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Wedding RSVP's choosing (or changing) your meal option? [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

I am generally a very conscientious person when it comes to etiquette, but these are 2 questions that I can not really find answers on. I am going to an out of town wedding this weekend I was wondering everyone's opnions on these 2 questions.

1. How do you feel about choosing your meal options a month in advance and not knowing at all how they are prepared when doing so?

2. Is it in bad taste to change your mind the day of the event and ask the waiter/waitress if they could change what you chose?

Now, I know, the point of the event is not the food, it is the marriage of a two people and you are there to share in that, but then again, my family is Russian, it's always about the food! And the alcohol :-)

For my own 2 cents
I made sure when I got married that my guests could choose their meal at the wedding, and I happen to find those meal cards enclosd in the R.S.V.P tacky. (I'm sure I night be in the minority on this one)

Secondly, in regard to changing your mind, I ask because I honestly don't remember what I selected for the wedding reception and we also had to choose what we wanted for the rehearsal dinner the night before. Knowing myself I chose the seafood option for both events, and Mr. Sweetpea chose the fillet mignon/red meat, but honestly couldn't be certain since it was so long ago. My feeling is it can't hurt to ask to change your order, especially if you see the item you selected, was not what you had anticipated, or looks fatty/over cooked/swimming on oil etc.If they can't change it, no biggie, but is it rude to ask?

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  1. Me, I did it buffet style with options for meat, fish and veggie eaters. We had fabulous sausages, a great paoched salmon, grilled veggies, green salad, and whiskey and maple roasted sweet potatoes, with a good selection of breads. For cocktail hour, I had oodles of beer, cheese and mega german pretzels. People were thrilled! And stuffed!

    I hate it when you have to choose, buuuuttt:
    1> I hate being forced to choose, and often find out the food is not great. I generally find you can't go wrong with the veggie option, which is usually pasta.

    2. Really not a good idea. The bride will turn in all the choices and the caterer will cook based upon that. If you change your mind on the day of the event it could cause financial complications for the bride and trouble for the caterers. It's sort of rude and in bad taste, too.

    My solutuion for these conundrums. Bring a discreet snack, enjoy the appetizers at cocktail hour, and find a back up late night dinner place just in case you don't like your food and need to eat dinner after the reception.

    1. i wouldn't change. the invitee/caterer asked so as to confirm quantities to food to order. While i'm sure the kitchen will make some extras for un RSVP'd guests, I wouldn't want to make their hectic job anymore complicated or prompt others into changing their orders at the event. Even if you tell them it's ok if they can't accomodate you, they will probably change your order despite their inconvenience and think of you as rude/difficult.

      1. You are being asked to select your meal choice beforehand because they have to let the kitchen know the final numbers for each dish (usually about a week before the wedding). They usually ask in the card a month before because people are notoriously slow about RSVP's and planning a wedding takes a lot of time and energy and planning and it's helpful to be as organized as possible.
        Having a guest show up and changing their choice would be rude and inconvenient.
        It's a wedding and you are the guest. I suggest that you go, have whatever you originally selected, and expect the food to be mediocre (as is most food at a large wedding). If the food happens to be great, count yourself as lucky.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pescatarian

          I have been to sit-down dinner wedding receptions where the guests picked the items from a smaller menu. However, I know that these were *expensive* *expensive* events. I guess that if the host can afford it, they can have whatever they want.

          I think guests should be very sensitive to the host's budget and make the day as easy as possible for the happy couple and the families.

        2. sorry sweetpea, jfood on the side of let it go.

          do you really want to call the bride and ask her this, or the mother of the bride? Can you imagine her reaction?

          And the title of the next episode of Bridezilla is "Squished like a Pea over a Steak."

          8 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            LOl Jfood, I always love your replies.

            1st, I would NEVER ask the bride about this , or anyone else for that matter!
            2nd, I have no real intention of changing whatever I chose.

            I did however read a VERY negative review of the rehearsal dinner place where a couple even forfeited the deposit because they tasted the food after the deposit was submitted and it was just so bad. It just got me wondering of I really wanted to eat fish from such a place. If the food were to be terrible, I would be much more the type to simply not eat it, and when the family came around to ask how everything was I would of course gush at how beautiful the whole evening had been.

            I am just curious about the general consensus about picking your entree when you RSVP.

            Now Jfood, wwyd if you found out your steak came with onions on top?? :-)

            1. re: SweetPea914

              further follow up to my other post - it's almost like going to someone's house for dinner and then if you don't like what they serve, asking if they can make you something else. You are being served a free meal and are their guest and thus do not have the right to complain, change your choice, whatever. If you know in advance the place has a reputation for food that isn't very good, stick to the side dishes (these are tolerable even at the worst places usually) and eat something before you go so you won't be starving.

              1. re: SweetPea914

                picking your entree when you RSVP is standard these days

                You are not going to a restaurant. It's unfortunate if your meal is unsavoury, but if it is just pick around it. Since you have a pretty good idea that it will be, make sure you eat well that day.

                1. re: pescatarian

                  Unless I'm going to an Italian-American wedding where I can rest assured that there will be an obscene amount of food and most of it good, I never go to weddings hungry. There's always so much tasty stuff at the cocktail hour that I can barely eat dinner anyway.

                2. re: SweetPea914

                  if they were properly sauteed jfood would ask mrs jfood for hers. Ifthey came raw he would do as he always does and slide them off.

                  Another point to remember after jfood going to hundreds of weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

                  Appetizers are the best part. Load up on the apps because once you're seated 90% of the time the food goes down hill. 300 look-a-like salads (usually with walnuts which jfood is allergic to), then some over-cooked salmon or steak or chicken in that white sauce, some potatoes from a 24 gallon pot and some green veggies.

                  Muddle through that and hopefully they throw some good chocolates onthe table and some cake.

                  1. re: jfood

                    I'm with jfood on this. The appetizers are the best part of the wedding. I always try to make that my main meal. It's rare when the entrees at a wedding are really great, regardless of cost. And, it is very rude and bad manners to change your choice of entree once at the wedding.. Accept the fact that youwill be served a mediocre meal, enjoy the appetizers, drinks, and company. You are there to share a joyful time in another's life; not to be served a gourmet meal to your liking.

                    1. re: mschow

                      Just a note, part of the reason for this is dinners are all plated at the same time- it's really hard to plate 100 steaks at once and get them all to taste great. Apps are almost always extremely stable and can handle a warming tray, thus taste better when doled out to the crowd immediately following the ceremony.

                      1. re: jpschust

                        absolutely agree. no way a ding on the caterer but it's just one of those things.

              2. It's not tacky, unfortunately, it's standard. Asking in advance is basically for 2 reasons: to weed out if there are any "special" meal requests (allergies, vegetarians) and to get a reasonable idea of how much of each food to order so that you don't either over-order or run out. If you have 150 people coming and "guess" that half will want chicken and it turns out nearly all of them do, you're going to have several angry people who are out of luck and have to eat beef. If you order enough chicken and beef such that if everyone wanted chicken OR beef there would be enough, the rest of the food is wasted, not to mention this is doubly expensive.

                The only way to provide a variety and not get orders in advance is to do a buffet; there everyone can take what they want. But a buffet is less formal than a seated dinner no matter what's on it, so if you do seated, you have to ask.

                You cannot change your option on-site, it is not just rude but you could be taking food ordered for someone else. And if you change yours and they allow it, everyone else at the table may think they can do the same thing, and then you've possibly really changed the balance as that's 10 people who changed their original order.

                But, knowing that most wedding food really sucks, you CAN eat before you go and then only have a small amount of the meal to be polite.

                6 Replies
                1. re: rockandroller1

                  This honestly happened to me at a relatives wedding. My husband and I had both ordered the steak-the other offering was salmon. At the wedding dear cousin-mom of bride- came by and asked if husband and I would take the salmon since two guests had changed their mind. Not a big deal of course but doesn't seem like something to bother hosts about at the last minute. By the way, the salmon was good.

                  1. re: foodseek

                    "Mom-of-bride came by and asked if husband and I would take the salmon since two guests had changed their mind"

                    That is terrible! To bother the MOTB with such a thing is truly in poor form! And just so you all know that I'm not some high maintenance whiner. I don't eat cooked salmon, I hate it! However, if this happened and my cousin asked me to switch I would in an instant, just so she could be done with accomodating these other guests and could move onto more important things.

                    1. re: SweetPea914

                      SweetPea ,for an update - dear cousin-MOTB, got the last laugh since her
                      son's wedding was this past summer and even though it was a buffet the "menu switching" duo did not get an invite. Some things are hard to forget.

                  2. re: rockandroller1

                    Sorry, but I must disagree. The "order your food six weeks in advance" thing is not standard. Or, at least, perhaps it is in some parts of the country and not others. Here (NYC), I would think it is quite tacky. Basically the only kind of places here where that would occur are the wedding-factory type places.

                    That said, if you were asked to choose a dinner in advance and you did so, then you just gotta live with it. Unfortunately it seems that this thing occurs so that outside caterers have the proper amount of each dish on hand and should you ask to change your order you probably would put the caterer/host of wedding in a bad position. So just suck it up. And if it stinks (as a lot of wedding food main meals do), then I hope you ate what are usually the more interesting/better prepared appetizers.

                    Good luck and enjoy the wedding.

                    1. re: LNG212

                      It's standard based on the location- as more and more hotels and caterers head towards using sustainable and economic ways of putting together their menus this is the standard. I've been to plenty of weddings in NYC and had this be how it is. The only thing really tacky in a black tie wedding situation is a buffet.

                      1. re: LNG212

                        When I say "standard," I mean the rest of the country except New York. I believe with the previous poster who said that weddings in NYC are different than everywhere else. I happen to be pretty educated on what others do for their weddings in other states as I was a regular member of a national brides-chat board for 4 years, and have been invited to weddings in Colorado, Arizona and California as well as Ohio (I just didn't attend them). That's what I was basing my answer on when I said "standard."

                    2. I'm going through this right now.

                      1. It's the reality of wedding catering. Our guests are going to have to do it. We aren't doing a buffet because we think it's tacky personally. We didn't have the option of having choices at the table- the venue just couldn't handle it. Our guests are getting the choice of chicken, beef or veggie (we refuse to do fish as it is on a Sunday and we know that in Chicago our guests won't be getting fresh fish). That said our entree is relatively small compared to the rest of the meal- passed apps, salad, entree, cheese plate, dessert, cake. No one is going away hungry.

                      2. Yes, it is in poor form to change day of. Plus the host gets charged more for it.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jpschust

                        I was in Catering Sales in Chicao, actually,. What everyone is referring to is sometimes known as Entree Ala carte - choosing at the table. The bride pays one price regardless of if the person chooses filet or vegetarian. there should be 4-5 courses for this option to allow the kitchen to prep. Entree Ala Carte lets the bride NOT worry about food count, seating arrangements, etc and is usually about $10-$20 more for this option.
                        Also, basic catering note here- 60% choose beef, 45% chicken and then veg/kiddies.

                        And, most places will prep 5% over the count - but not of each item.

                        A big trend in catering now is to have the midnight snack bar- at 11:00, they roll out minicheeseburgers, corn dogs, nachos, bottled water. Someplaces have cereal or breakfast items instead. To sop up the alcohol! So, even if your steak is dry you can have some grease before you head home.

                        1. re: stellamystar

                          You say "there should not be 4-5 courses for this option to allow the kitchen to prep." I assume by your using the word "should," that that's that's your opinion, whether based on your thinking that it is difficult to pull off or a waste. Either way, as I said in an earlier post, in most of the places in this area, it is the norm to have multiple choices. If there is a choice, it's usually beef, chicken, fish (and maybe a veggie and that's only in far more recent years--it used to be a "special" advance arrangement...), but it is not uncommon at all at some places to have an additional choice. And ironically enough, where I recently went to two parties in the space of 4 months and there were 4 choices plus veggie, the food was much better and more beautifully presented than a place I went to after that, where there were fewer choices. It just depends on the caterer's control over the situation. For the kids at a bar/bat mitzvah, they do a completely different menu, more "child-friendly," fewer options and they charge substantially less per head for the kids.

                          True, as some have pointed out, it's not or should not be about the food, it's about being there to celebrate the special occasion, but when you are spending upward of $75, sometimes double or triple that per head, the food should be a bit more than just "edible" and should be presented decently.

                          Interesting comment about the "midnight snack bar." I have never seen or heard of such a thing being done in this area of the country, despite having been to several "catering" occasions in the past few years. I guess that's another different regional way of doing things. The only remotely similar thing I have seen (sometimes) around here is a set-up of coffee/tea and some of the cookies and similar "portable" dessert items near the exit, "for the road." My sister did, however, get little shopping bags into which the caterer put in 1/2 dozen bagels and I think some jelly, for people to have the morning after. Some people who do this have also added a NY Times and some orange juice. It never ends.

                          1. re: Shayna Madel

                            "My sister did, however, get little shopping bags into which the caterer put in 1/2 dozen bagels and I think some jelly, for people to have the morning after. Some people who do this have also added a NY Times and some orange juice. It never ends."

                            It is ridiculous how it does never end. Around here there is *always* a big brunch for anyone that stayed over night. So it really is a weekend long event these days, not just one night for the wedding itself!

                            1. re: SweetPea914

                              The bagel thing was for everyone, not just the out-of-towners, for whom my mom hosted a brunch the next day, as is our family custom during the weekend of major "life-cycle" events. The bagels were a gesture for all guests, regardless of how far they traveled, so people could have a lazy morning and not have to bother making or going out for breakfast after dancing and drinking until 1 or 2 a.m. Don't know that I would do the same for myself, but to tell the truth, as a guest, I would rather have the bagels than some of the wedding favors I have received and never had a use for.

                      2. Regarding #1, I would call the reception venue and ask them directly.

                        1. Here's another ?? Is picking your entree before the event standard everywhere across the country? Or is it done more so regionally? Maybe I'm surprised by it because I was married in Westchester County (a suburb of NYC) not all that long ago and I think every place I interviewed let guests choose the day of the event. I have been to tons of weddings over the past 10 years and have only rarely been asked to R.S.V.P. with entree selections to an event.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: SweetPea914

                            I live in Toronto. I'm 35 and I've never been invited to a wedding where I was not asked to choose my entree on the RSVP.

                            1. re: SweetPea914

                              that's a good question. I've only been to weddings in Ohio and most people do buffet here because it's cheaper and this is an economically depressed state. Every formal wedding or wedding I've been to where it was plated din and not buffet, you have to send your entree selection back with your RSVP/in advance. The only exception was when I went to a very small reception that was at a mexican restaurant, and everyone was allowed to order off the menu as it was less than 30 people.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                "I've only been to weddings in Ohio and most people do buffet here because it's cheaper and this is an economically depressed state."

                                Again, the geographical differences are always very interesting to me. Lately it seems a bit trendy to do buffet or at least stations of certain foods at weddings or other events. When I had my daughter's christening last month (again just outside NYC) we did a formal sit down luncheon at a restaurant with a private dining area. People were given 4 options at the event, a meat, fish, chicken or vegetarian.

                                NOW, had I decided to do a buffet that day, it would have been an extra $2/pp. Around here buffet's tend to be more than the sit down, the logic being that more food is being made and consummed. I don't like buffets personally, so we did the sit down. And I don't think anyone would have thought a buffet was more expensive than sit down.

                                Also, when planning my own wedding I saw many instances where buffet was more $ pp than the sit down was! Again we went with sit down since many (myself included) consider it more formal and it was a very formal wedding.

                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                  I was married in NYC and we encountered the same thing. The buffet idea is often *more* expensive because they have to put out more food than a plated dinner.

                                  As I posted above, it must be a regional thing. None of the places we looked at for our wedding (or any weddings we've been to recently in/around NYC) have had that reply-card-food thing.

                                  1. re: LNG212

                                    For my caterer, who was voted best in Santa Barbara, the buffet was less expensive, because it didn't need as many staff to run! Believe it or not, cutting staff is way more financially worthwhile as opposed to limiting food. Food is cheaper than paying more people by the hour, I guess.

                                    Many people these days go the buffet route because a lot of guests want relief from stodgy dull formal sit-downs in which you're stuck at a table staring at the bread basket whilst waiting for the rubber food. they refer choice, freshness and the ability to get more of what they like. Formal weddings are just not "in".

                                    My mother in Law and Mother told me later the biggest compliment they got was about the food, in flavor, quality and style.

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      Neither a sit-down dinner nor a buffet is "right" or "wrong" unless you are talking black-tie (sit-down always, then). It all depends on a combination of personal taste, budget, local custom and what's available in the area.

                                      It's great that you were happy with your choice and that you got compliments, but others see buffets as awkward, hard to navigate and frankly don't want to wait on line for their dinner, particularly in "party clothes." And partially picked-at buffet stations can be so un-appetizing looking.

                                      While you may equate sit-down dinners with poor service, bad company and stale, overcooked food, there are others of a completely different opinion.

                                      If the caterer runs the affair correctly and the dj/bandleader is doing his/her job, the guests have had their appetites calmed just a bit by the coctail hour, the first course is sitting at the placesetting when the guests enter the room, the guests are up and dancing in between courses or they are talking to the rest of the guests at the table, and the food comes out hot. While I would NEVER do it, there were people who loved the food at my nephew's bar mitzvah (sit-down dinner) so much that when seconds (yes, seconds at a sit-down dinner) were offered, they asked for seconds and then asked for a doggie bag. I cringe at that thought.

                                      1. re: Shayna Madel

                                        Our reception was on a beautiful patio surrounded by oaks overlooking Santa Barbara to the ocean. A sit down plated would have required a larger and more complex "kitchen" area and way more staffing. and our buffet was on a long table, both sides open. Our 250 guests had no trouble, if there was a line, it moved quickly. A lot of guests were still munching on their mega german pretzels and sipping beer from cocktail hour when the buffet started.

                                        All of my guests were well dressed, and I'm not sure how sitting down in formal attire and being served a meal is better than standing up and getting it served. they sat down at the tables once they had their food. it was not a cocktail type reception, which has no dinner and everyone stands. I did have tales and a seating chart, which I knew everyone would ignore once they found their favors, (which held the name cards-custom made Belgian tulip Glasses filled with Jelly bellies to look like foamy beer!) So many people loathe being trapped at a tale with complete strangers, I figured seating would "evolve"-even at sit downs it does.

                                        Super-Formal weddings are just not done as much anymore-check out the wedding guides and magazines. But I guess some people are still drawn to the allure of everyone in super formal dress and uncomfortable shoes. I've suffered trough one or two of those and didn't want to put my guest through it. I wanted a fun party for everyone. Our live 4 piece jazz band kept everyone dancing and having fun.

                                        the again,New York City may not have as many lovely natural vistas, and thus indoor weddings may require more formality. (although an evening rooftop reception overlooking the cityscape sounds so lovely!) or maybe it's just New York, I don't know. West and east Coast are so vastly different, and neither is superior to the other...just different. It could be NY caterers have better experience with sit down or can do sit down better, or perhaps the food preferences there run to thing that are better plated then served on platters.

                                        A big platter of several whole poached salmon and a huge sizzling grill of gourmet sausages struck my guests as gorgeous, as well as the heaping platters of fresh grilled veggies and the giant baskets of Artisan bread and bowls of salad. but dishes like Filet mignon and veal scallopini don't do so well on a buffet. A well plated steak with sides trumps a platter of many said steaks every time, appearance-wise.

                                        A good caterer and entertainer, though, can handle any style of reception and make it perfect.

                                        1. re: Diana

                                          I truly beg to differ with you about what's "done" and "not done" these days. That said, I am confident that in her decision to have the style of wedding she had, my sister, who spent a lot of time and energy on her wedding, didn't make that decision based on what a stack of magazines said is the "trend," but what she and her husband wanted and were able to do.

                                          While you seem to acknowledge regional differences exist at one point in your post, your words elsewhere imply otherwise and suggest that somehow it is "wrong" to have a black-tie, Saturday night event with a 10-piece live orchestra. That's not appreciated.

                                          Quite frankly, I would not make the menu or music choices that you apparently did, but again, it gets down to personal preference.

                                          And by the way, contrary to what you appear to think you know, the New York area is not all about the island of Manhattan and the New York area does have many natural vistas, though

                                          1. re: Shayna Madel

                                            New York State is one of the lovliest states in the nation. The city of Manhattan is dynamic and wonderful in its own way.

                                            your sister had the wedding she wanted, which is the point. I thought more of a party for my guests and I in a lovely outdoor and relaxed atmosphere, she wanted formal with all the trimmings, which is lovely, to.

                                            It is true the wedding trend of recent years is for more fun and relaxed, but no one needs to follow the trends. A lot of people harrumph about having to go to formal receptions, though.

                                            West Coast and east coast has differerent tastes in certain things. I had a Santa Barbara locale, where more loose and relaxed menus include fabulous food with a less steakhouse theme.

                                            No wedding is wrong. Some weddings do put more stress on the guests complying and following a few required pre-set guidelines-such as choosing a meal and wearing black tie and such. this is not wrong, just formal. But you get a lot of grumbling sometimes about such formality over this side of the country. At least, in my circles.

                                            Then again, I love a good formal meal now and again, I just prefer to choose what I eat at that meal when I sit down and see a whole menu, not from a little card of choices 8 months before. And exception would be a mulit course tasting menu of small plates in a pre fixe wine or beer dinner.

                                            the OP was complaining about the downside of being forced to choose a meal and face the chance of it not being that great, and perhaps wanting to change. This is the big downside of plated formal sit downs. The OP is far from alone in disliking said set up!

                                            I would have LOVED a 10-piece orchestra, but couldn't afford it! how did your sister swing that?

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. My sister did not make a choice between what she wanted and the comfort and enjoyment of her guests. Yes, I did say my sister had the wedding she wanted. Perhaps what I also should have said is that from what I can tell, the guests also had a blast. Trust me, my family is FAR from the black-tie crowd. My dad, may he rest in peace, worked retail for 50 years after he got out of the army and never wore a tie to work for his entire life. I think the guests had fun "dressing up" for a change, as it's not the norm for most of the people who were invited, many of them being schoolteachers and paraprofessional aides from the school where my sister teaches. It was made clear to everyone that if a man did not have a tux and either did not want to or was not in a position to rent one, it was not the end of the world. And one of my favorite parts of the night was when one of my wealthiest relatives there complimented me on my "diamond" necklace and she thought it was just great when I told her that I had gotten it at Target the day before, which is the absolute truth, I promise.

                                              All of that said, I totally agree about being able to choose what one wants to eat at the time of the meal. And fortunately, this caterer's package included 4 main course choices (selected by the bride and groom from among several beef/chicken/fish choices on the caterer's list) plus one vegetarian choice (also selected by the bride and groom from among several veggie options).

                                              As far as the orchestra was concerned, the wedding was in February. This certainly helped contain the costs somewhat, though there was a huge gamble on the weather issue (don't ask, there was a blizzard a week before, but everything miraculously melted...) and the bandleader, who normally worked with a group of 8, said he would "give" her the two "extra" people without an upcharge since it was the off-season. And, full disclosure, my sister and her husband did not make the whole wedding themselves. Very fortunately, my dad left my mom in a position to be able to pay for the lion's share of the wedding. Some may differ in opinion philosophically on that score, I know, but that's what my mom wanted to do.

                                              I think the OP's issue was that she could not remember what she ordered and/or thought she might want something different. It all goes back to whether the venue/caterer offers choices and that quite often varies by geographic area and financial issues. If there's a choice of 4 or 5 main courses at a sit-down, it's no different than a buffet.

                              2. re: SweetPea914

                                I'm also in Westchester, and the only wedding for which I've ever had to choose my dinner entree on the RSVP was in Albany. (And they had no vegetarian option listed, so I made my own box for it.)

                                1. re: marmite

                                  I live in Westchester as well, and most of the weddings I've been to were in Westchester/Long Island/New Jersey/NYC. Most of my friends are married now, but picking your entree ahead of time was certainly common in the early '90's to early 2000's. I was married in Fairfield Co., Connecticut, and we had people pick their entrees, as the costs differed and the restaurant wanted a head count. However, they were flexible about it and didn't seem to mind that some didn't respond or changed their mind at the last minute.

                                2. re: SweetPea914

                                  When I got married 5 years ago, I was living in the city and we were married in the city downtown. (I recently moved to Westchester--Scarsdale). If any place that I looked at for my wedding required me to have my guests commit to a particular dinner entree ahead of time, I would have walked out then and there. I find it tacky.

                                  I think, however, that it is common practice outside of the NYC area. I will probably get lambasted for saying this, and I truly mean no offense to anyone, but the NYC area including suburbs is just different on many levels. Not necessarily better, but just different. People here go over the top with weddings/bar mitzvahs, etc, like nowhere else in the country.

                                  People should certainly do what they can afford, but personally, if it came down to it, I'd rather cut corners elsewhere and give my guests a choice on the day of the event.

                                  Separately, when I do have to make a choice ahead of time (and even when I don't), I always like to load up at the cocktail hour, since that's the part I enjoy the most anyway.

                                3. actually, i've changed my mind before at a wedding and i make sure to ask if there would be a problem (i know this might sound terrible (rude/tasteless, etc), but i've actually done it twice!) the first time, i had pre-ordered red snapper but found it essentially inedible - i couldn't even cut into it - so asked if there was any filet left (there was - everyone who had RSVP'd hadn't shown up) The second time it turned out that the meal i had ordered contained an item i coulnd't eat so i very politely asked the server if it would be ok and he said he would have to check. I had to wait until they had done a final head/table count of all the orders, but it looked like several people had changed their mind (or had forgotten, like the OP) because it turned out that it would be ok to change my mind.

                                  1. I think it's nice to let guests choose at the wedding, but facilities will charge you more if you want to provide a day of choice since they need to order addition food to accomodate. At my wedding, we offered a choice on the day of, but were charged a premium of $10-15 per plate to do it. This can be outrageously expensive as a wedding increases in size.

                                    Second, you cannot and should not change your order at the day of the wedding. The facility will have ordered and been preparing food to accomodate the pre-orders, and you will throw them into chaos.

                                    1. We hosted a large Bar Mitzvah recently for 175 people (for 2 kids). It's not a wedding but the reception protocal is virtually the same. We offered 2 entrees plus a veggie option and a children's buffet (70 or so 13 year old kids) and included the request with the RSVP.

                                      Basically, if a caterer is to be prepared for serving 100 adults, you have to have a general idea as to how many of each preference you will need. Otherwise they would have to buy much more food (to allow for a run on one entree or another) and have to pass the extra cost on to the client. I would much rather make this offer to my guests ahead of time and put the money into other aspects of the event than pay for the potential for waste of food (offer a better wine perhaps).

                                      Another option is to only offer one entree that might have a combination of 2 items on the plate. To me, that's a better option than making guests, who are all dressed up, wait on line, serve themselves and carry around plates of food. Buffet's are usually the most economical $$ choice however so that's where that decision may lie.

                                      It must be regional because it was only the family from the East that had any issues or questions when the invitations arrived. I finally had to say......."Look, it's just one meal. You're putting way to much emphasis on this decision. If you don't like what you have chosen, fill up on one of the other 5 courses."

                                      That said, it has been my experience that caterers use these numbers just as a general guideline for how much to prepare. Any decent caterer will be prepared with a few extra of each entree for just such an event where someone changes their mind or forgets. I don't think it's rude at all to ask. In most instances, the wait staff will still ask a guest what their dinner preference is as they serve the table. It's unusual to have a "map" of matching guest name to entree order.

                                      The funniest thing in our instance was when the invited children checked the Steak or Salmon option as opposed to the children's buffet...............As if..... Yeah right!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MSK

                                        Honestly, in our case, buffets are totally acceptable for a bar/bat mitzvah, but for a black tie wedding they aren't.

                                      2. A lot of people assume that caters always have lots of extra meals, but that is really not the case.
                                        I worked at a wedding two weeks ago where the bride gave us a count for the meals, but didn't make place cards for them. So the guests were on their honor to say which meal they had selected. Our count was close enough that if one more person changed their mind, we would have run out of one of the selections.

                                        1. Picking a meaI in advance is not "standard." The question of having to choose your meal in advance is not just financial, it is regional. I am NYC/Long Island born and bred and have never gone to an affair in this area where I was asked on the RSVP card to choose my meal in advance. These affairs have been bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings, held in places as varied as low-end catering halls, upscale country clubs, beach clubs and temples, over a period of 35 years and as recently as this year. It may be or seem wasteful or cost more to do things this way, but that's the way it is in this area. I sat in with the caterer, my sister and her now-husband when they did the menu for their wedding last year (3 or 4 main course choices of various meats/fish, plus a vegetarian) and the caterer basically said he has a pretty good idea of what is popular and what is not and he orders his supplies accordingly. True, he can't be as exact as someone who has a count ahead of time, but "choice on the day of" is just the local way of doing things. Frankly, since in this neck of the woods, to do "advance choosing" is just not the norm, I find it strange and might consider it tacky, but if out of town, I chalk it up to being a regional difference. What really gets me is a tip jar on the bar.

                                          As far as changing your mind, I would not contact the bride in advance about this. Food changes are things the last thing a bride would want to hear about, with everything she has to do. It probably ranks right up there with telling the bride who you want to/won't sit with. I would certainly contemplate discretely asking the waitstaff on the "day of" if it is possible. I am fairly confident that the party location must order and some "extra" of each choice, in case something is dropped or burned or there is some other kitchen disaster. And as far as the whole table possibly then changing their minds, I doubt that would happen and besides, they are not all going to be changing their minds in one direction, say all meat to all fish, or vice versa.

                                          As far as the bad review, I agree with not going there starving, but with my luck, it would turn out that the food is great and I had no appetite.

                                          1. After having worked as a catering server at more than a few weddings, and I can pretty safely say go with the beef. I don't remember an event when it wasn't filet mignon. Chicken has a tendency to dry out, as does fish, but somehow they can keep filet around medium for the hours it takes to go from the kitchen to the site. As for switching your entree... you can always try. Wait until most of the diners have received their food, and then ask if there were any extra of the dish that looks really really good. There's usually a few extra of something (from people not showing up or whatever other reason). Just don't be disappointed if it turns out all of them did get eaten.

                                            I think the ideal setup is a buffet line. People don't get anything they don't want, and it's much less expensive than table service (weddings are expensive enough already!)

                                            1. I think it very much depends on the venue - for my upstate New York wedding, we were required by the venue (a golf club restaurant, but with a pretty serious focus on food and wine) to ask our guests what they would be eating at the reception - there were beef, fish, and vegetarian options. However, the restaurant's approach was to ask all of the guests what they were having, in anticipation of a few having changed their minds or forgotten what they had requested. We never heard about any of it, though I'm sure it happened, and the restaurant was prepared. We didn't have to pay extra. I'm sure it just depends on the place - we were lucky and it wasn't an issue, and I'm sure others have run into issues. I wouldn't worry too much about it if you've legitimately forgotten. It happens.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: pistachiogirl

                                                My other thought....these people paid $100 +++ to have you to their preverbial "house" for dinner. If what they served was bad, would you send it back? I don't think so.

                                                I know us Hounds are all on the same page here, but stuff like that is really tacky.

                                                1. re: stellamystar

                                                  Sending back a $100+ meal at a reception is tacky? I think for $100, it should at least be edible. I was the maid of honor in a wedding last year, and I was the only vegetarian at the reception. The food they gave me was beyond disgusting. I was sitting next to the bride and she said 'they served you THAT?!' You better believe I sent it back.
                                                  If I were paying, I would want to know that my guests were being served acceptable food.

                                              2. Find someone to trade or share with.

                                                1. So here's a follow up to my own post. I do remember that I R.S.V.P'd for the fish entree for the wedding. It is actually the (very large) Rehearsal Dinner that I can't remember. This invitation came a week or 2 after the wedding invite. For those of you that posted on the "waiter reading the specials thread", you will appreciate this. My husband opened the invite, told me I had whatever options (fish, beef, chicken), he checked it for me, and mailed out the R.S.V.P. Since I didn't see the options and didn't check it myself, I don't remember what I opted for, nor does my husband. Normally, as I said in my OP I go with fish, but I somehow remember thinking the fish was shrimp, which I make all the time at home, and I was having the fish the next day, so why not change it up??

                                                  I think what I will have to do is wait to see if the menu jogs my memory, and if not I'll just have to tell the waitperson that I do not remember what I had "ordered".
                                                  I find the weigh in by catering people interesting, because I always thought the point of asking was to get a general idea, I didn't think it would be cut so close.
                                                  With that said, the RD is being held at a restaurant, do the same rules apply to a restaurant event as a catered event? I feel badly that I don't remember and don't want to be a rude guest!

                                                  TO the PP from Scarsdale, hello, we're neighbors I just moved from the UES to Bronxville. I completely agree with you that it is indeed tacky to send these types of response cards out, but we seem to be in the minority. I thought I remembered Miss Manners saying so as well, but can't seem to find that info now.

                                                  To the people that said it is like inviting someone over for dinner and requesting a different meal, I have to say I don't necessarily think that that is a fair comparison on many different levels. Especially in a day and age where weddings tend to involve travel for many and while believe me I know what weddings cost, as a guest I typically spend $500-$1000 myself in order to attend a wedding. Which I am more than happy to do to share in such a special event!

                                                  1. love this thread, now here's the kicker you and hubby need to figure out.

                                                    When you get to the RD the waiter will approach the two of you (and others at the table) and ask "did you order the fish, chicken or beef." major gut check time. So as not to appear as a deer in the headlights you may want to be prepared to answer something other than, "OMG I forgot." Good news is half the table forgot but no one is going to let on.

                                                    jfood doubts that the resto has a list and when you tell the server "beef" they grab you by the scruff of the neck and throw you out for tryingto change your mind.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      Too funny! I know I'm obsessing about this way too much!! I'll get there tonight and it will be no big deal. I'm just such a stickler for etiquette and I don't want to be "that rude guest".

                                                      1. re: SweetPea914

                                                        as jfood says many times to hotel front desk, "whatever you have extras of."

                                                    2. In answer to the first question, I feel that while it isn't ideal, being asked to RSVP is a matter of practicality. If the bride and groom have decided to offer choices, the caterer has to have some notion of how much of each dish to make, or whoever pays for the meal is going to be charged for one serving of everything for everyone.

                                                      In answer to the second question, I do believe it is in bad taste to ask to change your mind on the day of the wedding. Unless you discover the fish you order has a nut topping and you're allergic to nuts, or some similar scenario, I believe etiquette and simple good sportsmanship dictate that you just eat around whatever it is you don't like.

                                                      FWIW, we opted to serve our wedding guests one dish, chicken piccata. Everyone ate it, and I hope they all liked it as much as I did. It was a different situation than many weddings, though, since it was only 40 people and it was on the site of Squaw Valley Inn, so if a vegetarian option had been needed, one could have been brought in from the restaurant.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: mercyteapot

                                                        What if one of your guests were allergic to chicken, but didn't want vegetarian?

                                                        I dunno, the one dish thing is almost as hard to take as the guest that changes their mind after sending in a choice with the rsvp.

                                                        Squaw Valley sounds LOVELY, though. Intimate weddings are so often much nicer.

                                                        1. re: Diana

                                                          Had that happened, the restaurant would've been able to accommodate them. It had a full menu. I just used the vegetarian example because I thought that would be the most common reason to decline the chicken. Do poultry allergies exist?

                                                          Squaw Valley was a beautiful place for a wedding and between the fact that July is in the middle of their off-season and my husband's nearly lifelong friendship with their F&B Director, we got a discount that made it as affordable as the Best Western near our house would've been. This was 18 years ago, but even then, $9 a plate was a great deal... We had enough $ left over to spring for everyone's gondola ride up the mountain after dinner.

                                                      2. Of course, if you don't like having to choose, there is the more traditional option of not offering any choice at all....

                                                        1. When i have to make a selection, I do wonder how it's prepared but i know, based on the location and host of the event, that it will either be great or horrible. Just go with the flow. I make sure that my husband and I request different things so we can share.

                                                          Changing your request at the event would be rude to the hosts for all the reasons stated above.

                                                          1. Hi Everyone,
                                                            I just thought I would provide an update for anyone that may be curious as to the outcome of the weekend. First, I would like to thank everyone that had constructive advice for me!

                                                            Regarding my first question about enclosing meal cards in R.S.V.P's. I finally found an answer to it on Crane's website, which btw is very informative. It is in fact considered rude to enclose such cards. Caterer's may want you to do it to save themselves some money and increase profit, but just because "it is done" doesn't make it proper in my opinion.

                                                            With regard to my second (and apparently much more volatile) question. Here is a somewhat lengthy recap.
                                                            As it turns out the wedding was fabulous, the food was incredible, but what really made it a great night (weekend), was of course the beautiful bride, handsome groom and the opportunity to rekindle old friendships, and even make some new ones.

                                                            Now, when it came time for dinner, and I believe Jfood suggested this (but I don't seem to see it now). At the table we were asked for our place cards by our waiter and on the back of said card which read Mr. and Mrs SweetPea at table xx, it had a discreatly written M&F for meat and fish. Now, as I mentioned in my follow up post, this was not the evening I was unclear about, but I thought placing the selected choices on the cards was a good way to make life easier for the guests.

                                                            Then there was the rehearsal dinner (AKA The Night in Question!!!). My husband finally decided that he did mark off 2 different dinner options, so I therefore decided that I must have went with the fish. So, I of course agree with many of you, knowing what I had selected, it would have been rude of me to change my mind and I stayed with the my shrimp entree. Though I don't think changing is all that much ruder than asking people to choose in advance, I am a big girl and know that 2 wrongs certaintly don't make a right!

                                                            However, as we were walking to our tables to sit after the cocktail hour my friend turns to me and says "you know, I completely forgot which dish I opted for". Then as I listened to the waitstaff going around the room, I heard many guests ask things like "What were my choices again?" many people seemed to be deciding what they wanted at the table. I can only attribute this to the fact that since it was a large restaurant, people felt more inclined to change their minds than they might at a wedding? I'm not making a judgement either way, just an observation!

                                                            Now, the restaurant that held the rehearsal dinner was actually the place that I had read the bad review about (they also do weddings) and if it were my place to do so I would be writing my own scathing review. Let's just say I felt badly for the hostess as they did mess up on many different levels, but again it isn't my place to do so.
                                                            And as I said to my husband at the end of the night when he commented on the food, " I would rather have bad food and good company and day, than the reverse be true".

                                                            Thanks again to all who offered helpful advice!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: SweetPea914

                                                              nice report SP914.

                                                              Glad you and hubby had a good time and your last quote in now embedded in jfood quotes to tell when you forget what it important.

                                                              1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                The fact is, no matter what Crane's website says - many restaurants refuse to go the limited menu route when hosting large parties. I work for a large department in a large medical center and am responsible for hosting large retirement parties, going away parties, alumni parties (all over the nation - not just in the local area), etc., and most places I deal with now will not offer this as an option. Believe me, it would make life simpler for me if they would, but they refuse, and this is a fact.

                                                                I am assuming these places have the same policy for wedding receptions.

                                                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                  Aah, yes, the indicators on the place cards reminding you what you had ordered! I ran into a problem with this at a wedding recently. The options for dinner had been filet mignon or salmon. I had ordered the salmon and boyfriend ordered the filet. Of course, a few months later when we actually got to the wedding, we had forgotten what the choices were and our cards said "F" or "S". We thought that meant "fish" or "steak" and were very confused until we realized that they were codes for the filet and salmon.

                                                                  In any case, I always assume wedding food won't be anything great and fill up during the cocktail hour.

                                                                2. 1. I don't feel at all bad deciding a month in advance, because I know what I like, and that won't change in a few wks.. And, if I choose the salmon, or the steak, I know there are a limited amount of ways these are likely to be prepared. Also, since I was familiar enough with the family to be invited to this event, and I accepted, I trust they have chosen a nice venue, not a greasy spoon. ...although your experience may be different..
                                                                  2. Yes.

                                                                  1. A month in advance seems like too much notice. I am currently planning a wedding, and my final count is due 10 days prior to event. Other venues I had considered required a final count due 7 days before. I think it is wise to offer a combination dish. More people are doing this today and it usually goes over very well. We are having the filet/lobster tail & filet/chicken option. We are requesting their choice at the time of the RSVP.

                                                                    I also would not change my item selection on the day of the event. You know what you ordered, so if you do not feel like eating that selection that day, eat something before you go, or fill-up on appetizers, salad, soup, pasta, etc.

                                                                    Regarding the late night snack bar. I have been to a few weddings that had this. All 3 of them had several varieties of only pizza, which, after you've been drinking all night, goes over pretty well. I have never been to a wedding that had multiple late-night foods to select from. I have also been to weddings that rented an outside popular coffee shop for 2 hours at the end of the evening. Very nice, though we are not doing that option.

                                                                    Take care & enjoy the wedding!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sweetpea92

                                                                      We had to give the caterer a head count approximately a week before our wedding, but we put the reply date 3 weeks before that. You would not believe how many people will not RSVP to your wedding invitations, even if all they have to do is check a box and leave it for the mailman to pick up. We had to make a lot of phone calls to figure out who was coming and who was not. If I ever get married again (god, I hope not...) I am insisting on an elopement.

                                                                      Good luck with your wedding, sweetpea92!

                                                                      1. re: sweetpea92

                                                                        You'll find that a large percent of your guests will not RSVP. so if by 10 days before your wedding and 40% of your guests has not replied yet, you'll be making frantic phone calls very close to your wedding. nowadays when people are spread practically all over the world (a friend of ours has to have two receptions, one in Indonesia and one in Scotland), a month in advance is not too much to ask.

                                                                      2. I have a custom invitation company - so we deal with this issue a lot. I can see that your event has happened, but in case some other foodies are reading this post at a later date for advice, I wanted to reply.

                                                                        The most important part of an RSVP is for the chefs to be able to prepare enough of the correct meals for the guests. If you are really unsure, you have a couple of options...

                                                                        First and foremost, if you have any food allergies that are a concern, you should always let your host know about your concerns. In the case of allergies or lifestyle choices (vegan, etc.) it is appropriate to let someone know about your special needs. If it is a general health concern, you can also choose to call the venue and ask about how they prepare their meals. If special meal requests are made ahead of time, most restaurants and caterers will be happy to make the changes you might need.

                                                                        If you aren't sure a month in advance what you want to eat, it might help if you and your guest (assuming you are not going on your own) decide that you each choose what you normally prefer and switch or share among yourselves if you need. Who knows - that might add an element of romance to your meal! (Sounds like that worked for you - right?)

                                                                        Keep in mind, with so many people looking to find ways to trim the costs of weddings and the easiest choice of having a "duet meal choice" may cost a little more per guest, so couples may elect to offer menu choices that fit their overall budget. If a couple can afford a "duet" (ex; chicken and beef) or a buffet, it's usually the way to go to avoid having to deal with more details on their wedding day.

                                                                        You mentioned that it's about the food and drink - as a "foodie" I can certainly relate to the sentiment. But, you are being hosted and it's only for one evening. Plus, sometimes trying something unusual becomes a favorite!

                                                                        One last note, lots of venues, especially golf based venues and resorts are now requesting that escort or place cards indicate the menu choice for the guest. (Like you experienced at the event you attended) So, you may start to find that even though you might want to change your choice, it may be listed for the staff when you arrive.

                                                                        Thanks for starting this topic!

                                                                        1. the caterer usually prepares slightly more than ordered so those who can't make up their minds can have a little wiggle room. but just a little. Depending on the size of the guest list, more wiggle room with larger parties.

                                                                          It's not rude to ask. be prepared to accept it if they don't have what you ask.

                                                                          1. This thread perfectly illustrates a conversation I overheard with a MOB just this morning when I was getting a pedicure. Her family relocated here (Raleigh, NC) from New York a month ago, and apparently she's in the middle of planning her daughter's wedding. The daughter will marry in NY but they're having a "second wedding" down here a few weeks later. The MOB was complaining about the fact that she couldn't find a decent "hall" down here, and what was wrong with this town that we didn't have a ton of "halls" available. Being married to a former NY'er myself, I've been to plenty of his family's weddings back in NY, so I know she's referring to a banquet or function hall, but it was amusing to watch her horrified reaction when the other patrons in the salon were recommending church fellowship halls and the local Elks lodge to her.

                                                                            Larger/more urban areas, especially NY for some reason, seem to be a little different than the rest of the world when it comes to weddings. It's neither worse or better, but it amazes me the amount of money my husband's family routinely drops on weddings - over 150K for the most recent cousin's nuptials. And yes, there was an outrageous amount of food and tons of options for dinner there. It seems that the areas that have the more elaborate weddings are set up to handle on-the-spot dinner requests, and I would imagine that does contribute to the overall cost of the event.

                                                                            I would also add that as a Southerner, I've been to an equal number of weddings where a full meal was NOT served as events where one was. Heavy hors d'oeuvres, dessert, cake, yes, but not a sit-down type of meal. However, IMHO, with the exception of pig pickin's, if dinner's provided, it's very common to get the "choose your meal" request on your RSVP. I have to come down on the side of those who think that changing your meal on the spot is the height of tackiness, and I cannot BELIEVE that someone actually asked a bride and groom if they'd take a different dish because of some rude guest! But then again, I'm not one to make too much fuss over a meal that someone is gracious enough to provide for me, either. If we don't like the food, we'll hit a drive-through on the way home.

                                                                            1. I'd actually appreciate the chance to know ahead of time what i could chose to eat at an event. A few weddings i've been to they just started bringing out the food, which usually included meat, and i'm a veggie who will occasionally eat fish. That being said, as many times, i've ate a roll, scraped gravy off a potato and had a mini meal. , No big deal. I'm pretty sure i won't starve to death over the loss of one meal.

                                                                              I've you've been given the chance to chose your meal, you know just as much a month ahead, as you will the day of....what your preferences are, food allergies, religious observations etc etc. I do think the onus is on the guest to inform on the RSVP of such issues. Not being particularly fond of something, doesn't count as a good reason to ask for a new meal however, IMHO.

                                                                              I do disagree somewhat with the "you are getting a free meal" side of things however. There should be some expectation of quality from a $100 per plate type of deal yes, then again, if someone's catering as a business, it should be good no matter how little you pay for it. Plus it's not really a free meal, unless people have stopped bringing wedding gifts out there. It would be practical to serve food people can eat, if for no other reason that to soak up some of the alcohol. A couple of wedding parties i've been to can run very very late into the night or early morning, and it was nice at those to have something to pick at later in the night.

                                                                              Buffets can be great for keeping everyone happy, but if it's casual and there's no one doling out the food, there is a good chance some hoovers up front will have loaded their plates so by the time it gets to the end of the line, most of the food is gone. Happened to friends recently at such a do.