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stupidname1313
08-31-2015, 07:55 AM
So I got this WiP where the MC goes to this formal gala. How long would it last? What kind of food would be served? How would the itinerary play out? How would people be expected to act?

CassandraW
08-31-2015, 08:35 AM
It would really depend. They are not all identical. You could have a full sit-down dinner. You might just have hor d'oeuvres and cocktails. You might well have both. There might or might not be entertainment and/or dancing. It might go a couple of hours or many. People would be expected to act with reasonable decorum, though sometimes, alas, they do not.

I go every year to the Wine Spectator black tie gala. Women mostly wear gowns; men mostly tuxes. You'll see a few suits and short (but elegant) cocktail dresses.

It begins with a champagne reception. Wait staff walk around with platters of hor d'oeuvres -- generally fancy bite-sized ones involving seafood, mushrooms, etc. (not chips or stuff like that), but not stuff that requires a fork, as a rule. Guests help themselves -- taking one at a time, not a handful, however tempting it might be. The wait staff will also offer small napkins with each appetizer. There are some tables scattered around, but people often prefer to stand and circulate for this part of the evening (which lasts an hour or so)

A sit-down dinner follows -- appetizer, meal, dessert. Wine is served with each course. Then coffee. Elaborate floral centerpieces, cloth napkins and tablecloths, of course. And you have an assigned table -- you do not simply grab a seat.

After that, a band plays and people dance if they are so inclined. (I've seen everything from classical to swing to rock bands at black tie events.)

The cocktail thing starts around 6:30; the event is over at midnight.

cornflake
08-31-2015, 09:20 AM
Need more information. A gala for what? There's a difference between like, the Met ball, the WH Correspondents Dinner or the Alfred E. Smith thing or a law firm deal, a fundraiser for child abuse, and on and on.

CassandraW
08-31-2015, 09:39 AM
Yes, there is a fair amount of variety.

Depending on the event, there might be speeches or award presentations. There might be art displayed. It might revolve around some sort of performance. It might be entirely seated, or people might circulate, or both.

ETA:

Also, some events are open to anyone who pays. Some are more exclusive. Some are to raise money for a charity or a political campaign. Etc.

stupidname1313
09-01-2015, 07:37 AM
"Need more information. A gala for what? There's a difference between like, the Met ball, the WH Correspondents Dinner or the Alfred E. Smith thing or a law firm deal, a fundraiser for child abuse, and on and on."


"Yes, there is a fair amount of variety.

Depending on the event, there might be speeches or award presentations. There might be art displayed. It might revolve around some sort of performance. It might be entirely seated, or people might circulate, or both.

ETA:

Also, some events are open to anyone who pays. Some are more exclusive. Some are to raise money for a charity or a political campaign. Etc."


Okay so the thing I'm thinking of is this really classy event. I guess you could say that alot of rich families in a small, but wealthy vacation town. Their celebrating the anniversary of the founding of their town. It takes place somewhere in an expensive hotel, I suppose the ballroom or something like that. I've been dragged to a couple of events that were probably similar to this when I was a kid, but I was more concerned with finding a place to hide and read than taking notes.

CassandraW
09-01-2015, 07:41 AM
You could probably use the gala I described as a model for that.

blacbird
09-01-2015, 07:56 AM
I'm afraid I can't help you at all. I have a tie with Fred Flintstone on it, but that wouldn't get me in.

caw

ElaineA
09-01-2015, 08:20 AM
If the town is relatively small, I suspect the gala would more likely occur at a local country club. There aren't a lot of big fancy hotels around small towns, though it's not totally unlikely. If, on the other hand, the town is willing to travel to its gala, then the fancy hotel would work. If it's a celebration for the town's heritage, there would likely be some sort of auction, too. Raising funds for the museum, or the local charity of choice. A silent auction, rather than a live one, were the people of the town compete to see who can donate the biggest prize. And then bid against each other to win it back. (I've been to a few of these. :D)

And high-end booze. Don't forget that. Cheap wine, but at least 12 year old scotch.

Bing Z
09-01-2015, 03:38 PM
I agree a small town hotel is unlikely suitable for a black-tie event. Think a private residence.

Say your town is akin Sun Valley in Idaho. Very small, but lots of unbelievably expensive homes (thus black tie events very plausible). You can google what is there in Sun Valley and see if anything is suitable. Then, head to Sotheby's International Realty in Sun Valley and look up luxurious homes, set criteria to $20m and above. Look at the photos to see what is inside (or call them up and claim to be The Donald or a dirt poor author). If you need to mention the drinks, google expensive wines/champagnes and head to liquor review sites to see what people say about their tastes, looks, and aromas.

mrsmig
09-01-2015, 06:47 PM
So I got this WiP where the MC goes to this formal gala. How long would it last? What kind of food would be served? How would the itinerary play out? How would people be expected to act?




Okay so the thing I'm thinking of is this really classy event. I guess you could say that alot of rich families in a small, but wealthy vacation town. Their celebrating the anniversary of the founding of their town. It takes place somewhere in an expensive hotel, I suppose the ballroom or something like that. I've been dragged to a couple of events that were probably similar to this when I was a kid, but I was more concerned with finding a place to hide and read than taking notes.



Okay, now that you've clarified the scenario a bit, I can give you some pointers. I go to a fair number of events like these (although I'm often the entertainment rather than an invited guest). Others have mentioned the fancy hotel being unlikely in a small wealthy vacation town, and I agree that a country club or someone's residence would be a more likely locale. (I also have to mention that children at an event of this nature would be unusual.)

Upon arrival at the event, the guests are greeted either by their host/hostess, or at a larger event, by a staff member. Coats and wraps will be taken from the guests before they go in to the event.

An event which includes a seated dinner is usually preceded by a cocktail hour. This usually takes place in an area separate from the dinner area. A signature cocktail might be available for the event and offered from trays by waitstaff, along with glasses of wine (both red and white). There will also be a bar where the guests can order specific drinks. If someone wants beer, it will be poured into a glass - no bottles. Hors d'oeuvres will usually be served, along with napkins. These little bites should not require utensils to eat. The waitstaff will be formally dressed as well, although sometimes they will not have jackets and the women dress the same as the men, sometimes substituting a black skirt for trousers.

When it's time for dinner, the staff will either use a seating chart to show the guests to their pre-arranged seat, or there may be placecards to indicate where the guests sit. At a benefit event (such as silent auctions others have mentioned), the purchase of a table is a big-ticket item, and the buyer of that table will invite his/her own guests and they will all sit together. In that case, the tables are usually numbered, and the guests select their seats at the table. If there are placecards, changing them around is a big no-no. Spouses will usually be at the same table, but in a pre-arranged seating situation they sometimes will not be seated side-by-side. The assumption is that you see your spouse every day and will want to chat with someone else. Dinner parties like this are big on chat. If you don't know your table companions, you'll be expected to introduce yourself and engage them in conversation. As a result the conversation at these events tends toward artificially bright, with a lot of light laughter. Everyone tries to be sociable. At an event such as you describe, where the rich established families probably have known each other for years, there may be some behind-the-hands gossip and dishing as well.

Most banquet tables are round and seat eight, although I've seen some that seat ten. A single long table might be used at a more private affair, but multiple long tables aren't usually used unless you're at a state dinner of some kind.

Sometimes there will be printed or even hand-written menus at each place setting. If wine is to be served with each course, there will be multiple wine glasses in different shapes according to the type of wine served, as well as a water glass and a cup and saucer for coffee at the end of the meal. There will be an array of plates and tableware according to the kinds of food to be served. Most formal dinners I've attended are four courses - an appetizer or soup of some kind, a salad, the main course and dessert. The waitstaff will serve all food and drink. Guests should not serve themselves nor pass plates, although the exception is if there's a bread basket on the table - that can be passed by the guests. No second helpings; refills on drinks only when the waitstaff offers (flagging down a waiter to ask for more is a bit gauche).

Before dinner begins, there might be a short greeting from the host and perhaps a toast. If there are activities (such as speeches, entertainment or an auction), these will generally occur after dessert, coffee and/or cordials are served. The idea is that you don't bother the guests during the main part of the meal - you allow them to enjoy their food and the company of the other guests before making them sit through anything else. Sometimes there might be light instrumental music during the meal, but no vocalists or anything that would interfere with conversation.

Hope this helps.

CassandraW
09-01-2015, 07:00 PM
Maybe it's a quirk of the events I've been to, but most of the black tie events I've attended did not have a bread basket at the table. A waiter came around with a bread basket and served bread with tongs, or else a roll was on each guests bread plate at the table. The butter is always in a little molded shape; I have never seen a butter packet at a black tie affair. Sometimes each guest will have his own little pat of butter, and sometimes there are a couple of butter plates for the table.

Generally all the utensils that will be needed for the entire meal are on the table when you are seated, from salad fork to dessert spoon. The used utensil is removed after each course. In other words, you do not "save your fork" for the next course, nor does the waiter bring you a new one with each course.

ETA:

I've also never seen a ketchup bottle at a black tie event. The only condiments I've seen at the table are salt and pepper.

WeaselFire
09-01-2015, 07:18 PM
So I got this WiP where the MC goes to this formal gala. How long would it last? What kind of food would be served? How would the itinerary play out? How would people be expected to act?

How long do you need it to last? What kind of food do you need to have served? What itinerary do you need for your plot? How would...

Yeah. It's that hard.

Jeff

CassandraW
09-01-2015, 07:31 PM
How long do you need it to last? What kind of food do you need to have served? What itinerary do you need for your plot? How would...

Yeah. It's that hard.

Jeff

Well, it's not quite all that easy if you've never been to such an event. I've been to dozens, of all kinds, so it would be quite simple for me to invent a black-tie affair that would meet the requirements of my plot and also pass muster with snobs like me who attend them all the time.

If you've never been to one, you might well throw something in that would make someone like me go "pfft, what kind of black-tie event would have XYZ"?

mrsmig
09-01-2015, 08:05 PM
Maybe it's a quirk of the events I've been to, but most of the black tie events I've attended did not have a bread basket at the table. A waiter came around with a bread basket and served bread with tongs, or else a roll was on each guests bread plate at the table. The butter is always in a little molded shape; I have never seen a butter packet at a black tie affair. Sometimes each guest will have his own little pat of butter, and sometimes there are a couple of butter plates for the table.

It's variable. The most recent black tie event I attended was at the Italian ambassador's residence in DC, where the rolls were served with the salad course. But a couple years ago, at a State Department dinner, the rolls were on the table, nestled in napkin within a silver wire basket, along with a set of silver tongs for serving.

Perhaps it was because the organizers wanted to cut down on waiter traffic between the tables - the room was quite small for the number of attendees.

bombergirl69
09-01-2015, 10:18 PM
Agree with ElaineA that in a small town, for an event like this, it would most likely be at the country club. It could be at a splendid private residence, but that would more likely be for a coming out party of something for a kid, or perhaps a high end fundraiser.

I also agree there can be plenty of variety! But, agree that no ketchup bottles, or condiments of any kind on the tables! They may have finger bowls on the tables with a sprig of rosemary for gentle cleansing! I am assuming this gala is NOT white tie (the MOST formal--and can be tons of fun but maybe less likely in a small town), which has a very set bunch of wardrobe expectations (can be truly lovely but not a lot of people, specifically men, know how to dress for one!)

Yes, to the lovely appetizers, then there may or may not be a formal entry into the dining room. And yes to assigned seats, so the "special people" get the tables up front and those who aint so special/aren't in the stud book, can be at some distant table near the restrooms. All silverware is on the table, and there can be a lot! - generally one works inward from the outside, as each will get removed with each course. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right, except some place the dessert spoon across the top of the setting.

There may be a nice little quartet playing. There can be multiple courses of food-soup, cold appetizer, main course, salad and then dessert. I also don't recall rolls on the table; a waiter (in formal attire) will serve. And there is debate about serving left or right. I was always taught left. Wine, of course, right.

And yes to auction (high end stuff)/speeches, whatever and then dancing. you haven't lived until you've seen a bunch of drunk doctors trying to do the "swim" in the dance floor

stupidname1313
09-02-2015, 09:33 AM
Thank you everybody, you've been extremely helpful. There is another thing I would like to know: would pigs in a blanket be a fitting hors d'oeuvres or is it too casual?

cornflake
09-02-2015, 09:41 AM
Thank you everybody, you've been extremely helpful. There is another thing I would like to know: would pigs in a blanket be a fitting hors d'oeuvres or is it too casual?

It's beyond too casual. It's gross. :) Gougeres or crab puffs are closer to what you might find, if you're looking for pastry-like things, but they're very simple and unimpressive and unlikely, though it depends on the party. Things with shots are pretty popular, topped blini or potato puffs are classic, as is stuff like pancetta figs, asparagus with beef, oysters, various cheese-and-something tarts, crostini, etc.

WeaselFire
09-02-2015, 08:47 PM
Thank you everybody, you've been extremely helpful. There is another thing I would like to know: would pigs in a blanket be a fitting hors d'oeuvres or is it too casual?

FWIW, I've been to a black tie event where pigs in a blanket were served. Mind you, they were gourmet swine in hand-woven Egyptian cotton sleepwear, but it was the same thing. Hit the society pages in any major city and look at what was on the menu at the last event. Or, just remember that finger food isn't meant to be touched by fingers. Too big a risk of getting it on the Vera Wang gown.

Jeff

CassandraW
09-02-2015, 08:59 PM
Or, just remember that finger food isn't meant to be touched by fingers. Too big a risk of getting it on the Vera Wang gown.


Nearly every black tie event I've ever attended has served hor d'oevres meant to be eaten with fingers. They are supposed to be one bite, not messy, and not requiring a plate -- just a little napkin. You are supposed to be couth enough to pop one neatly in your mouth, then daintily wipe your fingers on the tiny serviette, with no danger to your gown.

It is far more typical, in my experience, to have none of the appetizers passed around during cocktail events require either a plate or a fork. You are generally standing around with a drink in your hand, not sitting at a table. Juggling a plate and fork under those circumstances is difficult. Therefore, the nibbles are usually on a skewer, in a shotglass, or can be delicately picked up with two fingers, and should not slop over or crumble apart.

Like cornflake, I have never once seen pigs in a blanket at a black tie event. I'm sure it happens, but I don't think it's typical.

mrsmig
09-03-2015, 03:48 AM
Thank you everybody, you've been extremely helpful. There is another thing I would like to know: would pigs in a blanket be a fitting hors d'oeuvres or is it too casual?

OMG, I'm having a Shelly-Duvall-in-THREE-WOMEN flashback.

Pigs in a blanket would definitely be too casual. I'm trying to think what appetizers were served at the last couple soirees I attended. I've definitely had some sort of bite-sized sausage-y thing made with puff pastry (the closest resemblance I've encountered to pigs in a blanket), mini quiches, bites of smoked trout or salmon on wee bits of toast, arancini (which are small fried risotto balls), and the appetizer that made my eyes roll back in my head with ecstacy: a single leaf of baby endive crowned with a piece of fresh fig, a dab of creme fraiche and a sliver of candied walnut.

At a cocktail party you're usually standing, with one hand already occupied by a drink. As CassandraW said, everything has to be managed without a plate or utensils. The idea is just to have a few nibbles - something to whet your appetite, not serve as a meal.

Calder
09-03-2015, 01:54 PM
Thank you everybody, you've been extremely helpful. There is another thing I would like to know: would pigs in a blanket be a fitting hors d'oeuvres or is it too casual?

It all depends on the social status of your gathering, but for 'black-tie' affairs, the norm would be a selection of small, one-bite canapés.

Bolero
09-04-2015, 02:48 PM
And pineapple chunks and cheese on a cocktail stick are right out. :)

stupidname1313
09-05-2015, 06:44 AM
Okay once again thanks for everything. I think I'll be in the clear if you can just give me an idea of what sort of drinks would be served. I don't actually know anything about alcohol.

Calder
09-05-2015, 01:20 PM
Okay once again thanks for everything. I think I'll be in the clear if you can just give me an idea of what sort of drinks would be served. I don't actually know anything about alcohol.
If it's a really high-class affair champagne's the best option. For something not so top-drawer, good white or red wine. There'd be fruit-juice, cordials etc. for the non-drinkers. It's uncommon (certainly in the UK, at least) for spirits to be served at such functions.

If there's a bar (free, or paid) rather than, or in addition to waiters and waitresses moving around with trays of drinks, then anything goes from beer to mixed cocktails. What hardly ever happens at such functions is for a waiter to take a guest's order for drinks. You either help yourself to what's on offer on the trays, or, if there is one, head for the bar. (Mine's a Singapore sling.)

mrsmig
09-05-2015, 05:17 PM
Okay once again thanks for everything. I think I'll be in the clear if you can just give me an idea of what sort of drinks would be served. I don't actually know anything about alcohol.

During the cocktail hour, the waitstaff will often circulate with trays of red and white wine, just to cut down on congestion at the bar. "Signature" cocktails are big right now for special events - usually something light, festive-looking and a bit sweet so it'll be pleasing to most palates. It may have a certain color to fit the evening's theme. Sometimes these will be served (along with the wine) in lieu of an open bar. (I think the signature cocktail at the last event I attended was a French 75 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_75_%28cocktail%29).)

As far as what people would order at the bar, anything goes. I expect most folks of the country club set would eschew drinks like mojitos, daiquiris and margaritas in favor of simpler, classic drinks like martinis, gin & tonics, scotch & soda and the like.

stupidname1313
09-06-2015, 09:02 AM
"If it's a really high-class affair champagne's the best option. For something not so top-drawer, good white or red wine. There'd be fruit-juice, cordials etc. for the non-drinkers. It's uncommon (certainly in the UK, at least) for spirits to be served at such functions."

Thank you, but I was wondering if you could be more specify about what brand/types of wine and champagne are appropriate.

CassandraW
09-06-2015, 03:39 PM
It completely depends on the event and the focus. And do you really need to mention brands of wine and champagne? Guests likely would not. Nor would they likely get a choice of brands. It would be what the event was serving (they'd stock a few cases of whatever they were going to serve) and that was that. The guests might have no idea. The waiters would be more about getting the guests red or white than about discussing brands. So why need you mention it?

I've no idea what brands they were serving at most black tie events I attended. I was drinking red or white, maybe a different one with each course, and someone handed me a glass of champagne when I came in.

At the wine spectator one, it's different, since the focus is on wine, but I still can't give you "brands" because it will be different chateaus/vintages etc. every year. But, seriously, don't try to make your event one of these wine-focused events. You will not be able to do so successfully without more study than coming here.

To be honest, you are better off making your event one that just doles out champagne, red and white. If you don't know a bit about wine, you will mess up trying to fake knowledge of it based on a couple of AW posts. And there's no need, IMO.

Eta:

when it comes to wine, it's not like there are a couple of big "brands" that carry prestige, as there is with, say, vodka. There are chateaus and wine houses all over the world producing all kinds of wine that differs a bit with each vintage.

Really -- your guests get a glass of champagne when they come in. People rarely ask what it is -- it just is. Ditto on the red and white at dinner.

Eta:

Further upstream, someone suggested you get menus for black tie events online. That's a good idea.

E.g., here's one for a wine-focused event. Note that it mentions specific wines with each course (not just a choice of a single red or white for the whole dinner). Still, why need your characters be going on about brands? I go to a very wine-focused one, and we do discuss the wine a bit, but since it is a particular wine with each course, it is about the characteristics of the wine and how it pairs with the course, not the "brand." http://montclairfoodandwinefestival.org/2015-gala-dinner-menu/

Here's one that sounds a bit less high-falutin'. The wine is nice, but I guarantee you that the people attending this one are by and large not discussing the wine by brand name -- they are asking for the merlot. http://www.emaofbc.com/2015/06/2015-gala-dinner-menu-is-here/

cornflake
09-06-2015, 07:38 PM
What Cassandra said.

If you really need that kind of detail, have someone go to the bar and order something specific, like a premium whiskey or whatever. If you want to mention wines or champagne, have someone take a circulating glass and then say it's blah and they just tried this amazing Shiraz or something. I'd only do that if it's a standard event, not a wine-focused one, because as Cassandra said above, you'd need tons more research to even begin to do that credibly if it's not your thing.

Calder
09-07-2015, 02:17 AM
"If it's a really high-class affair champagne's the best option. For something not so top-drawer, good white or red wine. There'd be fruit-juice, cordials etc. for the non-drinkers. It's uncommon (certainly in the UK, at least) for spirits to be served at such functions."

Thank you, but I was wondering if you could be more specify about what brand/types of wine and champagne are appropriate.

OK. The most expensive and impressive champagnes include Dom Perignon (James Bond's favourite). It's vintage only, so prices vary with the perceived quality of the vintage. A bottle of a good vintage will cost in the region of £300 ($450)- you can pay upwards of £2,000 ($3,000). The Louis Roederer Cristal (favourite tipple of the rich and famous) would cost around £180 ($270) but can be more expensive depending on the vintage/year. At the other end of the scale something like Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label, at around £36 ($54) a bottle would be quite acceptable. Rosé (pink)champagnes tend to be more expensive than blancs (whites) as comparatively less is produced. If your host is a real cheapskate, he/she could go for domestic champagne, which start at around £22 ($35 ) a bottle.

You can get 8 flutes (glasses)from a single bottle, so if you have, say 80 guests and they each have 3 glasses, your looking at 30 bottles. Do the math with the prices above. (I once attended a reception where Cristal champagne was served. I reckon the 100 or so people there got through around 40 bottles - it was very good night - at a cost well in excess of £10,000 ($15,000) for the champagne alone.)

The same goes as far as wine is concerned. You can pay a lot for vintage wine, go 'mid-range.' or cheap.You want softer, easy-drinking wines, perhaps a good Merlot, or Syrah (red) or Sauvignon Blanc, or Chablis (whites). Most wines are available in a range of qualities and vintages and so a range of prices. To totally impress, you'd be looking at a vintage wines in the £75 -£100 ($110 - $150) range. Mid-range, halve the price and cheapskate halve it again. If you're really cheap, go for the supermarket non-vintages at around £8 ($12) a bottle.

I certainly second the advice to either be non-specific and just call it 'champagne' or, if you're going to be specific, do the necessary research and know what you're talking about.

CassandraW
09-07-2015, 04:46 AM
it would be a very rare and special kind of event indeed where they'd be serving champagne like that -- and insanely expensive. also, it would take some knowledge and research to write about it. Much more than you can get here.

yes, you can pay a bloody fortune for wine. i've been fortunate enough to drink champagne that cost hundreds a bottle, and to sample first-growth bordeaux. But not at black tie galas, by and large.

Really, I would not go there.