Looking back over the last ten years of Kemp & Kemp weddings (now fast approaching 500 weddings delivered or booked) we realise how far we’ve come. Those first few weddings were delivered flawlessly food-wise, but in wedding organisation terms, we flew by the seat of our pants somewhat. I once stood stirring the home-made custard for a full 45 minutes whilst a flight of ‘surprise’ speeches were sprung on us between main and dessert. At another wedding an over-enthusiastic toastmaster decided to organise a receiving line between canapés and the starter, taking at least 90 minutes to seat guests whilst the perfectly dressed salad gently wilted in a summer marquee.
We recognised that from Year 1 (2010) what we needed was a person with authority to keep the food at the forefront of everyone’s mind and to make sure it was always served at its tip top best working with the kitchen and the clients. We call this person a Front of House Manager and since those early days every Kemp & Kemp Catering wedding has had one, fully trained and dedicated to making sure the day goes as the client expects it.
Core amongst the roles are making sure the guests are ready to eat the food when the food is ready to be eaten. However, bringing these two things together is not as easy as it sounds.. whilst food can be ‘held’ at least for a while, getting 150 merry people to leave the joys of Champagne on the lawn is the closest thing to herding cats I’ve ever done and with lots of players (on top of the B&G), including photographers, wedding coordinators and toast-masters, there is lots of potential for delay, distraction and [therefore] wilting salad.
It’s someone’s big day so our Managers can’t stand there tapping their watches and hurrying people along. Catering is important (esp to our clients), but you don’t want a major memory to be military precision or a feeling that the bride was being hurried. Let’s face it, the photographs are around a lot longer than dinner – so the trick is to make it all feel seemless and relaxed, whilst being in complete control at all times.
Key to making this happen is advanced knowledge – when ARE the speeches expected, how long will they take, are there any ‘surprises’ [like a helicopter taking the B&G for a quick spin – lasting 35 minutes and wrecking the schedule – or the surprise quiz dreamt up by the Best Men]. We ask all our clients to tell us everything they could wish for in a highly structured wedding organisation checklist that runs to 26 pages and has been likened to an ‘A’ level paper. At first sight its pretty scary, but it contains everything we’ve ever learnt at weddings and we call it ‘The Bible’. Our clients love this as it ensures the detail is looked after and nothing is left to chance on the day. An example is ‘What is the postcode of your wedding venue so that we can direct lost, late guests to the ceremony’ – so much better than saying to these stressed people “sorry, no idea where they are”.
They tell us in one place and in black & white what they want, we take this to the wedding and it structures the whole day – with flexibility built in so that we can accommodate last minute changes [the coach gets lost between Church and Venue – The antique Rolls Royce breaks down – you know the sort of thing].
Having a person armed with the plan, but able to gently ‘negotiate when things look like they might go awry’ is thus the key to success – assertive and accommodating in equal measure as well as creative in managing things that crop up.
Not all caterers dedicate such resources in this way, but when the food is as important as it is to us (and to all our clients) we don’t think there is really any choice.