Do you ever know exactly what you want – but no clue how to get it? That’s the position Cole and I found ourselves in when attempting to choose a caterer for our wedding. We knew we wanted Texas BBQ for the rehearsal dinner since he’s from Texas, and cajun food at the wedding, since I’m from Louisiana.
The BBQ was easy – Bodacious, a local favorite, catered several of my birthday parties growing up, and even my high school graduation. My sentimental heart delighted in having them cater our rehearsal dinner. Even better, it’s owned by the family of one of Cole’s close childhood friends. Per usual, Cole’s requests were easy. And mine were, well…not.
I dreamed of long farmhouse tables, lined with beautiful greenery, all of our loved ones sitting elbow to elbow, sharing a meal in celebration of us. I wanted to reward them with a delicious meal for traveling in to be with us.
Of course I looked at all the local catering companies, and a few offered cajun menus. But they were outrageously priced and none of them offered enough customization to accommodate my dream board. We went to bridal fairs and I taste tested other options, but I knew what I really wanted. I just had to figure out how to make it happen.
I made a list of our favorite cajun restaurants and started making calls. This went on for about two weeks, with most of them stating they weren’t equipped to cater large events off-site. Then, a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook in a post announcing the grand opening of a new restaurant.
Immediately, I contacted the owner- a real cajun, straight from South Louisiana who learned to cook from family recipes. A few days later, we met for lunch and a consultation. I showed up with my 3in binder and the check book, ready to bring my vision into reality. This was in February.
We crafted a delicious reception by pulling items from her menu, and adding other things I wanted like crab stuffed mushroom caps. She was a dream to work with. I felt like she really got me. I trusted her- I felt like God had taken all the stress from the past two weeks and sent me in her direction for peace. I was getting everything I wanted, plus some, for a more than fair price.
For the next few months, I constantly hyped up our food every time someone asked how the planning was going. I sent every one I knew to her restaurant. When family visited from out of town, we dined in. I was so excited to give our guests such a special meal.
In May, I found out her place was closing, but she assured me that she could still accommodate the wedding. In late June, she called again. She couldn’t cater for us.
It wasn’t her fault, but I was so upset at the situation. We were six months from the wedding, without a caterer. And now, not only would I have to settle for something I didn’t want, but I’d have a hard time hiring a caterer at all, because most were booked for the year, and well into the next.
My dad, a gold-hearted man, who can cook better than some cajun grandmas, offered to prepare the food. I knew if he did, it’d be exactly what I wanted but I didn’t want him to stress over it. I really wanted for him to relax and enjoy the day. So, I was back a square one.
I set up another meeting. But thankfully, I didn’t have to go. My mom happens to know Kevin Hawkins, the owner of Divine Catering & Restaurant, a family-owned business that serves up the best soul food in town. Kevin offered to develop a cajun menu just for us.
You may think I’m crazy. Why would I let someone who doesn’t specialize in cajun food, someone who doesn’t have a single cajun item on his daily menu, cater my cajun-themed wedding reception? The answer: I am crazy.
I’m a crazy, Type-A perfectionist. I want everything “just-so.” And, I know from meeting Kevin that he’s kinda like that too. How else could he win Locals Love Us in multiple categories, year after year? So I knew if he was willing to put his own name, and the name of his business on something, he was sure he could do it.
He promised me crawfish pistolettes, mini meatpies, boudin balls, shrimp fettuccine, chicken & sausage gumbo, spicy jambalaya, a beautiful set-up, and attentive staff.
Often in the social media marketing industry we talk about under promising and over delivering – an art that if executed correctly, pays off both for you and the brand you’re working with. Kevin made this technique look like child’s play. He promised big. Then he delivered bigger. He went above and beyond. He stocked the tables with Louisiana Hot Sauce. He even brought in Coffee Mill hot chocolate for guests to enjoy while waiting for the ceremony to start – without being asked. He offered to serve us at our seats. He stuck back two plates for Cole and I, in the warming drawer, so we could have something to eat after the reception. The plates included appetizers that were gone before we got to try them the first time around.
My entire family is from Louisiana and my best friend is from Eunice in the South. Her grandparents still speak Cajun French. Everyone loved the food. I was so excited to let Kevin know that real Cajuns from the South enjoyed his meal. It was such a blessing to receive everything we’d wanted for our reception.
We waded through the tastings with traditional caterers, we attempted to negotiate the prices that magically inflate three-fold when you mention the word “wedding.” We went through the stress of losing a vendor. Then, we were rewarded. Kevin’s creativity and passion, complemented by his staff’s professionalism, and true joy in working for him, left us with a reception even better than my dream board.
So, what’s the Ugly Truth? Unfortunately, the traditional wedding industry is kinda evil. (And let’s be honest – the food is usually bland anyway.) Customer Service is almost non-existent, because in a season that should be all about you, vendors don’t actually need you. If you’re not willing to bend to their ways, or pay their prices, the next bride will. So, we went an unconventional route, we went with a family-owned and operated local restaurant. And I’m so glad we did!
p.s. Keep an eye out for a post detailing all the wedding traditions we broke.