Eunice Power - Outside Catering Company, Waterford, Ireland.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Good Wedding Reception

Irish Times
Saturday May 11th 2013

The secret to a successful wedding is to have a clear idea of what you want and the right people in place to make it happen. Wedding caterer Eunice Power has the inside track.

"I know this is a challenge, but just do it . . ." those were the words of a wedding stylist a few weeks ago as I peeked into a beautifully decorated barn, which had absolutely no electricity point, not to mention anywhere a caterer could serve food. Any such practicalities had escaped the stylist, whose evening theme centred around dozens of suspended paraffin lanterns. I recalled the bride and groom's priorities at the menu tasting we had a few weeks previous - the finale of the meal was to be an after-dinner coffee menu, something which is now hugely popular at weddings. A specially sourced giant espresso machine and its attendant flown-in barista was the couple's way of treating their guests to an authentic Italian coffee house experience, performance latte-art being one of the specialities. Needless to say we frantically improvised for them, and it all turned out wonderfully.

In my day, weddings were quite different affairs. We went with the flow. Our parents invited every neighbour and living relative. Ed and I were just about allowed to invite a few friends. There was a fight over who made the cake. We had beef or salmon in the local hotel and danced to Gina, Dale Hayes and the Champions until the small hours. My type can be spotted a mile away as the inner Bridezella is unleashed when we turn 40 and insist on the big party, or worse . . . when we eventually arrive at planning our own offsprings' weddings.

From the viewpoint of the wedding caterer's chair which I occupy these days, the wedding couple are now very much in the driving seat and they have a clear idea of what they want, presenting it to me, quite often, on a detailed mood board. In the past few years there has been a distinct move towards formal weddings - undoubtedly attributable to the popularity of Downton Abbey et al - all empire lines and beautiful flowers.

At the moment there is a swing towards the 1920s and early 1930s, art deco, silverware, china, crystal, damask and black tie. This year it's most definitely out with the champagne flutes and in with the champagne coupes and the champagne pyramid with its cascading bubbly.

Specially created pre-dinner signature cocktails are also bang-on-trend, with tequila being high on the list of ingredients - so be warned before imbibing. I've had couples spend hours deciding on the composition of their particular wedding cocktail - flavours that conjure up their time spent abroad, ones which represent their favourite holiday destinations, even flavours that symbolise traits in each other. I recently had one groom tell me he wanted something hot and spicy to represent himself.

It has also become quite popular to draft in a professional mixologist to add to the drama of the cocktail-making on the day, or to give guests novel wedding favours by attaching the printed cocktail recipe to a quartet of miniature bottles containing all you'll need to "make your own at home".

This formal wedding trend is invariably interjected with an enduring leaning towards the pretty and vintage style, and the festival/carnival feel. Think bunting, mismatched crockery, maypoles, heart-shaped cheeseboards, pigs on spits, carousels and the strongman, or high striker. This romantic, floaty trend is definitely big at present, but it's wise to remain grounded in reality and have a plan B. We live in a climate where the hazy summer evening is often a misnomer and that perfect image of ice creams on the lawn can quickly become naturally occurring icicles on the lawn; so be flexible.

The weddings we cater for are generous, warm, relaxed affairs. Each one varies in style, reflecting the couple's individuality. Venues change from week to week - from castles to cow barns to wonderful tents in stunning locations. The couples all have one thing in common - they want well sourced seasonal food, beautifully presented in an atmosphere of conviviality and fun, in a location which will be forever special to them.

If I was to distil what most couples ultimately seek, I would say it is unpretentious, honest, memory-provoking, good food, full of flavour, with a homemade feel. I am impressed over and over again with my clients' knowledge of food and its provenance, and how they can determine precisely what they want, and their subsequent single minded quest to get it. We are frequently asked for names of suppliers, even names of individual farmers so that these details can appear on the wedding menu.

So what is the secret of a successful wedding party? Simple really, visualise the end result and then get the right people around you to make it happen. Delve into the detail months beforehand, embrace it, then delegate it and turn up on the day - it's as easy as that. But please don't forget to think about practicalities - see my opening sentence.

Weddings are electric affairs fuelled by great company, wonderful wine and delicious food. The attention span of guests will last for three hours over dinner, and after that it's all about the action - people will want to get up and move about. Plans for a lunch or brunch the day after the wedding are really important for the couple - the post mortem is such an important part of the unwinding and helps keep PWB (Post Wedding Blues) at bay until such emotions can be dealt with properly on a remote island in the sun.

So, returning to the big day - once dinner is served, we in the kitchen collect ourselves and our belongings, bid farewell to our colleagues front of house, pack the van and prepare for the journey home. We spend the first half hour going though every detail, and the remaining time being elbowed in the head as we each try to find a suitable position to sleep on the bench seat of the van. Fear not, we have a driver.