Top Shelf Santa Barbara Wedding Blog

Jude Callahan

January 2019

To Signature Cocktail or not to Signature Cocktail that is the question

To go with a Signature or not to go with a Signature that is the question

As the years have passed I have seen many trends come and go in wedding planning industry. At Top Shelf’s Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez beverage catering division we have encountered a few trends that I believe should be thought out more deeply. These trends sound good on paper and have even been practiced for some time now. There in lays the problem. If it looks good on paper and at some point in the past someone thought hey that sounds like a good idea, doesn’t always mean it actually is. Below are two of these trends that deserve an honest discussion and my recommendations.

The first trend started as far back as 6 BC when the Romans coined the term “Toast” when they would drop burnt bread into their wine. They did this to make the bad wine more palatable. Some time along the way someone got the wise idea to change that wine out with Champagne. This has been the practice for decades now. Granted Champagne is great for toasting, lets leave it for New Years Eve. Today’s weddings are tending to go with “ Glass in hand” for the toasts during dinner. Glass in hand simply means that your guests will toast with the beverage they currently have. This makes sense for multiple reasons. First your guests have been drinking their beverage of choice since the cocktail hour and are not likely to want to mix bubbly wine with it. Second in order to actually do a Champagne toast you will need to rent a Champagne glass for every person. You will also need to make sure you have enough servers to pour table side for all of your guests in a timely manner. Third is the amount of wasted money. After 15 years and over 1,000 weddings I have noticed that the common trend is for guests to say yes to the server and then not actually drink it. So you will be out the .75-.95 per guest glass and then the cost of the Champagne to fill each glass. Now to save some money and actually let your guests drink their drink of choice, burst the bubbles and opt for the “ Glass in hand” option for toasts.

The second trend is the desire to offer “ Signature Cocktails” or “ His and Hers Cocktails”. While this option sounds great and can actually be a really great addition to your reception, you need to plan accordingly. When I get a request for signature cocktails for a wedding I always explain the following points and recommendations. While it is that you and your soon to be significant other may love the tradional Old Fashioned and Spicy Jalapeno Margaritas, your guests may not. Granted it is your special day and you should be able to have the cocktails of your choice, just take in to account that your guests may not be huge fans of these cocktails. So here are my recommendations for those who want to go with signature cocktails: DO NOT PREMIX!, choose cocktails that have the Vodka, Tequila or Bourbon as the main liquor, obtain other common cocktail mixers. I make these recommendations because if your signature cocktails are not a huge hit, your guests will still be able to order the most popular cocktails ordered in most bars and at most weddings.

At the end of the day please remember that more than likely you are picking up the tab for your guests to eat and drink at your wedding. That being said, if any of them are “ special” enough to complain because you did not have the most expensive liquor or a huge selection, perhaps they should not receive an invite. Most of your guests will be happy to drink Margaritas, Mules, beer and wine. Should you choose to go with Top Shelf for your Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez beverage catering, your package cost includes one on one menu planning and shopping recommendation assistance.

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Top Shelf Santa Barbara Wedding Blog

Jude Callahan

November 2018

Wintertime Wedding Wonderland

Winter Wedding Wonderland – Planning the Perfect Santa Barbara Winter Wedding

As the rest of the United States is covered in the freezing cold from winter blizzards, Santa Barbara becomes the destination for winter weddings. What is it about Santa Barbara that makes it the winter wedding destination? Maybe it’s the amazing weather that gives you the ability to still have your wedding reception under the stars without wearing a parka. Maybe it’s because the cost drops for most of the vendors you need to make your wedding affordable. Whatever it is that drives brides to decide that Santa Barbra is the location for their winter wedding wonderland, there are definitely some details that will make your event a bigger success that you will want to remember for a lifetime.

This year will mark the 15th year Top Shelf has had the pleasure of helping brides create their dream wedding. During this time, I have had the opportunity to be a part of hundreds of winter time wedding receptions – let me tell you, they are remarkably beautiful. This time of the year your venue choice makes a huge difference. Santa Barbara wedding venues are plentiful in number, but which one is best for those cool nights? Do you want to be outside all night? Part of the night? Not at all? Will your DJ, Photo booth, or caterer require anything different? What about your flowers? Should you rent the tent? Should you spend more money on the rentals to include heaters and cut back on something else? Where do I get 150 blankets?

Outdoor venues such as Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Casa de la Guerra, Unitarian Society, Elings Park, Sunstone Winery, Gainey Winery, Firestone Winery, Fess Parker Winery, Villa Verano will require a bit more planning and execution. All will require the rental of propane heaters. When you are at a completely outdoor site, you will likely be contemplating the use of a tent. The Santa Barbara region traditionally receives most of its of rain during the winter season. That being said, we have had pretty dry winters for the last 5 years (unfortunately). So with tents being considered, I personally lean towards waiting until the month of and seeing what the weather is looking like. Tents offer more than just the guarantee of a dry reception. They also give you an enclosure that will trap more heat and make for a more comfortable evening for your guests. Tents also allow for the ability to add lighting accents that would not be possible without a roof and walls. There are many rental companies that rent tents in the region.

Blanket and shawl rentals are a great option for outdoor receptions as well. If you and your guests will be completely outdoor, you will need to consider how your flowers and cake/desserts will handle the direct sun. When To Shelf coordinates a wedding, we typically wait until 10 minutes prior to guest arrival to place your flowers on the tables. In an outdoor reception where the sun is going to present (and an issue,) we recommend hiding your flowers under the tables until the last moment. Any buffet, coffee service, photo booth, and bar flowers can be handled the same way because each of these services will require the use of a linen covered table. Umbrellas are a wonderful option as well. If you do not have a tent, you will need to account for he possibility of high winds at dusk. Table clips are a must; lean chairs folded against the tables if possible and place all glassware upside down at the last moment to avoid them from being knocked over or filled with flying debris. Don’t bother to light candles(if allowed) until the winds have died down. All of the above mentioned venues have bathrooms on site and electricity for the DJ, photo booth, caterer and lighting company.

There are some amazing outdoor- indoor venues as well. Venues such as the Lions Park in Carpinteria, Cabrillo Arts Pavilion, Carrillo Recreation Center, Rockwood Womens’ Club, Dos Pueblos Ranch, Orchid Ranch, and Chase Palm Park offer many wonderful benefits. These venues make it easier for your caterer, DJ, photo booth, rental company, to operate because the power supply and layout are typically readily available and known to your vendors. You will also have access to a refrigerator and other appliances should they be needed by for catering or beverage service. Most of these type of venues have access to a sink. This is advantageous if you are having coffee service. It is also great to have should you need to rinse off any of the table settings or other rentals. Flowers and cake/desserts are not a worry at these venues either. When you choose a venue such as these you will have the option of heaters or not, definitively less than you would need for the completely outdoor and tented venues. Some of these venues will include your tables, chairs, and their set up based upon your desired arrangement. This represents a savings on rentals of over $500 for a 100 guest reception. Many of these venues are great because they have an outdoor area for your ceremony that can be turned into a lounge set up for after dinner gathering. You should definitely get a few heaters for this area. Companies like Elan Rentals  have wonderful furnishings for rent. Much like a tented event, the indoor event venue will allow for the DJ to set up lighting for accented color in the room. All of the above mentioned venues have bathrooms onside and electricity for your DJ, photo booth, caterer, and lighting company.

In my experience, the colder your guests are, the quicker your wedding reception will fizzle out. It can be quite expensive to get a tent set up, but at times it is completely needed if you want your guests and yourself to enjoy the evening. You will want to make sure you arrange for coffee service. Both of the above mentioned type of venues are wonderful for a Santa Barbara wintertime wedding as long as you plan for the variables that will affect your enjoyment and bottom line.

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