Have Your Cake and Eat It too: How to Enjoy Planning for the Big Day

wedding rings

The snow is melting and the sun is shining which can only mean one thing: wedding season is on its way in! For those who greeted 2014 with new diamonds on their digits, the springtime is no longer just about budding plants and sunnier days, but also about all of those wedding plans that must be made.



Sometimes brides-to-be get caught up in the details too early on when they would be better off focusing on the big picture. Fortunately here at the Castle, we have a lot of insight on wedding timelines. For the most stress free planning, we recommend starting about a year in advance. Twelve months prior to the ceremony, the couple will need to decide the basics such as: the date, the approximate number of guests and fairly reliable estimate of their budget.

The next step is to shop around for venues, and the best way to go about it is to check out any reception halls you like before making any decisions.  When visiting each venue, inquire about available dates and lay out all of the options. Generally there is less flexibility with dates of the reception halls than there is with dates for the ceremony venues. It is a good idea to spend some time researching both before making ANY decisions. It can be very disappointing to a bride-to-be when she has reserved her church only to find that her favorite reception hall has already been booked on that day.

There’s a whole summer to enjoy!

Once the above decisions have been made, it’s time to start considering the rest of the wedding including the bridal party, the guest list, and all the elements of design. Bridal shows can also be a great resource for booking wedding day vendors, and they are tons of fun. Just remember, some venues, such as the Castle, are full service – meaning they include services such as catering, linens and custom lighting so you won’t have to book vendors for those options. This is another reason why researching and booking the reception hall first is key for a smooth planning process.  And that’s the ultimate goal: make the planning as easy as possible, so that all those brides to be can enjoy not only their big day, but also the whole beautiful Buffalo summer that awaits us!


The Totally Awesome 80’s Are Coming to The Tonawanda Castle

Get ready to dance!

Get ready to dance!

Here at The Tonawanda Castle we had a very busy and successful 2013, steadily building on our reputation for hosting elegant celebrations.  Although already bustling away to bring style and sophistication to brides and grooms in 2014, we have decided to take a rare and “totally awesome” detour: on February 1st we are hosting our first ever 80’s party.  Typically a place where guests arrive in their swankiest party clothes,  The Castle will open its doors to the crimped, acid washed, and neon clad masses to celebrate everyone’s favorite decade on this special Saturday.

No one does the 80's quite like the queen of the decade herself!  Let's see your best take on Madonna's style.

No one does the 80’s quite like the queen of the decade herself! Let’s see your best take on Madonna’s style.

Ahh the 1980’s, a decade whose memory conjures decadence in the form of music, hair, fashion, and of course parties.  For the Totally Awesome 80’s party, we chose entertainment by Moving Music.  DJ Tony will be spinning classic 80s dance hits all night long, which combined our giant hardwood dance floor, will set the scene for everything from the electric slide to break dancing. Moving Music will also provide a themed photo booth so partygoers can capture themselves in full retro glory.  And to top it off, our staff members are concocting some themed cocktails and contests. As your hosts for The Totally Awesome 80’s party, we are especially excited about the potential costumes that could make an appearance at this event.  Everyone is encouraged to put on their 80’s finest or come dressed as a favorite pop icon from the era!

Big hair wasn't just for the ladies.  Can you name this  totally awesome hair band?

Big hair isn’t just for the ladies. Can you name this totally awesome hair band?

The choice of theme for this party is both playful and deliberate.  Though the building is one of the most historically beautiful venues in the area, it is also very versatile as a setting.  This event is geared towards highlighting a more informal and spunky side to our venue.   Favorite tunes from the 1980’s almost always fill up the dance floor during wedding receptions held at The Castle, and realizing this, we decided to give guests a whole night of their favorite music to enjoy.

So, consider this your official invitation to come party with us 80’s style, and there’s no need to even bring a wedding gift. However scrunchies, legwarmers and fingerless gloves are highly recommended! A cash bar will be available all night.  Presale tickets are available for only $8 at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/totally-awesome-80s-party-at-tonawanda-castle-tickets-8612188287?aff=es2&rank=0&sid=561de7bd7c8b11e391e2123139057c14.  The day of the party, admission is $10 at the  door.

10 Reasons to Celebrate New Year’s Eve at The Castle

NYE champagne flutesWe all know that holidays can be a very hectic time.  Christmas is fast approaching and there’s tons of shopping, planning, baking and decorating to do.  If all of that feels like a chore, here’s something that doesn’t: choosing where you want to ring in the New Year!   The last day on the calendar is all about the perfect balance between sophistication and celebration, and that’s exactly what we’ve got in store for our New Year’s Eve Gala.  Here’s 10 reasons why The Tonawanda Castle will be the place to be on December 31:

One of The Castle's many chandeliers.  This one was handmade in France more than 100 years ago.

One of The Castle’s many chandeliers. This one was handmade in France more than 100 years ago.

  1. The building.  It is amazingly beautiful.   You may have seen our photos online, but that doesn’t quite do justice to thisgorgeous historical space.   The chandeliers, the woodwork, and the stained glass are all much more impressive when seen in person.
  2. The dinner. The Gala will feature an all-night station style dinner with a special menu created by the Castle chefs.
  3. The dance floor.  The Castle has an enormous hardwood dance floor perfect for showing off all your moves!
  4. The music.  For our New Year’s Gala, we’re going to be shaking things up with The Boneshakers.  They play bluesy jazzy rock- n-roll favorites with a bit of R&B thrown into the mix—in other words, something for everyone.
  5. The amazing appetizers.  The chefs here do a fantastic job all around, but it is in the bite sized delectables that their creativity really shines.
  6. The perks.  Hats, noisemakers and free parking!  Enjoy a fabulous night out without having to battle the traffic or crowded lots downtown.
  7. Options.  At midnight, you get your choice of a champagne toast in our ballroom where it’s nice and warm or a short walk over to Gateway Harbor to watch the ball drop and fireworks display.


    The ball on its perch above Gateway Harbor.

  8. The balconies. Who doesn’t love a view from a balcony? And we’ve got one of the best in town.  The grand ballroom boasts an overlooking balcony where guests can catch a glimpse of the party from above.
  9. The drinks. Drink specials will be available, but they’re too good to post here!
  10. The deal.  You get all of the above for just 50 bucks a person (plus tax).  That is a great deal!  You can purchase tickets now at http://tonawandacastle.com/tonawanda-castle-events/

Tis the Season for Appetizers!

app table olives

The Castle’s appetizer table has many staples, but it is never quite the same. We like to keep it seasonal.

Here at the Castle, appetizers are a year round phenomenon, but if you’re not in the business of entertaining, you most likely only concern yourself with throngs of guests around this time of year.  Entertaining and appetizers go hand in hand.  An assortment of tasty starters provides a great way to introduce your guests to your personal style—and an easy way for them to strike up a conversation.  People will get excited, saying ‘oooh did you try that?’ and ‘you’ve got to have one of these!’

Appetizers are some of the most fun you can have with food because there’s so much room for imagination! Experimenting with mini versions of favorite main dishes, and pairing simple fresh items with unexpected garnishes and sauces are a few approaches taken by the Castle chefs.  In bite sized servings, comfort food becomes gourmet and sophisticated. And when guests only eat one or two bites at a time, the flavors are easy to savor.  Some miniaturized favs at the Castle include crisp risotto cakes, bite sized grilled cheese sandwiches, and sweet potato planks with a bit of a kick.  Dressing up appetizers with a touch of tangy sauce or a lively garnish is a great way to create some distinctive starters. However, we don’t see any reason to shy away from the classics either: prosciutto wrapped fruit and seafood, crostini topped with fresh vegetables and flavorful reductions, and mushrooms stuffed with sausage or cheese are always popular.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 500 0849

Classic prosciutto wrapped asparagus. Yum!

Besides pre-assembled appetizers, a display of fruits, cheeses, and crudités sends great welcome message to guests.  We take much pride in our appetizer displays at the Castle.   The combination of fresh and grilled vegetables with assorted cheeses, crackers and fresh fruits is naturally colorful and festive.  We’ve been known to add further pizazz with gourmet dipping sauces, pesto stuffed mozzarella, and sage or wine infused cheeses.  The options are infinite, but the ultimate goal of appetizers is to let the food say, “Come in and enjoy yourself because this is going to be a great party!”

In Honor of Veteran’s Day: A Conversation about the Tonawanda Castle’s Military History

The Captains Corridors on the second floor with the impressive original woodwork.

On the second floor, the “Captain’s Corridors” is easily identified by the intricate woodwork containing the word “captain” in gold lettering. The room is now frequently used as a suite for groomsmen.

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with a friend of mine who happened to be familiar with the Tonawanda Castle from its previous days as an armory. Attorney Glenn Murray began his career as a lawyer on active duty in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. Upon moving to Buffalo in 1984, Mr. Murray joined the National Guard as a Judge Advocate General, or JAG, like the popular TV show. In this role, he gave many legal briefings at armories all around New York State. He assured me that the one we have right here in Tonawanda is one of the finest there is. Like so many others upon their first glimpse of the building’s rich interior, Mr. Murray said he had “fallen in love with this place” back when he first saw it.

The first floor parlour which was used as office space during the armory days.  Try to imagine file cabinets in place of the comfy furnishings!

The sitting room of first floor parlour served as an office for company commanders when the building was in use as an armory. Try to imagine file cabinets in place of the comfy furnishings!

As we walked around the first and second floors, he enlightened me as to some differences in the appearance of the interior. He noted that when the building was in use as an armory, it of course appeared much more functional and utilitarian. However the architecture never failed to make an impression: “Among the trappings of an active National Guard unit, you would see features of the beautiful architecture, such as the stained glass,” Mr. Murray explained. As it is presently, The Tonawanda Castle was furnished by Ridge Home Furnishings with impeccably chosen lush couches, chairs, and linens in rich fabrics that perfectly complement the Castle’s historical elegance. This is the vision of the Castle that I myself am familiar with, and the current décor seems so a propos to the historical beauty that it is difficult for me to imagine the building otherwise. To aid my imagination, Mr. Murray informed me that what is currently the ballroom was originally a drill floor, and what is currently the first floor parlour was previously used as an office for company commanders. He revealed that the parlour, currently used for charming bridal and baby showers, or swanky cocktail parties, was filled with file cabinets and gear.

A view of the grand ballroom during last year's Veteran's Day event.

A view of the grand ballroom during last year’s Veteran’s Day event.

It only makes sense that an armory would have military equipment lying about here and there, but it is uncommon in this day and age for everyday army gear to have such an elegant backdrop as stained glass and chandeliers. This building’s long rich history reaches back to a time when that combination was more customary. To celebrate that history, and to say thank you to our country’s military men and women, we hope that you will join us this Friday, November 8 at the 3rd Annual Veteran’s Day Celebration and Fundraiser.

Party Time

Party TimeTimesBoth wedding receptions and corporate events involve planning a full meal and various other happenings for a hundred or more people.  The timing of it all can be a big challenge.  Fortunately, your friendly Tonawanda Castle staff has tons of experience in perfecting this art – but it always works best when our clients team up with us to make sure all is on schedule.  It is especially important to our chefs who aim to time the finishing of your meal with the scheduled start of your dinner, so your food is as freshly prepared as possible.  And your photographer will appreciate having time to set up properly for each important moment.   Of course great timing is also beneficial to the overall experience of the event too.

Company events begin with the attendees munching, mingling, and finding their seats.  Some events include the introduction of guests of honor, and/or short speeches before dinner service.  If this is the case, it is helpful to get a time frame for this part of the program.  Dinners for company events range from casual station style to formal sit down; a formal presentation or festive entertainment typically comes after dinner.  Ideally, the staff clears the tables in time for the guests to enjoy the highlight without dirty plates in their way.  However, if the timetable is off track, accomplishing this can be difficult, and it is often too distracting to have clean up happening during a presentation.   Once the presentation or entertainment concludes, guests may enjoy dessert and coffee, or cocktails for a set amount of time before the event wraps up.


Bridesmaids bustling the dress before the introduction of the bridal party.

As far as receptions go, cocktail hour is a very exciting time. The vows have been exchanged and it is time for the party to begin.  This means one thing in the mind of most guests: drinks!  On occasion, brides and grooms opt for an hour and a half or even two for cocktail “hour” but by far the most typical choice is to keep it to an hour.  Towards the end of the hour, the bridal party needs to line up to be formally introduced.  Someone, most often the maid of honor, will have to bustle the bride’s dress during this time, a task that can take surprisingly longer than many people assume.  In order to keep the timing of the event smooth and stress free, it is highly recommended to have the designated bustler practice her skills in advance.

After the bridal party has been introduced, the guests’ attention remains focused at the front of the room for the cutting of the cake and speeches by the bridal party.  A matrimonial blessing is often included here as well.  Usually twenty minutes is allotted for these orations; however this can vary, making it an important detail to communicate to your wedding planning staff (see earlier note about the timing of dinner service).  The wedding feast begins as soon as the toasts have been given.  After dinner service, the bar, which often closes at the introduction of the bridal party, reopens, to the guests’ delight.  Shortly thereafter, the lights dim, and the couple prepares for their first dance, which leads to opening the dance floor.  The rest of the night is less structured time-wise, spent in celebration.

Putting the Fun in Company Functions


Looks like Bob and Bob could use a company function to help them break the ice!

Work functions come in a couple of different varieties: those that are decisively social in nature and those that are designed around developing work-related skills.  In providing these events, employers’ motives usually center on a desire to invest in their employees.  Throwing a party is an investment in morale, whereas holding a team building or development seminar is an investment in expertise.  In either case, if you are invited to a work function, enjoy the fact that you are being invested in!

Longtime front-runners in the social functions category include the annual holiday party and the annual company picnic.  Companies may favor these classic options, or they may be inclined to buck tradition, selecting an event date based on the rhythm of the company rather than a particular holiday.   When this is the case, the dreariest of months may contain the greatest potential energy.   January, February, and March are the hardest months to muster a get-up-and-go state of mind.  These are the months when the routine is most in need of a shot of vitality, and holding a company function during these months may just offer that.  Team building or development activities can kindle some new perspectives to help beat the winter blues.   A soiree in January and February can help the morale to sidestep the post-holiday slump.  Taking a moment to make employees feel appreciated (as a manager) or to welcome appreciation (as an employee) has a more salient impact in late January than it would in the midst of the holiday hoopla.

The Tonawanda Castle accomodates an eclectic mixture of company events.  From all out costumed bashes to mystery dinner theatre productions to elegant professional luncheons, guests at the Castle never fail to feel the enchantment of the architecture of this one of a kind building.  Also, the Castle staff members are primed for preparing events in style.   They will ensure that company functions are carried out both seamlessly and smoothly, and to the fullest of their slump-busting potential.