Chocolate fountains, once a rarity at weddings, are becoming more common -- but no less beloved. Still, they pose a budget crunch for many brides, coming in at only slightly under the cost of the wedding cake -- and that's for a one-day rental!
If you're like us, there's something that just burns our little Yankee hearts about spending over $400 to rent a machine that granted, costs a little over ten times that, but gets rented out many times. And yet if you're like us, you really want a way to fit that chocolate fountain in.
We're both in luck, because higher-end chocolate fountains are coming to the home market and becoming more accessible ... even to skinflints!
What We Didn't Buy -- And Why
You've seen the early entrants, maybe on eBay -- inexpensive chocolate fountains made by lesser-known brands selling for about eighty bucks. You've probably thought of trying one out, just because the price difference between that and a rental machine was so astronomical.
We did too, but as we read about the small, cheap versions, we ran into a lot of complaints. One of the most worrisome was that the cheap fountains made such a loud grinding noise, you couldn't have a conversation standing next to one -- which was not the ambiance we wanted for our party.
Further, we weren't sure if we wanted to keep the fountain over the long term. We wanted to buy something with good resale value so we could recapture our money if needed.
Fortunately, as our deadline approached, Sephra -- the standard in high-end rental fountains -- began offering pre-orders on their first home market fountains. We snapped one up for about $250, an attractive fountain that holds five pounds of chocolate. The fountains were so new, we had to switch our order from the lovely cherry red we'd wanted to a stainless steel in order to get it in time. But we got it.
Showtime ... And a Few Tips
Once acquired, it was time to test it out in live conditions! The first party we unveiled it at was on the small side, with about 25 people. Set-up was simple. The experience did, however, teach us some tips:
Try out and get comfortable with your chocolate fountain before a really big affair. You won't really understand the logic behind the instruction book until you try it. For example:
1) The chocolate fountain really does need to be balanced to work properly. Sephra models offer adjustable feet to accomplish this. When we first set up our fountain, we were so busy we didn't level it, and it didn't flow well until a left brained type in shining armor fixed it for us. Then things worked 100% better.
2) When melting large quantities of chocolate, don't even bother with a double burner. You need a glass bowl and a large microwave, which your venue hopefully provides. Heat gently, as advised -- no higher than 50% power.
3) Also, Sephra provides you with a little tool for telling whether your chocolate's melted enough to flow well. Err on the side of "too melted" rather than "not enough." Especially given the minute or so it takes to transport it, the chocolate can easily get too thick for easy flowing.
With 25 very interested people, we nearly (but not quite) ran through our first five pounds of chocolate. So you can guesstimate needing a pound of chocolate per five invitees. Just be sure to have extra on hand.
We worried whether it would be difficult to refill the fountain -- for example, whether we would have to lug the whole thing back into the kitchen, disassemble, refill -- but it turned out to be dead simple. You just pour melted chocolate into the bottommost bowl.
Our Chocolatey Conclusions
Sephra is bringing larger versions of their fountain to the home market. For a large wedding or a party of several hundred, we would probably go with a larger version.
Yet you can also do very well with the five pound model. After all, it's hard to melt, carry and otherwise handle more than five pounds of chocolate at once (you wouldn't believe how many "chocolate chips" that is). All you need is someone willing to watch and refill periodically, which isn't hard. Pick someone who can get slightly messy without a problem -- not a bridesmaid in shiny taffeta.
If we'd had more time and a larger party, we'd probably get the largest fountain we could buy, care for it well, and resell it when the hoopla died down. That would save a huge chunk of change over the $400-500 one day rental, and bring the chocolate fountain within reach of a lot more brides (and happy guests).
And if you happen to fall in love with it and the day for selling it never comes?
Well, it happens. Just ask us.
About the Author
Blake Kritzberg is editor at "FavorIdeas.com." Stop by for a huge selection of wedding favors, Bridezilla's weekly adventures, and free resources for brides: save-the-date eCards, screensaver, wallpaper and web site templates.
For more on home market chocolate fountains, see: http://www.favorideas.com/chocolate.htm