If there’s one element of your wedding that your guests will remember it’s the food. Along with the location, décor style and music, the catering will define the event. Cuisine gives you the opportunity to really show off your creativity; and if successful, will leave an ever-lasting impression on your guests.
Contemporary couples are fortunate to have many creative catering options at their fingertips; gone are the days when wedding caterers only served standard “banquet hall” fare that was more or less the same for each reception. Due to a proliferation of cookbooks, food blogs and network shows about food available 24 hours a day, today’s brides and grooms are more knowledgeable about food than those in generation past. Caterers have responded and couples should have no problem finding a caterer who thinks and cooks creatively and who can offer unique suggestions based on the couple’s preferences.
Below are a few categories to get you thinking about how to make your wedding food fun, different and delicious!
Take a global perspective when it comes to how you cater your wedding and consider your favourite ethnic cuisine for all or part of your dining options. If one or both partners comes from a particular ethnic background, you may want to honour that ethnicity in your food choices. When Linda Kim was planning her wedding to now husband Denny Ross, she brought up the idea of serving a traditional ten-course wedding banquet. Denny agreed that it would be great to honour Linda’s background and also fun and interesting for his family and their non-Chinese friends to learn about the custom. Other couples are fusing their ethnic backgrounds together to serve wedding food that honours the culinary traditions on both sides—one kind of food might be featured for appetizers and another kind for dessert.
If your family doesn’t have a strong ethnic identity, it doesn’t mean that you can’t serve ethnic food. If you love Indian or Japanese or Italian food, why not choose it for your wedding celebration? You might even look into holding your reception at a restaurant that serves the style of food you would like to serve; many ethnic restaurants have private party rooms and they are often a fraction of what a country club or hotel charges for rentals. Serve matching cocktails, wine or beer to match the ethnic food—sangria with a Spanish menu, sake for a Sushi appetizer bar, ouzo for a Greek feast.
Similarly, if one or both partners comes from a place with a strong sense of regional cuisine, talk with your caterers about building that connection into your menu.
Another excellent way to set your wedding menu apart is to honour the season of your wedding in your cuisine. A fall wedding is an ideal time to feature a harvest menu—begin with a rich butternut squash soup, serve plenty of roasted vegetables and go with rich pumpkin and apple pies along with (or instead of) a traditional wedding cake. A winter menu can feature hardy selections like venison or even quail, with specialty drinks like rum. Spring menus may reflect the Easter or Passover season and feature entrées like lamb or Cornish hens, served with plenty of greens while summer menus may include even lighter fare, with lots of cold salads and fresh fruit served alongside entrees for both lunch and dinner.
Think Time of Day
The way that you cater your wedding should also reflect the time of day of your celebration. A lunch celebration does not need to be as formal as a dinner party and more couples are choosing alternate times to both lunch and dinner. A brunch celebration can be classy and creative; a brunch can be either buffet-style or a more formal sit-down meal. Chef-attended omelette stations, stuffed French toast, and southern style brunches are just a few of the possibilities for creating a mouth-watering and memorable brunch reception.
Many couples are opting for mid-afternoon weddings, followed by afternoon tea receptions. Tea receptions can be very sophisticated and elaborate and are often a novel way to celebrate for your guests. Foods served at a tea include finger sandwiches (vegetable and meat), scones, cake, assorted sweets, quiche, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and tea, of course. You can specify on your wedding invitation “Tea reception following the ceremony” so that guests aren’t expecting a formal sit-down meal. With a nice variety of sandwiches and sweets, guests will not leave a tea with an empty stomach.
Some couples are choosing to have later, after-dinner weddings followed by cocktail receptions that feature hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, elaborate dessert buffets and plenty of fun drinks. This is a way for many couples who could not afford to invite a large number of guests to a full meal to be able to celebrate with a maximum number of family and friends. Often couples invite immediate family and very close friends (say 20-60 guests) for a private dinner, either immediately before the cocktail reception or on the following day.
As more of us are becoming environmentally conscious, the opportunities for throwing a “green” reception are expanding. Many couples who believe in organic foods want to have a completely organic reception and caterers are responding. Main course options can include meat that was raised in free range or vegetarian alternatives. A “green” menu could also incorporate as many seasonal items as can be bought by local farmers. Organic wines can be served along with fair-trade coffee with dessert. Creating a full green menu will take more time and effort than choosing standard food, but is certainly worth it if it matches your values. Take the time to share on your wedding program a few sentences about the choices you have made connected to your wedding food and why serving this kind of food is important to you.
A really creative option for catering your wedding is to let your wedding guests cater it for you! A “potluck” wedding is not for everyone, but can be a fun and delicious alternative with a little thought and planning. You can make it very organized and ask guests to bring specific items (six Greek salads, ten lasagnes, five bowls of fruit, etc.) or be more open and ask people to bring a special food item that represents their ethnicity, region or favourite thing. With a potluck, you can provide some of the basics (maybe a great chicken or fish course, plenty of great bread, your wedding cake or other dessert choices) so that there will be guaranteed enough food for everyone. You will also want to hire professional help to set up and clean up the food and let your guests know on your invitations when/where to drop off their food items. Going potluck involves a certain amount of risk, but if you have a sense of fun and adventure, it can be create an incredibly memorable meal.
For more helpful tips and ideas when it comes to wedding catering and more I recommend checking out Weddings Quest and their wedding resources section.