 821 posts, Busy bee @ 2:53 pm

    I’d like some cookies, please!

    I love how much enthusiasm you have for your job. Great, informative post!

  10. Member
    ktf1026 155 posts, Blushing bee @ 1:35 pm

    This is so helpful! My fiance and I just started looking for venues last night and ohmygosh are we overwhelmed.

    I’d love for you to do a post with important questions to ask your vendors – I’m sure there are lists out there but I want to know what the vendor thinks is important and what the bride should think is important. Does that make sense? :)

  11. Member
    lobitacubana 56 posts, Worker bee @ 6:37 pm

    Great post! Do you have any suggestions on how much alcohol I would need to stock a bar for 150 guests? I’m having a wedding at BYOB venue and would love some guidance.

  12. Member
    mswaterfall 1403 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:37 pm

    Um, you’re the BOMB Mrs. PT! For reals! This sounds like such a cool job, but I’m also wondering about when you get time off! Sounds stressful!

  13. Member
    mspalmtree 1122 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:44 am

    @Blonde17Jess: So much time and effort goes into the smallest things, as you said. I spent about an hour this past Saturday de-tangling strands of pearls from branches for centerpieces to make sure they were “free-falling.” :)

    @X0JLYNN03: It is definitely a dream come true for me!

    @X0JLYNN03, @ecjohnson: It is undoubtedly a little frustrating from time to time, to know that every Saturday (and some Fridays and Sundays) from April – November is accounted for. . .however, I know these things so far in advance that it is easy to plan around them. I also knew this going into it, prior to accepting the job, so it wasn’t a surprise or anything. Thankfully, Mr. Palm Tree has a great job with a fairly flexible schedule, so we work together to find quality time. I’m also able to take a day off during the week when I want/need to (Tuesdays and Sundays are fairly typical for me) and that allows me to get a lot of my errands done. We also don’t have children, which helps a lot in terms of having to carve out quality time – we only have to be worried about our schedules. Thank you for asking this, I sincerely appreciate how thoughtful this question was!

    @valardohaeris: I’m glad you found it interesting! :) It’s definitely a mystery of sorts.

    @TexasAggieMom: If I can be of any further help, please just let me know. :) Also – cookie tables originated in the Western PA area. I didn’t even realize that it was a regional thing until college. I grew up with cookie tables at every major event (graduation parties, weddings, funerals, etc.). I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way!

    @lealorali: I like to think so. . . ;) Thank you!

    @SashaDear: Thank you so much! I try to pay attention to all of the details as if they were my own. I’m a big believer in vendors existing to take the stress OFF of the Bride and Groom, as opposed to adding more.

    @Mrs. Rubber Stamps: Thank you! I’m glad that my love for my job was able to shine through in this post.

    @ktf1026: This absolutely makes sense! Maybe I will work on putting a post of this nature together. . . in the meantime, please feel free to PM me if I can be of ANY help. I would be happy to create a list of questions for you and your fiance if you’d like. :)

    @Mrs. Waterfall: Stressful for sure, but it’s also become something of a routine, you know? I’m glad it sounds cool, too. . . I like to think it is, but I think *I’m* cool in general, so. . . ;)

  14. Member
    mscamera 300 posts, Helper bee @ 8:00 am

    holy moly. I am so jealous of your job. This is my DREAM. And it’s so perfect for you!! So glad you found such an amazing fit for you, even if it happened so close to your own wedding!!

  15. Member
    canarydiamond 8046 posts, Bumble Beekeeper @ 3:33 pm

    Interesting!! This is totally not the job for me.. I got stressed out just reading about it. You sound like you really know what you’re doing. I can’t imagine having something go wrong and having an angry bridezilla come at me lol.

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