As wedding season approaches, KYW Newsradio’s Michelle Durham spoke to local experts to get advice for couples who just got engaged. She asked questions about catering, wedding trends, lighting, photography and flowers, and they had some words of wisdom to share.


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Stephen Dyke, Owner
Day By Day
2101 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

Stephen has about 32 years of experience in planning weddings, corporate and special events, and he says, “My experience is that people do not select a caterer based on a menu proposal or necessarily the price. They are going to want to spend time with that person, so it’s important that you have that level of comfort with the person who is going to be in charge of your day.”

For the bride and groom who can’t afford the $150 a person cost that is often the case at a Philadelphia hotel, having a wedding at a unique site–such as the American Swedish Museum, Bartrams Gardens or the Colonial Dames–offers a “city vibe” without the city costs.

“Just in terms of range, we did a picnic wedding where we handed out blankets to people, and that was $18 per person. The following week, we did a wedding for an executive for The Food Network. Her menu was $85 per person–just the menu (excluding rentals). If someone comes to me and says, ‘I only have $85 person total,’ I’ll say, ‘this is what we can do,’” Stephen says.

Rental costs can also add up.

“Colonial Dames has enough chairs for the ceremony and the reception and tables as well, so you don’t have to rent them. That is a big savings right there–$5 to $6 person–so you are only looking at linens, china and glassware rentals,” Dyke says.

“Bartrams Gardens has nothing. You have to start from scratch. And their kitchen is small, so we have to rent kitchen equipment too. But we know when someone comes to us and says they are having their wedding at these places, they are not trying to replicate a ballroom wedding; there will be unique touches and aspects to it,” Dyke points out.

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Stephen has some advice for keeping costs down. He says, “A lot of people will do their own flowers, particularly at Bartrams Gardens. It’s a garden; you don’t need expensive centerpieces.”

Many people are also choosing Bamboo ware over china. It’s green and biodegradable, and you can avoid the $4 to $5 cost per person. It’s also appropriate, especially for an outdoor venue.

In terms of the food at the reception, Dyke says to try grilled food—it’s fresher and can be prepared on site and served to guests almost immediately.

Family-style service with a plated first course is another cost effective option because less staff is required, but it encourages conversation among guests passing platters and bottled beverages to one another. This reception style is well-suited to long tables of guests rather than round tables. And no big centerpieces since people are passing food, which saves money.

Finally, comfort food, like mac and cheese or ethnic food, is big.

“As the globe gets smaller, more people are interested in different types of food, like Indian…unique choices that make the atmosphere fun,” Dyke says.

Dyke also proposed some questions you should ask a caterer:

* How many other weddings are you running the day of my wedding?
* How many years of experience do you have?
* Do you have pictures of the food you’ve prepared for previous ?
* Do you have references, or a list of other couples you’ve worked with, that I could call?
* Can you prepare and serve a wide variety of food items?

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By Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio