7 “How-To’s” For Choosing a Fantastic Wedding Menu
The one decision that your guests will make, consciously or subconsciously, is whether or not the food at your wedding was amazing. That’s right. To you, your food might not be the most important part of your wedding planning, but it actually sets the tone for your guests’ overall experience very early on, that is why you have to make sure to choose the right wedding reception menu. When your friends and family eat amazing appetizers and a delicious meal at your wedding, they will be in high spirits to dance the night away and will rave about the food long after that special night ends. We hear comments all the time from our guests; “Wow this was the best wedding food we’ve ever had!”, and sadly we also hear about their not-so-great experiences from other venues. Guests typically won’t tell you if the food wasn’t amazing, but your guests always seem to remember their food experience from your special day. And what they remember is what they repeat to others when talking about your wedding, so you might want to think twice about your food experience! Choosing the best menu for your wedding, it is never a decision couples should take lightly. It is one of the biggest decisions that you will need to make when planning your wedding. Luckily, when choosing a highly experienced venue/catering company, you can expect to start out with an incredible menu to help make the food decisions much easier. To help you worry less in making a decision on your wedding menu, we have compiled the top 7 things you need to consider when creating your perfect wedding menu.
Think About Your Guests
Chances are you’ll have your guests experience in mind when making most of the decisions in the planning process. While it is super important that the bride and groom pick their wedding menu items based on things they love to eat, it may be equally important for you to consider your guests’ taste buds as well. Like we mentioned earlier, your guests will judge the food they are eating as being great or horrible based on quality and taste… sorry, but it is true! And if it isn’t great food, you’ll most likely never hear about it. The best thing you can do as a couple is to offer plenty of options; This will allow guests to find at least one food option they love! Since you will be inviting family and friends that are close to you, coming up with ideas about what they like to eat should be pretty easy to determine. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you determine good fits for your menu when it comes to your guest experiences:
- Does my family enjoy beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetarian health options most?
- What food categories are always present at our holiday gatherings?
- Does my family love comfort food/ simple options, or do they love a tasty food experience with tons of different flavors?
- Are there any flavor profiles/ restaurants we always frequent or are a go-to when going out (Thai food, pizza, Chinese, pub style, Italian, gastro-pub, fine dining, steakhouse, seafood, sushi, etc)
- Do any of my family or friends have special dietary restrictions like vegetarian, vegan, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, or allergies? These can mostly be accommodated with a special meal made just for those guests.
Consider All Pieces of the Wedding Reception Menu
Once you’ve thought about your guests taste buds, you need to create a full menu filled with food experiences you know you’ll love as well! Most weddings contain some sort of Hors D’oeuvres option, dinner, dessert, and nowadays the trendy late-night bites. Depending on your venue/catering company, there are a lot of different options for how your menu can be served. We will list some of the most fun and unique food options for your wedding below:
This is the appetizer round. We see a lot of weddings do hand-passed small bites directly to guests in a cocktail-hour type of environment. Other options for cocktail hour are light food stations including charcuterie boards, seafood bar, fresh sushi, even a hand-stretched mozzarella station! Make this fun for your guests because chances are as the wedding couple, you will be spending the entire first hour here taking photos while your guests are indulging their taste buds! Just make sure you have your venue bring you a special dish of all your hors d’oeuvres so you can enjoy one of everything too.
This can be done in a number of different ways! Choosing different styles of service from sit-down, live stations, carved to order, DIY bars, etc, will determine the type of food served and how. See what options your venue/catering company offers, and if you find an idea on Pinterest you want, don’t be afraid to bring it to them and ask how they can create if for you! A truly great caterer will love to make something special for your day.
This is the sweet time of night everyone looks forward to! Mostly known for delicious treats, we are seeing so much more than just cakes lately. Fun options include candy bars, dessert shots, donut walls, mason jars filled with literally everything, ice cream sandwiches, mini pies, macaroons, and cupcakes are making their ways into the hearts of everyone at weddings. Pinterest is filled with options if you want something out-of-the-box for your wedding. What do you and your fiancé usually go for when you’re having a sweet tooth? That is a great place to start.
Late Night Bites
This is one thing you, and your guests especially will thank you for having included in your wedding menu! After hours of dancing and drinking, one thing most everyone craves is a bite to eat. Your future self will thank you for the extra food you ate that night after a couple of drinks. Some options include pizza bars, fried PB&J, made to order crepes, freshly pressed paninis, and so much more! Your guests will be amazed that more food is on its way late at night, and almost everyone will thank you for it.
Don’t Forget the Drinks
Food indulgences should always be complemented with a great drink in hand! Beverages may be something you find extremely important – I mean… you are about to throw a once in a lifetime party! And what is a great menu without a great cocktail or mocktail to pair with it?! Bar packages are pretty commonly offered with a predetermined selection of liquor and mixers. If it is missing your favorite go-to liquor like Crown Royal Apple, all good venues can include special requests within these packages. Modern drink trends you can find that include a great wow factor to your wedding are: a specialty cocktail made with liquor that compliments the season (like having a drink in Fall with bourbon or cider). Craft beers are becoming increasingly popular and could be offered on tap or in growlers. Bottles of wine at the table are a great compliment to your dinner while having a sit-down service. Dessert drinks are great in place of a specialty drink (Baileys with coffee anyone?) Don’t forget about the people who may not drink alcohol! Mocktails are a fun way to offer something to your guests before your wedding ceremony or at a self-serve station.
Pair it with the Season
Everybody loves a good theme! More and more couples are starting to incorporate the time of year they get married into their menu options. What’s the best way to do this you might ask? Specialty drinks! Imagine, your wedding is in the middle of October, the leaves are colored in beautiful hues of orange and red, and you are sipping on an “Apply Ever After” cocktail; a mixture of apple brandy, apple cider, and champagne. Or perhaps your wedding is in Winter instead, and your guests are indulging in a Cranberry Mule with a sprig of rosemary for a garnish. But don’t feel obligated to keep the fun seasonal themes to just the drinks. A winter wedding could even include some cute holiday cookies baked by your own family members. Or maybe your summer wedding has a station of funnel cake inspired “fries.” The possibilities are endless!
Make it a Point to Try the Wedding Food in Advance
Unfortunately for most couples, when asked “Have you tried the food?” the answer is usually no. Unless you have been at an event held by your caterer in the past, you most likely have not been able to taste the food that will be served at your wedding. However, most professional and experienced caterers will offer a private tasting (for a fee) or even a food tasting event for all clients. The last thing you want is to choose a menu item that sounds delicious and is sadly deceived on the day of your wedding to an under-par meal.
Food Visuals are Important!
Most people eat with their eyes first. Presentation adds up to how we perceive food. If the food is showcased in an attractive and appetizing way, it psychologically adds to the flavor and fulfillment as you eat it. For many, a sit-down dinner service where the plate is served to each guest is the most formal way of serving a meal, and presentation plays a big factor in this style of service. A very different visually stimulating food experience is a live cooking station. Imagine a chef flambéing a wine sauce for a shrimp risotto and watching the flames rise up in the pan and dissipate after a couple of seconds. Now THAT is a fun and interactive food experience playing towards multiple senses. Here are some questions to help you decide your style of presentation:
- Do I want to have everyone sit down for dinner and served, or do I want my guests to have a fun and interactive experience?
- Do I want my guests to experience fine dining and served a multiple course meal, or give them the ability to choose how much and of what they would like to eat from multiple food stations?
Make Sure You Stick To a Realistic Budget
Pinterest can definitely play to our hearts during the planning process and crush us at the same time when we realize it goes over what you can afford. Perhaps the most important thing on your agenda when planning your wedding menu is sticking within your budget. However, you don’t want to compromise your wishes and visions for your wedding menu because the cost was a factor. In the end, this will be the most memorable night of your life, and you want everything to be spectacular. Don’t let budget constraints take away from that moment. If you are like most people, you are probably constantly coming up with ways to save money. But this is your wedding! A once in a lifetime event. Spend it wisely. The great thing about having a wedding planner or team of experts by your side while planning your wedding is getting help in figuring out other options that are cost-effective but still add to your experience. An example is changing from a filet mignon to a sirloin, and with a great chef, you can trust it will be just as delicious! We hope you enjoyed this article and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out one of our favorite articles, “How to Save Money On Your Wedding.“