One of the biggest wedding expenditures (and often the one most enjoyed by your wedding guests) is the food. It’s been a long-standing tradition to serve a meal as part of a wedding reception and these days couples are getting creative and choosing menus that reflect not only the reception time of day, but the location, region, and their cultures and personalities. You can serve pretty much anything at your reception, as long as it’s tasty, filling, and reflects the formality of the party (meaning you wouldn’t serve casual BBQ at a black tie affair). What are some things to consider when creating your reception menu?
First you must decide if you (and your guests) would prefer a plated meal (in which all guests are served a plated dinner at their tables), a buffet, action-stations (similar to a buffet but instead of one area where all the food is presented, the food is set up at various stations throughout the room), or some combination of all styles. You should also consider whether you’d like to serve appetizers during the cocktail hour (these can be passed or set up at a station), any type of dessert other than wedding cake, and finally if you’ll serve any additional snacks or treats at the end of the night.
Next, brainstorm different foods that you like as a couple and that your family and friends might enjoy and feel free to get creative! You don’t have to service the traditional beef or chicken with veggies and potatoes. The sky is the limit. You can incorporate any ethnicity or region in your menu, Italian, Asian, French, southern or mix it up for variety. At a recent catering meeting with a couple, they decided to each choose an appetizer that represents their heritage and background. For the groom from New Orleans, Cajun Shrimp Gumbo Shooters and for the Asian bride, Mini Pork Eggrolls. And who says you can’t serve more casual favorites dressed up a bit? A recent couple we worked with served the most amazing gourmet Gouda Mac & Cheese as a side dish in their wedding menu.
Create a budget of what you plan to spend on your catering menu. Keep in mind the more options you serve, the more it will cost. Prices vary by region but in Nashville you can expect pricing to start around $20 per person (for a very basic meal with no appetizers) and range up to $70 per person or more. Typically I find our couples spend an average of about $30 – $50 per person on the food. This per person cost does not include a 20% service charge or 9.25% state sales tax. Also decide whether this budget includes the rental of service ware, silverware, and glassware or if that is provided elsewhere (through the venue or renting from an event rental company).
Finally research various caterers in the area and ask people you know for recommendations. Typically if a company has been in business for many years and does a lot of events, they most likely do a great job. Keep in mind that you will most likely not be able to taste any food before placing a deposit (yes, this is a pain but consider that a catering company can’t give a free meal to EVERY person that is considering hiring them). So be sure to do your homework, read any reviews you can find, and ask for recommendations. If you hire a wedding planner, they will be able to recommend catering vendors that are reputable and fit with your budget and style.
A final bit of advice…keep in mind this is a wedding, not Thanksgiving dinner. You do not need to serve a Smorgosbord (yes I had to look up how to spell it) of food with tons of different choices and a million sides, just to please everyone. It’s just one meal that you are hosting with a set menu. Choose 1-2 meat options and 2-3 sides, plus 3-5 appetizers. Don’t worry if not everyone will like everything, if you’ve got picky eaters, that’s their problem, not yours.
Good luck in planning a tasty wedding menu!
Images by Phindy Studios