our zany caterer

May 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm 3 comments

One of the first wedding decisions we made was the caterer. Why? Because my 3 main wedding must-haves are: 1. good food, 2. drinks, 3. dancing (in no particular order).

JT and I have been to what seems like a million weddings together, and, as guests, these 3 elements seemed crucial to our enjoyment and memories of said weddings. Truthfully (and I mean no offense to our married friends), I don’t remember what the table centerpieces looked like, or the bouquets, or even what the bride or groom wore. Since we have so many guests traveling (at least 50% of our guests are from out of town), it’s really important to me that they will all be able to enjoy themselves. And, I figure step #1 to enjoyment is good food.

Colleen (one of my bridesmaids) and I cutting a rug at her wedding.

With our venue, we could choose just about any caterer in Milwaukee (however, since the room has been purchased by Bartolottas, any future room bookings will be required to use Bartolotta Catering). We started off by just checking out the websites of a few big names – Chef Jack’s, Ellen Zilli’s, and Lee John’s. Honestly, it was nearly impossible to determine anything based on websites. There are just too many random costs; some companies have them, some do not. For example, some places charge per plate for dinner and then add $1.00/person for serving cake, $0.50/person for linens or candles. There’s usually (but not always) a standard type of linen or china or flatware included, but other choices are available – for a price. It’s very tricky… determining the actual per plate charge means you’ve got to read all of the fine print!

And, in the end, I’m not even sure how much trying to determine this charge actually mattered. For us, it seemed like these 3 caterers were pretty much in the same ballpark cost-wise. We ended up making appointments for tastings at Chef Jack’s and Ellen Zilli’s – because we only had a weekend in which to choose a caterer and it was important to us to be a part of this decision. In the end, we chose Chef Jack’s and here’s why:

Our visit was actually with Chef Jack himself. He is zany, wacky, funny, and super-nice. Immediately upon our arrival, we were served drinks and treated as if we were guests in his home. The food was delish! And after our dinner of chicken, steak, potatoes, and greens (peppers for mom and Jason, asparagus for me), we were served little tastes of Kahlua in chocolate cups! How fun! I was pretty much ready to sign the papers at that point, but, then, he brought out CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES! Yum! Sold!

What really impressed me about Chef Jack, though, was the way he runs his business. He only takes on 3-4 weddings per night, because he only has that much staff and doesn’t want to overextend himself at the expense of his customers. Many of his servers have been with him for years, which I think is a testament to his personality and the way the business is run – like a family. He mentioned that his staff is instructed to watch the entire party: they will check to make sure the bathroom is clean and they will pour coffee and extra time without charging you extra (seriously, some places were like, “we include 2 coffee pours, but if you want us to come around a third time, it will cost you!”). He also urged us to have drinks ready for people as they arrive – a signature Jen-and-Jason drink the moment guests arrive? Count me in!

And then he mentioned that he had served President Clinton at our venue several years ago, and he didn’t need to say much of anything else. I figure, if he can serve the President, he will probably be good enough for my wedding!

What are your “must-haves” for your wedding?  Was food at the top of the list?  And how did you pick your caterer?

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Bill in my pocket (or on my shoulder) pavers! and more pavers!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Debbie  |  May 24, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Jen, we know this wedding will be wonderful! You have excellent taste(example-your choice of life mate).
    I think you know our family well enough by now to know that chocolate covered strawberries, drinks and dancing will make us happy. We just need to dance enough to burn off the calories from the good food!

    Reply
  • 2. Uncle Brian  |  May 27, 2008 at 11:14 am

    How about a signature Jen and Jason Kegger at each table.
    Now that would be memorable.

    Reply
  • 3. jp  |  May 27, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    @Debbie – Thanks! You are too nice! And thanks for taking over the rehearsal dinner planning! I am glad you’ll be able to do that!!
    @Uncle Brian – I think you are totally right about that one. Maybe after dinner we could do some keg stands? Better make sure the photographer stays for that…

    Reply

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