You can treat your family, friends and guests to a "champagne and caviar' wedding reception on any budget with exclusive advice from leading chefs, caterers, consultants and planners who tell Herald-Guide readers exclusively how to party like the rich - whether you're loaded or not.
Our experts even provide recipes for classy meals, snacks and beverages that in a pinch, you can prepare and serve make yourself.
The first thing to remember is to plan early and well.
Quite often, reception plans are made even before the engagement is officially announced. The number of guests has to be at least a ballpark figure so an idea where the reception can be held can be decided upon, and amounts of food can be planned.
In South Louisiana, people used to do more of the food preparation work themselves, but now, most wedding receptions are either at places that serve food on their own premises, like La Maison Magnolia in Norco, Saia's Oaks Plantation or Destrehan Plantation .
A caterer such as Schexnayder's Acadian Foods or Capdeboscq Catering can be hired to prepare and serve at a designated location .
The time of the wedding will dictate in many cases what will be served. At an afternoon wedding the food might simply be wedding cake, and trays of sandwiches and any cocktail party food without the cocktails.
If the wedding is in late morning, it will end up with a noon-time party and more food should be served; likewise for an evening wedding where guests will enjoy food served as supper fare.
The bride's mother (or a "designated" friend or relative) along with the bride should look at the choices available from a chosen caterer.
Champagne, the traditional wedding drink might be the only drink, or there can also be whisky and soda, coffee, milk, or soft drinks for teetotalers and children.
A champagne cocktail punch used to be the general drink served in a punchbowl many years ago, but the extra time it takes to make some of these drinks needs to be weighed against the cost of chilled champagne. There are some delicious non-alcoholic punches that are sure to make a hit and can be served as an along with champagne if you wish.
Wayne Schexnayder at Schexnayder's Acadian Foods is famous for his crabmeat au gratin and shrimp remoulade that he serves in cups with his Louisiana Hurricane Sauce.
Schexnayder says allowing about from $25 to $30 per person is a general figure, and that's not including rental of a place. He can slash that to $12 by serving a simple jambalaya and salad with tea.
He used to have pre-set menus but is able to handle both small and large "custom" menus according to the location and number of people. Shexnayder can also cook outside if electricity is available.
You can usually find him at the farmer's markets serving up his prepared foods. He made the gator burgers at this year's Alligator Festival.
Cindy Abraham, a certified bridal consultant and executive chef and general manager at La Maison Magnolia, says her hot spinach and artichoke dish is always a hit. To save money, brides can have more food on a buffet table instead of paying servers to pass trays or adding costs of a carving station, she says.
Abraham also suggests limiting the variety of drinks served. If you go with a theme, just select two that will complement. Or, to make things really simple, just serve champagne and soft drinks or punch.
She says if you spend $35 a person at LaMaison you can expect full decoration, cake and beer, wine and champagne.
That price also includes a DJ. To top it off, Abraham also is an ordained minister for weddings so she and her staff can handle "the whole thing, including the wedding.”
On a leaner budget, a shower package of $20 per person is suggested. However, that doesn't include the cake or the champagne, beer and wine, or a DJ ... but you do get background music.
Abraham says one should definitely know what they have to spend on a wedding so the planning can be done.
Danielle Merritt of Saia's Oaks Plantation which is secluded off of River Road in Destrehan says their two packages are $13.95 without alcohol and $18.95 for finger foods with champagne and wedding cake. This would include eight hot and five cold food choices on the buffet table.
Sit-down dinners are from $17.95 to $29.95. Prices include ice tea and coffee. Saia's can serve up to 200 persons. These costs include both food and location.
Nancy Robert says the wedding coordinator at Destrehan Plantation is Evelyn Carbone. She says people like their mule barn for receptions because it is unique. They will rent the barn for $2000 for three hours or $3000 for four hours, including the ceremony in front of the barn. This is if you bring your own caterer and band.
Also, they are into the "no-hassle wedding" for the bride and provide a pre-decorated space. The complete package with unlimited food, open bar and wedding cake is $8000 for 200 people. The plantation, however, can hold 300 if you want a bigger affair. They couple with Capdeboscq Catering for this offer, which Robert praises as "simply wonderful."
The only thing you provide is the music.
When I called Gene Capdeboscq to ask him about catering, he said he is proud of the fact that the business has been family owned for 38 years. Gene, Connie, Frank and Larry make up the catering family. They offer tasting parties for all of their brides and have a full-scale catering operation.
As Nancy Robert says, "If you have Capdeboscq do it you know it will be done right, and we like to work with people who complement our plantation."
Capdeboscq has offices both in Marrero and in Raceland.
Speaking of beautiful and unusual nuptials, I happened upon a wedding on a beach in Destin, Fla., then another one in Grand Isle, that were elegantly simple and beautiful. A Baptist minister ministering the wedding in Destin said he wanted to talk his own daughter into marrying on the beach.
Just think about it - one beautiful archway of flowers and the bride doesn't even need shoes. You never know who will be on the beach besides your guests, but I suppose you could ask them to stick around for the luau at your reception.