Engagement Party: When? Where? How to Plan.

Are You Recently Engaged?

Personal Story

Our son, Alex, got engaged to Brittany in October 2017. We were overjoyed. They’ve dated for nearly 9 years. That familiarity didn’t lessen the excitement. We wanted to share our joy about Brittany  joining our family through marriage. So, we hosted an engagement party for family and friends.

What is an Engagement Party?

Engagement parties are popular in the South, where we’d lived, prior to relocation, and where Alex was primarily raised. In fact, about a third of the revenue from my business at the time, A Wonderful Wedding, came from planning and executing this special occasion event.

Now in Omaha, Nebraska, we learned many were unfamiliar with engagement parties. Most guests commented, “I’ve never been invited to an engagement party before,” or “I wasn’t exactly sure what an engagement party was.”


Technically, this party is a celebration of a couple’s recent engagement. It’s also an ideal time for upcoming wedding guests to get to know one another.

The bride’s parents traditionally host the first engagement party. Many couples stray from this tradition and host their own celebration or attend parties hosted by friends and family. Some families even co-host the party.

In our case, since the couple will marry on a South Carolina beach with only immediate family  present, we decided to host the party so extended family and friends could share in the engagement and upcoming nuptials, locally.


Engagement parties are usually held within three months of the official engagement or six months before the wedding ceremony. After that, couples and families are typically entwined in wedding planning. Invitations are issued about four weeks prior to the party, allowing guests time to make travel plans, if necessary.


The location can be tricky. Many newly engaged couples live in a different location than family. So, consider travel requirements of guests. Is it easier, and more affordable, for the couple to travel to them? If it’s a destination wedding, is it realistic to expect guests to travel twice to celebrate with you?
If most live in the same area, then it’s as simple as choosing a local venue.

• Number of guests-space needed.
• Level of formality-backyard Bar-b-que, afternoon tea, formal dinner in a restaurant’s private dining room, Sunday brunch, other.
• Guest limitations-can all walk stairs or navigate uneven terrain?


Once again, the tradition of whom to invite often clashes with reality. Traditionally, only guests invited to the wedding are invited to an engagement party. In our case, since the wedding is limited to immediate family, this tradition wasn’t followed.

We invited close friends, family and neighbors whom we knew would be delighted to share in the news of Alex and Brittany’s engagement. Equally important, the invitees are excellent marriage role models and supporters of the young couple, something all newlyweds need.

Planning Template

Our home was chosen as the engagement party LOCATION.

GUEST LIST. The list was created with Brittany and Alex’s involvement. Invitations were ordered online from Vistaprint. They included the location address, date and time and where and when to RSVP. The card also had Alex and Brittany’s wedding website address, which included information on how they met, wedding day details and their registries.

     -HINT: Be sure to order as early as possible. The USPS lost the initial order and it had to be re-ordered. Vistaprint re-printed and sent again at no charge. [NOTE: Informed Delivery by the USPS is a great service. Check to see if it’s available in your area. It provided proof of lost mail.]
     -TIP: Invitations may be sent digitally using  Facebook or email or you can even print your own. If it’s a small party, you may call guests and invite them.
     -CHILL-OUT: Don’t worry about matching your wedding theme or colors to the engagement party. Maybe you haven’t even chosen a wedding date or location yet. That’s okay. This is an early celebration in your wedding planning.

TIME. Since some guests were driving in from surrounding states, we chose 1-4 PM on a Saturday afternoon. This allowed commuting guests a comfortable day trip.

MENU. This was admittedly a bit more challenging than originally thought. Since the party was held between lunch and dinner and during the Christmas season, the menu required creative thinking with a blend of holiday and bridal.
     -Heart-Shaped Tea Sandwiches with a Story: Heart-shaped cookie cutters from Ann Clark, a Vermont based family-owned company, were ordered. Sadly, the package was destroyed in USPS transit. After contacting the company online and sharing a photo of the package contents and why the cutters were ordered, an overnight package arrived. Inside was the replacement, an additional animal-shaped cutter and a hand-written note. Supporting family-owned business makes a difference. Do so whenever possible.
The guests seemed to enjoy the pecan and pimento sandwiches on white wheat bread.

Other menu items included: a variety of cheeses, spreads, crackers and olives with flavored popcorn, red grapes, fresh vegetables, mixed nuts, pretzels, veggie straws, French macaroons and three types of salami. The strawberry tree with yogurt dip was a guest favorite. Two flavors of cake were served after a champagne toast.
Beverages included flavored waters, soda, beer and champagne.

     -HINT: Write each menu item down and underneath the ingredients needed. Purchase and prepare as many items in advance, as possible. For instance, the heart-shaped bread was cut the day before and wrapped so it could be easily spread the morning of the party. The spreads were prepared a day in advance. And, vegetables were washed and cut in advance.
     -REMEMBER: If you’re having the party at home, you also have to purchase the plates, utensils, cups, napkins, serving trays, etc. Ensure plenty of seating. Set out enough garbage containers and make sure your bathroom is properly prepared with hand towels and toilet tissue. If guests wear outer coats, know where you’ll keep these during the party.

Mixing bridal with Christmas was fun. Diamond engagement ring cupcake toppers were ordered and used on food trays and household décor. Paper bells and heart-shaped streamers were pinned to the ceiling, creating a bridal mood. Diamond ring stickers were attached to cups. The Christmas tree was decorated with sentimental family heirloom ornaments. An engagement photo of the couple adorned the fireplace ledge. The style and theme were completely different from the upcoming beach wedding. And, that is perfectly okay.


About 2/3 of the way through the party, guests gathered on the main floor. A family heirloom table with four champagne glasses, votive candles, a cake knife and server and a two-tiered cake was carried into the room and placed on an X taped on the floor, under bells and streamers from above.

Alex and Brittany joined Ken and I behind the table. As father-of-the groom, Ken welcomed guests and spoke of the importance of having support in one’s marriage. Alex followed by thanking guests and expressing his excitement about having Brittany as a wife after their summer beach wedding. I finished the toasts by highlighting Brittany’s entrance into our family unit and the use of tradition in the engagement party. Guests were invited to also toast the couple. The cake was removed and served from trays.

Break from Tradition: No wedding cake is planned for the beach ceremony. Instead an engagement cake was ordered from Crum Cakes Bakery in Omaha. Lana, owner, suggested the “She Said Yes” cake topper. It was perfect.

Alex and Brittany ordered engagement ring-shaped cookies from Crum Cakes Bakery. As guests left the party, they presented these to them with a thank you for attending.

The engaged couple’s attire should match the style and feel of the event, understanding they are the center of attention at the party. No guest should ever upstage a bride, or wear white at a wedding, unless the invite requests this.

The gifts of one’s presence and continual support are the most valuable gifts any engaged couple can receive. Gifts are not expected at engagement parties, but are often given. Couples should acknowledge receipt of these gifts with a genuine hand-written thank you note after the party.
HINT: Open gifts after the party since all guests may not bring a gift.

Best wishes & Congratulations to all newly engaged couples and their families. What a very special time in your lives. Enjoy every moment. And, if it includes an engagement party, I hope you found this post valuable. Questions? Ask below.

SHARE with those recently engaged or planning wedding events.

©Copyright. January 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

40 Wedding Reception Ideas that Will Make You Look Like a Pro

Feel Like a Professional & Delight Your Reception Guests

Food & Beverage

  1. Have a caramel apple station, pumpkin decorating booth and cotton candy machine at a fall wedding.
  2. Serve finger sandwiches on heart-shaped bread.
  3. Dress up reception food tables with ice sculptures and breads in animal shapes.
  4. Replace the open bar with sophisticated tea, juice and cappuccino bars.
  5. Break a loaf of bread to ceremoniously start the reception meal since it’s a sign of good fortune. Place a loaf on each guest table so all can break bread together.
  6. Serve cocktails from a surfboard placed on painted saw horses at a summer beach themed wedding or from ice-filled painted canoe.
  7. Replace the traditional cake-topper with a miniature tent and serving smores along with the cake
  8. Host “Happy Hour” before your ceremony. Greet guests with canapes and champagne and thank them for attending.
  9. Serve dinner food family-style in heirloom bowls at elongated dining tables.
  10. Serve chocolate banana cake instead of wedding cake. Toast with hot chocolate for a winter wedding.
  11. Dress food servers in period clothing or outfits matching the wedding style and theme and ask them to sing while serving.
  12. Order a square wedding cake or serve heart-shaped brownies.

peacockGuest Registry

  1. Ask guests to legibly sign a designated tablecloth with a cloth pen. Afterwards, embroider the names on your marriage tablecloth.
  2. Collect guest signatures on an unglazed piece of pottery in lieu of a guestbook. Glaze and keep as a keepsake.
  3. Create a thumbprint guest book. Guests place colored thumbprints as leaves, peacock feathers or balloons and then add their names to the print.
  4. Guests pen messages on river rocks that later are covered with clear acrylic gloss to keep from fading.
  5. Ask guests to make wishes for you by writing them on a card they hang on a wishing tree.


  1. String unmatched, interesting lights and Chinese lanterns at an outdoor reception.
  2. Decorate guest tables with the state flower.
  3. Etch “love” “hug” or “just married” on to flat, smooth stones and place at each table setting as a favor.
  4. Design floral chandeliers to hang above each guest table. Place ribbon-wrapped votive candle holders on each table.
  5. Use acrylic ballroom chairs with monogrammed pillows placed on them for color and comfort. Guests take the pillows as a party favor.
  6. Hang wedding themed pinatas from the ceiling.
  7. Place fun-filled globe ornaments on tables as centerpieces.
  8. Hang glow-in-the-dark stars from the ceiling above the cake table. Turn the lights off for maximum effect.
  9. Replace floral centerpieces with appetizer trays. As the reception proceeds, replace these trays with dessert trays.
  10. Present guests pear-shaped candles with a tag that includes the bride and groom names, wedding date and “We’re a perfect pair!”


  1. Have a hula-hoop contest and award prizes.
  2. Toss the garter strapped to a football, baseball or whiffleball. Watch unmarried males guests run for it.
  3. Hire jazz musicians, children’s choir, drum majorette or baton twirlers to lead guests from the ceremony to the reception location.
  4. Ask guests to play musical chairs at the reception.
  5. Hire troubadours (group of singers or musicians) from the local college who move around the room entertaining guests during the dinner reception.
  6. Give the “toss bouquet” to the longest married couple.
  7. Ask the DJ to host a lip sync contest with your three favorite songs.


  1. Leave the reception showered with yellow-colored paper smiley faces, “Just Married” confetti and multi-colored paper streamers.
  2. Adorn the go-away vehicle’s hood or hitch with a heart-shaped arrangement of rosebuds and place “Just Married” flag on window. Ask a grandfather to be the chauffeur.
  3. Decorate and fill colorful bags for guests to take when leaving. Contents include breakfast items like bagels or mini-muffins, juice boxes and a piece of fruit. Include a small note of thanks and appreciation. Seal with new initials. Favors left by the door do not need to be as elaborate as those left on the guest tables.
  4. Send guests home with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and family sugar cookie recipe.
  5. Express your joy with a helium balloon release, fireworks, a plane-flown banner or a sky-written message.
  6. Let guests toss pre-made paper airplanes as you leave.

Know someone planning a wedding? Share this with them. Help them create a wedding reception to remember.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Have a wedding etiquette or planning question? Ask below. SHARE this with all planning weddings.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

How to Look Like a Wedding Reception Pro Without Being One

Plan a Wedding Reception without Losing Your Mind

You know the feeling you get when your boss asks you to learn something new at the same time you’re already working overtime to get a major project done? Part of you wants to tell her off while the other half of you celebrates her recognizing your talent.

Well, that’s how many wedding couples feel when faced with adding reception planning to their already busy lives.  Of course, they’re excited about getting married but overwhelmed with all the new learning, planning and decision making.

Wedding receptions are often one of the most memorable parts of the wedding day and are the first social event hosted by the couple.  The reception sets the tone of the celebration and says a lot about who the couple is. No pressure!

It helps to have an understanding of locations, reception styles,  catering, reception flow, ceremonial events and table terms.

Here’s a guide to help you begin planning a memorable wedding reception without losing your mind.

image1Choose the Right Location

The location depends on the number of invited guests, budget, and formality of event. The site sets the tone of the wedding reception and most communities have plenty of locations to choose from including private clubs and halls, hotel ballrooms, church hall, historical locations and outdoor venues. Before booking get answers to these questions:

  1. How many people does the location hold according to the Fire Marshall Code?
  2. Will there be other events here at the same time as our reception?
  3. Do I have to use your catering service? If so, if there a price difference between a sit-down dinner and buffet? What is the cost per person/per plate? Do you provide the banquet servers and bartenders? When must I have my menu selections chosen? When is the final count due and when are payments made? What is the cancellation policy?
  4. If not, will you allow any caterer to work here or do I have to use one from your preferred vendor list?
  5. Am I permitted to use my own decorations?
  6. Do you provide the band or DJ and dance floor?
  7. How early, and when, can we get into the location to decorate? Is there a charge for this?
  8. Will I be able to set up the location according to my wishes or do I have to use your layout?
  9. Are there tables for the guest registry, cake, and gifts?
  10. Is there adequate parking?
  11. Are the tables, chairs, linens and centerpieces provided?
  12. Does the price include China, stemware and flatware?
  13. Are there adequate outlets?
  14. Is there air conditioning?
  15. What time must we be out of the location? Can we collect our personal items the next day? Is there a charge for this?
  16. Are there overtime charges?
  17. Are guests permitted to blow bubbles, throw rose petals, rice or birdseed when we leave the reception?
  18. What measures are taken for liquor liability?
  19. Will I need to pay for security?
  20. Is the space handicapped accessible?

Hire the Right Caterer

A wedding reception consumes about 1/2 of a wedding budget. Food and beverage are typically the highest priced line items in the reception budget; therefore, it’s important to select a caterer who not only makes great tasting food with visual appeal but also one who listens to your ideas and gives you a feeling of confidence and trust. Interview at least 3 caterers and, before placing a deposit, ask for a food tasting.

strawberry5 simple questions to ask all caterers:

1. How do you handle attention to detail? You want to hear they use checklists, timetables and flow sheets and assign certain staff to specific areas and functions. Organization for proper timing is critical.
2. Is your staff regular or contracted and what is the guest to staff ratio?
3. May I have contact information for your last 3 wedding reception clients? Contact them.
4. What is the best way to reduce my catering bill? Don’t be surprised if you’re told to reduce your guest list. No good caterer will suggest you skimp on food quality or service.
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the various service styles like sit-down dinner, buffet style and passed hors d’ oeuvres? Follow up this question by talking about which style they use most and is best fit for your reception.
Once you’ve interviewed caterers, selected one, signed a contract and left a deposit, decide on reception type and style, menu choices, bar service, reception flow and creative food service.

Reception Styles

  • Seated Dinner-Appropriate for formal event. Typically five hours. There is a set menu, often with a choice of entrees. A different wine may be served with each course. The first dance and ceremonial dances may take place between courses.
  • Cocktail Reception-Usually three hours. Hors d’ oeuvres are passed butler style (waiters carrying trays) to keep guests moving. A limited number of seats are available. Eight different offerings are typically served and 12-15 pieces per guest are prepared. Either background music or dance music is appropriate.
  • Buffet Reception-Normally four to five hours. Food is placed in decorative containers on serpentine (S-shaped) or rectangular tables and guests serve themselves. Or food stations are placed throughout the room and guests wander from station to station enjoying the offerings. Action-oriented stations are popular. At these, a chef prepares food for the guests: Omelet, fajita, pasta, mashed potato bar, tapas, sushi or steak. Seating if provided for all. Dancing is encouraged.
  • Tea Reception-Held between 2-5pm. Guests are offered finger teasandwiches, a selection of fruits, nuts chocolates and cake along with a variety of hot and cold teas. Background music is  provided. Guest seating is typically not assigned.
  • Breakfast or Brunch Reception-Begins around 10 or 11 am and lasts two to three hours. Guests are served a variety of brunch style foods including eggs, breads, fruit, meats, potatoes, juices and specialty coffees and teas. Champagne is often offered. Background music is provided and seating is not typically assigned.

Guest Seating

Assigned seating for dinner allows a reception to flow more smoothly. Escort cards, another name for table cards, are used to let guests know which table they are assigned to. Historically, these cards were placed on a table right inside the reception hall entrance for guests to pick up and take to their assigned table. Today these escort cards have become quite creatively customized and carry the wedding theme. Consider letting your guests know where they are seated using one of these:

  • Old-fashioned chalkboard on easel-write guest name and number. Great for teachers and lecturers.
  • Color code escort cards to match table linen. Instead of using numbers on tables, guests go to the table that has the linen color of their escort card.
  •   Hang snowflakes or origami cranes, a symbol of happiness, with guest names and table numbers near the reception entrance. These double as party favors.

If guests do not know one another, it’s fun to place a directory on each table of names and how they know the couple. Or, list each guest name and an interesting hobby or fun fact about each person. This starts conversation quickly and helps guests get to know one another.

Table Terms

Head Table-designated for honored guests and bridal couple. This table is usually raised up on a platform with the bride and groom in the center and bridal party on either side of them. Parents can also be seated at this table. If a raised platform is not available, the caterer can designate another table for honored guests. If the bridal party is small, spouses or significant others of bridal party attendants may also be invited to sit at this reserved table. This table is served first.
Parents’ Table-If parents are not seated at the head table, they can host their own table with other honored guests. If the parents are divorced, each hosts their own table.
Place cards-Unless you’re having a very formal evening wedding where every place setting has a place card, these are usually used on the head and parent tables. These cards designate an assigned seat. Escort cards designate an assigned table.

Ceremonial Events at Wedding Reception

  • Introduction of bridal party and couple-Provide the DJ or band leader a list in advance so all names can be properly pronounced. Sometimes parents and Godparents are included in group introductions. Include something personal in each introduction.
  • Couple’s First Dance-Pre-select this meaningful song and practicechasewphoto or even choreograph it. Remember all eyes are on you, so keep it tasteful. Special lighting can add to this dance. Guests do not dance before your first dance.
  • Ceremonial Dances-These spotlight dances include bridal party dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance and parent’s dance. The songs for these dances need to be selected in advance.
  • Toasts-The best man, maid of honor, bride’s father and groom typically offer a toast. Limit each person to three minutes or less. Make sure your toasting goblets are full and that the photographer is present for the toasts.
  • Cake Cutting-ask the Master of Ceremonies, usually the band leader or DJ, to announce this. Cut the first slice of cake together. The groom offers the first bite to the bride and then she offers him one. After the photograph, step aside so the caterers can serve the remainder of the cake.
  • Bouquet Toss-Consider your guest list before deciding to do this. Will single females of marrying age be present? If not, give your bouquet to the longest married couple.
  • Garter Toss-Are single males attending the reception? If so, play special music to set this up.
  • Couple’s Last Dance-When it’s announced that this is your last dance, guests are signaled that you will be leaving soon. Some couples do private last dance. As guests line up outside for their departure, they dance in the hall alone.
  • Couple’s Departure-Usually guests shower you with rose petals, confetti or bird seed or wave sparklers or ring bells as you leave.

Flow of Events

You picked a reception style, menu, the music and decorations, cake, napkins, toasting goblets, cake knife and server, guest book and even the place cards. Now it’s time to plan the reception flow of events and think about what you do upon entering the reception as husband and wife. Look to your hired professionals for suggestions and pre-arrange who will move these events along so the reception ends on time, unless you are willing to pay overtime charges. If your budget allows, hire a bridal consultant or wedding director. If not, ask your DJ or band leader or a friend to be in charge. And, of course, the photographer will want to capture all of these special moments too.

Questions to Answer About the Flow of the Reception

  • What is happening in the event location when the 1st guest arrives? Will beverages be passed or will guests go to a bar? Will hors d’ oeuvres be passed? What type? How many? Will music be playing?
  • Is there a separate room or area guests will be directed to for the cocktail hour or will guests be seated immediately for dinner?
  • How will guests transition from the cocktail reception area into the area for the buffet or seated dinner?
  • How will it be announced that dinner is being served?
  • How will guests know where to sit?
  • Where does the person saying grace before the meal stand? Will a microphone be provided?
  • What happens between courses?
  • When are toasts made?toast
  • When do the couple’s first dance and other specialty dances take place?
  • When is the cake cut and served?
  • When does the bouquet and garter toss happen?
  • Will there be a last dance played for the couple before they leave the reception?
  • What form of transportation is the couple leaving the reception in?
  • Where is the couple spending the night or are they immediately leaving for their honeymoon after the reception?
  • Will the couple be changing before leaving the reception?
  • Will the caterer be preparing a food basket for the couple to take when leaving? If so, who places this in the go-away vehicle?

Planning  a wedding reception for you and your guests to celebrate your marriage should be a fun. These definitions, tips and guides should help. Remember, the reception doesn’t need to be flawless or perfect. Chill out! If you’re both relaxed and enjoying the moment, so will everyone who’s there to congratulate you and wish you well.

Know someone planning a wedding? Do them a favor. SHARE this post with them.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Have a wedding planning or etiquette question. Ask me.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


100 Innovative Food Choices to Impress Wedding Guests

Eat With Eyes & Stomach

A meat, two sides and bread have long been replaced as standard wedding reception fare. Today’s couples understand we eat with our eyes and our stomachs and are choosing foods with high quality ingredients, vibrant color and intense flavors. All of this can be done without being overly costly.

Here are 100 food choices to serve at your wedding reception.

Pick and choose those that meet your budget & style.

fruitHors d’oeuvres or Appetizers

  1. One-sip soups
  2. Vegetable spring rolls
  3. White vegetable crudités
  4. Duck quesadillas with mango salsa
  5. Deviled eggs
  6. Mini-reubens on cocktail rye
  7. Shrimp puffs
  8. Polenta squares
  9. Endive spears stuffed with shrimp and mango salsa
  10. Parmesan beignets
  11. Dilled cucumber & smoked salmon and asparagus finger sandwiches
  12. Mini crab cakes


  1. Raspberry mint lemonade
  2. Bubbly bars with champagne-guests choose to add fizz, fresh fruit and fruit juices to the flutes or shot glasses
  3. Iced coffee
  4. Italian sodas
  5. Flavored martinis-pomegranate, apple cider and green apple
  6. Peach and mango margaritas
  7. Sangria (A blend of wine, liqueurs & seasonal fruit)
  8. Cappuccino and espresso bars
  9. Cocktails served in Mason jars, especially at vintage-style events
  10. Micro-brewed beers
  11. International coffee bar with Kahlua, Bailey’s, Tia Maria, Grand Marnier and other cordials.
  12. Zero-alcohol bars with infused waters, homemade lemonades and specialty ice teas

Food Stations

  1. Frozen vodka and caviar bar
  2. Action Station where chef prepares omelet, fajita, pasta, tapas, sushi or steak
  3. Carving board (Ham, turkey, beef or lamb)
  4. Pancake bar with multiple topping and syrup choices
  5. Mashed potato bar where chef folds in caviar, lobster, roasted garlic or sauteed mushrooms
  6. Sushi
  7. Pasta (Two types with variety of sauces)
  8. Salad bar
  9. Seafood-Shrimp, oysters, scallops, clams (Add a lit ice sculpture & use as a focal point)
  10. Grilled meat, including hamburgers, hot dogs and Polish sausages
  11. Ice cream sundae bar
  12. Breakfast bar with heart-shaped waffles and specialty syrups, popovers filled with scrambled eggs, and a variety of frittatas


  1. Rack of lamb or grilled baby lamb chops in plum sauce on a bed of spaghetti squash
  2. Artichoke and wild mushroom risotto
  3. Ginger marinated smoked duck breast
  4. Filet Mignon with truffle sauce
  5. Pecan encrusted chicken
  6. Chilean sea bass
  7. Grilled cheese and Soup (variety of breads, cheeses and soups)
  8. Miniature pizzas
  9. Smoked chicken orzo
  10. Lamb spring rolls
  11. Curried Chicken
  12. Bacon themed food-wrapped shrimp, bacon wrapped figs, etc.
  13. Potato leek soup
  14. Grilled swordfish kabobs
  15. Chicken satay
  16. Meatballs-pork, beef, lamb and pistachio, etc.
  17. Halibut steak
  18. Breakfast food for dinner
  19. Grilled portobello mushroom
  20. Lobster salad
  21. Lettuce wraps
  22. Fish tacos
  23. Sausages of duck, venison or rabbit served with specialty mustard
  24. Wiener schnitzel
  25. Crab-stuffed trout
  26. Pepper-encrusted filet of sirloin
  27. Calamari
  28. Chicken breast with rosemary and wild mushrooms
  29. Wild game: Buffalo, pheasant, grouse, deer and rabbit
  30. Grilled quail or quail pie
  31. Baked cheese grits
  32. Vidalia onion souffle
  33. Pot stickers and wontons with sweet potato puree
  34. Fried soft shell crab
  35. Quail and pheasant quesadillas
  36. Oysters Rockefeller
  37. Goat cheese chive whipped potatoes
  38. Fresh pineapple soup


  1. Chocolate sponge wedding cake with raspberry filling
  2. Rum cake
  3. Apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream
  4. Coconut macaroons
  5. Mini pudding shots (lemon meringue, sour cherry, praline, etc.)
  6. Carrot cake with cream cheese
  7. Glazed donuts
  8. Souffles
  9. Cheesecake or cheesecake lollipops
  10. Chocolate mousse torte
  11. Snow cones
  12. Cronuts (1/2 croissant + 1/2 donuts)
  13. Warm gingerbread

snowconesLate Night Snacks

  1. Frozen yogurt
  2. Hot pretzels
  3. Finger sandwiches
  4. Desserts like cookies, angel food cake with fresh berries, strawberry-rhubarb pudding, tiny fruit tartlets, tiramisu, key lime pie or cheesecake
  5. Pizza or taco bar
  6. Vegetables and dips & cheese and crackers
  7. Chocolate fondue and fresh fruit
  8. Milk shakes
  9. Snow cones with cocktail syrups
  10. Gourmet teas and coffees
  11. Ice cream sundae bar and sorbets
  12. Flavored popcorn
  13. Specialty chips and dips

Have a wedding planning or etiquette question? Ask me. SHARE with those planning weddings.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. February 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Wedding Expenses: Who Pays?

 Who Pays Changes Over Time

Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 047Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 031Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 034Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 059

The question of who pays for what is a bit harder to answer today now that couples marry older, have more disposable income, have multiple parental units and create elaborate events. Traditionally the bride’s family paid for the entire wedding and reception, keeping the event within their family budget. Today, however, families and the couple often split expenses. Soon after the engagement announcement, discuss who is able to contribute and how much so everyone knows what the wedding budget is prior to signing vendor contracts. All expenses except those listed below are traditionally paid by the bride’s family.

Traditional Expenses for Groom & His Family

  • Bride’s engagement & wedding rings
  • Groom wedding attire
  • Marriage license
  • Officiant Fee
  • Transportation & Lodging for immediate family if out-of-town event
  • Boutonnieres for groom and ushers; bride’s bouquet, unless she’s included the flowers in her order
  • Bride gift
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Honeymoon

Traditional Bridesmaid Expenses

  • Dress, shoes and accessories
  • Professional hair and make-up
  • Transportation to and from the wedding
  • Lodging, if not arranged with family or paid by bride’s family
  • Wedding gift
  • Contribution for bridal shower or luncheon

Traditional Groomsmen Expenses

  • Wedding attire, including accessories and shoes
  • Transportation to and from the wedding
  • Lodging
  • Wedding gift
  • Contribution to bachelor party

Traditional Guest Expenses

  • Transportation and lodging
  • Wedding gift

Be sure to offer your guests choices of lodging with varying nightly rates so the trip is affordable for all. If you are going to list gift preferences on a bridal registry, do the same. Choose items from all price points. And, by all means, do not ask your guests to pay for your honeymoon or a down payment on your first home. Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 045

Do you have a wedding planning or etiquette question?

© Copyright October 2015 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


Wedding Planning Q & A By Topic

Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 047Wedding Etiquette

Q: Does etiquette vary by region of the country?

A. No. While customs vary by region of the country, wedding etiquette is the same regardless of location.


Q. Do I have to invite the officiant to the rehearsal dinner?

A. Formal rules of etiquette state that an officiant and his spouse are to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. This applies to an officiant of a church or synagogue in which you are an active member not necessarily an officiant you’ve contracted for a service.

Q: Do I have to pay the officiant at my church for performing the marriage ceremony?

A: Sometimes this question is answered for you in a church published wedding guidelines booklet. If not, a gratuity is especially appropriate if he played an active role in creating a meaningful service for you. Formal etiquette rules suggest the best man or groom present the officiant with a payment and gratuity in an envelope after the service.

Printed Items: Invitations & Thank You Notesin

Q. What is the timing for sending thank you notes?

A. Formal etiquette requires sending a thank you note within a week if you receive gifts before the wedding and within a month if received after the wedding. Be aware this is a hot button issue for guests, especially older guests who expect to receive a genuine hand-written note promptly after delivery of the gift. Rumors of it being okay to send a note within a year after the ceremony are false. That is seen as being ungrateful and as poor manners.

Q. When do I use wording “pleasure of your company”?

A. If your ceremony takes places somewhere other than a church or synagogue, you use that wording instead of “the honour of your presence.”

Q: When do we send rehearsal dinner invitations?

A: These are sent by the groom’s family after guest RSVPs are returned. Never invite guests to any wedding event over the Internet or through text. Both sets of parents, the bridal party, grandparents, the officiant and his spouse and out-of-town guests are extended a rehearsal dinner invitation.

Q: Do we need to include our parent names on the invitation if we are paying for the wedding?

A: Mature couples paying for the wedding issue their own invitations and do not include parent names.

Q: What do I do if an invited guest has not returned the RSVP card?

A: You must call all guests who have not returned a RSVP card so you can get an accurate count for catering and seating.

Q: When do I mail the wedding invitations?

A: The general rule is 6-8 weeks before the wedding to out-of-state guests and 4 weeks for in-state.

Q: Where do I put a note that we want money, not gifts?

A: Nowhere. An invitation is not a request card for a gift. A gift is something given out of love and generosity. If someone chooses to present you a wedding gift, accept it graciously and with appreciation. Couples never ask for gifts or dictate a preference. Your mother or attendants can express your wishes, if asked, or guests may understand your wish if you don’t have a retail bridal registry. Also, keep in mind it is never appropriate to insert bridal registry information into an invitation either. Shower hostesses can mention where you are registered on invitations. And, bridal showers are never hosted by immediate family members.

Q: I don’t want anyone wearing white or a hat at my wedding. Can I slip a piece of paper into the invitation with this message?

A: No. This message is best communicated from family and friends to guests, not put in writing.

Encore Brides

Q. I’m getting remarried and I don’t understand today’s “rules” compared to when I married the first time.

A. You’re right. The “rules” have become somewhat relaxed. Keep these etiquette tips in mind to look like a pro: Second weddings are more sophisticated because the couple is older and more established, thus has more money to contribute to the event. Therefore, most encore couples pay for the wedding themselves. Ceremonies are smaller and usually only include family and very close friends. If you’re blending families, include the children in the ceremony. Wear a simple, elegant, sophisticated dress (floor length, cocktail length or designer suit) in white, off-white or pastel. Wear a headpiece or hat, and avoid a blusher veil covering your face. Do not print “No Gifts Please” on your invitation. If you prefer a contribution to a certain non-profit, spread this word via family and friends.

Wisconsin Sept 2015 inc Haley wedding 045The Bridal Party a.k.a Attendants

Q. Is there a proper way to ask someone to be in our wedding?

A. Yes, formal etiquette dictates you meet the person face to face and describe why she is important in your life and why you would value her support. Follow up by asking if she will support you in your wedding and marriage by serving in your bridal party. If a face to face meeting is not practical, a telephone call or hand written letter is preferred to an email or video chat.

Q. Am I obligated to ask someone to be an attendant because I was in their bridal party?

A. No. You should never feel like you need to pay someone back by asking them to be an attendant in your bridal party.

Q. How do I tell my bridesmaids I don’t want them wedding dress shopping with me? I’d already promised this to my Mom.

A. Be honest and let them know that this experience is something both you and your Mom have been looking forward to for years. Schedule a later date with your attendants for a dress reveal. Maybe you can address invitations or make wedding favors at this same gathering.

Q. I don’t want bridesmaids but my groom wants groomsmen. Is this okay?

A. Maybe. Check with the Marriage License Bureau in your ceremony location to determine requirements. Most states only require three people be present: bride, groom and officiant. But, there is no rule requiring an equal number of attendants, if you do decide to have bridesmaids.

Q. What arm do my ushers offer to seat guests?

A. Ushers offer their right arm to the woman of a guest pair or the oldest woman in a group of ladies. Single men walk beside the usher to be seated.

Q. Who is the last guest seated before the processional begins?C n C wedding August 2015 070

A. The mother of the bride is seated last and is the first guest to leave after the recessional.

Q. I’ve made a horrible mistake in my choice of maid of honor. She doesn’t seem one bit interested and hasn’t helped with anything.

A. First, try to figure out why she’s become so disinterested. Is she fearful of losing your friendship? Are you overbearing and only talk about your wedding? The gentlest way to re-engage her is to sit down together with a To-Do list and express your excitement about completing some of the list with her. A good honest talk and having some non wedding related fun may restore her interest.

Q. My groom just told me the best man has written a four page toast. Isn’t this too long? What is the norm?

A. Yes, that is too long. No wedding toast should be more than 3 minutes. Toasts should be heartfelt, delivered top-of-mind, not read. Your groom should let his best man know a speech is not needed, simply a toast offering his best wishes will do.

Q. When toasts are being made, what do we do?

A. When a toast is offered at a sit-down dinner, all rise except the couple who remain seated. Afterwards, it’s appropriate for the groom to rise and toast his new bride who remains seated.

Q. All of my bridesmaids are flying in for our wedding. Do I need to rent them a car?

A. Renting a vehicle for your attendants is not expected. If you have the funds, you might rent one or two vehicles and arrange arrival schedules so they can carpool to lodging together. Transportation logistics should be considered when choosing venues.

Q. One of the groomsmen will be in his military uniform. Do I order a boutonniere for him?

A. No. Men in uniform don’t wear boutonnieres, this includes your groom, if he’s in uniform. Others wear their boutonnieres on the left lapel of their jackets.

Q. My bridesmaids told me they’d rather sit with their dates or husbands than at a head table. Is this appropriate?

A. Yes and no. They should sit where you’d like them to. However, seating has changed a lot. You could have a sweetheart table for just you and your groom. Or, you two could sit with both sets of parents.


Q. Where do I send the wedding gift before the wedding day?

A. It is not proper to bring gifts to a ceremony or reception because the burden of transport goes to the bride or her family. Gifts should be sent to the bride’s home before a wedding ceremony. Upon receipt, accurate records need to be kept so the correct thank you note is sent in a timely manner.

Q. A lot of our family doesn’t have fine dining experience. Should I include dining etiquette rules and tableware diagrams in the invitation?

A. No. Your wedding day is a time of celebration. Forgive your guests for what you perceive to be their lack of dining etiquette and enjoy their company and willingness to celebrate with you.


Q. My divorced parents are uncivil. Dad’s remarried. Mom hasn’t. How do I seat them at the ceremony?

A. Let’s hope your parents will remember the wedding day is about you and put their dislike for one another aside. Proper etiquette requires your mother be seated in the first row with her immediate family behind her. Your father is seated in the row behind your mother’s family with his immediate family behind him.

Q. How do I deal with future in-laws putting their two cents in when they aren’t paying for anything?

A. Remember they will be in your life for a long time. To keep harmony, listen to their suggestions, consider them and then decide what is best. If this continues, ask your fiancée to speak to them since you are setting family interaction patterns while you are engaged. Good luck!

Q. How do I ask my groom’s mother if I can help select her dress?

A. First the bride’s mother chooses her dress. Show your mother-in-law a photograph of that dress and then suggest that you and she set up a day to go shopping together, making it a fun day to look forward to. Try not to be controlling and remember you want her to be both fashionable and comfortable in what she is wearing.

Q. My father died a few years back and my mother has recently remarried. I like him but I’d prefer my brother walk me down the aisle. How can I make this happen without hurting feelings?

A. There are several options to consider so that your step-father feels included. Both your brother and step-father can escort you. Or, he could meet you halfway down the aisle and walk the rest of the way to the altar with you and your brother. You could list him in your wedding program, especially if you mention your birth father. At the reception, you could do a spotlight dance with him.

Q. What does the step-mother wear to the wedding?

A. The only rule of etiquette applied to your role is to wear something that doesn’t upstage the mothers and that complements the wedding colors, so that you blend in, not stand out in wedding photographs.

What wedding planning or etiquette questions do you have? Ask me.

©Copyright October 2015 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Halloween Party Planning–Include Boys

Boys get the short stick of holiday party planning. Some say they don’t care. I beg to differ. As the mother of an only child who happens to be male I want him to experience the excitement and anticipation of all holidays too. I understand he’s not a girl, I am. I want him to bank memories of holidays and to recall the fun, festivity and even the calamity of the planning and the party itself. In addition, I want him participating in the planning. There is so much learning for kids involved in planning and hosting events-everything from envelope addressing to budgeting to handling conflict between party guests. Sit down with your child, or children, and plan a party TOGETHER. You will be doing them a favor and teaching them more than you realize.

Pre-Party To-Do List

  • Pick a date, time and location.
  • Decide who to invite-all boys, co-ed, adults?
  • Purchase or create invitations. Child completes Who, What, When, Where and RSVP details.
  • Child addresses envelopes, stamps and mails invitations 2-3 weeks before date.
  • Plan a menu. Traditional kid food or holiday food?
  • Create a grocery shopping list by menu item. What buy, what make?
  • Decide where to serve food-outside vs. inside-where at each location?
  • Make list of tableware and decorations needed.
  • Giving guests party favors? What? Make or buy?
  • Shop together. Compare prices. Decide together.
  • Plan activities for party. Indoor and outdoor. Inclement weather plan?
  • Make a time-line of actions to be done the week of the party and the day of the party. [Teaching time management skills and big picture thinking.]
  • Follow up with non-responding RSVP guests. (Major pet peeve!)

Week of Party Reminders

  • Check the forecast
  • Balls inflated? If any sports balls being used in activities, are they properly inflated?
  • Gather serving platters, trays, utensils, etc. for menu items. Clean? Ready to use?
  • Making party favors? Do so. Place in basket and set aside.
  • Can any ingredients be cut or prepared in advance? Check recipes.

Party Day

  • Set up serving tables, if not using kitchen or dining room table.
  • Prepare menu items, paying close attention to preparation times and safe storage.
  • Place serving trays, bowls, etc. on table.
  • Double check items needed for activities- all present and available?
  • Is bathroom ready for guest use?
  • Be ready for guests to arrive at least 1-hour before start time.
  • ENJOY the party!
  • Hand guests party favors as they leave and thank them for coming to your party.
  • Clean up.
  • Children, thank parents for helping you plan such a great party!

Sample Menu From Halloween Party for Pre-Teen Boys

  • Bloodied Fingers-twisted and baked breadsticks with food coloring added. Almonds (fingernail) pressed into bread after 5 minutes of baking.
  • Blood Shot Eyes on Guts-can of black beans spread on plate (guts). Deviled eggs with pimento or red pepper (blood shot) and sliced olives (eyeball).
  • Spider Web 7-layer dip-see photo for ingredients or use your favorite recipe. Put sour cream in bag with small hole so child can draw web on top layer.
  • Cheetos and black tortilla chips
  • Sliced red and green pepper
  • Punch over dried ice
  • Jean’s Ghost Cookies-see under “recipes.”

Sample Activities

It’s a sunny fall day and the invitees are pre-teen boys. Flag football supervised by an adult. Game of “Horse” on the basketball court-winner is first in line to eat. Age appropriate Halloween or other scary movie. At dusk-Flashlight Tag.

Party Favors

Battery operated flashlight for Flashlight Tag and a pre-packaged Rice Krispie treat covered with a ghost face decorated (Sharpie) paper towel tied on with black or orange yarn.

Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.