Think back to the last wedding you attended. Was the highlight of the evening the painfully drawn-out and chuckle-free best man's speech or the leathery steak? More likely, it was the elaborate candy buffet that would make Wonka's factory look like the vending machine in an auto repair store's wait room.
Three and a half years ago, Kimberly Hale launched Extraordinary Sweets -- her Florida-based custom candy buffet company -- just ahead of the candy buffet trend that's now so popular at weddings, engagement parties, showers, and coroporate events. She and her small team of candy stylists (yes; such a job does exist) will be among the vendors at this weekend's sixth annual Sweet Dreams holiday festival at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.
The 21-and-older event is Friday and Saturday nights and promises a hedonistic spread of sugary treats like cake pops, fancy cookies and brownies, a chocolate fountain, liquid nitrogen ice cream, sweet crepes, and an assortment of other not-so-good-for-you goods. Hale and her team are putting together a "winter wonderland" themed buffet resplendent in silvers, ivories, purples, and blues.
"Almost everyone loves candy," Hale said. "It's that kid in a candy store sensation. You can take what you like."
Hale stumbled into her dream job in the candy buffet business due to experience and circumstance. Her background in corporate communications and marketing meant that she had extensive experience in event planning, some for in-house functions and others for the general public. A blue-themed fundraising event she helped to execute for her former employer (the overall theme was "Blue's Clues") got her thinking that if she was ever "downsized" she'd want to do something with event planning. Sure enough, as the economy tanked, she was out of a job.
"I knew I didn't want to do 'A-to-Z' event planning," Hale said. "I wanted to do a niche."
Soon after, she was asked to help with the high-end, 300-guest wedding for a family member in Chicago. She put together a candy buffet that fit in with the all-pink motif. It was a resounding success.
"People kept saying 'this was the best part of the wedding'," Hale said.
From there, her business was born. Extraordinary Sweets was early to the candy buffet game, a trend that Hale said originated in California with a bride who "was looking for something different" to feature at her wedding reception. The tables are now a common sight, but remain a highlight for guests who like to linger over stylized jars filled with popular candies and nostalgic sweets.
"Styling the table is as important as varying the textures and flavors of what you're serving," Hale said.
Hale said the Sweet Dreams event is a chance for her stylist Dana to come full circle. She met her employee last year when Hale put together a winter wonderland themed table for Dana's wedding. Dana fell so in love with what Extraordinary Sweets did, she asked Hale for a chance to work with her if ever the opportunity presented itself. As her business has grown in the last year, Hale was able to bring Dana on board in plenty of time to help with the Sweet Dreams winter event.
At the event, the Extraordinary Sweets table will offer treat bags for attendees to grab what they want and take it away to nibble on later. The menu includes (among other things) shimmery gumballs, blue raspberry gummy rings, marshmallows, soft sours, peppermints, and yogurt pretzels, which Hale says are always a huge hit. Because there will be so much chocolate at the event, Hale is limiting her table's supply to white M&M's.
Extraordinary Sweets serves the Palm Beach County area, (Dana lives in Miami), as well as the Naples area, where Hale recently relocated. Hale said her company works with her clients to hone in on color preferences, taste, and personality so all those will reflect through in the finished product.
"No two tables are alike," Hale said.
Check out Hale's handiwork -- plus We Take the Cake, Cake Delirium, III Forks Prime Steakhouse, the Melting Pot, and many other vendors -- Friday and Saturday nights. The event is 6 to 10 p.m. both days. Admission is $25 to $35. Check out the Sweet Dreams calendar listing for more details about the event.
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