Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret!

This is something that a lot of vendors and venues don’t want you to know about. But I think this is something that every couple should be aware of, and take into account when they hire vendors.


Here’s the story. Wedding vendors know that the venue is the first thing that most couples book. There are lots of photographers, DJ’s, and the like, and they all want to work, so what do they do? They go to the venues and they say,
“Hi, Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall, I’m Johnny Sleeze and I’m a DJ. I usually charge $800 for my services for a wedding reception, but if you recommend me, I am willing to send YOU $100 of that fee, every time you refer someone to me!”
Wow, Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall’s banquet manager, Tanya Trouble, says,
“Cool Johnny! $100 every time someone I recommend to you, hires you? That’s a sweet deal!”
So from that day on, Tanya Trouble tells ALL of the couples that she talks with that Johnny Sleeze is a FABULOUS DJ!!! And the checks start rolling in to Chateau de Pupu Banquet Hall!

Johnny Sleeze isn’t the only vendor who does this, there are lots of photographers, DJ’s, videographers, florists, bakeries and musicians who are all in the same boat. They all want to have a leg up on the other guys in their field. Getting the recommendation of a venue gives them a competitive edge, and consequently they get hired more frequently.

Tanya is thrilled because they make a TON of money for doing nothing but recommending vendors to their clients. Many banquet facilities make thousands of dollars from kickbacks. It’s a big part of their revenue stream.

So, you say, what’s wrong with this system? It sounds like free enterprise is working, it’s the American Way!”
“Oh nay nay!” I say, and here is the reason why.

If you have a list of 5 DJ’s and they are each giving you a kickback, but you know that Johnny Sleeze is giving you a BIGGER kickback than the other guys, who are you going to tell your clients is the “best” DJ?

Johnny might be good, but he also might be really mediocre, even really bad, but Tanya is going to tell you that he’s wonderful because she wants that check to come in after your wedding!

THAT’S what’s wrong with this system. When the hall starts taking kickbacks they are working for the vendors, NOT for you, their client. They are pushing vendors to you, NOT because they are the best vendors you can get, but because they are the vendors that pay them the most. Is that where you want to get your referrals?

Do you want to have the DJ, photographer, florist or bakery who is the BEST? Or do you want the one that pays your banquet facility the biggest kickback?

Particularly in big cities, Chicago, New York, LA, this is the way everyone does it, and it’s an accepted thing. My feeling though, is that if you are doing this, you need to be up front about it with your clients. They should know that you are receiving money from these vendors for referring them, and then they can check the references of these vendors and screen them just as they would someone out of the Yellow Pages under Wedding Services. If a venue is receiving kickbacks, their referrals are not based solely on quality.

If your venue hands you a referral list, your first question should be “Do you receive any remuneration from these vendors if I hire one of them?” If they say “yes”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t good vendors, but it does mean that you will need to be a lot more careful about checking their references.

You should also ask the same question of the vendors that they recommend when you interview them. “Do you pay my venue anything for their referral?”

Be up front with them! Be assertive! Be aggressive! This is your once in a lifetime day that you are talking about!

You should get at least 6 references from a vendor, of clients they have worked for in the last 3 to 6 months, and you need to CALL them! Everyone loves to talk about their wedding! If they wax poetic about Johnny Sleeze and tell you what a fantastic DJ he was and how everyone at the reception was raving about the great DJ, and you hear the same thing from all of the references, then you are probably safe in hiring Johnny. You might also want to stop in at a reception and see him in action though, if possible. If they say, “yeah, he was ok”, you might want to check a little further or think about another DJ. Keep in mind too, that there are different tastes and different types of weddings. Talk with the reference person about the type of wedding they had, where it took place (was their venue similar to yours?), who their other vendors were, what sort of menu and bar they had, (this can give you a clue to what sort of budget they were working with).

When you check references you need to go into “detective mode”. Listen to what they say, but also listen to what they DON’T say! Are they hesitant to talk about the vendor? Do you get the feeling that they aren’t telling you everything? Do you feel like they are telling you the truth? Some less than scrupulous vendors have actually been known to give a buddy’s name as a reference and had him/her pose as a newlywed!

At Aberdeen Manor, we have been offered kickbacks many times. And we have always turned them down, and told them to pass it along to the client as a discount. My belief is that as a wedding consultant, as well as a banquet person, it is my duty to work for YOU the client, and ONLY YOU. My job is to make sure that you have the best services you can get, and the best wedding you can possibly have.

I have my own selfish reasons for recommending the best vendors too. It’s so much nicer to work with good people! Weddings go much more smoothly when we have terrific vendors who have worked with us before and know the ropes. It makes MY job much more fun, and more rewarding. Fighting dragons all evening can be exhausting! I would much rather work with folks that are wonderful, and know their jobs inside and out.

Our vendor list is solely based on performance, personality, and product. We are very careful to keep our list up to date and accurate. We provide it to you for one reason, to save you time, energy and effort in hiring your vendors. We know that all the people on our list are good folks who are going to do a great job for you at a fair price. You can hire them without reservation. Nobody gets on our list without working at our facility at least 3 times. We have to see their product, and know that it’s up to our standards. We have to work side by side with them and know that they are nice folks to work with. We only put them on our list after they have passed our stringent criteria.

Just realize, not every venue feels the way we do. Know what you are getting when your venue hands you a referral list. Ask questions, and be aware. Don't let anyone "sell out" your wedding day!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Green Weddings

The trend toward making your wedding as "green" as possible has really been a hot item on the coasts, but like everything else, it takes a while for it to make it to the Midwest. Nevertheless, I think we all need to start thinking about how we can green up our events. Yes, it's one day in our lives that we shouldn't have to think about the environment, but it's also one day in our lives when the attention is on us and we are able to make a statement about our values and beliefs. If your 250 guests see that you are concerned enough about the environment to green up your wedding day, think about how that will impact their thoughts and more importantly, their actions?
I came across a very interesting article the other day about how to green up your wedding. The wedding article was a link from the website which had lots of ideas for things to do to reduce, reuse and recycle. I really enjoyed looking through it. The article on weddings was particularly interesting to me though, of course. I hadn't thought about the fact that having your wedding and reception at one location (like you can do here at Aberdeen Manor!) was a "green" thing to do! It saves on fuel to get from one location to another for all of those guests! Cool! Click the link above and read all their great ideas, and see what you can apply to your wedding. Many of them were very painless.
Aberdeen Manor has tried for many years to do what we could for the environmental effort. When we got a recycling bin two years ago, we had one 2 yard for recycling and two 2 yard bins for garbage. We soon found that we had to go to 2 of the recycling bins and one for garbage! Our staff has done an exemplary job of separating recyclable items from the garbage and making sure that they get to the right bin. We also recycle electronics through drop off to the city's facility, batteries are dropped off at Best Buy, right inside the door to the store, and plastic bags are taken to Wal-mart. Our biggest issue is organic, clean, food waste. Solutions for a facility that handles the amount of food waste we have are not cheap though. I haven't found anything that could handle the quantities we have for less than 10,000 dollars. That's a lot of ching! We can't just buy the jumbo compost bin from AM Leonard for 300 dollars! I think our best bet is to partner with other businesses that might have a need for composting or recycling. We have several woodshops in the area that we could partner with to dispose of their clean sawdust, and mixing this with our organic waste would help to dilute it since you can't put more than 10% meat scraps in the composter. We also have Creme de la Crop on Highway 30 that is an organic farm and would be able to use our delicious compost for their fields. Perhaps Trio Restaurant in Aberdeen would be interested in working with us, and adding their waste to the mix. Landscapers might be interested in our clean delicious compost for their gardens and yards that they maintain. There are so many possibilities.
We have been changing our lightbulbs over to CFL's as much as possible, and we are looking into the possibility of motion sensors for our lights, and water conserving faucets for our sinks. A business like ours uses lots of water, for dishwashing, handwashing, etc. so any way we can cut water usage would be a plus. There are even CO2 sensing devices for thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature in a room when someone is in it or not in it (because all of us bodies breath out CO2, you know) We have programmable thermostats that we try to keep up with as much as possible. The beauty of conserving power, water, and fuel, is that it saves us cost for our utilities! This works great in our homes, and is even better in a business!
All of us at Aberdeen Manor are committed to making reduce/reuse/recycle our way of life and our focus in anything we do in our business and in our homes. As we come across other ways of conserving our natural resources as well as electricity, fossil fuels, and water, we'll let you in on it!
So keep us in mind when you are planning your "green" wedding!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thanks Stuart!!

Tuesday evening, yes, that was on St. Patrick's Day, we had 34 of our amazing staff get together for a training session with Stuart Gray. Stuart is a high energy, incredibly personable guy that I met at the Catersource Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. He lives in Minneapolis and stopped to do our session on his way to Fort Wayne.

It was 2 hours of high impact, high energy, learning. Our folks really participated and worked hard at getting all that they could out of the session. It made me SO proud when Stuart told me afterward what an amazing group of employees I had! Heck, I already KNEW that, but it's always so nice to hear from someone else!
We covered the nuts and bolts of serving, how to pour, and the like, but Stuart's main focus was personal interaction. How can we make every guest at Aberdeen Manor feel really special? What can we do that will make their experience with us unlike anything they have ever had?
I think we came up with a lot of good ideas and thoughts on how to make it happen. We'll see what goes on this weekend!


Ok, we are sending this information out to you in hopes that you or someone you know might be interested in a great wedding anniversary date! 10/10/09 was previously booked, but is now available for the taking!!

There is still plenty of time to plan a wedding for October. And what a perfect month it is for that amazing fall wedding everyone thinks about.



Oh! And by the way, we also have August 22nd, and the same deal goes for that date if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taste of Aberdeen Manor a Huge Success!

Our future clients, many of them with one or both sets of parents, all declared the party on Sunday a roaring success. Myself, I wish that all the folks that came to the fall party could have come to this one. We learned so much from the last tasting party.

Many of our clients think that this party is something we have done for years and years. Actually, this was only about the 3rd or 4th time we have done this as a tasting party. Consequently, we are still working the bugs out. Each time is different, and we have to learn from them. I think though, that we have finally hit on a winning formula.

This time, we split the buffet up into stations. We had chicken entrees in one corner with sides that went well with the chicken dishes. In another corner we had beef entrees with sides. The other two corners were fish entrees and pork entrees. The appetizers were passed by our servers through the room. What a difference it made!

Preparing for this party is very different from preparing for a reception too. Our kitchen staff prepared about 14 different entrees, as well as vegetables, starches, and salads to go with them. In addition there were hors d‘oeuvres passed, over a dozen different items.

Now let’s think about this. At a typical wedding, we have either two or three hors d’oeuvres, one or two entrees, one salad, and one or two starches and vegetables. So they were producing about 14 times as many types of foods as we normally do. Granted we were doing smaller quantities, but the variety and number of different items makes this a VERY difficult event to produce. In addition, it ALL went out of the kitchen at the same time! Usually at a reception we would pass the hors d’oeuvres for an hour, then serve the salads, then 20 minutes later serve the entrĂ©e plates, and then we are pretty much done, other than plating the wedding cake. The sheer quantity of food that had to go out of that kitchen, all at one time on Sunday, was astounding!

Our kitchen staff did an AWESOME job! They worked long, hard hours to make this happen, and it turned out great. As with everything, we are still learning, and we have decided to do the steaks differently in order to give our clients a better idea of how they are at an actual reception. We were trying to be ready for the onslaught of guests, so we had the steaks in a hot box. Oops. When they went into the hot box, they were perfect; juicy and tender, pinky-red in the middle. Well, they continued to cook in the hot box, and so all but the very first ones out, were overcooked. We’ve solved this issue though, and at the next party, the steaks will be perfect. It will involve an additional person in the kitchen, but it’s worth it to be able to really show our clients what those steaks are like, because they are beautiful and delicious when we have a plated dinner.

The learning curve has been a journey for us. I think we finally have the tasting party worked through to where it really does give our clients a realistic idea of our delicious food. We don’t want our clients to be stressed about anything—least of all, the food at their reception. I hope that anyone that has concerns or worries about any aspect of their wedding or reception, will call me, or come see me, so we can talk about it.

If any of you have suggestions, ideas, constructive criticisms, thoughts, or anything that is on your mind about our tasting party, PLEASE share! You can post comments anonymously if you wish. We can only improve if we listen to what you are saying. And we WILL LISTEN!

We want this party to be fun, educational, and delicious! Last Sunday definitely was! More important than what I think---WHAT DID YOU THINK?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Taste!

We are all so excited! This afternoon is our big party for all of our clients!
What used to be "First Dance Night" has morphed into the "Taste of Aberdeen Manor". There will be a number of our favorite vendors there to talk to our clients, and there will be boatloads of food! The kitchen staff has been working feverishly on this. We have prepared about 16 different entrees as well as side dishes and appetizers. All of this for about 120 people.
This is no small task. It is very difficult to serve food from a buffet and have it taste the same as it would coming straight from the kitchen, hot and steamy under a plate cover to your table as it would be at a reception. We keep tweeking this process each time we do it, and each time we learn something new.
I think our clients enjoy being able to try more than just one or two entrees. The variety is something everyone seems to appreciate, and it gives them an opportunity to try lots of things that they might not have considered for their reception meal otherwise.
I will try to post some photos this evening after the party is over. If any of you have thoughts or ideas on how to improve this process, we would love to hear them!
Off to the races! :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A couple weeks ago,Jim and I spent four days in Las Vegas at the Catersource Conference. I've been to this two or three times, and always find great ideas, products and lot of wonderful inspiration there.
One of the sessions I attended was on blogs. The presenter said that writing a blog is kind of like exercising, you have to get in the habit. Well, considering how lousy I am at keeping to an exercise routine, I guess this explains a lot!
So not only am I resolving to exercise (yeah, we'll see where THAT goes!) but I am going to get myself in the blogging habit as well.
Back to Catersource though. What great ideas! There were folks from both the left and right coasts there, with all these really cool and innovative things to do with food. My all time favorite thing though, was the barbeque grill at the trade show that looked just like the Purdue Locomotive!!!! Too cute! It made me want to go into the picnic/barbeque biz just so that I could have one! Gees, and I'm an IU grad! Ha!

Is that too cute or what? Well, unfortunately, with a pricetag of 23,000 (yes friends, that's three zeros after the 23!) I don't think Jim is going to let me diverge into picnics! Sigh.
Off to the treadmill!