The Birmingham Bride » Birmingham Weddings

Social Graces: Dining at a Reception

The season is approaching. Designers, florists, bakers and calligraphers are busy as bees preparing for what Southerners call, “The Wedding Season.” As I am sure you are too, my Instagram is filled with pictures of proposals, shiny rings and “I’ve got my man, now I need my girls” posts. I for one, love opening my planner and penciling in my dear friend’s wedding dates.

With all the preparation that comes with “Wedding season,” have you ever thought of having a refresher on what is appropriate when you arrive at the reception and food is served? It’s been a few years since we have attended cotillion or Ms. Mary’s manners class, so let’s review, shall we? Ms. Emily Post will lend us a helping hand today in appearing as graceful as a swan while dining at your next friends wedding. (Don’t forget about the teas and luncheons as well!)

At a Seated Dinner

There are many kinds of receptions these days. You can have a formal dinner, a buffet or even a food truck come and cater your wedding (Yummy!) But what happens when you find your place card at the reception and the bride has placed you with a table full of strangers? Of course you want to make a good impression on your new friends! Here are some tips and reminders to keep in your head and practice until this moment comes. Then, when the inevitable does happen, you will be so confident in your manners, you can chat away and make that good impression.

When sitting down at a table and glancing at all the silverware that has been placed before you, remember that they are placed in the order that you will use them starting from the outside. For example, the first dish you eat, which may be a salad, use the fork that is the furthest away from you.

The forks will always be on your left and the knives and spoons to the right. (Hey, you never know when you may end up hosting a bridesmaid luncheon and you are in charge of setting the table.) A few other reminders in the event that this does occur is to keep all drinking glasses to the top right of the plate and the sharp side of the knife facing the plate.

So back to the reception, I bet you never thought there was a right way to hold your silverware. Me either! Just keep your fork or spoon resting on your middle finger. When it comes to eating, tines up or tines down is both appropriate (respectively known as American and Continental style). Use your dominant hand (the hand you write with) to hold your knife, when cutting meat. This way you will not lose control of your plate.

When you’re in the middle of your delicious wedding meal and Aunt Sally comes up to say hello and to tell you all about her latest Hawaiian cruise, remember not to place your utensils onto the tablecloth. Once you pick them up to begin eating, they should not go back there. Simply put down your knife and fork facing each other in a “V” shape. This shows catering staff that you are still enjoying your meal. Once you are finished, place your utensils at the top right side of your plate together in a diagonal position. Emily Post states, “If your plate were a clock face, they would lie at four o’clock” (Etiquette, Post, p. 385). This allows staff to be aware that they can clear your place and you can keep chatting with your all your new friends.

Being Graceful at the Buffet

So, onto the next type of wedding you may be attending this year. Buffets are favored among large parties on account of guests are able to choose what they want to eat and what they do not want to eat. Buffet lines can become super awkward within just a few seconds! You lose your BFF also attending the wedding, your ex-boyfriend is standing behind you waiting for food and becoming impatient; I think we all have been in some type of uncomfortable situation while in a buffet line.

Most importantly, it is crucial to remain calm and patient. No one likes the person standing behind them breathing heavily and becoming impatient. Remain at least a half arm’s distance from the guest in front of you. That way, they will not feel rushed, and you lessen the chances of them making a rash decision or having them so anxious they spill their plate all over the floor.

That being said, before you jump in line for the delicious wedding feast, check out what’s for dinner. There are multiple ways you could go about this, either glance at the buffet or look for signs explaining the meal options. Go ahead and decide if you want chicken or steak, potato salad or a baked potato. This will help the line keep a steady flow for all the guests attending.

If you have brought children to the gathering, make sure to go through the line with them before you go through the line yourself. Once you have them properly seated, you may tackle the buffet line again. This may seem time consuming, but it will be far less stressful and save you much embarrassment from being frustrated at your child’s picky or messy ways and trying to serve yourself at the same time.

Unless drinks are served at the table, it’s best to set your plate down at the table and then go to the drink station. By getting your plate prior to your drink, you free up your hands to serve yourself. No one wants to juggle sweet tea, silverware and a huge plate all at the same time!

If you desire to go back to the buffet line, place your napkin in your chair, not on the table. This shows guest and wait staff that you will be returning shortly. Just check and see that everyone in attendance has had a chance to go through the line once before you step in for the second time. Make sure to get a new plate each time you visit the buffet!

Waiting on Dessert

Once you have arrived at the reception, it is very tempting to sneak one of those coveted Baby Bites or one of those cute cake pops. BUT WAIT!! The cake has not been cut yet. Feel free to eat the dinner, but as for anything sweet, wait to eat until after the bride and groom have cut their cake and had their moment. It may seem silly, especially when the cheesecake flavored cake pop is calling your name, but you are at this celebration to honor the couple, a few minutes won’t hurt… get out on that dance floor and have a ball!

In Conclusion…

Enjoy the Wedding Season! Remember to practice these tips while you are out and about dining this year. They are all very simple tips that we most likely remember from our childhood; we forget to practice them.

CREDITS: Written by Kathleen Grace Cook | First two images by Mandy Busby | Photo of Buffet by Stephen Devries | Photo of Dessert Table by Stacy Richardson, Desserts by Cakes by Kim

Doloris Petunia at White Dresses

We love this line of beautiful and whimsical flower girl dresses available at White Dresses. Each gown is handmade in Los Angeles and has the child’s name and event date embroidered on the inside of the gown. The gowns are sized between 12 months to a girls size 8.

Photography by Elizabeth Messina | Floral and styling by Peony & Plum

Valentine Pop-up Shop & Workshop

VALENTINES POP-UP SHOP by Holly Carlisle from Rosegolden Flowers

Where:  The Nest 130 41st Street South / Suite Number 101 / Birmingham Alabama 35222 | When: February 14th from 11:00am to 4:00pm.

They are now taking pre-orders through February 8th for the following:

1. Bottle Arrangement: A lovely selection of the season’s best blooms arranged just so in a beautiful glass bottle.
Perfect for anyone. Pre-order only.
2. Hand-tied Bouquet: Visit The Nest on Valentine’s Day to pick up this bouquet of blooms and greens hand tied and wrapped in silk ribbon. Made on site or Pre-order now.
3. Pedestal Arrangement: A dramatic arrangement of the finest flowers that February 14th has to offer your valentine. Pre-order only.


Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden, Birmingham welcomes Amy Febinger of Bourgeon, Brooklyn to The Nest for an afternoon with flowers. This workshop will feature a hand-picked selection of the finest flowers flown in from the NYC flower market – ranunculus, sweet peas, hellebores, poppies and anemones among others. We will focus on learning to compose and construct lush, seasonal flower arrangements. Holly and Amy will be demonstrating how to work in a low footed bowl using a flower frog and chicken wire. This workshop is open to all levels. Sips and bites will be served. Tickets are $275. Price of the workshop includes clippers, bowl, all mechanics and flowers.

Tickets are Available here.

Jordan & Taylors’ Farm Wedding

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Taylor and I were introduced by my dear friend Allie. I had just moved to Charlotte, NC when Allie and Taylor met at a dinner in Birmingham. Allie called to let me know that she’d met a guy she thought would be a great match for me!  After about two weeks of talking on the phone, Taylor and I were able to meet in person in Birmingham and we hit it off right away!

What was the feel that you wanted to accomplish for your wedding and how did you execute that. Taylor and I wanted our wedding to feel organic, peaceful, and understated while still maintaining a sense of elegance.  We hoped to create a very laid-back and effortless atmosphere so that our guests felt at-home and comfortable, as if we’d all just naturally gotten together on a Saturday afternoon.  With the help of all of our amazing(!!!) vendors we were able to create exactly what we had in mind. Their creativity and talent allowed for all of our décor, food, and entertainment to feel like a natural extension of the farm itself!

What was your venue (church and/or reception) and why did you select it? Taylor and I chose to have our wedding at my grandparent’s farm right outside of Gadsden, AL. Their farm has always been one of my very favorite places, and some of my most cherished memories from childhood were made there.  Once we knew that having ourwedding there was even a possibility the decision was easy. Words can’t describe how wonderful it was to look around and see all of our closest family and friends there to celebrate our wedding at a place that holds so much meaning in my life!

What southern traditions did you incorporate into your wedding? Since we chose to have both our ceremony and reception outside, we relied on the seemingly fail proof southern tradition of burying a bottle of bourbon to ensure there would be no rain on our wedding day.  The tradition is to bury bourbon at the site of the weddingexactly one month, to the minute, before the ceremony and dig the bottle up after the ceremony to either celebrate or drown your sorrows depending on the outcome.  I woke up on the day of our wedding to a 60% chance of rain and a cool, drizzly morning, but by the time we arrived at the farm everything had cleared up and it was absolutely gorgeous! Needless to say, the bottle of bourbon provided a great celebration at the reception.

Where did you find your dress? I found my dress at White Dresses Boutique in Huntsville, AL. When we first met with ourwedding planner, Ginny Au, she showed my mother and I a picture of a dress that one of the boutique’s owners had sent her and we absolutely fell in love with it. The following Saturday we went to Huntsville to try it on and, just like that, it was the one. It was more than I could have ever wanted in a wedding dress and was so suiting of my style and personality that it felt like it had been made just for me!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? There were so many wonderful and memorable moments from our wedding day, but this is the one that comes to mind!  We chose to have Prosecco available after the ceremony for our guests to enjoy as they made their walk to the reception area. Immediately after the ceremony, as Taylor and I were enjoying our first few moments of marriage, we were joined by the rest of our wedding party to celebrate with a toast! This was such a wonderful surprise, orchestrated by Taylor’s dad, and became a part of our wedding for which I will be forever grateful. It’s so funny because you spend so many months planning every little detail of your wedding, and it turns out that sometimes the most memorable moments are the ones that happen on their own!

What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? I was so happy with each and every one of our vendors, and I can honestly say that ourwedding would not have been the same without them. It was so great to have complete trust in their talents, and be able to relax and know that they were going to make everything turn out exactly the way we had planned! Seriously, they are all absolutely amazing!!!

What was the best advice you received as a bride? The best advice I received was to take the time to really enjoy every moment of the day and to avoid getting wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of everything, because it really does go by so quickly. Those special moments that I made a conscious effort to soak in will always bring back such sweet memories. I can vividly remember the feeling I had when I was walking down to where our ceremony took place, and being so excited to marry my best friend and grateful that everyone we loved the most was there to celebrate with us! It was truly the best.

CREDITS :: Stylist/Coordinator, Ginny Au | Photographer, Mandy Busby | Florist, Katie McDaniel, Cloth of Gold | Invitations,  Katie Hyatt, Signora e Mare | Outer envelope calligraphy,  Katherine Ross, Script Merchant | Catering, Kathy G’s Catering | Cake, Diane Steward, Rainbow Manor Wedding Chapel | Band, The Carmonas, Nashville, Tennessee | Ceremony Musicians, Will and Jeanette Hightower | Rentals, Top Notch Rentals, Anniston, Alabama | Hair/Makeup,  Amanda Gros | Officiant,  Dr. Andrew Wolfe | Venue,  John Dawson Farm (Grandparent’s farm)