7 Gala Planning Tips from a Pro: Talking Galas with Jordan Tucker

Jordan Tucker
Event Designer Jordan Tucker

Looking to throw a Denver gala that will leave attendees in awe?

With its vibrant scene and endless possibilities, the Mile High City has everything to make your event unforgettable.

But here’s the secret sauce: every memorable gala has a mastermind behind the scenes.

Enter Jordan Tucker, Rocky Mountain event designer with a knack for crafting magical moments. We dived deep into her world to uncover the tricks of the trade, ensuring your gala is nothing short of spectacular. Ready for a whirlwind of expert advice?

Let’s dive in!

1) Plan as early as possible

Galas are a bit different than some other events because you not only have the logistics, but you also have your mission to consider. Are you celebrating something? Raising money? Whatever your mission is, it’s going to require content and supporting activities on-site to help create impact, and these things take time to plan!

Jordan shared, “I recommend at least 7-9+ months of planning for your gala to map out the intricate details we commonly see in the event industry. But the more time you have to map out your function, the better.

Due to what I refer to as “the COVID ripple,” a lot of venues are booking up a lot faster, with high demand to host weddings and other social gatherings. People are excited to gather in large groups again, so it is important to map out your hosted space well in advance to ensure that you are able to snag your preferred gala location.”

2) Don’t forget to consider capacities, venue restrictions, and organizational goals

If you’re hosting a gala for your organization, there are typically goals associated with that. So, what are those goals? And how does that play into your gala venue selection?

You’ll want to consider:

Capacities – Can you host enough people to make an impact on your goals? Is there enough space for the entertainment you’d like to have, as well as guest seating?

Space options – Do you want to host indoors or outdoors? Both?

Venue restrictions – If you want to hang items related to your mission but they don’t allow hanging anything on the walls, that’s an issue. Map out your general plan, create a checklist of things you’ll need from a venue, and use that as your guide to select your gala venue in Denver or the surrounding area.

Transportation and parking – How simple/affordable is it for your guests to arrive or your organization to host transportation/pay for parking?

Security – If you have high-profile attendees, are there suitable security features, alternative entrances, etc.?

Budget – Does the venue fit your budget? Do they have equipment in-house, or will you need to increase your budget line item for rentals?

Aesthetic Does the venue’s built-in aesthetic go with your desired theme?

Reputation Do they have a good reputation in the community?

Check out our designers favorite gala venues here.

Wings over the rockies, Air plane with bar display in front.

3) Choose your menu based on the vibe you’re going for

Menus for gala events don’t have to be boring and traditional. There are so many ways to have fun with your menus, whether you’re doing a buffet, plated, or stations.

Jordan outlined some great ways to determine which menu style is best for your organization!

She explained, “If you are looking for more of an open-house style where there is no specific timeline other than ‘come and go as you please,’ I always recommend either a buffet-style service or stations. With this style of an event, the focus is usually geared toward the ultimate guest experience and is very commonly very casual with guest seating.”

For this, live-action stations where the chefs are actually cooking in front of guests are also a great option because they give guests the experience of sitting at a chef’s table, which overall adds to the ambiance and doubles as entertainment, which can impact budget.

On the other hand, Jordan also gave suggestions for events that have a little more structure, like awards, presentations, live auctions, or a fund-a-need activity.

She shared, “I would consider either a plated dinner or family-style service. With this style of service, your guests will likely experience a cocktail hour with displayed and passed hors d’oeuvres before being asked to take their assigned seats for the program, speeches, or auctions to begin. For this style, I highly recommend a plated dinner to ensure that there are minimal interruptions during the speeches or performances. If there is a break in the programming for dinner, you can absolutely consider a buffet-style service for your gala. You can think of it like a nice intermission at that point.”

Ultimately, the food can set the tone for the event, so you want the style of catering to suit your goals and desires!

Plated kale salad on an elegant table
Photo Credit: Alyssa Carpenter Photo

4) Lean on your vendors for advice and support

Vendors that work in the events industry have likely seen and been a part of more galas than you can imagine, each with unique goals, aesthetics, themes, activities, entertainment, etc. Use that knowledge! Pick their brain on what has worked or hasn’t worked and what guests loved and hated. They’ve seen it all.

Jordan made another point that “as a host, you will need to follow the guidelines set forth by your booked space, but your vendor team will be able to shape and frame the intricate details pertaining to your vision for the event while staying within those guidelines.” So everyone wins in this scenario!

Photo Credit: Alyssa Carpenter Photo

5) Remember that every little detail does come with a price tag

While it’s great to have a grand vision, grand usually comes with a price tag. And especially for fundraising galas, that type of financial investment may not always be realistic. Start your planning with a very clear budget, and then work with your vendors to cultivate an event experience that’s impressive, but still within reason for your event goals.

This could mean doing a buffet or family-style meal versus a plated meal to save on labor costs or decreasing the amount of uplighting or florals and truly focusing energy on the videos playing around the room to draw attention to your mission.

6) It doesn’t have to be a sit-down, formal dinner event

Playing off that point, so many people correlate a gala with a sit-down, formal event. That doesn’t have to be the case! You can make a gala whatever you want it to be.

Jordan shared that her favorite theme is a casino night with live-action stations to get guests involved in the culinary aspect, fun table games spread throughout the room, breaks for auctions, and live entertainment mixed in.


7) Hire an event planner to manage the logistics

Last (but certainly not least), Jordan recommends having an event planner to do the heavy lifting when it comes to planning and execution of your gala. There are so many moving pieces and logistics that can be overlooked if this isn’t something you’re doing all the time. Planners know what snafus to look out for and how to avoid them. They’ll manage the flow, timeline, and vendors, and they’ll be your greatest confidant so you can focus on entertaining and schmoozing with your gala guests.

Jordan and the rest of the team at Rocky Mountain Catering & Events has helped many organizations in the Denver area plan their galas. From fundraising galas for the Friends of Douglas County and the Crisis Center to celebratory affairs like the Annual Military Gala, they know how to plan a successful gala event in Denver—and keep it stress-free for the client.

If you want Jordan’s help with your upcoming gala, explore our gala catering services! We’d be honored to support you.

Elevate Your Event: 4 Tips for the Perfect Corporate Catering Menu

How do you make everyone happy?

Planning a memorable corporate event requires a lot of effort, careful consideration, and let’s not forget, a fantastic menu. The power of great food in bringing people together and shaping experiences is undeniable.

➡️ But how do you ensure that your corporate catering menus truly stand out and impress your guests?
➡️ How do you make your event the one that everyone talks about around the water cooler (or on Slack), for all the right reasons?

Well, you’re in the right place.

Whether you’re an office administrator or an event planning pro, this post will help you plan the perfect menu. We’ll delve into the art and science of designing Denver corporate catering menus that not only satisfy taste buds but also elevate the entire event experience.

The tips here apply to everyone, but you’ll find this post especially useful if you’re planning a corporate event in Denver.

From understanding your audience and prioritizing seasonality and balance, to infusing creativity and maintaining impeccable service quality, we have you covered. By the end of this post, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and insight you need to make your corporate catering menus the talk of the town (or at least the office).

So, let’s get started on our journey to creating the perfect corporate catering menu.

Understand Who You’re Catering to (Literally & Figuratively)

seasonal spinach saladThe first question to ask when creating a powerful catering menu for corporate events is: who are you catering to?

Are you serving your team lunch during an all-day training, or are you saying thank you to your top donors at an exclusive evening event? The dishes and experiences here are going to be quite different.

For the former, you may consider a Fit & Fresh or Lifestyles Bowl option that provides luscious low-fat, high-carb, high-protein meals that will fuel your team for learning and creativity.

For the latter, your focus will likely be more wow factor. Our Urban menu combines tasty and creative plates, including:

  • Passed hors d’oeuvre: Bao Big Mac Steamed Buns featuring 5 spice pork belly | Wasabi Thousand Island | Sesame Ginger Pickles | Bib Lettuce
  • Salad: Mandarin Spinach Salad with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, red onions, and balsamic
  • Entree: Pineapple Soy Hangar Steak with Szechuan Shrimp, served with sugar snap peas, black bean sauce, and jasmine rice
  • Dessert: Dessert Poke featuring passion fruit tapioca custard, sesame brittle, dragon fruit, and blueberries

This should be the first question you ask when you get started! Think about their wants and desires, potential dietary or event restrictions, your budget for this demographic based on your event goals, etc. Our planners can help you run through these questions and many more to create the perfect menu, too.

Place Focus on Seasonality & Balance

delicious seasonal bowlNext, consider what time of year and day you’re hosting your event.

Creating a seasonal menu that balances indulgences with healthy eats is popular in an active city like Denver. If it’s a daytime luncheon, you may want to go with something a little bit lighter, but if it’s an evening event, that isn’t as much of a priority for most corporate soirees.

For example, the Luther Burgers served on a glazed donut hole on our Classic Menu are a favorite summer hors d’oeuvre—nothing screams summer like sliders! Whereas for winter corporate events, guests love plates reminiscent of the holiday season, like warm pretzels with fondue.

At Rocky Mountain Catering and Events, our local purveyors are our lifeblood and what makes our food so incredibly flavorful and delicious, no matter what season.

These are just a few ways we source local food for our corporate catering events in Denver:

Plus, sourcing locally is a great conversation starter for clients, investors, partners, and colleagues!

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative—In Fact, Make Creativity Required

fancy backyard eventWe think menus make moments. And what that means is that when someone is wowed by a plate or beverage you serve, it’s going to be a moment they remember. Isn’t that what you want for a VIP or C-suite event?

Think outside the box when creating dishes and add in some creative plating to really spark a memorable meal. As a chef-owned company, Rocky Mountain Catering & Events prides itself on not only delicious food but also the creativity seen in the details of our dishes. 

The thing about corporate events is that planning them can be fun. You just need the right supportive team on your side.

Consider things like:

  • Interactive dessert stations like a flambeed donut station or an edible cookie dough bar for networking events
  • Offer a breakfast burrito buffet at the office as a surprise for your team when they hit quarterly KPIs
  • Serve a build-your-own sandwich bar so your team can fuel with exactly what they want and need before a training event versus a set platter
  • Host a backyard picnic (elevated, of course) as a summer client mixer

Our team can work with yours to also cultivate a custom menu to suit your guests’ unique flavor preferences, dietary restrictions, and your team’s budget!

Factor in Service Quality & Elements

selection of high end menuNow, you can have the best menu in the world with the most creative dishes and elegant presentation. But if it’s not served efficiently and effectively, you’re not going to wow anyone. You don’t want service delayed and running in competition with your keynote speaker taking the stage. Nor do you want to be searching for utensils because your drop-off caterer forgot to leave them with the order while your team has limited break time on-site at an all-day training.

How many times have you been to a gala where you’re disappointed when you’re at the last table served and your salmon is cold? How many times have you been frustrated by the long bar line keeping you from networking and making connections?

Think about these potential mishaps and consider how important your investment in the right caterer is. You know that when these things have happened on-site at an event you’ve attended, you’ve left with a sour taste in your mouth.

So, while managing corporate event planning and menu tasks, you want to think about:

  • What’s the event timeline?
  • What is the server/bartender-to-staff ratio?
  • What venue considerations do we need to think about (i.e., is the venue set up for corporate events?)
  • How are they going to ensure accuracy with numbers and dietary restrictions?
  • Do I need a professional planner on-site so I can focus on creating connections or running my session?

These are just a handful of questions that will impact the guest experience. If you have an experienced and trustworthy full-service catering company on your side, they’ll ensure that you are taken care of by asking these questions.

With Rocky Mountain Catering & Events, you can rest assured that the service experience is just as delicious as the food on the plate. That’s what creates a positively memorable event, in our opinion!

Let Rocky Mountain Catering & Events Help You Design Your Next Corporate Catering Menu

Corporate events can be one of the top revenue drivers for your business—if they’re done well. That’s why whether you’re hosting a small board meeting or stakeholder meeting for 25 or a product launch event for 1,000+, you should enlist the support of a team of professionals.

Our full-service Rocky Mountain Catering team—which includes chefs, planners, day-of coordinators, waitstaff, and more—will take care of every element of your event, from impactful experiential design to corporate menu planning and wow-worthy event execution.

Let’s chat about your Denver area corporate event goals and uncover how we can support you in getting ROI.

Honey products from Local Hive

Real Food, Real People:
Scratch BBQ Picnic Menus Guests Will Devour

When you think of picnics, what do you envision? For us at Rocky Mountain Catering, it’s friends, family, camaraderie, drool-worthy BBQs, and a whole lot of happy memories. That’s why we offer the best BBQ picnic menus in Denver to spread the love (and the real, tasty food too, of course).

Now, not every caterer is going to put in the work to make sure that your catered BBQ picnic spread is from scratch. But as a family-owned and operated picnic catering company, we see the immense importance of creating experiences people can enjoy together. And to be frank, that’s not going to be sparked by frozen potato salad from a plastic container.

Each and every dish on our picnic menus is made from scratch, handcrafted with local ingredients. After one bite, you’ll be able to fully understand the difference—we don’t offer your average picnic catering.

So today, we’re going to share some of our favorite BBQ picnic menus with inspiration for planning your next picnic.

What’s Inside: Local Denver Ingredients

Our menus wouldn’t be the same without the incredible, high-quality local ingredients we’re able to source from Denver bakeries, farms, and vendors who are doing incredible work to make our local food scene sustainable, safe, and seriously delicious.

Here are just a few of the partners we love—and if you go with us as your caterer for a county fair picnic, pig roast, or any meal really, you’ll see them on your menu.

Harvest Moon Bread Products

Denver, CO

Since 2006, they’ve been making the best gourmet rolls in town. Using a little love with family recipes paired with wholesome ingredients and no artificial preservatives, they distribute around the country. We’re lucky to have them in our neighborhood!

Visit website

Honeycomb Honey – Local Hive

Greely, CO

Honey products from Local Hive

There’s nothing quite as sweet as artisan honey. This Greely, Colorado company sources raw and unfiltered honey from over 250 beekeepers in the U.S. to bottle up the all-natural goodness in safe, 100% BPA-free containers.

Visit website

Deby’s Gluten-Free

Denver, CO

For our gluten-free guests, Deby’s is always the go-to. Their country white hamburger buns are so good you can’t taste the difference. Plus, we use their flour for our gluten-free goodies!

Visit website

Sawatch Artisan Foods

Colorado Springs, CO

Charcuterie spread from Sawatch Foods Denver

Working with local farmers who deliver fresh milk daily, Sawatch has a proprietary dairy-making process that results in the creamiest, most delicious artisan cheeses around. We feature their Pueblo Jack and Chipotle Cheddar in the BBQ menus.

Visit website

Mountain Man Micro Farms

Franktown, CO

In Franktown, Colorado, you’ll find an impressive aquaponic farm that provides all our nutrient-rich microgreens. Plus, Mountain Man Micro Farms also uses a portion of each purchase to fund and build sustainable aquaponics systems in Africa.

Visit website

As you can see, the people we work with are doing good for the environment and the world while helping us nourish guests through healthy, sustainable cuisine.

Inspiration: BBQ Picnic Menu Ideas & Themes

Now… how do we use these tasty ingredients?

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite menus for picnics!

🐖 American B.B.Q. Theme

BBQ Picnic Catering Meal

An American B.B.Q. experience is such a great “go-to” for any picnic. We choose the finest quality meats and cook them to perfection. Take our 14-hour “slow & low” brisket; a true BBQ treat! The food will be the star of the show here, with low and slow meats and from-scratch sides that will have guests coming back for seconds (or thirds).

Decor for this package can look like haybales, horseshoes, and those red and white checkered linens, surrounded by the sounds of the best country music the DJ can play! Here’s our menu to get you inspired:

Menu Features:

Meats (Choose 2)

14-Hour “Slow & Low” Brisket

Smoked Red Bird Farms Bone-In Chicken

“Memphis-Style” Pulled Pork

Spicy Smoked Sausage

Sides (Choose 3)

Jalapeno Cole Slaw

RMC Potato Salad

House Potato Chips

Burnt End Baked Beans

Dessert (Choose 1)

Apple, Berry, or Peach Cobbler

🍔Backyard Grill Theme

Picnic CateringBeing in the Midwest, we know a thing or two about an honest-to-goodness backyard BBQ. You know that everyone’s favorite foods will be on deck for this one. Burgers and hot dogs and delicious sides are just some of what this crave-worthy menu includes.

For décor, we’d recommend having the classic checkered red and white picnic tablecloths with matching grill-inspired centerpieces and hanging decor, like burger honeycomb table toppers.  We’ve even seen guests create a fun photobooth with BBQ props like mustard bottle glasses and a chef’s hat. Take a look at what we’ve got:

Menu Features:

Meats (Choose 2)  

Beef Hot Dogs
1/3 lb. Burgers
Pulled Sesame Chicken Sandwich, Cucumber Ginger Slaw, Sriracha Aioli

Sides (Choose 2) 

Summer Vegetable Succotash
Charred Broccoli Tortellini Salad
House Potato Chips
Watermelon Slices
Caesar Salad


Cookies and Brownies

🌮 Southwest Grill Out Theme

There’s a reason why Southwest foods are some of America’s favorite foods. They’re simply delicious! Who doesn’t love a Chipotle chimichurri beef taco? Yum! To really step up this theme, consider a Southwestern decor flair. Think shades of rust, or earthly palates with geometric prints for tablecloths and furnishings. And why not add a Southwest scene as a backdrop to a photo booth? There are lots of ways to bring the Southwest Grill Out theme to life.

Menu Features:

Meats (Choose 2)

Coriander rubbed bone-in chicken, smoked shallot jus
Milk and citrus braised pork butt, salsa verde
Chipotle chimichurri beef, charred tomato, flour tortillas

Sides (Choose 2)

Summer Vegetable Succotash
Charred Broccoli Tortellini Salad
House Potato Chips
Watermelon Slices
Caesar Salad


Churro Bites and/or Chili Chocolate Cookies

Hosting a Picnic in Denver?
Let Rocky Mountain Catering Help.

If you’re hosting a picnic in Denver this summer, let Chef Patrick McCreary and the RMC+E team help you. Our skilled team of professionals knows exactly which Denver event venues are best for picnics, plus how to come up with a fun theme that pairs perfectly with our from-scratch BBQ menu items.

Browse the menus and set up a call today!