(3 Months to 4 Months before the Wedding)
Most reception facilities and catering companies have their own wait staff and when you book their facility they have plenty of help on hand and if they should need additional staff they have many of their employees that will work if called. Most of their help has proven themselves in the past, so you generally can find a pretty good wait staff of waiters, waitresses, and busboys else, they would not likely to be contacted.
At many weddings though, you may be booking a banquet facility or lease a wedding tent and you need to find a wait staff yourself. If the wedding is a large or upscale wedding, you need to hire a professional wait staff. The first place you might start is to call the upscale hotels in the area and ask who to call. A lot of wait staff go from hotel to hotel and have a lot of experience working big weddings. If the hotels you contact are unable to find you servants, then you might try reception facilities, caterers, upscale golf clubs, country clubs, and your fancy restaurants. You should try to find at least an event coordinator, that can be the go to person and help run your event.
If you are looking for staff, you can also contact your local community college or university, they might offer a hospitality program and there is always students that would love to gain some experience working a wedding. With the young students, the key is to have them assigned to a mentor, like an event coordinator or hostess to assign and explain duties.
The event coordinator or hostess should meet with the help, preferably at the location and review the duties at the event. The wait person should receive instruction of his/her duties, from the setting up of the tables and chairs, to putting out the linens, to how to set the place setting at the tables including wedding favors and place cards, to knowledge of the food of the entrees being served, to how the food should go out, to the order in which the food goes out to table numbers/names, to inquiries with the wedding guests, to clearing tables, to how to handle take home bags and who serves coffee, wedding cakes, and desserts.
You also need to insure some of the staff will clean and dismantle the event and arrange for a special garbage pickup too. If the wedding couple is done with the location after the wedding reception and is off to their honeymoon and the event is at a banquet hall or wedding tent, they need to assign a person just to be an oversight person to insure whoever is responsible for cleanup is not derelict of their duties. Maybe ask the best man, maid-of-honor, or person returning the tuxedos to check if the facility got cleaned up okay and insure nothing was left behind, especially wedding gifts. Also, you need a backup plan for the wait staff too, who could be contacted if any wait staff got sick or pulled their back out, the day of the wedding. Who can you get at a moments notice in the event of an emergency?
Make sure you have all the supplies you need for the wait staff, you should try to have a consistent professional looking outfit, make sure you have serving trays, bus buckets, tray stands, plastic garbage bags, take home containers, and garbage buckets and formulate a plan on organizing dishes, flatware, glasses and coffee cups to readying their return after the event. Is there a place to clean, box and store items after the wedding and do you need some wait staff for these duties. If you find you need more supplies, you can generally get them at a rental or party supply store. Supplies or extra supplies may also be found from a caterer, reception facility or banquet hall, or some hotels who are willing to rent out supplies.
You need to have all your wait staff know their assignments, who is the cake server and who passes out the cake, who handles drinks and hors d'oeuvres, who handles serving the coffee and desserts, who is responsible for getting ice, who is responsible for clearing out the garbage buckets. Make sure every assignment is accounted for and who handles what.
Another place you can find help is at an event staff employment agency or from a bartender's school, usually you will have to pay a finder's or some type of referral fee on top of paying the wait staff. If it's a small wedding and you need help, you can also contact some local restaurants or some diners.
So what makes a good waiter/waitress to seek out for a wedding. You would like to find an individual that has some experience waitressing and has shown they can handle significant events. A person who can handle multi-tasking, can do several things at once without being overwhelmed or being forgetful of things. You want a person that is efficient at serving guests, has the arm strength to hold a heavy dish tray, notices table needs, cleans dirty tables, asks if the guest wants a refill, brings an extra plate if requested, prepares a take home plate if asked, and insures the needs of the guests and their tables are met. A person who is a good listener and knows how to give a brief conversation. A person who is observant of the food, is properly prepared, dresses well, has a good memory, is organized in setup, has knowledge of the menu and food being prepared and is efficient at clearing tables and can handle a tab.
When parking is limited, inconvenient, or difficult to find at your wedding, you may consider using the services of a parking valet instead. The last thing you want are guests getting aggravated at your wedding and have trouble finding a parking spot and having to walk a distance to the event. It may be possible to dig up friends or acquaintances to park cars at your wedding. The parking may be down the street in a church parking lot, or a city parking garage, or parking on side streets down the block. Make sure you contract with a venue beforehand to insure you have a blocked off a parking area for the day and time of the wedding reception and to have someone able to monitor the parked cars. Make sure the valets have matching shirts so guests can identify them easily.
The other alternative is to use a valet company and preferable one that uses a lock box setup to hold the keys. Most valet companies require their employees to wear company uniforms so they stand out in the crowd for your wedding guests. You may need to notify the neighborhood of the event and reserve a block of parking spaces for the duration of about an hour after the event has ended.
A wedding reception often runs about 4 to 5 hours. For smaller weddings you may need 5-6 attendants and for a remote location or a larger wedding maybe 8-10 attendants. The costs are generally around $100 per attendant plus the parking arrangement. There is no standard pricing for valets so it's best to shop around for the better deal. For weddings, you don't want out of pocket costs to pay the valet, the wedding couple is expected to pay the valets and need to advertise to your guests, not to pay or tip.
The wait staff and parking valets work often gets unappreciated, they often work hard and don't get paid as well as other wedding vendors. For upscale weddings you need to be sure you get good experienced help and they dress professionally. For a remote wedding location, you need a few experienced event coordinators that can provide some assistance to younger professionals. The important thing is to find wait staff that does their job well and leave a positive impression on your guests. See you on the other side!