Even if real life affects the bottom line of your bridal budget, you can still make your shower or brunch reception the first-class affair of your dreams.
Event manager Renata Burian-Ferguson and sommelier Paul Bologna at the Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa in posh Palm Desert share a few surprisingly simple ideas designed to make a memorable — and affordable — event spent with family and friends.
Tee Off for Teatime
Burian-Ferguson says English garden-style teas are never out of fashion, and there are some beautiful, modern ways to update the popular bridal shower theme simply by using hot color schemes (greens, blues and browns), some updated cocktails and creative edibles.
• Tea Forté not only makes fantastic artisanal teas but also tea-drinking accessories that guests can take home with them.
• Because sun protection is a must, a crafty way to get guests interacting and shaded is by creating a hat-making station, where they can use ribbons, feathers, flowers and other notions to dress up basic hats. The makings of this group fashion statement are as accessible and affordable as neighborhood crafts stores, such as Michaels.
• Make it a garden party, literally. Garnish the season’s freshest vodka and gin drinks with edible flowers and leaves.
• For guests not ready for liquor-based cocktails early in the day, you can serve fresh-squeezed health boosters with carrot, pomegranate, guava and wheatgrass juices.
• Sushi for breakfast? Yes. Use slices and rectangular cubes of fruit to dress up blocks of sushi rice for an edible that’s light, sweet and refreshing.
Consider dressing up the tea party with a golf theme:
• Transform unused golf clubs and fresh flowers into eye-catching centerpieces.
• Party favors can be double-entendres. For example, a crystal wine-bottle stopper bears a striking resemblance to a golf ball on a tee.
• Serve foods inspired by the hearty delicacies of such golf destinations as Scotland and Ireland: Try scones, potato cakes, oatmeal crème brulee and smoked salmon in bite-size portions.
Bologna notes that wine tastings built around themes of favorite genres of wine (Californian, Italian, German) have become popular for weddings staged at the hotel. However, he notes that with a little research, you can achieve the same kind of “gee whiz” factor anywhere with a little bit of planning and a commitment to a favorite region or style of wine. When done right, the get-together can also be educational.
Here are some of Bologna’s suggestions for a successful sipping session:
• Pick five or six wines that fit both the season and favorite genre of wine, and order them by price or by intensity.
• Explain that there are phases of a sip:
1. Attack: first notes that hit the tongue
2. Midpalate: the fruits, woods and other nuances that spread across the tongue over several seconds.
3. Finish: the notes of the wine that linger at the end of the sip.
• Explain to your guests that terroir is a French descriptor that indicates a wine’s geographical origin, as the wine takes on the unique characteristics of the soil in different locations. A Cabernet from Napa, for example, will be a very different from a Cabernet from Paso Robles.
• Visit a respected cheese shop or deli to provide cheeses that will pair with the various wines you select for your evening.
• Invest in fresh honeys, jams and nuts to serve with cheeses and quality crackers.
Burian-Ferguson notes that although the sky’s the limit when it comes to wedding planning at her property, many of the ideas are as accessible as your neighborhood gourmet food market, housewares store and farmers market.
• Olive bar: Feature different types of fresh and cured olives in giant martini glasses.
• Pasta bar: Offer the classics, plus gnocchi (potato dumplings), as well as toppings and sauces that can be mixed and matched to satisfy vegetarian and omnivore alike.
• Heirloom tomato bar: Include balsamic vinegar, olive oil and burrata cheese.
• Cheese table: Include dried fruits, honey and port, sherry and liqueurs.
• Cocktails: In a bowl or other oversize vessel, serve sangria, limoncello lemonade or mojitos.
• Fruit-infused water: Serve in pitchers or dispensers — very little effort for a luxurious, summery touch that quenches the thirst on a hot afternoon.