An Interview with Bianca Norton, Director of Catering
Today’s wedding challenges from social distancing to travel challenges have some couples fretting about how to make their day special. Bianca Norton, Director of Catering at The Inn at Virginia Tech sat down for a quick interview recently and had some timely wisdom to share. She gives insight from how to create an intimate setting while social distancing and how to include special guests who cannot attend your micro wedding in person.
If you are planning a wedding this fall or anytime in the near future and are unsure how to make the day live up to your dreams, this is a must-read.
Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today, Bianca. First, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
As Director of Catering in a venue that has many possibilities for all kinds of social events, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of groups as small as a private dinner for ten all the way up to large fundraiser with 500+, and anything from baby showers to military balls. Weddings, though, are my specialty.
My mother and I owned a bridal shop in a small, centrally located town in South Carolina for over 20 years, falling into it by accident. She actively ran the day to day operations, and I would help in person during the time spent staying with her while my golf professional husband traveled for tournaments. Although the shop’s main focus was clothing, shoes, and accessories for weddings and special occasions, we acted as the planners for many of our couples, providing guidance on catering options, music, photographers and in many cases, stepped in as the onsite coordinators for the day of the big event. Seeing it all come together was so rewarding and special, and I have had a love for that feeling ever since.
Let’s talk about fall weddings. What are some advantages to having a wedding in the fall?
With the current challenges in planning social events, couples are becoming creative in ways to still make their wedding memorable. Fall in Virginia and especially Blacksburg is beautiful! The crispness in the air and cooler temperatures are ideal for outdoor weddings, and the multicolor foliage as the trees are turning provides a spectacular backdrop for photos. Planning a smaller wedding ceremony on the banks of the Duck Pond on the historic Virginia Tech campus, followed by a special private dinner in our Preston’s restaurant, is the perfect way to celebrate their day.
Are you seeing an influx of fall weddings following so many canceled spring and summer events?
A few of the weddings that were originally planned for early spring and summer of this year shifted to fall dates. Taking into consideration the opportunities with travel and planning during these unusual times, smaller weddings are the new trend. Couples are revising their plans to have smaller, more intimate immediate family gatherings now and planning for larger celebrations in the future. The best part about having a micro wedding is that it can be held in unusual and unique locations, such as a library or in a garden with guests standing rather than sitting to encourage distancing. We hosted one such event recently in the shade in front of a large evergreen tree, just off our Great Lawn, with guests standing in a semi-circle. The backdrop with wildflowers and the tree was spectacular and so special.
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Fall weddings are gorgeous in general. Is the weather typically workable for an outdoor wedding in the fall? Additionally, if the weather is uncooperative, what are the alternative options?
An outdoor wedding in the early fall can be tricky. The weather here changes with frequency, and the saying is that Blacksburg can have all four seasons in one day. With any of the weddings planned outside, I always include an inside back up space that can be used in case of inclement weather, still keeping the service beautiful and the guests happy and comfortable. For the more intimate services, we have a beautiful location with ambient lighting through large windows that gives the impression of still being outside without the heat or weather challenges.
What are some suggestions you have to accommodate everyone on the guest list? For instance, socially distant seating, seating indoors and on the great lawn, etc.
For couples who are looking at their invitations list and thinking of the best ways to accommodate socially distancing, I would suggest seating members of the same household together and placing two couples at one of our round tables with appropriate spaces in between chairs. A mix of seating using squares and rounds can also be used to change the look of the dinner, making it more special and memorable, and helps to separate the guests without being too spacious. Weather permitting, the Great Lawn is wonderful for guests to mingle during the reception, allowing ample space for appropriate distances in between. Dinner can also be enjoyed outside under tents, having a truly outdoors celebration from start to finish
Do you offer a virtual option for guests who are unable to attend in person?
Several of our wedding couples have incorporated virtual options for guests who cannot attend in person. A member of the wedding or a videographer will use a Zoom or Facetime feature to include invitees to see the ceremony and celebrations.
Thank you, Bianca, for the wonderful wisdom you shared! If you are in the Blacksburg area and are planning a wedding or any event for that matter, we would love to have you give us a call. We understand today’s limitations and are daily striving to overcome the challenges, hosting events that are meaningful and valuable.
Main image by Kemper Mills Fant Photography