Sanity Saving Tips for Planning your Wedding


Congratulations, you’re getting married! Seconds after anyone sees your ring or hears the news, the very next questions are all about the wedding. Suddenly everything from the guest list to how the ceremony should proceed is on your plate, and what seems like a million decisions big and small are demanding your attention. How can you not feel overwhelmed?

First off – take a few moments to just enjoy being a happy engaged couple, and don’t let “The Wedding” take over your life. It’s easy to let that happen, but the wedding is part ceremony, and part celebration, of your life together.

Before we get to bullet points, a few overall suggestions:

  • Set aside blocks of time for wedding planning. Don’t try to do “a little here, a little there,” because it will quickly overtake your every waking moment and leave you feeling scattered. Sit down together, and come up with a few basics to get started:
  • Prioritize what you both want for your wedding, sorted by “Must Have,” “Really Want,” and “Would Be Nice.” Hold on to this list, and then:
  • Set a Budget – Nobody ever likes this word, but it helps so much in prioritizing what is important for your wedding, and your life, and in being able to say “no” when it’s not something you really need.
  • Work on your guest list – this is a big factor in the expense of your wedding, from chairs to tables, place settings and catering, and even determining the size of your venue. Oakleaf Cottage, for example, has a max capacity of 125, while others may accommodate upwards of 300 guests.
  • Hire a Planner. No joke. It’s the best money ever spent. Your planner will be your best friend as you pull together the details of your wedding. Having an experienced planner by your side, someone who has all the connections and existing relationships with the right vendors for you is going to help you SO MUCH.

“Part of what I love about helping pull all the pieces together is watching the couple’s stress level dissipate over the course of our meetings together,” says Khloe Jackson of Wildflower Wedding Planning. “There are SO many decisions that need to be made and my clients have told me they feel a sense of ease knowing they have a professional opinion to consider when making all those decisions.”

One more note on a Planner – talk to a few, and decide who you “click” best with. After all, you’re going to be pretty close throughout the duration of your engagement.

  • Next up: create a new email address just for wedding planning. We have a few couples doing this, and it makes so much sense! All of your emails are then easily searchable, and you won’t be distracted by wedding emails in your personal (or work) inbox.

Keep it simple! It’s so easy to get elaborate, with the table setting, the extras, the décor… Pinterest is a massive overflowing fountain of ideas, but even the ideas can get overwhelming before too long.  There is an elegance to simplicity, in focusing on the bigger details, in not having to pack or store gobs of décor ahead of your big day.

Don’t forget, Dave and I are happy to help! Whether you want advice on the decor, or an outside opinion, or need help narrowing down the best vendor for you, know that we really enjoy doing whatever we can to make your day (and the days leading up to it) a breeze.

Photo Credit: Amber Phinisee Photography

Chattanooga Food: Why We Love Food Works

 

Dave and I don’t get out to eat very often. When we do, it’s generally a pretty short list of places we love and are willing to go back to. We’ll try any new place once or twice, seeing as we need to be able to recommend a great place to guests and ensure they have the best gastronomic delights in town while here.

Food Works is one of the places we do recommend to folks — and they cater, and cater VERY well, so we absolutely love it when they are catering at an event at our barn. We decided to have a short chat with Troy and his catering director, Amy, and get the inside scoop on what to consider while planning to have your event catered.


So, we know FoodWorks opened back in 2006. Given the rate of restaurant turnover in Chattanooga, your continued popularity is a statement in itself. What is it that makes you special?
Amy: This April will be my 6th year at Food Works. The majority of staff has worked there for many years. We are a little family. Most of us have watched each other get married, have children, graduate college or mourn the loss of a loved one. I think our guests can feel that sense of family & unity when they dine with us and they feel at home. You can see that Troy has poured his heart & soul into the food & he is proud of the product he is serving and that drives all of our employees to strive to do their best. Our team is why Food Works is special & why we have been a staple in the Chattanooga community for 12 years. Not to mention our food is delicious, we have a great location on the north shore and the building is super cool.
What drew you to food, and ultimately, the restaurant business?
Troy: My first memories of cooking are with my grandmother at their home in Charleston, South Carolina. There is no place I would rather be than on their property surrounded by a banana tree, 2 pecan trees, a pear and fig tree. They had the most incredible garden. My Grandfather was an avid gardener, fisherman, hunter & outdoors man so we grew up eating all the produce my grandfather grew or game he required. My Grandmother has the best friend chicken I’ve ever eaten to this day. I remember being in the kitchen with her helping crack pecans, baking pecan pie and making apple butter. I knew at the age of 12 I wanted to cook & pursue culinary school. I’ve had a variety of jobs from being a chef at fine dining, causal restaurants, 500 person caterings, etc… The restaurant industry suits me. I’m not a person that can sit at a desk 9-5 every day and I like that every day is different. I need to be up, moving and talking to people.

foodworks_oakleafCottage
Have you always offered catering, or did it grow out of a need/ develop in a particular way?
Troy: We did not always offer catering. We saw an opportunity in the market and we decided we had the space in the facility to accommodate production. Having that space and staff already in place allows Food Works to offer competitive catering pricing while still providing a high quality product.
Do you have specific, planned menus for weddings, or can couples select favorite things from your menu?
Amy: We recently streamlined our catering menus to package systems to make it easier for the couple to navigate. We have multiple packages for people with a modest budget to couples who have a larger food budget. Couples can view our new menus on our catering website.
We are currently in the process of developing a brunch, southern comfort and Italian menus. All of our menu packages can be customized & tailored to fit the couple’s desires. If a couple has a favorite menu item or a family recipe we would be happy to work with them. Our chef’s abilities are not limited to only the food items on these menus. We also offered plated meal service if a couple is wanting more formal dining.

foodworks2_oakleafcottage

A formal wedding catered by Food Works here last Fall. Photo by Alexis Dimmer

What is one area where it might be safe to cut costs? Conversely, what is one area where a bride and groom should not cut costs around food?
Amy: In my experience the decision of china vs. disposables can weigh heavily on a couple. At the end of the day renting china is usually double or triple the cost of disposables. There are beautiful disposables available on the market that look & feel just like china. In my experience most couples cut food or service costs first. Guests remember food not china. If you are going to cut costs switch to disposables. I would strongly suggest to couples to never try to save money by reducing service staff members for your event. Service is extremely important to me. My goal is to have short bar lines, a full buffet and clean, bused tables at all times. If you have a limited budget you should allocate the budget to food not china.
What is something you wish couples would do more of for weddings?
Troy: I would like to see the men take a more active role in the decision making process when creating the menu. Also I wish couples would allocate more of the budget toward food v.s non-essential items like a cigar rolling booth or fireworks. People make the food budget secondary. We want everyone leaving a reception to have had a positive experience and limiting the food budget can drastically affect that.
Amy: I would like to see couples take a more realistic approach when they are planning their upcoming nuptials. Instead of cutting food and service costs, consider downsizing the guest list. Limiting the guest list can allow for more diverse food choices.
If a couple is unsure of what they should choose for their wedding menu, what are some consistent crowd-pleasers that you would recommend?
Amy: Our signature dishes are shrimp n’ grits, BBQ, crab cakes, chicken picatta and salmon.
Do you offer tastings/samplings of menu items? If so, is there a cost?
Amy: We do offer tastings. The price for a tasting is dependent on the menu items you would like to taste. If you decide to choose Food Works as your caterer the cost of the tasting will be deducted from your final invoice. We do also offer a 10% discount off the food & beverage total if you book both your rehearsal dinner & reception with us. We can host your rehearsal dinner at our restaurant or cater at an outside venue. You can find additional information regarding our room rental policy on our website.
What is the best way to reach you?
Amy Autuori
Phone: 423.752.8129
Email: catering@foodworksrestaurant.com http://www.foodworkscateringchattanooga.com/#!/splash-page

Oakleaf Cottage Wedding Featured in Junebug Weddings!

Rachel+Josh_0481_blog

We have to tell you about an amazing couple — more than once we have gushed at how incredible it was that they had hiked to the bottom of Cloudland Canyon State Park for those waterfall photos … without breaking a sweat, messing up makeup, or even slightly staining that beautiful dress. They came out looking as fresh and amazing as when they left!

Rachel+Josh_0209_blog

But what we haven’t said much of is this — when Rachel and Josh first came to see our barn, it looked like this:

oakleafcottagebarn_june2017

No concrete. No walls. No deck. There may not have even been rocks in the section of driveway out to the barn, meaning they had to walk through some mud.

barn outside

They didn’t blink. They trusted us. We never once received a panic message or call.

Rachel+Josh_0332_blog

Their day was beautiful — the stage of Fall where all the golds are out, and the deep russets and tangerine-like hues are still holding back, letting the filtered sunlight fall golden. They and their family and friends spent the day before and the day of setting up everything they had brought with them. It looked like magic.

Rachel+Josh_0573_blog

Head over to Junebug Weddings to see more!

Rachel+Josh_0609_blog

Photography: Amber Phinisee Photography, videography by her husband, Tyler  Dress: Daughters of Simone via The Sentimentalist  Florals: Luella Floral  Furniture: Heirlooms Vintage Rentals

A Pear Cocktail for Spring

I think it may be just us, but maybe not. Sometime in late summer, you get your hands on a lot of pears from say, your Aunt Shirley’s farm up in Illinois, and you decide to can them all up in a light syrup, dreaming of them in cobblers and dribbled over pancakes all winter.

Only now it’s Spring. And you still have a number of jars of canned pears in your cabinet. Not enough cobblers and pancakes were consumed over the winter months.

Now, I won’t lie. Dave and I love making cocktails. In fact, we will be enjoying one tonight. A few months ago (because that is how fast we move around here) I thought maybe we should share some of the cocktail recipes we come up with.

There are LOTS of pear cocktails for Fall. But not for folks like us with a few canned pears in the spring. If you don’t have pears you canned yourself, don’t worry. You can use store pears too.

We played with this a few ways, but we decided this was our favorite:

Spring Pear Cocktail Recipe

pear header_blog

Prepare Pear Simple Syrup: for a pint jar of pears in light syrup, I first pureed the contents of the jar and poured the puree into a saucepot. I added 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to the pot, heated it to just boiling while stirring, then pulled it off the heat to cool.

In a shaker, first add 1 teaspoon honey with 1.5 oz of vodka and 1 oz pear simple syrup, to taste. Stir until honey is well mixed.

Fill the shaker half with ice and shake.

Pour into glass, and add 1.5 oz champagne or sparkling wine and 1/2 tsp. lemon

May the warm days of Spring be soon upon you — and may you now, if you have *just a few* canned pears left, have a new way to enjoy them.

Cheers!

Cris & Dave

pear3_blog

New Year 2017

Old houses are a funny thing. I find myself wondering what past holidays were like. Were they happy? Was there a real tree in the living room, or an artificial one? What were the traditions, the favorite things shared, were the gifts handmade, was there a big meal or a simple but traditional breakfast?

livingroom_holiday_horizontal_web

Of course, people vary in what they think about homes with any history. Some say it’s silly, houses don’t have a soul or a past. Others say every life ever in it leaves a bit of themselves behind. As we remodeled Oakleaf, we found a lot of past marks, some of which we kept, some, like the LEGO wedged inextricably between a couple of floorboards upstairs, we had no choice but to keep as we refinished the floors. Signs of a bigger dog than the little wiry one we met, the partly sanded-out sibling rivalry evidenced on a bedroom door (we sanded it out the rest of the way, though we found it amusing), the names of all the children inscribed in pencil in a hidden spot.

I was glad my family wanted to celebrate Christmas at Oakleaf Cottage this year. It seemed wrong for a house to sit empty on such a big holiday, and we were happy to bring in a tree. Mom made a yummy holiday brunch, we all entertained my 6-month old nephew, took lots of photos and had a nice little holiday together. We may not have that luxury next year, but knowing the house will not be empty for big holidays makes us feel warm inside.

2017post1

We had the opportunity to enjoy Oakleaf for the very reason, and very use, that we envision for others: a place for families to enjoy together.

So here we are, greeting 2017. Oakleaf Cottage has some lovely guests enjoying the New Year already — a gathering of family, some from afar. Another such meeting of old friends booked earlier today. It looks like the Cottage will be what we dreamed, full of happy memories, great meals, connecting with friends and families, relaxing in nature, and living in the moment.

At the end of the day, the above things are what is important in life.

May your 2017 be filled with good times, great friends, fantastic food, plenty of fresh air and just enough time in a day to appreciate those moments.

2017post2

Sneak Peek

To say the last few weeks have been eventful would be an understatement. It’s been a whirlwind of paint, finishing, more paint, furniture installs, accessories and more paint. Did I say paint?

oakleafcottage_front

Cookie, our three-legged dog (or tripod) opted to pose in front of the cottage for this photo. The roof is actually black — the skies are so blue this time of year that the roof is like water, reflecting the color back to us.

The Cottage is nearly finished. We have some areas, namely the laundry and the downstairs bathroom that we still want to redo, but to see the final product has been exceedingly satisfying. It has become exactly what we wanted it to be: an ageless, relaxing space that invites visitors to stay a while.

dining-kitchen-nook

We’ll do a full before/after unveiling after the remaining areas have photos taken 😉

Our first event Saturday was a smashing success. We hired a driver to bring guests up to the Cottage and back to their cars, which many commented felt very exclusive and posh. Friends played music, sat by a fire, nibbled and chatted in the kitchen, and came up with names for our newly completed rooms (you can view some of the rooms here)

It’s hard to say what is the favorite change. For me, it’s the kitchen. It has become so open and ready for hosting — I can just see all the wonderful meals that will be enjoyed here! This space makes you want to cook!

kitchen-2

Bookings have begun to come in, and we are beginning to turn our attentions to the barn. It needs a little remodeling to make it a great place for events and learning seminars. We did play a little dress-up out there recently, installing the hardware needed for hanging curtains and prepping for photoshoots to take advantage of the gorgeous leaves.

side-of-barn_fall_flowers

Despite the drought, the leaves have been BRILLIANT — we can only imagine how they would be in a less dry year.

pathbehindbarn_fall_rocks

Full before/after post coming soon!

Cris & Dave

If you are looking for the perfect hideaway or family gathering spot, contact us!

Of Paint and Raspberries

We continue to work on Oakleaf Cottage — this past week my family was here, and Dad worked hard helping us get all the rooms and all the new trim from JB Millworks painted. The place is a mess of painters tape, Dexter-esque plastic sheeting and brown paper covered windows. In short, I didn’t take interior photos this week.

We did, however, pick a few raspberries from the cottage garden and munch on them as a pre-dinner, “it’s 8:30 PM what are we going to do about dinner” debate. The long days of summer have often seen us pushing through the daylight hours until suddenly, our bellies announce they WILL reach for our backbones if we don’t deliver and fast.

We took a short walk around one of the trails this week, but mostly, we worked — which may not sound exciting, but every day we’re a little closer to making this one incredible little vacation getaway. We are still aiming for the end of August/First week of September — just in time for fall colors!

IMG_8333 IMG_8331 IMG_8330 IMG_8329 IMG_8327 IMG_8325