PHOTO BY POPOVICH22/FOTOLIA
I have been to about 70 weddings in the past year and a half—not as a guest, but as a caterer working behind the scenes. When I was first hired by a Minneapolis catering company last year, I thought my job would be glamorous and full of excitement, and it can be, but it’s also a lot of sweat, hard work, and stress. My catering company isn’t connected with any venue, so there’s little we can do if we run out of food, forget to bring tablecloths, or the guest count goes up dramatically. As this wedding season comes to a close, here are some lessons I learned from Saturdays spent at wedding venues across the Twin Cities:
1. Catering is a workout.
Everything from silverware to centerpieces to the steaming hot food itself needs to be transported to wedding venues the day of the event. This means a lot of heavy lifting. We arrive about an hour before we have to be at the venue to set up in order to get all of our equipment loaded into a truck and head to the wedding site. We load racks of glassware, buffet tables, plates, all of the food for dinner, chafing dishes, and all of our prep equipment into and out of trucks. Some kitchens in venues are on the second floor, and not all have elevators, meaning the workout intensifies as we are forced to take the stairs. Outdoor venues usually require us to park far away, making the trip to and from the truck and arduous journey.
2. You get to know all the wedding music by heart.
There are only so many party songs, only so many modern country favorites, and only so many slow Sinatra love songs. As we are bussing plates and cleaning up, we catch ourselves singing along to songs we hate, just because we know them so well. Eventually they get stuck in your head when you’re not at work and you catch yourself singing “Uptown Funk” in the car by yourself.
3. You become an expert at Twin Cities geography.
As a non-Minnesota native, I didn’t have the faintest idea where Minnetonka was when I first started catering. I didn’t know north from south and I didn’t know which highways connected to each other. One night I left Hastings late at night during a lightning storm when I got terribly lost because my GPS signal was disrupted. I had to figure out how to get back to Highway 61 before the dirt roads turned into a muddy swamp and lightning struck my truck full of dirty dishes. After a year and a half of traveling to venues downtown and in rural suburbs, I know the Twin Cities like the back of my hand.
4. We deal with so much more than the food.
Catering weddings rarely involves simply serving dinner. We are in charge of all the set up and clean up, but we also get cake out of toddlers’ hair, frosting off of wedding dresses, and wine stains out of tablecloths. I have scrubbed smashed cupcakes out of so many carpets, scraped gum off of tables, and cleaned makeup stains out of many bridesmaid dresses. You can never predict how many spills you will have to clean up or how many screaming children will add extra time to your shifts. Often we work ten to twelve hour shifts just to make sure everything gets accomplished and we leave the venues and all the guests squeaky clean.
5. Every wedding is special.
I have been to a lot of weddings, and no two are the same. The one constant is the excitement from the family and wedding party. Everyone is there to have fun and celebrate. No matter how many children get mashed potatoes on your apron or how small the catering kitchen is, watching the bride and groom celebrate each other makes up for hours of stress and hard work. We get to listen to every wedding speech, see childhood pictures of the bride and groom, and hear all of the fathers, mothers, and members of the wedding party share their favorite stories about the couple. We learn a lot about the couple’s lives in those few hours, if they’re high school sweethearts, dog lovers, avid Dr. Who fans, or if they have read every Stephen King novel to date. At the end of the day, we get to be there to witness and take part in the joining of two families and two individuals, making all of our work worthwhile. Every bride is beautiful, every venue is romantic, and every shift is magical.