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Relaxed Luxury: New Farm-to-Fab Wedding Inspiration

Relaxed Luxury: New Farm-to-Fab Wedding Inspiration
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Tec Petaja Photography
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Nothing reads “romantic” more than sharing your first dance under the towering farm and sparkling crystal chandeliers. According to Jess Levin, founder of Carats & Cake, an online resource for local vendors that helps style-savvy, newly-engaged couples plan their dream weddings, this year’s weddings will be all about relaxed luxury. “I love an understated venue with a touch of formality,” she explains. “From a black-tie barn affair to white-gloved beach weddings, the epitome of ‘relaxed luxury’ is the juxtaposition of super-formal and super-casual.”

And following suit, Levin says that sustainable and farm-fresh foods will continue as one of the hottest trends served up at weddings this year. “Today’s couples consider their weddings a true reflection of their personal taste---not just a nod to traditions,” Levin explains. “Farm-to-table will continue to emerge as a new tradition as healthy and organic eating becomes a norm of daily life for engaged couples. To serve organic food is a natural progression in wedding catering: you’re not necessarily going to live an organic life and suddenly serve surf 'n turf.” Today’s wedding is more that of a grand dinner party---people are going to serve with what they entertain with at home. “If you serve coq au vin at home, you will see that on the menu. If you love cheeseburgers, you’ll see that too,” says Levin.

InStyle talked with Levin about the some of the hot new trends she is seeing at Carats & Cake. From the latest in farm-to-table catering to new venues on the rise (did someone say, ranch?!) to how to bring the organic appeal to your affair—even in the hotel ballroom.

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So, is the barn wedding still hot? Barn as a setting will never go away. Today’s current aesthetic movement---from interior design to high fashion---give cues to the wedding space. It’s all about relaxed, effortless beauty. Rustic will remain an element in weddings but think Restoration Hardware instead of flea market. You’re going to see a shift towards more “upscale” barn, which means that just because you are on a farm, not everything needs to feel like a barn. The barn will become the "element of relaxed" and wedding designers will fuse that casual backdrop with more luxurious details like chandeliers, fine linens, crystal and sterling, and white-glove service. What you see on Pinterest is having a huge influence, and these are often very high-end productions. When you really love that barn wedding, it might not be as DIY as you think. When a couple that wants the DIY aesthetic, they want a hand-designed, hand-crafted, artisan wedding, and will hire a designer like Bash Please! or Lisa Vorce or Easton Events and Boston Pollen. Brides, take note:the new relaxed venues to consider in 2015 will be horse ranches and desert resorts!

Farm-to-fork has been a trend emerging in weddings. What’s new on the scene for 2015? You have caterers emerging that specialize and own the space such as Heirloom LA and, of course, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. And then there are ground breakers like Fire-Roasted Catering in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts who will come to your reception and build a huge fire to cook locally-sourced food in front of your guests---so nice for built-in entertainment! There is something incredibly special about serving your wedding meal right off the grill and these caterers will even try to use your herbs from your home’s garden.

What if you are bound to the hotel or country club ballroom caterer? Even if you are locked into the wedding menu the venue offers, you can infuse the farm-to-table vibe with something as simple as the serving style. Start simple with drinks, which is a safer place to play, by adding herbs to a champagne cocktail! A sprig of rosemary takes any drink to that homegrown place. Request family style service and you can even offer to help them to execute that. For instance, if you are having a more formal evening, consider a modified family style service with servers at each table to serve out the portions to guests (in case you don’t want Grandma serving themselves). Another idea is to work with your caterer to tweak their menu by asking them to do a twist on something they already make---try adding an organic element that wasn’t organic previously, or finding local ingredients in that region by encouraging the caterer to go local (if not necessarily sourcing from a farm). However, the one thing you want to be careful with: Don’t push the caterer too far from what they do well because you don’t want to be a guinea pig at your wedding when they are serving 200 people at one time. Manage your own expectations, or the execution of your vision may not be perfect.

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What challenges come into play when planning a farm-to-fork menu for 200 wedding guests? If you are going to choose a true farm-to-fork wedding, you have to be flexible. If your guests are picky (or you are) this style of catering might not be the right path for you. However, if you have a lot of dietary issues among your guests, it can be great because cooking farm-to-fork allows for a lot of accommodations. You want to figure out what’s important to you and prioritize. Farm-to-table is an experience in and of itself, so you don’t have to overwhelm your guests with too many other details that might not get executed correctly. Focus on getting the things you want most right. That way, it will feel cohesive and everything will fall into place!

Speaking of menus, how does the actual menu play a role at the wedding? When food is a focus, the menu itself is really important. Weddings will mimic what’s happening in restaurants, and couples will do what makes sense to them. Perhaps it’s one menu in the middle of the table, a menu at every place-setting or having the server announce each course (Top Chef-style)---people want to know what they are eating, not many people will blindly hop into a plate. We love it when the menu serves a purpose and become a piece of the design, whether it’s engraved on lucite or hand-painted on a napkin.

What are some of your favorite farm-to-fork desserts? When it comes to desserts, I think you see everything. Again, consider what you do at home and make it authentic to your meal. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a candy bar at a farm-to-fork affair (that is, if you love candy or desserts) but we suggested serving plated desserts on the table like chocolate covered strawberries or raw chocolate to signal that the meal is over. And, you are seeing a lot of action desserts like s’mores in every combination.

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What are some other ways to make your guests feel welcomed? Use your welcome bag as an opportunity to welcome your friends and family to your hometown or the wedding location, and tells a story about what it means to you. Include items that beyond edible snacks; Put things in the welcome totes that are useful and resources for your friends and family to use throughout the weekend. And have fun! Outdoor activities (if weather permits) like game paddles, and sunscreen for a beach wedding show you are ready to have a good time. And, whether you are hosting a three-day destination or one-night affair, go with a hand-written note to each guest on special stationery with a reminder of when and where they are supposed to be. While a burlap sack tied with leather and local goods is always welcomed, this conveys that important touch of gratitude you have for the people who are celebrating you!

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