What Is A Deconstructed Menu?

Ashley Nicole Events Deconstructed Wedding menu

Deconstructed Wedding Menus

Have you ever heard of a “deconstructed wedding menu”? No? Please allow me to explain! Deconstructed Menu: a meal or dish that is pulled apart to allow for guest customization. Mashed potato bars are an excellent example. The catering team would place mashed potatoes in a martini glass and make an array of toppings available for self service. Toppings might include bacon bits, vegetables and an array of sauces/gravy.

mashed potatoes

Another deconstructed option is a salad bar. By offering a salad bar, you are providing your guests a healthy option but still allowing them to have fun with their meal. Start with one or two lettuce types and then go to town on the dressings and toppings! Ranch, Italian, Thousand Island, Poppyseed, Caesar, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, peppers, croutons, etc. Salads are tricky. Either people love them or hate them. Providing options increases the chance that your guest will actually eat a salad! 

Dan Gold/Unsplash

Now for dessert, my favorite part! Who doesn’t love s’mores? Leave out heaps of graham crackers and a whole lot of marshmallows, but don’t forget the chocolate! Your guests can roast their own marshmallows and then add any additional toppings if they wish. You can offer peanut butter, whipped cream, sliced fruit, etc… Not only will kids at the reception love this, but adults will too! 

The Shirley Journey

If a completely deconstructed dinner menu is not up your alley, you could incorporate this idea during cocktail hour. One fan favorite is a French Fry Bar. Provide pre filled cones of french fries and an assortment of toppings such as ranch, ketchup, mayonnaise, honey mustard, bacon bits, pulled pork, cheddar cheese, etc… I could go on forever!

A deconstructed menu might not be for everyone, and that is okay! This type of meal tends to be more casual.  A few years ago, I attended a wedding with a similar menu. My husband and I still talk about how fun it was to create “our own menu” at the wedding. 

Have you ever hosted or attended an event with a deconstructed menu? I recently posted about a Thanksgiving dinner party where we featured deconstructed pumpkin soup. You can check out that story here! If so, comment below with recipes, tips and tricks. I can add them to future posts!

Happy Planning!


My Ultimate Guilty Pleasure: Bagel Bites

If you have learned anything about me, from following along in my social media accounts, is that I am absolutely OBSESSED with the classic childhood favorite: Bagel Bites! I have no idea why I love them so much, but I think they are a great quick snack, tasty dinner option or even in a pinch, really good for breakfast. Really, in my mind, there is no wrong time to eat a bagel bite. I could even conceive of hosting a dinner party strictly on Bagel Bites alone. 

I recently had my good friend, Joy, from Being Joy Photography come over to my house to photograph the proper techniques to prepare this tasty treat. Follow along as I share with you my undeniable guilty pleasure! 

So, nothing crazy to see here! Just a girl who loves her bagel bites and can not wait for them to come out of the oven! I am pretty basic, and like the plain cheese the best. I think the sausage and pepperoni simply do not do bagel bites any justice. 

Here is how to make them extra amazing: 1. Cook in the oven at 425 degrees for about 13-15 minutes 2. Place them on parchment paper so the cheese can get crispy and easily peel off (also makes clean up a breeze! 3. Add extra cheese, like good gourmet cheddar, the more the better 4. Cook until nice and bubbly golden brown 5. Remove from oven 6. Let cool, (learned the hard way more often than not!) 7. Eat and enjoy 8. Repeat as often as necessary! 

Vendor Spotlight:

Location: Private Residence
Photography: Being Joy Photography
Hair and Makeup: Glamtique Blow Dry Bar
Food: Ore Ida Bagel Bites

Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day or Galentine’s Day?

February 14 is widely known as Valentine’s Day in Canada, the United States, Mexico and parts of Western Europe. Do you know how the candy and flower empire began? See below for this interesting breakdown of Valentine’s Day numbers. 

 source credit  here
source credit here

Typically, Valentine’s Day in my house was always spent working at my grandparent’s flower shop. I would help sort the flowers, run bouquets up and down to the cooler after they were designed. When I got older, I would even get to help wait on customers and try and sell the unsuspecting and obviously terrified guys the most expensive thing in the store. Let me say, I was pretty darn good at my job. Also, perhaps, they couldn’t say no to a 10 year old. 

Galantine’s Day

Wether you are spending the day with your boo, or are hitting up the town with your best girlfriends, take the time to tell your loved ones, how much they mean to you. It seems that on Valentine’s Day it is common to spread the love, but what about the other 364 days of the year? A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of being the creative director for this Girl Power Bridal Brunch Photo Shoot. It applies for weddings or for a girls afternoon party, spend time with your friends and there is never an occasion to small to have a party. 

Creative Partners:
Creative Director: Ashley Nicole Events Inc
Photography: Being Joy Photography
Venue & Stationary: Ijorere
Floral & Event Decor: JD Event Design
Hair: Mariefel Lagatuz Westa
Makeup: Adrianna Gilarducci
Fashion: Whimsy Luxxe and Abby Bella Couture
Jewelry: Gemma Jewels 
Bakery: The Sugar Path
Balloons: Oh Shiny Paper Company
Linen: BBJ
China: Kate Spade
Wrapping Paper: Paper Source


Hosting a NYE Soiree

 Get ready...2018 is almost here!
Get ready…2018 is almost here!

I can not believe that Christmas is over! It seems like we have been preparing for weeks and in some cases, months of preparation have gone into finding the perfect gift, making the perfect meal and hanging the perfect decorations.  With all of the Christmas festivities behind us, it is time for the most exciting party of the year…New Year’s Eve!

Some years, I like to get all dolled up and hit the town. Other years, I like to stay in curled up on the couch watching the ball drop. One NYE I was hired to plan a party for a private residence and boy was that fun! Having never done a small intimate NYE party before, I really was able to stretch my creative juices. This particular client was having about 6 guests over and wanted food stations, a smores bar and plenty of festive spirit.

 Don't forget little signs help tie all of the areas together at your event. Let them know that this is the drinking area, food area, etc! 
Don’t forget little signs help tie all of the areas together at your event. Let them know that this is the drinking area, food area, etc! 

When planning your own party, whether it is a wedding or dinner party, keep in mind your guests comfort, decor, food, fun and activities to keep your guests entertained.  One way to add festive NYE cheer is to A. leave all of your Christmas (or insert holiday celebrated here) decorations up. Everything looks better with the warm soft glow of holiday lights. B. go to the party store and grab a helium tank (you can grab one for right around $30) and get a package of festive balloons. If you want to really spice things up, grab some long strings and suspend as many balloons as possible. If you want to have the balloons float along the floor, use some old fashioned lung power and blow up those balloons!

 My good friends at Balloons by Tommy is one of the best resources to create a stunning display of balloon magic. This inspiration was brought to you for a NYE party back in 2015. Contact them today for your next party or event! Click  HERE
My good friends at Balloons by Tommy is one of the best resources to create a stunning display of balloon magic. This inspiration was brought to you for a NYE party back in 2015. Contact them today for your next party or event! Click HERE

One really great trick I like to use frequently is to have some type of activity for your guests to partake in. Whether it is dancing at a wedding, crafts for a kids party or an action smores station, give your guests something to do other than mingle and drink…not that those are bad ideas either! Wink…wink. 

 Behind the scenes testing the amores bar. Click here for other ideas! 
Behind the scenes testing the amores bar. Click here for other ideas! 

When it comes to food, decide if you are going to do all of the cooking, hire a caterer or have a pot luck dinner. Sometimes, for NYE parties, the party starts after the traditional dinner hour so you can get away with cheese platters, sweets, snacks and drinks. If you are hosting a catered dinner party, keep things simple and finger food friendly. If you don’t have a table and chair for everyone, finger food is key. You can’t expect guests to use a knife and fork while standing around. Finally, if you do a pot luck, remember to keep it simple. Your friends and family will be happy to contribute, just guide them with what you are looking for so you don’t end up with 6 platters of cookies and nothing else! One easy yet simply delicious appetizer I have used is found on Sparrow & Lily and you can dive right in by clicking HERE. I can take zero credit for this, but you will thank me after. 

 Trust me, this will blow your socks off. It has quickly become one of my favorite holiday dishes. 
Trust me, this will blow your socks off. It has quickly become one of my favorite holiday dishes. 

If cranberries are not your thing, try a little guac in wonton cups instead! You can find a similar recipe HERE.

 Very easy to make, but serve immediately! 
Very easy to make, but serve immediately! 

May your days be merry and bright and your new year filled with love, light and laughter.

5 Tips to Planning a Stress-free Dinner Party

I may have just emerged out of my week long turkey coma, but like it or not, the holidays are officially upon us! Running a small business is hard and remembering to take time off is very important. Since I do not have a team of people to do my marketing, bookkeeping and client management, I am responsible for all of it. Taking a day or two off to reset and work from a place of rest vs stress only serves me and my clients better. This past week, I had the opportunity to really sit and reflect what I was Thankful for. I am thankful for my family for providing unwavering support for me to chase my dreams. I am thankful for my clients who trust me to help them plan and execute the most important day of their lives in and around the Chicagoland area. I am thankful for the friendors I have made in the industry (vendors who are friends) who constantly challenge me to be a better wedding professional each and every year. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I wanted to share 5 tips and tricks on preparing a holiday dinner party. Whether it is for 7 or 27 guests, properly preparing and executing a holiday feast will save you both time and money but most importantly, boat loads of stress! For my Thanksgiving feast, I knew I wanted to focus on rich jewel tones yet soften with luxurious florals and soft romantic candlelight set the tone beautifully. Having friends who are talented in many aspects made this project much easier. I contacted my Uber talented friend, Katie to hand letter all 27 gold painted leaves to serve as place cards. She did those by hand folks! So talented! Katie has her own blog Look to Him and be Radiant  where you can get all sorts of great content. I seriously can not even describe how much she gives her readers. The content consists of holiday ideas, ideas for the classroom, see her stunning hand lettering and more! I was also fortunate enough to have Ashley Hamm, a very talented and successful Chicago photographer, come over to my house the day before Thanksgiving to snap a few photos of a 30 something’s take on a modern, elegant yet simple holiday feast. These are my top 5 tips to enjoy the holiday season.

 Photo Credit: Ashley Hamm Photo Calligraphy: Katie Bogner 
Photo Credit: Ashley Hamm Photo Calligraphy: Katie Bogner 

Tip 1: Prepare

    When planning a dinner party, it is important to get an accurate guest count. Everything hinges on the number of guest you invite and RSVP yes. How much wine? How much food? All of this depends on how many people. It is estimated that each guest will drink approximately 3 glasses of wine. Multiple that by how many guests you have to determine about how many bottles you will need. Each party is different, get to know your guests and their beverage/food likes and dislikes.

Tip 2: Plan

    Dinner parties come in all shapes and sizes. There is not a one size fits all formula. Determine early the formality of your party. Many successful parties have happened with delivery pizza. If that is not the style or vision you have for your party, then perhaps planning some simple appetizers and finger food or catering would be a better option for your gathering.

Tip 3: Practice

    Once you have determined your guest list, the formality of your party and hopefully, the food you will be serving, it never hurts to practice a new recipe. This Thanksgiving, my husband and I hosted our first holiday in our new home for both sides of our families. There was a whopping 27 people in our house. I plan weddings and parties for hundreds of guests all of the time, but when it was happening in my own house, the pressure was on. I prepared a homemade pumpkin soup I found from the Halfbaked Harvest Blog (click here for the mouthwatering recipe) a month before just to practice a new recipe and catch any pitfalls early on. Not having the added stress the week of Thanksgiving really helped take the fear of the unknown out. How would I have known how many shallots I needed if the soup was still lacking? Who knew what a shallot was before I practiced? Practice makes perfect and I always say practice when it comes to trying new things.

Tip 4: Set the Scene

    Whether you are planning a wedding or a small gathering of friends for dinner setting the scene creates an escape for your guests. While they are physically going somewhere for the dinner, it is important to emotionally transform them into a place of respite and escape from everyday life. The easiest and least expensive way to transform a space is by lighting candles. Candles have a way of transforming a space into romantic and serene environment. Beside candles, flowers have the same effect. Flowers are able to inhabit the sense of smell and candles inhabit the visual senses. Everyday life is normally not full of fresh florals and illuminated in soft romantic candlelight. These are very easy ways to set the scene and transform your space. Even if you order in pizza, the pizza has a different vibe if it is surrounded by flowers and candles.

 Linen and Chair Credit: M&M Event Rental 
Linen and Chair Credit: M&M Event Rental 

Tip 5: Relax and enjoy the moment

    Whether you planned for the party and practiced a month in advance or went to Party City and ordered pizza, the most important aspect is to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. An overworked, stressed out host will not set your guests at ease. Grab a cocktail, freshen your lipstick and be ready to welcome your guests into an evening of fun, friendship and great food.

With all of the holiday parties that we will be attending and hosting this season, make sure you remain present for the moments that matter most. If you are attending a party this season, asking the host if there is anything you can do will go a long way to also taking some of the stress off of them! If you are hosting, when that guest asks if they can help, give yourself a break and allow them to open the wine and pour you a big glass! Everyone will be much happier! If you have any other concerns about hosting a dinner party this holiday season, I am happy to answer any questions! Happy Planning!