Experts: The Dinner Doyenne

A seasoned party pro dishes about serving a crowd—and making sure everyone goes home happy.

Speaking of hot dogs, are pigs in a blanket still popular?

I’m amazed at how frequently they’re requested. And it’s not like people say, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll have some.” No, we’re given specific instructions on whom we need to target during the passing and how many they need. We also have fun with them: We do a wonderful “Cobb dog’ with all the elements of a Cobb salad, one with caramelized onions and cheddar, and one with mushrooms and red wine sauce. But most often, they’re unembellished and pure, with Ballpark mustard. And it has to be Ballpark.

What’s popular in catering now?

People seem to be more focused on throwing a great party. They want to kick up their heels, not spend hours talking quietly over a meal. Food stations are coming back, along with family- and Russian-style service — where the waiters bring platters to the tables and everyone takes as much or as little as they’d like. That way, there’s a wide array of food choices but still plenty of time for dancing.

How do you make sure your clients get to eat at their wedding?
We solved that problem by assigning one person the sole responsibility of attending to the bride and groom. We know what beverage they’re drinking, and how many glasses of water they should have so they don’t get intoxicated. At the end of the night, if they didn’t eat as much as we would have liked, we send food with them. Short of tipping their heads back and force-feeding them, we do a pretty good job of making sure they eat.

Is there a common mistake that brides and grooms make?

Overscheduling an event so that it cuts into the dinner and dancing. I had one groom who was intent on doing magic tricks right after dinner. It was horrendous. Another time, two brothers gave an incredibly long toast while reading from a computer. You give people a microphone, and it’s like giving them an AK-47 — they hold everyone hostage.

What’s something all couples should know about catering?

If budget is an issue, start by planning the party of your dreams so at least you know what it costs. Then you can look at it intelligently and determine what you can compromise on. Don’t start with a number and work backward, or you won’t be thrilled with the party. Years from now, you want remember this as the greatest night of your life.

The Catered Affair, 781-982-9333,