Today we’re back to chat with another one of our favorite wedding pros. Whitney Fero, owner of Champagne Taste Catering, is a regular at the Mansion as you can often find her putting the finishing touches on a memorable menu with one of our couples.
Today, we sat down with Whitney to talk a bit about how she got her start in the industry as well as some wonderful tips for our brides and grooms to be!
How did you get your start in the wedding industry?
I became a caterer because I loved to throw parties and I wanted to make a change in my career. This was a decade ago. I have an MBA and wasn’t thrilled with working in corporate America. It occurred to me one day that I have “Champagne Taste on a beer budget” and that I throw fantastic parties and the idea began. It took a few years for my business to take off, but we doubled revenue every year for a lot of years – and now here we are.
My first wedding was my Brother’s back in 2002. Boy – do I wish I could do that all over again! I knew NOTHING back then. Every time I mention it, he is so gracious. Maybe I will throw him a 10th Anniversary party this year to show him what we can really do! Someone (not one of my staff!) was super helpful at that wedding and decided to bleach the reception chairs right before the reception, but they didn’t rinse off all of the bleach…. sooooo…. three guests had ruined clothes… My skin still crawls when I think of it…. Reminds me of the bride who wanted a signature drink with blue dye. This was before I knew my job well enough to realize wedding professionals need to help brides get out of their own way sometimes. Well, we had 150 people with blue teeth at that wedding. That will NEVER happen again!
The best thing I ever did for my company was to limit the number of brides we book. I do almost all of the cooking myself, take every phone call, every email and every meeting. Once we began limiting the number of brides per week, we were really able to give the kind of service that should be expected from clients leading up to and on their wedding day. I become very close with most of our brides – this is a momentous occasion in their lives! By limiting the number of brides, I can spend more time thinking about them and helping them with the process. It makes this job more fun and more authentic.
What’s the best thing about working in the wedding industry?
Relationships. Of my closest thirty friends, 25 of them are in the wedding industry or work with me in my company. Also, I have become very close with several dozen of our brides. Three of those closest thirty friends were once our brides!
This is a very social industry, which makes all of the long hours and hard work worth the effort. Most of my staff have been with me for many years, so coming to work is so much fun. We have become close with the staff at most of venues, so every weekend we get to work hard with people we enjoy. Florists, DJs, photographers, wedding planners, bakers – some of my favorite people are vendors for our events. Those relationships are a bonus for brides. When all of the vendors enjoy working together there is something special that happens at a wedding. It’s hard to describe, but we all buy-in to the event as a group and want to go above and beyond to make sure everything exceeds expectations as a group. We work behind the scenes in the weeks before the wedding to double and triple check details. It’s like the biggest extended family you’ve ever encountered and we are all working toward making sure we are individually and as a group giving our all for our brides.
Any tips you’d like to share with our 2012 brides?
1. ONLY HIRE VENDORS THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY TRUST. If you cannot say that you absolutely trust them, schedule meetings until you do and then hire them. If you cannot say you trust them then keep on looking!!! I want all of our brides to look at me and think, “I know she will make sure my day is perfect. I can let go of it all and let her work and speak for me.” It is the greatest compliment EVER when a bride says, “I trust you. Do what you think is best.” I think you should only hire a caterer (or other wedding vendors) if you feel that way.
2. LISTEN TO THE PROFESSIONALS. Once you hire your professionals, let them do their jobs. If you have faith enough in them to hire them, then check it off your list and let those details go. It will help with the stress in the months leading up to the Big Day. Also – they have worked hundreds of weddings and likely know more about the process than brides do. Your input as a bride is SUPER important, but once you’ve made decisions and signed contracts with people you trust, stop fretting and move on to the next thing on the list.
3. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS. It is your wedding day. The MOST important element is getting married. Everything else is just the window dressing. I rarely see a wedding day when one thing does not go wrong. Anything can be fixed and if you have hired people you trust it will be fixed – and probably without you knowing there was a problem in the first place!! On your wedding day, focus on your husband and the people that love you. Let the people you’ve hired – who you trust – take care of everything else.
4. ONCE A WEEK in the months before the wedding, designate one day when you absolutely DO NOT talk about the wedding. I’m not kidding. Sometimes I see couples whose whole lives become the wedding. At least 7 out of 10 of my brides say to me at some point, “I just can’t wait for this whole thing to be over.” I hate when I hear that. I understand it – but I hate it.
5. DAY 17 THROUGH DAY 3 before the wedding, spend two hours a day with your fiancé and DO NOT talk about the wedding. Rather, take time to just breathe and be with the person you’ve chosen to love forever. An old friend gave me that advice about twenty years ago and it still ranks high on my “Best-Advice-Ever-Given-List.”
6. ADD YOUR OWN PERSONAL STYLE to the wedding. It is YOUR wedding. If you love spaghetti-Os and meatballs, serve them in a shot glass with a mini-spoon as an appetizer! If you secretly dream of being a lounge singer, sing to your husband on a piano during the reception! This is YOUR day. It is a reflection of your love and relationship with your partner. DO NOT worry about pleasing everyone. Present your best self and your husband’s best self and celebrate the love to which you are committing.
7. YOU ONLY GET MARRIED ONCE have fun during the process!
Wonderful tips- we couldn’t agree more. Thanks Whitney for stopping by!
See You Soon,
~Paula & Martin Ramirez
Paula and Martin Ramirez are the proprietors of Historic Mankin Mansion, a wedding resort and bed and breakfast just minutes from Downtown Richmond. They enjoy new restaurant finds, Virginia wines and discovering fun events and activities throughout the area for their guests.