Corporate Event Management Boston

It’s all in the details…and yes, the butter matters…

It’s all in the details…and yes, the butter matters…

Several years ago, I was in a menu planning meeting for an upcoming awards dinner for a local Chamber of Commerce.  As a matter of course, I asked the catering manager how he planned to present the bread and butter on the tables. He looked at me quizzically, like I had just asked him to reveal if he wears boxers or briefs.  To my dismay, he answered that he puts the bread in a basket along with enough foil wrapped butter for the table. Ugh…. When I asked him if he could use bread and butter plates with butter florets or slices, his response was, “boy, you sure are fancy”.

Fanciness aside, my distaste of foil wrapped anything is lore among our vendors and area venues.  So much so that even our clients will bring it up during meetings with prospective caterers! During the set-up for a very high-end corporate luncheon, the caterer’s staff put out foil wrapped butter on the B+B plates.  When asked why this was done (butter wedges with sea salt were clearly detailed in the BEO), the event manager replied that the blocks of butter had been left off of the delivery and he didn’t think that what they used would matter.  I quickly instructed the staff to unwrap all of the butter pats and place two on each plate…because, yes, the butter does matter. Foil wrapped butter may seem like such an innocuous thing, but it is indicative of larger issues that we regularly see at venues and with vendors.  With so much competition in the events industry, why are so many common sense things often overlooked?

“We’ve been doing things this way for 25 years and we’ll continue doing so for years to come.”  Fortunately we don’t hear this phrase too often, but when we do, it’s a harbinger of ominous things to come.  One client hired us after already selecting a venue for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah luncheon reception. During the menu review meeting, I suggested that perhaps sliders, french fries and pasta would be more appropriate for the young adult buffet rather than roast beef, green beans and baked potatoes that were listed on the BEO.  The catering manager insisted that was what they always offered and became quite argumentative when I pushed for a change. The client was in agreement with me so he finally acquiesced and added the kid-friendly food. However, not before informing us that he would keep the other items on the menu, since he feeds his staff from the kids’ buffet and that’s what his staff prefers.  The things that went wrong at this event could fill a book…dropped trays of champagne glasses, only a dozen pigs-in-a-blanket on the buffet for the kids social hour, swizzle sticks, dirty napkins and food on the carpet leftover from the wedding the night before, just to list a few. Suffice it to say, we managed to keep the client oblivious to the chaos happening around them and they actually had a wonderful time.  Even though we will never work there again, the venue is still in business and will continue to provide substandard events to the unsuspecting masses.

Some of what we see is clearly due to venue and vendor management missing the boat on educating their staff on proper event behavior, attire and best practices.  If a server drops a tray of dinners, they should know where to go immediately for mops, brooms and buckets. If the staff is setting a table, they should know not to hold the forks by the tines.  If a guest drops a napkin on the floor, the staff should know where to find a replacement. If a guest asks if there are onions in the hors d’oeuvres, the server shouldn’t have to go into the kitchen to get a list of  ingredients. If ‘no tip jars’ are written into the contract, the bartenders shouldn’t fan out money on the bar to solicit tips. If a bottle of wine drops and breaks into the ice bucket, the bartender should know not to continue to use the ice for drinks.  Common sense you say?? Hmmm, not necessarily.

Since we’re on-site throughout every client’s event, we always appreciate it when a venue or caterer invites us to attend the pre-con meeting with their staff.  Since we know the client best, we can often add in some helpful details not always included in the banquet order. Certainly a great way to get everyone on board for a successful experience.  A few years ago, we worked with a client whose niece had a severe peanut allergy. She was most concerned about making the menu peanut-free and agreed to sign the venue’s contract when they assured her that they could accommodate her request.  ‘PEANUT-FREE MENU’ was written on the contract, BEO and every Email correspondence and again mentioned during each meeting at the venue. During set up on the day of the event, I made a point to remind the event manager that this was a peanut-free event.  Unfortunately, this was not reiterated during the staff meeting and one of the servers decided to add chopped Reese’s Pieces to the kids’ ice cream sundae station. If not for the niece’s alert brother, the reception could have ended with an emergency situation.  Mistakes will happen, but taking an extra step of posting a sign in the kitchen or having one server assigned to oversee the food set up, would have been two simple ways to avoid errors.

We can all afford to up our event game.  Heat the bread, refold napkins for guests, have your staff present well, always use floor length linens, keep up with current trends, continually educate your staff, and yes, the butter matters…

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The Party Queen Says…It IS Easy Being Green!

Even though we’ve all heard the Muppets song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” pulling off a green, eco-friendly wedding can be easier than you think! In many ways, most couples are not aware that they have already included ‘green’ components into their wedding plans.

green wedding ideas chalkboard sign seating chart calligraphy Love the idea of a chalkboard seating chart or menu sign? That’s a great way to save on paper and printing and the boards can often be wiped clean and repurposed as a message board for years to come. Wedding programs can be a lovely memento, so think about printing on recycled paper and perhaps ask guests to share copies to cut down on the quantity. Better yet, display the information on a large chalkboard at the beginning of the aisle so your guests can have something to read before you walk down the aisle. Relocating it to the reception venue can be a great conversation piece as your guests mingle and enjoy the celebration. Engaging the services of a local artist or art student to create these pieces can be a wonderful way to support the local economy.

If your budget allows, provide shuttle transportation for your guests staying at hotels. This will cut down on excess emissions from multiple cars traveling to the same location for the ceremony and reception. In line with this, use as many local vendors as possible to cut down on the distance that they are traveling to your wedding.

Use ‘home grown’ as much as possible for your floral bouquets and centerpieces. Ask your florist to partner with a local flower farm to create seasonal floral décor. Succulents and plants used in your event design can be given to your guests so they can enjoy memories of your wedding long after the last dance. There are several flower-repurposing companies, such as Random Acts of Flowers ( and Rebloom (, who will pick up floral arrangements and redistribute them to hospitals and hospice care centers or resell them with proceeds benefiting various charities. If you are not able to locate such a service in your area, select a local nursing home and ask a family member or friend to handle the delivery after the wedding.

Bottles and cans from the bar often end up in the dumpster during off-site and backyard weddings. Set up a recycle area near the caterer’s cook tent or behind the bar so bottles and cans don’t end up in the landfill. If the caterer is not able to handle the returns, contact a local community organization to pick up the bins or bags following the reception – they would certainly benefit from the return deposit.

Let’s be serious, no one really needs a personalized Koozie imprinted with your face and wedding date. If you feel that favors are a must, think ‘GO LOCAL’ and find a state-made product such as honey, chocolates, candles or soap, as a way to support a local small business. Better yet, choose a charity close to your heart and let your guests know that, in lieu of favors and in honor of your wedding, you have made a donation in their donation at wedding green wedding ideas

You may be planning on preserving your wedding gown for all eternity, but if you’re like me, your wedding gown will end up in the back of your closet for the next three plus decades! A far better fate would be to donate your gown to an organization like Brides Against Breast Cancer (, who has helped thousands of women buy affordable pre-owned wedding dresses and has donated millions to cancer-related charities. If vintage or second-hand is more your style, there are an abundance of shops around who carry an assortment of gowns and often provide tailoring services on-site. Want to make your mother cry? You may be able to wear your mother’s wedding gown by simply updating those poufy sleeves with just a few alterations.

Looking for wedding rings? Engage the services of a jewelry designer to create rings from recycled gold or with fair labor gems. Does your photographer offer an actual printed proof album? Ask for an online version so you don’t have to be wasteful and throw out the prints of your Aunt Shirley doing the Cha Cha Slide. Have an abundance of information to pass along to your guests? Forego the printed invitation inserts and set up a wedding website to tell your guests about accommodations, transportation and local spots of interest. See? It IS easy being green!  

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The Party Queen Says…Ban The Tip Jar

Those who know me know that I have a top 10 list of pet peeves.  It has also been referred to as the ‘never ever’ list.  Hovering around the number one position is the practice of placing tip jars on bars at events.

Some may argue that if the event has a cash bar (don’t get me started with that one) then it follows that bartenders should be allowed to accept tips from the guests.  However, if a client is paying for an open bar for their guests, the bartender should ‘never ever’ place a tip jar on the bar.

is a tip jar required at my event wedding planner tips gratuity

Venue contracts most often will include a line item indicating a specific service charge to be added to the final totals.  This can also be referred to as a house fee, administration fee or service fee and often ranges from 18% – 24%.  This percent is added to the food, beverage, room rentals or audio visual services secured for the event.  More and more venues are adding details regarding how they designate this charge.  For example, with a 23% service charge, they may delegate 8% to administrative costs and 15% for gratuities for the staff.

The policy of gratuities should always be discussed prior to signing any venue’s contract.  An important question would be to inquire about how the staff gratuities are handled.  Some venues will pool the amount and then distribute evenly among the event staff while others will give a larger percent to the wait staff and a smaller percent to the bartenders.  It is also a common practice to tack on an ‘attendant fee’ for the bartenders and coat room attendants at larger events.

Nothing irks me more than to see a tip jar on a bar when we have discussed this at length with a venue’s event team.  I can’t tell you how many times that I am told that it is the company’s policy to not allow tip jars yet the bartenders always seem to go rogue and place a dollar-filled jar smack in the middle of the bar.    During the final walk-around prior to an event, we find ourselves in a ‘battle of the bills’ with bartenders who insist on having a tip jar.

During one social event at a hotel, I walked by the coat room to find a tip jar out, overflowing with pre-placed dollar bills.  After tactfully asking the attendant to remove the jar, I continued to check the two bars positioned in the pre-function space.  As expected, tip jars were on both bars so I reminded the bartenders of the contract agreement as well as the hotel’s written policy.  No sooner had I walked into the ballroom to double check the tables, the bartenders defiantly replaced the tip jars onto the bars.  One of our alert event assistants, witnessing this transgression, informed the banquet manager to deal with the issue.

Certainly, should a guest kindly decide to offer a tip to a bartender, we always ask that the bartenders discretely slip the bills behind the bar so the other guests don’t feel obligated to follow suit.  We have also placed small framed signs on bars stating, “You’re hosts have kindly taken care of all gratuities this evening.”

During a recent wedding (with an open bar), we had a long discussion with the event manager regarding bartenders blatantly soliciting tips.  She adamantly stated that it is not allowed in the venue and that bartenders benefit from the shared gratuity pool after each event.  I mentioned that one of the bartenders had seen me prior to the event and he said, “Oh I remember you, you’re very particular.”

Several years prior, this same bartender had placed a tip jar on the bar and had fanned out numerous dollar bills across the top of the bar, as if to say, “keep it coming folks!” Tacky to the nth degree!  He was quickly admonished by myself as well as the event manager and I even recalled this incident during my pre-event discussion.  Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the bars were rolled into the ballroom, both bartenders immediately placed tip jars (stuffed with dollar bills no less) out in plain sight.  With my blood boiling, I swiftly removed the tip jars and went to find the event manager.  As I walked away, one of the bartenders (guess who?), took out a wad of cash and fanned it out on the bar.  Really??!!

We often must walk a fine line when managing an event for a client.  We need to be respectful of the venue’s event manager and understand that the bartenders are their employees.  However, signed contracts are legal documents that should be respectfully followed by all the venue’s employees.  Despite our best efforts, it is exceedingly annoying to deal with this time and time again.  I often wonder if the event managers look the other way to compensate for the low hourly wages paid to their employees?  Even if this is the case, that’s not our client’s issue and signed contracts should be followed to the letter.

Historically, people are under the impression that if they generously tip a bartender, their drinks will be more potent and the service more attentive.  This may be the case in restaurant bars, but at events, all guests should be treated equally and the service should always be top-notched.  You certainly don’t see servers walking around with money bags strapped to their waists, clanging coins while balancing their food trays!

Tip jars are an issue that won’t be going away any time soon.  This has become an item that is front and center during every event meeting and one of the tasks that is on our check list for every event.  It would certainly be helpful to have venue managers reiterate this policy during ‘recon’ meetings prior to events.  In addition, they should be mindful of ‘repeat offenders’ and deal with this accordingly.

In the meantime, whether you have an event planner or not, make sure to scrutinize contracts and add addendums if you don’t see your specific desires listed clearly – OPEN BAR, BAN THE JAR!!

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