As vendors, we are not able to post on the BHB or review boards on the “regular” LIW site, but as vendor and a consumer, I know how important reviews are as a decision making tool, even the “informal” reviews where someone goes to an event and just posts about their experiences there.
I wanted to review a wedding that I went to (as a guest-- no work for me here, vacation day!!) at a prominent NJ catering hall that I went to last night. In my job as a wedding florist, even though I “do” weddings every weekend, it is rare that I get to see the entire event, but “knowing” weddings and the process, I feel that I can report on a lot of the details that often get overlooked.
The wedding was at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston NJ. I remember being there previously, but the experience did not stand out in my mind. The wedding was called for 5pm, and the cocktail hour had begun. It was really an amazing display of stations, hibachi, raw bar (excellent fresh shrimp, and was told that the fresh oysters were really high quality as well), a few pastas, quesedilla bar, prociuttos and cheese, and lots of smoked and assorted fishes for the Russian-American crowd plus a caviar bar. There were numerous ice sculptures, including an ice luge that looked like a hand holding a branded vodka bottle (complete with label) and another vodka bottle ice sculpture behind the signature drink and margarita table. The caviar bar was done in ice, and a beautiful large castle ice sculpture was behind the raw bar.
The cocktail hour lasted and hour and a half. I'm not sure if this was to see if the rain would clear up and the ceremony could indeed be outside, but unfortunately, it actually poured—so much so, that a leak was sprung in the tent where some of the cocktail hour guests were sitting, at the edge of the tent. Aside from clearing a few tables, it didn't have much of an impact, except the ceremony was moved upstairs.
The room had a built in chuppah in the corner that the couple chose to leave “as is”. The ceiling and two walls were fabric and it was set as a triangle into the rear right corner. Given what my fellow florists and I charge for chuppahs, I thought that this was a good, cost saving idea at the site.
Downstairs for the reception, which was set up in a modified Russian service style, where the tables are huge and many appetizer platters (cold fish, pickles, sliced bread, tomatos, mozzarella salad, fried halved complete shrimp which BF said were mushy and he didn't like) are preset onto the table. Each table had its own bottle of Hennesey cognac and Grey Goose vodka. I've worked at Crest Hollow, and other popular halls for Russian service, where the soda bottles are on the tables as well. Here, it was only the liquor bottles on the table, and bottled water was poured by the waitstaff. After the bread cutting, challah was passed around on a small plate. The table was also preset with an elongated rectangular salad plate, with a crabcake and corn relish on one end and a green mesculun salad on the other. BF didn't love the crab cake, but did like the salad—I didn't have the crabcake (allergic) but didn't love the salad. I think that I would have preferred a more traditional dressing, Italian or balsalmic.
Our choices were filet mignon, chicken, chilean sea bass or something vegetarian. We both took the meat. I liked mine—I don't love wine sauce, but it was fine, the mashed potatoes were good and served in a potato chip basket, like a mini taco salad basket. The wrapped packet of vegetables were good as well.
The 6 or 7 or even more piece band was from D&E entertainment (Douglas and Eddie?). Everything was done in both Russian and English. While the event started out with the traditional horas, the first set was actually Spanish music, done really well with a Mexican style guitar. As a cover band, I thought that they were really great, had an amazing trumpet player and while loud for some people who don't go to weddings, I've been at band sound checks that were deafening, and I thought that the music was not too loud and was really great. The also had a lighting scaffold and rear lighting behind the band. The band controlled the party flow really well, mixed up the Russian and American music and just did a great job. The couple also had the power point slide show of their relationship and the computer and video screen to show it.
I'd give the service an A-/B+ from the hall. Even though there were wine glasses on the table, only champagne was pre-poured and no one ever came around with a wine bottle. The unlimited bar was outside the room, and the waiters were responsive to guest requests for drinks (although they forgot about my tea for a good, long while), but while they were getting tea for other people on the other side of the table when they requested it, no one thought to offer me any, which I would have liked.
The viennese dessert spread was outside the room in the cocktail hour area and it was like nothing that even I had ever seen. Chocolate fountain was the least of it: a cannoli station with cream from Ferrara's bakery in NYC, dark chocolate cake, wedding cake (which was actually being cut in front of us), other cakes like red velvet and my favorite, oreo cheese cake that I could have eaten every inch of. They had an ice cream bar, cream puffs and many types of standard sized cookies like chocolate chip, M and Ms, etc. I just loved it.
To conclude, even though I am extremely picky, I would have a party at Crystal Plaza and will be recommending it another friend who is an event planner for her wedding. I loved the band and I thought the place did a really great job.