Until you begin planning your own wedding, the idea of choosing your menu seems like a task easily conquered. But when you get down to it, this might just be one of the trickiest details you’ll face. Hors d’oeuvres versus a sit-down meal, allergies and diet restrictions – the list goes on. Being well informed of the needs of your guests and your budget constraints will prevent any obstacles leading up to the day of the event.
Chances are, you’ll have some guests in attendance that are going to need extra care when it comes to any allergies or restrictions with their diet. Large guest list or small, you’ll want to be cautious all the same. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives you can have on hand.
Photo by Andre Nguyen Photography
Heather Jones of Wente Vineyards says, “The biggest dietary restriction is gluten-free but it’s not too difficult to prepare a gluten free menu – any protein will work and any potatoes are fine for starches,” adding, “Be mindful of sauces when it comes to nut allergies – make sure the chef can make it without nuts.” Communication is key with both your guests and your catering staff. Make sure you can identify which guest(s) may need special dishes and relay that to the servers for your event.
Universal Foods That Won’t Fail
Following food trends is never a bad thing, but remember that the attendees may not have the same taste as you and your soon-to-be spouse. Re-inventing some safe options saves you the pitfall of a boring selection, and you can make sure all of your guests are satisfied.
Photo by Hagerty Photography
“If you’re serving a palate specific entrée, be sure to keep your sides more streamlined. Sautéed or roasted seasonal vegetables with light seasoning are a crowd pleaser,” recommends Paulette Alkire from Chalet View Lodge. “I would avoid menu choices with a lot of heat, spice-wise. You don’t want your guests to not be able to enjoy their food because they can’t handle the spice.”
Tackling a menu with a tighter budget can be headache inducing, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck. Cutting out small details like liquor for the bar can make a huge difference. Decide what’s most important to you and your partner and then make budget-friendly compromises for the rest.
Photo by Courtney Stockton Photography
When it comes down to plated versus buffet, Jones advises that there actually isn’t a rule of thumb about which is more expensive. “Every caterer and venue will be different so you need to speak with him or her directly,” she says. “It’s going to be a matter of their labor and offerings. Talk to your caterer and understand their service level.”
If you’re leaning towards a destination wedding for your nuptials, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered, too. Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group says booking an all-inclusive resort will save you money in the long run. “This eliminates the cost-per-guest entirely. And, even though the guest is paying their own way to the wedding, all food and drink are included in the package price, so it’s a win-win for both parties!”
Making Your Menu Memorable
While your event itself is going to be an amazing time no matter what, upping the ante with a few unique menu details is a great way to wow your guests. Our advice here is surprise and delight. Whether that means presentation or content, personalizing your food and beverage can add a little something extra to your special day.
Choosing items that have significance to you is always a yes, says Alkire. “Make your menu memorable by incorporating a food choice that means something to you both: the Coq Au Vin you had on your first date, the lasagna your grandma made the first time your significant other spent the holidays with your family,” she continues. “If there is a story behind the menu, guests will connect with that and their meal will be much more meaningful.”
Kim Sayatovic from Belladeux Event Design advises taking the exciting, non-traditional route. “Have fun, late night food come out to surprise your guests, like warm cookies and milk or late night sliders and French fries.” Foods like these add a playful touch, and it’s unexpected if your reception had a more formal feel.
Photo by Kate Anfinson
Circling back to our aspiring destination wedding couples; Velez wants you to know that you should take advantage of the cuisine. “You’re in a different country, so you might as well make the experience extra special for you and your guests alike,” she says. “Use locally-sourced ingredients and maybe even a traditional local dish that will pay homage to your locale.”
Food Can Make or Break Your Wedding
With a few exceptions, food is expected to be a staple in the itinerary at weddings. Put yourself in the shoes of a guest when considering your selections. Heavy hors d’oeuvres are great for cocktail hour and easy cleanup, but will your guests be satisfied? Add that with the amount of alcohol you plan on serving. Would that be a good balance with your open bar? Probably not.
Remember that you’ll also want to feel like you got what you paid for in terms of catering. Buffet style may work best for you if you have a longer event, while the heavy hors d’oeuvres may be the better choice for a shorter reception.
Photo by Kara Miller Photo
This goes for taste as well. “If the food isn’t good, that is the only thing people will focus on. I always suggest to my clients to think quality over quantity,” Sayatovic says.
In the end, arming yourself with research and advice from your caterer is the best defence you can have. Keep in mind that putting in the effort to accommodate your guests (and the both of you!) is going to make for a worry-free, unforgettable day.
Ms Zebra Says: These days it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to people’s dietary requirements! These are great tips to ensure everyone can enjoy the spread come Wedding Day!
About Ariana Teachey: Wedding enthusiast Ariana Teachey is a wedding PR specialist at OFD Consulting. When she’s not seeking out the latest trends, or pouring over client weddings, you can find her hoarding fall scented candles and all the pumpkins.