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The Caterer

“Don’t try to save money by shortening the cocktail time. People think it’s a good idea, but guests love that part.”

Mary Giuliani of Mary Giuliani Catering & Events


Your grandmother owned a hotel in Montauk. Did you always dream of becoming a caterer?
Actually, I wanted to be an actress. I had one line in an off-off-Broadway show—I played a gun-toting Pakistani woman guarding a 7-Eleven. At the end, my father said to me, “What, and quit show business?” A lot of people in catering and event planning are frustrated performers, because it’s a way of being creative but behind the scenes.

And now you’re known for your theatrical style.
We’ve done weddings at Tribeca Cinemas and the Central Park Zoo. For a carnival-theme reception, we made a four-foot-tall Ferris wheel for the macaroni-and-cheese station. And I’m dying for a bride who’s a Star Wars fan, so I can do Yoda-inspired cocktails. We want the food and drink to really be reflective of who you are. I always say that if a filet and a salad and a piece of cake are truly what describe your personality, shame on you.

So what do you suggest instead?
Incorporate your story. For a bride who met her husband in New Orleans, we made mini–po’ boys; for a couple who met at summer camp we did mini-s’mores and hot chocolate. One couple had traveled to Morocco, so we paired lamb kebabs with couscous and little cups of rose tea.

It sounds like you’re very into mini.
Yeah, I’m the incredible shrinking woman. It’s nice to start the night with an array of delicious one-bite things.

Is it true that more couples are forgoing the sit-down dinner?
That’s definitely been a trend, but many people miss the intimacy of a seated meal—it’s nice, especially for Grandma and Grandpa. Family-style service is less formal than a plated dinner and less annoying than a buffet. Then you can finish with five or six passed desserts; I love little milk shakes paired with brownies.

No cake?
Sylvia Weinstock is going to come after me for saying this, but a lot of my couples are getting a smaller one, just to cut.

Do you have a favorite venue?
I love 632 on Hudson. I did a surprise wedding there . . .

Wait, what’s a surprise wedding?
That’s what I recommend for a Stage 3 Anti-Bride. Stage 3 means you have a full-time job, a crazy life; you don’t have time to fuss over all the details. I had a bride like that, and I said, “Why don’t you just tell everyone it’s an engagement party?” Then, when the guests arrived, there were waiters with notes that read, “Surprise, we’re getting married.” I still get chills thinking about the reactions.

What was your wedding like?
Oh, I was a child bride. I was 24, I wasn’t in this business yet, and the food was exactly what I always advise against. When you’re young, you think you have to have a fantasy wedding, for everyone else. But I’m still married ten years later, so it was a great success.

212-725-1658; marygiuliani.com.

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