A bride needs track shoes to plan her wedding. Lots of running around.

It seems nothing is easy or straightforward about planning the most special day of her life — and inviting a hundred or so guests to enjoy it, too.

So, imagine a location where you can hire a florist, cake baker, caterer and/or executive chef, plus visit with a dietician about a healthier eating plan or arrange for a unique ice sculpture to grace the reception. Where a bridal couple can also buy wine, beer and champagne for toasting, purchase stamps for and mail save-the-date cards and invitations, drop off rolls of candid wedding day photos for processing, send off the wedding gown for cleaning and preservation, even enroll in a specialty cooking class.

Welcome to Hy-Vee.

No longer “just a grocery store,” the supermarket chain offers helpful, smiling professionals who can keep a bride organized, on-target with her budget, large or small, and offer a wealth of suggestions and ideas in an easily accessible setting with multiple vendors in one location.

The only wedding services Hy-Vee doesn’t offer are the clothing, site and bridal party itself. Of course, if you want to wed in the produce aisle, that might be arranged.

“We still get surprised reactions when people learn what we can do, what we can offer a bride. There’s a lot of thought, expertise and professionalism that goes into our work across all departments in our stores,” says Mary Brandhorst, a 20-year veteran and floral department manager at the Crossroads Hy-Vee in Waterloo.

Full-service weddings

These are full-service florist shops, capable of creating everything from bridal bouquets to floral arrangements for ceremony and reception sites. “We really go the extra mile, too. Because it’s Hy-Vee, we have better buying power to work within a bride’s budget, we have more access to wholesalers and can offer a broad selection of flowers,” she explains.

University Avenue Hy-Vee’s Kitt Gogol agrees. She’s had 25 years’ experience in the floral industry, including 17 years at Hy-Vee. She loves adding a little something extra to personalize the bride’s bouquet.“I’m confident I can give the bride what she wants within her budget and show her endless possibilities. Plus we can steer them to the bakery or catering or other services we offer.”

Across the board, floral departments emphasize quality and personal service, says Joyce Kling at the Logan Avenue store. “We can fill special orders, too, and if we have a special request for color, we can get that filled. Most girls have a mindset on their style, and we encourage them to bring in clippings or photos for their consultation. Then we can throw in things we’ve seen or done that will make their wedding special.”

If a bride uses all three departments — floral, bakery and catering — there’s a 10 percent discount. If a bride buys her bouquet from Hy-Vee floral, she receives a free toss bouquet.

Cooking up receptions

College Square’s Catering Coordinator Amy Dall says what Hy-Vee offers is comparable to high-end hotels and restaurants in major metropolitan areas. “We can make spectacular presentations. Hy-Vee is well-known for its kitchens and fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, but we’re capable of doing so much more, including customized menus.”

Taste-testings are offered, too. “And once you taste our food, you’ll select us as your caterer,” Dall maintains.

In addition to catering food and table service at wedding receptions, brunches and rehearsal dinners, Hy-Vee executive chefs can create and prepare gourmet menus.

Ultimately, the only limit is budget.

“People don’t understand the extent of our services. We can do the set up and tear down, create beautiful and interesting buffets, a plated and served meal, as well as hors d’ouevres and gourmet cheese and wine displays, party trays, mini desserts, anything the bride wants. We’re a grocery store, and we have everything at our finger tips. Name brands, 25-year-old balsamic vinegar, you name it, and a warehouse to back up our needs,” said Chef Jim Nadeau from College Square, who is also a certified master ice carver.

Having access to a chef can set a wedding apart, notes Chef Haley Silhacek from Ansborough Avenue’s new store. “There’s really nothing we can’t do, and we can offer access to linens, dinnerware, chocolate fountains, anything any other cartering service can do.”

Bridescan opt for individual meat carving, seafood, crepes, antipasto, dessert and other stations, she says. “It’s an upscale buffet, really, and it’s fun for chefs and for guests.”

They can stage mini dessert buffets, sliders, sundae and candy bars, too. If there’s a favorite family recipe for a casserole or other dish, the chefs and catering departments can recreate it in large quantities to serve at the reception.

They can also accommodate special dietary needs, and arrange a light luncheon for the wedding party on the day of the event.

Wedding cakes

Cake designer Karris Mattox at College Square uses her artistic background to create her wedding cakes and is especially known for working in fondant. Wedding cakes start at $2.50 per serving, and tastings are available.

“What brides want is so individual now. They may want lots of tiers or just two tiers, and cupcakes are very popular for cupcake towers as centerpieces or to give as favors. They’re not just plain white or chocolate, either. We have gourmet flavors, and they can be as elaborately decorated as a wedding cake,” she says.

She also encourages brides to think outside the bakery box — “gourmet brownies, cake pops, cake balls, mini cheesecakes, truffles, mini desserts, fruit tartlets, pies, creme brulee, cookies, even sugar-free options.”

At the Waverly store, there are three cake decorators with a total of 50 years’ experience, says Bakery Manager Mary Steinbach. “There are brides who don’t realize we do weddings, and that we can coordinate the cake with flowers because the floral shop is in the store. We also keep up with the latest trends.”

Groom’s cakes are popular again, and Hy-Vee designers can create theme or hobby cakes, often made from Rice Krispie treats so they can be carved into shapes.

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