Being a wedding caterer is no cakewalk, even as the cake is carted around during the big event.
For Carol Lynn Drennen, owner of Palate Pleaser catering, a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into preparing an ideal wedding for the bride and groom.
“People think it’s easy, but during the summers I’m known as the caterer who doesn’t sleep,” said Drennen. “There’s lots of stress, but the bride won’t ever see that.”
Drennen only gets 2-3 hours of rest each night during the busiest times, but her years as a late-night pastry chef prepared her for such responsibilities.
“It’s my job to make the bride happy,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about, from the cake to everything else. I’ve done the footwork and can keep everything on budget.”
Chances are that Drennen can suggest some things to the bride that the latter may not have thought of, including some special Gorge locations.
“I like it when the bride comes to me before she picks a location,” said Drennen. “There are so many places in the Gorge that are great for weddings that brides don’t even know about. I strongly advise having an outdoor wedding.”
Drennen noted that many locals open up their homes and well-groomed grounds for marriage ceremonies. Drennen offers tours to these areas to help showcase what the Gorge has to offer.
“I want to make brides comfortable so they can weigh their options,” she said.
Drennen also points brides to Gorge Central Vacation Rentals at www.gorgers.com for a listing of homes offering their sites for weddings.
“Some of them are gorgeous and big, and having a place for immediate family to stay is a plus,” she said.
Drennen suggested that sooner is better when it comes to planning and reservations, but said that most people getting married in the Gorge are safe starting at sixth months out.
“You get better results when you plan in advance, but there will always be something available — it just might not be your first choice,” said Drennen.
“There used to be so many ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’,” she continued. “Now anything goes. One time I planned a wedding in less than three weeks — I’m just not the type to say ‘no’ to people.”
Drennen operates Palate Pleaser out of an office at her husband Jim Drennen’s Mid Columbia Marina dealership on the banks of the Columbia. The site features a patio that seats 60-65, a 6,000-square-foot lawn overlooking the river, and the capacity for weddings and corporate events that have reached up to 300 guests.
“The more we focus on corporate events, the more I realize what the dealership has to offer to complement what Carol does,” said Jim, who noted that guests often take advantage of on-hand paddle boats, canoes and other water “toys.”
“This is really the only site on the banks of the Columbia River that you can get without spending a fortune,” said Carol Lynn. “It’s great for rehearsal dinners, and at nighttime it’s so romantic, with the stars, the water and the sailboats. Once we had a bride in her dress and the groom in his tux take off on a waverunner together to their hotel. It’s one big playground here.”
No matter where the wedding takes place, Drennen has answers to many of the bride’s most common questions.
“If you’re worried about the weather, buy the Farmer’s Almanac to give you peace of mind,” she said. “Check the weather for your date — it’s 95 percent accurate!”
Drennen also recommended “Bridal Bargains” by Denise and Alan Fields for consumer-friendly advice on planning a wedding.
Other important considerations that Drennen outlined involved making sure there is adequate parking at the wedding site, and keeping the wedding rings secure and close at hand. She also advised speaking with friends and relatives about weddings at which they’ve been, to see what worked and what didn’t.
Drennen also touted her wedding cake services, making cakes large enough to provide guests with “restaurant-sized” portions rather than tiny squares. She also sends a free one-year anniversary cake to married couples.
“Everything is fresh as can be, made within 24 hours of the wedding,” said Drennen. “There’s no delivery fee, either. I don’t nickel-and-dime my customers.”
It’s that kind service upon which Drennen focuses, yielding plenty of referrals and many lifelong contacts and friends.
“The whole concept is that it comes from the heart,” said Drennen. “I love what I do.”
Carol Lynn Drennen’s Palate Pleaser is available at 509-493-2298 or 541-386-6998.