The proposal is complete. The date is set. The bridal party is chosen. You’ve picked a restaurant or other venue for the dinner. So, now it’s time to think about the wedding menu.
What makes weddings memorable? Chances are that if you asked a group of 10 people what they remember about a particular nuptial, 7 or 8 of them will mention the food in some way or another. Usually, you’ll hear comments like: “The appetizers were amazing”, “My steak was too well done”, “The dessert table was divine” or “The chicken tasted like rubber.”
Indeed, guests remember a lot about the food served at a wedding – both good and bad, and they can often cite facts about dinner much more easily than about the details of the bride’s dress or what colors the bridal party was wearing.
Wedding food is important! It’s the meal we share as we celebrate the new couple, visit with family members, and make new acquaintances. That’s why it’s essential to carefully consider the wedding menu for your special day, taking time to choose a meal that’s right for both you and your guests.
Consider the Cost
If you’re like most people, you’ve planned a particular budget for your wedding and, certainly, the dinner or reception eat up the bulk of that budget. So, before you go looking for a wedding caterer, know your limit, if you have one.
An old adage talks about someone having “champagne taste on a beer budget.” That makes us chuckle, but it also rings true. It’s important to be up front about budget with your chosen caterer before you start talking about what’s available for your wedding celebration.
Specifically, think about the per person cost you can afford as that is how most dinners will be priced. Plan for extras, such as the cake or other incidentals. Once you’ve arrived at that number, then you can start chatting about what kind of menu fits your budget.
It may be that the best bet for your hard-earned dollars will not be a full sit-down or buffet dinner. Cocktails and appetizers might be all your budget allows. Or even just dessert. That’s fine, and you can still work with your caterer to make those hors d’oeuvres or sweets the best ones your guests have ever tasted!
Consider the Time and Place
Often, when and where your wedding will be plays into your menu choices.
Having a morning or early afternoon wedding? Then your wedding menu might be different than what you’d choose if you were having a very formal evening wedding. For example, you may opt for a light lunch menu or perhaps a brunch. A novel idea might be to have a “tea”, which will include items such as scones, small finger sandwiches, and tiny desserts. Guests will love it!
Fancy evening ceremonies tend to lend themselves to very formal receptions in ornate venues. For those kinds of weddings, a sit-down dinner menu with two or three entrée choices is often the way to go, but you can also opt for a buffet as well. Often, guests love buffets because they are offered a wider choice of foods. Some guests, however, rather not get up from the table to plate their own food and prefer a full-service meal. Either is fine for the formal wedding or you can compromise on the wedding menu and do a little of each, perhaps offering sit-down service for the salad and entrée but adding an ornate dessert buffet at the end of the meal.
Having an outdoor wedding? Many brides and grooms who want to be married outside often opt for a tent or tents when it comes time for the wedding reception. Under the tent, you’ll usually find a buffet, but a served dinner is suitable as well if that’s what the new couple chooses.
However, it’s also fun to think a bit out-of-the-box and perhaps plan something such as a “wedding barbecue”, especially if your wedding is rather informal. The caterer can offer traditional picnic foods such as hot dogs and hamburgers, chicken, ribs, and all the sides that go along with those finger-lickin’ entrees. You might be surprised at how much your guests will love this option!
Consider your Guests
Speaking of guests and what they enjoy…remember when you are selecting your menu that – while this is YOUR reception – it’s really for your friends and loved ones. Chances are – a year or two from now and maybe sooner – you won’t even remember what you ate at your wedding dinner.
So, when you’re planning a wedding menu, keep your guests in mind. For example, if you’re a huge fan of a certain kind of food – perhaps Thai or Mexican – don’t simply opt for a Thai or Mexican meal. While it’s perfectly fine to ask if the caterer can include one or two dishes from those traditions, if you’re feeding a diverse crowd, your selections should be diverse, too. While a taco bar might be fun, for instance, it’s a good idea to also include a well-prepared chicken, beef, and/or seafood dish for those who prefer to be not too adventurous or simply don’t like Mexican food.
You’ll also need to think about those with dietary restrictions, including vegetarians and perhaps guests who prefer to remain gluten-free. Ask your caterer what he or she can offer in those categories and make sure it’s just as delicious and interesting as your other offerings.