If you're getting married, the sky's the limit when it comes to your reception. It can be anything from a casual cookout in your backyard to an elaborate, elegant event in a hotel ballroom.
Some couples may choose to have an at-home reception, or provide most of the finger foods if they rent a reception space, to cut down on expenses, but throwing a party can be another source of stress at an already stressful time.
"So many people are intimidated when it comes to hosting parties, and there's just no reason for it," said Patty Roper of Jackson, author of "Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations" ($32.95, Quail Ridge Press). "With a little planning and creativity, anyone can give a memorable party without hiring a lot of outside help or breaking the bank."
The first step is to set a budget, said Catherine Strange of Hattiesburg, co-author with John David Williams of "Fearless Entertaining."
"This is easier to do than you think if the bride and her family remembers one thing. You can have any wedding reception you want simply by controlling the number of guests," Strange said. "More guests result in a larger venue which requires more decorating, more food and more drink.
Using light to emphasize a key flower arrangement or including comfort food in your menu also can help you both stay within your dollars and include current trends. Most reception facilities offer some unique lighting or a specialty lighting company can be hired for the event."
One of those trends includes serving food from "action stations," as opposed to a single long buffet table.
"These are multiple areas set up throughout the space, each offering a particular specialty," Strange said.
"These stations are often, but not always, manned by a server. Examples would be pasta, sushi, specialty drinks. Another trend in the food area is including comfort food in different ways. Macaroni and cheese served in a puff pastry, mashed potatoes served in a martini glass, along with an extensive array of toppings."
The main thing when planning your big day is just to remain true to yourselves, Strange said.
"It is important to remember that the wedding and wedding reception should represent the bride and the bride's family if the bride's family is extending the invitation.
Keeping this in mind will help greatly when making your plans. Trying to duplicate someone else's wedding, or involving too many people in the decision making process can be a mistake."
If you're hosting an at-home wedding reception, try these recipes from the "Buffet Reception" chapter of "Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations," by Patty Roper, which includes more than 30 complete party plans, including several at-home receptions, with 200 recipes.
2 pork tenderloins
1 12-ounce jar apricot jam
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine apricot jam and Dijon mustard in a saucepan on low heat until melted. Salt, pepper and oil tenderloins; brush with the jam and mustard glaze. Roast tenderloins for 45-60 minutes, glazing with the sauce and pan juices every 20 minutes until temperature reaches 180 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest. Serve with rolls, Apricot Sauce and Basil Mayonnaise.
1 12-ounce jar apricot jam
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Mix ingredients and heat on low until well blended. Cool. Makes 1 1/3 cups.
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
Stir basil into mayonnaise and chill. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
1 1/4 cups Hellman's mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 4.3 ounce package crumbled bacon bits
1 1-pound box Wheat Thins
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half and drained on paper towels
Mix together mayonnaise, parsley and bacon bits. Spread on Wheat Thins and top with a tomato half, cut side down. Makes 60 bites.
GRILLED CHICKEN TENDERS WITH COMEBACK SAUCE
20 chicken breast tenders, 2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning, 1 stick margarine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash chicken and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and dot with margarine. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Turn and bake 20 minutes more. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Skewer each tender with a wooden skewer and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 20 skewers.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
5 drops Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon horseradish mustard
2 tablespoons cold water Combine all ingredients until well mixed. Makes 2 cups.