A Day In the Life of a Wedding Caterer

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Panoramic View - Seattle 2011

As a kosher caterer in Seattle, serving diverse expressions of Judaism, wedding planning is a time for me to sit back and listen, to “get” what a particular “Northwest Jewish Couple” envisions for their big day. My catering website is a mission statement and phone number. Trust me; we need to talk. A wedding is about logistics first, food second.  More important than the things people ask for are the things they really don’t want.

Northwest couples, with free-spirited abandon, opt for Sundays in our dubious summer weather months. The biggest request is for ‘no rain’, which is very different from ‘sun’. Overcast, drizzle, partly sunny, chance of sun….we’ll take any of those; just please Hashem, “NO RAIN!” Like a major league pitcher, I keep weather stats on my weddings. I’ve managed a near shutout career to date (knock on wood) with rain before, rain after…but, no rain during except once in the summer of ’03.

wedding1

Weather is a factor since a popular request is “no hotel”. Right up there with no hotel is “no synagogue”. Seattle doesn’t have a designated community hall for Jewish weddings. Even if it did, the novelty would wear off after a few uses and we’d be back in the parks, our glorious awe inspiring parks. The backup plan against unpredictable weather includes a tent rental requiring a 50% non-refundable deposit running into the thousands of dollars. We may need it, we may not. Often, we can’t guess until erev Shabbat. Should it be put up? Should we chance it? Sometimes, we put it up in case it is sunny; guests might get too hot. We’re not used to sun.

Taking further notes, I ask where the happy couple is having their wedding. We’ve driven an hour North, South, East and West praying that nothing has been left behind in the kitchen. We’ve taken ferry boats to State parks, a convoy of refrigerator trucks and BBQ grills to backyards in the country. It is worth the effort when a couple stands under the chuppah framed by evergreens, a view of Puget Sound in the distance, a medley of nature’s perfection playing on all senses.

wedding 2

When I finally sit to draft a proposal, I work logistics first. Trucks, tent, tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware and glass rentals are line items with service and timelines. Ferry schedules may be consulted, Mapquest routes tracked and packing lists compiled. Once I have the logistics down, I can turn my attention to the rest of the event. Looking back at my notes, I read:

No smorgasbord – appetizers during yichud

No bar – wine, beer, a signature cocktail, seltzer and flat water (lots of water)

No plated meal – buffet featuring the bounty of the Northwest

No meat – dairy/fish okay, vegan option (gluten-free)

No flowers – maybe a food donation centerpiece or Pike Place Market bouquets ($10 each)

No mechitzah – after the Rabbi leaves

No cake – finger desserts for ½ the guests, everyone else will be gone

Now that I know when and where the couple doesn’t want everything, I can get creative and draft a menu.

Main Image Photo credited to Gordon Modin.

Other photos credited to Julia Bruk.