Here Comes the Bride's Menu

Some of you may know that I'm a bride-to-be, in nitty-gritty countdown mode. Five weeks from tomorrow, this previously engaged girl is finally gettin' hitched, and she's officially a nervous bride.

The nuptials will take place far away from the nation's capital, on Vieques, a small island just off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

Green Beach, Vieques. (Kim O'Donnel)

Mister Groom and I, we fell in love with the low-key vibe and natural beauty of the place during a vacation last year, plus we wanted a warm, beach destination for vow exchange rather than urban pavement.

Nearly everyone I talked to assumed that the reception menu would be my biggest priority. The tricky thing about a destination wedding is the distance; with 1,500 miles between me and the island, the opportunities for sampling caterer menus went out the airplane window.

Our original catering choice was the chef/owner of a place we tried and loved last year; arrangements were handled via e-mail and phone, and at first, all seemed to be going smoothly. Then suddenly, like a tropical wind, several e-mails went ignored, and I knew in my gut something was wrong. I picked up the phone and found her in the midst of packing up her belongings and moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Nice.

Next on the list was a chef/owner of a Pan Latino restaurant, and so far, she hasn't jumped ship. Even with a contract in hand and a menu that's been set, I must admit, I'm a tad apprehensive. After all, I've relinquished control and must have faith rather than nerves.

The reception menu is the result of several factors, including time of day, setting and guest palates. We'll tie the knot around dusk in an outdoor ceremony on a private beachfront property. The 40-some guests come from afar with varied dietary preferences; more than 10 percent is vegetarian, another five percent eats fish, and about half is comprised of diehard carnivores.

To accommodate, we decided on a buffet, which also makes the process more democratic (and hopefully less stressful). The lineup includes kebabs of skirt steak and mahi mahi, with various tropical chutneys, avocado salad, a pumpkin (calabaza)-rice combo and mixed greens with nuts and fruit. Of the three passed appetizers, two are meatless. We're hopeful there will be something for everyone.

As for dessert, there will be no wedding cake, but a tier of red velvet cupcakes instead. Early in the planning, I announced I would make the cupcakes myself, but vehement protests from friends and my mother (who just rolled her eyes) helped me come back to earth and search for a baker on the island.

Here's my dilemma: I'm still in search of cupcake toppers. I had envisioned vintage bride-and-groom picks, which turn out to be more of an extinct species than originally thought. My luck seemed to change when I learned of an online source in Ohio, that claimed to have vintage miniature bride and grooms small enough for cupcakes. I ordered five dozen, very pleased with myself, and then the package arrived. I am now the owner of five dozen senior citizen bride and grooms, resembling Grandma and Grandpa Kettle.

So, I'm counting on you guys to help out a nervous bride. Know of any sources for vintage bride and groom picks? Send 'em on over. And if you're in my bridal shoes, share your menu conundrums here, and veteran brides, I'd love to hear what did and didn't work!

Talk to me today at 1pm ET for an hour of meat-free shopping, cooking and eating.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 25, 2007; 11:59 AM ET Entertaining , Travel , Wedding Fare
Previous: Kim's Key West | Next: Diary of a Coconut Cake


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Oh Kim! I'm sorry, but your post made me laugh. I wish I had a source for your bride and groom picks. You have given so much to your readers.

The best advice for nervous bride syndrome - only one thing counts that day. You are marrying the man you love. The rest really does not matter. And the things that go "wrong" make for great stories.

Posted by: Christine | January 25, 2007 12:48 PM

Good golly, what a twit you appear to be, in making such a big deal about the amazing burden of satisfing such a wide variety of eating habits among your "40-some" guests. Do the math: "More than 10% is vegetarian" -- what's that, five people? Add the "5 percent [who eat] fish" -- that's two more! How will you EVER manage?

Posted by: Audentes | January 25, 2007 12:53 PM

Congrats! You are taking me back to my wedding planning days, (a little less than 2 years ago). Christine is right, the moments you will remember are all about you, him and family and friends.

Re the vintage bride and groom set, at this point, maybe hire a ceramic artist to make one larger one and have it top a tier of cupcakes?

Posted by: Ashley | January 25, 2007 12:55 PM

why not just use the brides and grooms you got? I think it would be hysterical, give the guests something to remember, and be a great story.

Posted by: LE | January 25, 2007 12:58 PM

All the best on the wedding. Dont know much about this his/her cupcakes or toppings, but there happened to be just today an article on the NY Times about cupcakes (vegan ones that too!!!) from an upcoming book by a vegan cooking gal in NYC....

The article is at

Posted by: Houston | January 25, 2007 12:59 PM

I think you should go ahead and use the toppers you ordered. That would be a riot. Or you could print out 40 color pics of you and hubby-to-be, cut out the faces, and make them into little masks and tape them over the grandma/grandpa cake topper faces. Or print out 80 color photos, cut out the whole bodies, and glue them front and back to a little skewer or large toothpick. This may give you some idea of how wacky my own beach wedding is going to be. Don't sweat it, and just think about how GREAT the food will be. :)

Posted by: rmb | January 25, 2007 12:59 PM

I also think it is very thoughtful of you to think about dietary concerns. I have 2 lactose intolerant people (one is my mom), and one friend who is allergic to gluten in a 125 person wedding. I am still adjusting things so that they can eat and not worry.

Posted by: rmb | January 25, 2007 1:01 PM

This is different than what it sounds like you're envisioning, but when I made cupcakes for a friends wedding I topped them with little edible decorations: a single raspberry (for the dark chocolate frosted), a twist of candied lemon peel (for the lemon cream cheese frosted), and a chocolate covered espresso bean (for the milk chocolate frosted). These weren't wedding specific, but I thought they turned out pretty cute and they were easy to put together. I have photos I can email if you're interested.

Posted by: erh | January 25, 2007 1:06 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2007 1:14 PM

I second LE. Use the geriatric toppers. It will be remembered long after the food is forgotten.

Posted by: Sam888 | January 25, 2007 1:14 PM

Try this source for your bride and groom cupcake picks. They look great and are only $7.50 for 12. Good Luck

Posted by: Nadia JJ | January 25, 2007 1:19 PM

Ignore Audentes - buffet is totally the way to go, and makes it so much easier on everyone. The vegetarians don't have to sit around waiting for their "special" meals to be delivered, and the meat-eaters don't have to make stupid joke-y comments like "Thanks for the sides, now where's the main course?" if it were all vegetarian. My sister and brother in law are vegetarians, and we do buffets for large family events - soooo much easier.

Keep the following in mind for your wedding: something will go wrong. You can prepare for every contingency you can think of, and still something you haven't thought of will happen. For me it was leaving the bra for my wedding dress in the limo on the way to the church - and then the limo left!!! Luckily, it was just parked up the street, and we had the driver's cell no.

Posted by: Been there, done that | January 25, 2007 1:25 PM

It's not what you had in mind, but fresh flowers really do make beautiful caketoppers. For your cupcakes, a single local blossom on each cake would be lovely. I did a traditional wedding cake but I really hate most traditional cake toppers, so I made sure the cake itself was decorated very simply and was otherwise decorated with fresh flowers and English ivy. I'm sure it was more expensive to go this route, but the end result was beautiful.

Your menu sounds lovely, although I've been to a lot of weddings and very rarely do people remember the food. I think the most important thing is that whatever is offered be well prepared and that there be plenty of it. Far better to have everything be relatively small, simple, and light but still be gracious hosts than to have something larger and more elaborate but have everything seem skimpy.

Posted by: MECM | January 25, 2007 1:26 PM

Is this the resource you used?

Looks like they have 2 different styles.

Posted by: BAB | January 25, 2007 1:30 PM

I love the idea of using the old brides/grooms, but that's just my sense of humor. You will still laugh about that long after you've forgotten the other details. Save a couple for your 50th anniversary and put em on the cake at your party.

One piece of "real" advice: if you're doing photos, etc., after the ceremony, delegate someone to encourage your guests to start eating and drinking before you arrive. You don't want them to wait around all hungry and thirsy, but people can be shy and it helps to have someone tell them what to do.

Posted by: Alex | January 25, 2007 1:31 PM

Agree with been there, done that. In fact, know that 5 things WILL go wrong. Big and small. So when they do, you're prepared and you just count them off. That helped me keep everything in perspective. And as long as one of those 5 isn't the groom not showing, you're in good shape.

Posted by: MF | January 25, 2007 1:31 PM

You might want to try, if you haven't already...and there must be someone who makes little marzipan people for just this kind of thing...

Posted by: Rita | January 25, 2007 1:41 PM

Plum Party is the way to go.Adorable.

Posted by: Mary Susan | January 25, 2007 1:52 PM

Good luck on the wedding! If there is any place I can think of for Bride and Groom picks, it would be Uncle Fun in Chicago: Give them a try! Have you also checked Chocolate Moose in DC?

Posted by: Chris | January 25, 2007 1:53 PM

Hi Kim! I know exactly where you're coming from, having survived the planning for a Bahamas wedding a couple years ago. Surrendering the control was hard, but completely worth it -- the tropical wedding was relaxed, and wonderful (for us & our guests). We also went the buffet route for the reception & it was a great call. Food was delicious in a town (Freeport) not really known for stellar cuisine. As someone else said, stuff will go wrong (the boat taking our guests from ceremony to recption was 30+ min late & the cake looked nothign like what I requested, but in the end you won't giev those things a second thought! Enjoy every moment!

Re: cupcake toppers, you could ask the "cupcake queen" -- if nothing else, her blog has amazingly fun & creative cupcake photos & recipes. She's in College Park, so knows local resources.

Posted by: tropical wedding | January 25, 2007 2:20 PM

Have you tried eBay? Don't they have everything? :)

Posted by: foodie | January 25, 2007 2:24 PM

Congratulations! I like that you're doing cupcakes instead of a wedding cake - that's what we're doing, too (in addition to the groom's cake that he is insisting on)!

By the by, I wrote in on Tuesday asking for help with my salsa con queso. I missed today's chat; have you been able to find anything to help me make a queso dip without resorting to Velveeta? THANK YOU!!!

Posted by: Ashburn, VA | January 25, 2007 2:44 PM

Best wishes on your big day!

But if the carnivores you invited are over 50, many may not be able to chew skirt steak kebabs. Seriously.

Posted by: Dot | January 25, 2007 2:54 PM

Think of it as good luck when a few things turn out not quite as you expected on your wedding day. A late driver, wrong cake, surly DJ - these things happen.

In fact, the only wedding I've ever heard of where every single thing went off flawlessly was a friend who sadly found out a few months later her fiance/husband was cheating on her and impregnated his mistress.

My thought, I'd rather have a perfect marriage than a perfect wedding. Just tell yourself that if you feel a little flustered. Best wishes!

Posted by: Kelly P | January 25, 2007 3:23 PM

Congratulations, have you tried posting on The Knot about the cupcake toppers? The girls on there kept me sane-(ish) when I got married last year. The food sounds fabulous. Buffet makes it so much easier. We did plated and I had one celiac disease (brother, so had to accomodate him), my father doesn't have teeth due to cancer (so soft foods) a few veggies, one Orthodox Jew, and I don't eat red meat, and wasn't going to serve it. I had so much fun coming up with acronyms for the place cards!

Posted by: Newlywed | January 25, 2007 3:36 PM


The link above has a note that the bride & groom intentionally don't have any haircolor and you have to color it in yourself (I guess so you can match it to the guests of honor for the big day). It sounds like you have the right item in hand - they just need a dye job.


Posted by: Rebecky | January 25, 2007 3:45 PM

You can get these pretty cheap on ebay -- give it a look. Good luck!!

Posted by: onlyconnect | January 25, 2007 3:54 PM

My one piece of advice is to make a list of all of the photos you want--ALL of them. We made a loose list and then, in the rush of the day, didn't refer to it, and we ended up not getting all of the photos we wanted. Specifically, a photo of the bride and groom together with the bride's family, and then with the groom's family. Talk about missing something important! Other than that, I agree with the other posters to enjoy the day!

Posted by: recent bride | January 25, 2007 4:28 PM

Audentes, I actually think the small number of people is what makes it hard to cater to different palates. you can't make a big inexpensive vat of veggies for 5 vegetarians. the food and drinks are what, i think, most make a wedding memorable for the guests. so those five people need to get a meal they won't forget in the same way that the 20 hard-core carnivores will get their unforgettable meals. it gets trickier to start trying to please those kinds of numbers without turning your wedding reception into a restaurant where guests order from a waiter off of a menu.

Posted by: cin | January 25, 2007 4:41 PM

I agree with Alex on both points - the picks would be humorous and encourage your guests to start on the passed appetizers and drinks after the ceremony. Then, you and new hubby have a few minutes to yourselves just to regroup and take a breath before moving onto the reception.

A small piece of advice for the planning process. Trust your own instincts about what you want and don't second-guess yourself. Congrats and best wishes for a great and memorable wedding!

Posted by: Carole | January 25, 2007 4:57 PM

Kim - Your menu sounds great, and I know that our guests really appreciated that we went out of the way to make sure everyone had a memorable meal.
We got married at a summer camp relatively close to us but very far from our families. It was like a destination wedding in many ways. There were a couple of things that kept me sane. First, you are getting married no matter what happens. Rain, snow, good food, bad food, you are still getting hitched. You can have more fun if you relax and let things go on the wedding day. Worrying/planning/projecting up until you get there is perfectly okay. Second, don't be afraid to ask your friends and family to help out with small projects while you are there. Most of them want something to do, and it keeps the people who NEED something to do much happier. They will surprise you.

Posted by: Teresa | January 25, 2007 6:34 PM

As a veteran of providing venue and/or food and/or wedding planning for many brides, I will pass along the wisest remark I've ever heard about weddings. It came from a bride-to-be who I had to call with potentially bad news about her wedding (the venue burned down). I picked up the telephone to call her and let her know the news anticipating the news being met with a) a major meltdown, b) panic, c) classic "bridezilla" moment. Instead, she said, "Why are you worried? I'm not. I know you will do your best to get things back to normal and ready for us, but how the building and gardens look isn't that important to me. I'm coming to be married, not to have a wedding. It's about getting married, not a wedding."

To say that young woman was radiant on her wedding day was an understatement. (And we got everything rebuilt and put-to-right in time for the wedding).

The point is: don't stress about toppers (I love the idea of using the "geriatric set"; you and your groom and your guests will long remember it). Don't stress about satisfying what you think the guests will want/demand. You and your fiance are going to be married and begin you life together. Hopefully, in 60 years you and your husband can look at each other's wrinkled faces and see that the wedding toppers for the cupcakes were a good omen of your future life together.

Posted by: Catharine | January 25, 2007 7:50 PM

I'm getting married in September so I enjoy reading about wedding planning. I'm so looking forward to picking the menu for our reception.

Good luck!

Posted by: Kathryn | January 26, 2007 11:04 AM


Here is a site that sells cupcake wedding toppers. They are not vintage but still cute.

Posted by: CC | January 26, 2007 2:54 PM

Kim is my hero!!! I LOVE that you're thinking about everyone's dietary needs.

Please, PLEASE use the Ma and Pa Kettle picks! Ok, it's your wedding, but I think it would be hilarious. Unless you just really hate them.

Best wishes for a long and happy life together!

Posted by: Karen | January 26, 2007 3:03 PM

oh my god, you HAVE to use the senior-citizen cupcake toppers! Everyone will love them and it will definitely stand out, all through wedding season, as the best party favors.

Posted by: another bride-to-be | January 26, 2007 4:32 PM

I agree with everyone else that encourages using the geriatric cupcake toppers. My hubby and I had a very traditional looking cake. The cake topper was the bride holding on to the groom's tux tails as he's trying to run away. It made everyone look twice and laugh.

Bless you both!

Posted by: julie | January 26, 2007 7:22 PM

Have you asked on the Knot Destination Wedding board? They have lots of ideas. The former brides hang out on the Nest's HI board. Several PR brides are on the Nest HI board.

Posted by: secretfun | January 27, 2007 9:29 PM

For the person worrying about their ,actose intolerant and gluten intolerant guests, check out sticky fingers, they have diary free and gluten free cakes and cupcakes- nobody would ever know they were vegan, my meat and milk eating parents loved the birthday cake I brought out to dinenr with us this year

Posted by: CPW | January 30, 2007 4:35 PM

Kudos to you for taking the dietary considerations of your guests into account! And I must also echo the feelings of previous posters who say to use the old couple cake toppers! Precious.

But the best advice I received so far is this: You planned the wedding, you did menus, table settings, flowers, etc. When the day arrives, just let it go. Have fun! Worrying about the little details WILL ruin your day, and this is the day when it is all about you and your fiance. If you're not having fun, then it's really just a massive waste. Weddings are not cheap or easy, so make sure that you squeeze all the happiness out of it that you can. Eat and drink all you want, have others do your bidding, dance like an idiot, etc. Just have fun, and don't sweat the small stuff, or any stuff if you can get away with it.

Posted by: Two weeks from Sunday! | January 31, 2007 3:58 PM

I found myself liberated by choosing to have a destination wedding in Ireland ten years ago -- pre-online-most-things. My advice, anything you can't readily get on Vieques, let it go . . . we didn't even have a wedding cake. (We did have a delicious chocolate cake that one of our guests took the liberty of decorating with the miscellaneous and random flowers when she arrived at the reception).
Instead of picks, why not go with edible flowers? How about commissioning a local artiste to carve something out of coconut, mango or other tropical fruit? What about using some form of seashell?

Posted by: SMR | January 31, 2007 4:07 PM

I think of the geriatric toppers as the perfect illustration of your goal: a long, happy life together...

Posted by: Rose | February 9, 2007 7:39 AM

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