Didi, you have helped me write a post-wedding dinner party invitation to honor our recently married daughter and her husband. It will be a formal dinner in a private room at an Italian restaurant for fifty people. What do I need to know to make sure I remember to do in preparation? Favors necessary or expected? Escort cards? Background music? Wedding pictures of the couple??? Anything else??
Personally, I like table cards for each guest with their first and last name on the outside and the table number in the inside. Then have the tables numbered so guests can see the number. Once seated, the wait staff would take away the number card. At each place setting there would be a place card with the guest’s first and last name. The more formal the invitation and the dinner, the more formal the seating. Any good stationery store will have table cards and place cards. I am not a fan of the table chart. When the numbers are displayed well on the tables, you would not need a seating chart.
At the entrance to the room or in the cocktail area, you would have a table set up with the place cards alphabetically arranged. When greeting a guest remember to ask them to pick up their table number before going into dinner in order to find their place card. Guests like knowing where they are going to sit and a good host makes sure guests feel welcomed.
Most guests will leave their party favor behind, unless the favor is a very small box of handcrafted chocolate that can be sampled at the table with coffee or secured in a jacket pocket or small evening bag to be eaten later.
If you are not having dancing, you will not need a band. Perhaps, the wedding couple would enjoy a trio or quartet. If the room has a piano, the pianist could play during the cocktail hour and then again when dessert and champagne are served and the toasts begin.
When making up your agreement with the restaurant manager, you want to be sure that there are, for instance, filled water glasses, butter plates and knives, salt and pepper, cloth napkins and tablecloths, and some kind of lighting on the table (either votives, laterns, or small LED operated table lamps). You would order the flowers yourself or ask the manager for the name of their florist. The flowers should represent the time of year and not be too tall or too wide, so you would give the florist the number of tabletops and whether they are for eight or ten. An added touch would be to have a printed menu card on the tables at each place setting with the wedding couple’s name and date of marriage preceding the list of courses and wine pairings.
Ahead of time you would do a tasting of the menu and the wine pairing giving guests a choice of a red or white wine during dinner and a glass or two of champagne with dessert. The menu should be worked out in advance, but be sure to have an alternative choice, so if a guest asks for a vegetarian plate, it will be available. The plate of food should look colorful and the food should not only taste good, but you want it wet and juicy looking. Be sure to specify that you want bread baskets and how often they should be passed or replaced. You also want to know how many waiters there will be per table, because you don’t want some guests carving into their filet mignon when others are still on the soup course. For instance during cocktails you should have one server passing hors d’oeuvres for every twenty-five guests. For a formal multi-course seated dinner, you should be assured that there will be at least one but preferably two waiters for every ten to twelve guests.
As to the toasts, keep them brief and simple. No written out speeches. The smaller the gathering the shorter and fewer the toasts should be. As for displaying the wedding photos, perhaps, it might be an elegant touch for the wedding couple to send a 3×5 wedding photo along with their thank-you note to each guest in appreciation for their wedding present.