How to Plan the Ultimate Wedding Menu
We’re not going to lie to you: there’s a lot of pressure that comes with planning a wedding menu.
Ultimate Wedding Menu
How to Plan the Ultimate Wedding Menu
We’re not going to lie to you: there’s a lot of pressure that comes with planning a wedding menu. After all, food is one of the top things everyone looks forward to at your wedding reception—and one of the first things they complain about when it doesn’t meet their expectations.
And now for the good news: you have options that can help provide a coordinated, scrumptious menu that your guests will love.
Your Must Haves
When you think back to weddings or other events you’ve attended, what were your favorite items? What did you like about the dinner service (i.e. sit down, buffet, semi-sit down, food stations, etc.)? What is your budget? What kind of wedding do you envision (formality, theme, etc.)? Before you set up a meeting or contact a caterer, think about the answers to these questions and prepare to bring your preferences to your meeting with your caterer; those answers can help you develop a plan for your wedding reception meal.
The Right Caterer
Once you have answers and ideas, it’s time to contact the professionals who can turn your vision into reality. Don’t be fooled into believing that any caterer can do so; instead screen your caterers with these questions:
Are you available to cater my wedding on (insert your wedding date)?
How many events do you cater on a day?
What additional services do you offer? (Some caterers offer bar service, coffee service, or equipment rental as well.)
If my guests have dietary restrictions, can your service accommodate them?
Can I customize my wedding?
Can you provide a wedding cake (or other desserts-ideas for “non-cake” wedding desserts here)?
Are equipment rentals included (tables, chairs, etc.)?
What staff would be provided?
Do you include place settings, such as plates and silverware?
What is a general cost of a sit down or buffet meal?
In addition to meal costs, do you charge any additional fees?
Do you provide a comprehensive quote with all fees included?
Can I schedule a tasting?
Once you’ve narrowed down your catering options, schedule a tasting with your prospective caterers so you can select the right caterer (more details about a caterer tasting here).
Remember that the right caterer does more than prepare foods; the right catering service is a service. They provide staff that can help you with your wedding menu selection, worries about presentation as well as taste, and offers other services you need at the wedding—everything you need to plan and offer the perfect wedding menu that satisfies you and your guests.
Once you choose your caterer, it’s time to start getting down to the specifics of your wedding reception. You don’t have to give a specific number at your first meeting, but a general idea is helpful. A general guest number also can help as you vet your wedding venues. Start making a master list of all the guests you want to invite, and gathering lists from your parents (more tips for crafting a guest list here).
The next step is to decide how you want your dinner served; there are several options, with the most formal being a sit down dinner. A sit down dinner is served at the table, with the biggest benefit being that your guests don’t have to wait in line for their food. With a sit down meal, usually the guests have chosen their main course in advance and are served accordingly.
Choosing a buffet dinner for your wedding is all about choices and amounts; an assortment of choices are offered at a buffet table (or at buffet stations) where guests can come to select whatever they want. Buffet costs tend to be one of the most affordable options.
For a more non-traditional buffet option, choose food stations for a service style. Food stations are interactive, and give your guests the opportunity to choose their favorite foods and mingle. This dinner service option is a great choice for couples with a unique wedding venue or who just want a distinctive serving style. (Ideas for your wedding food stations can be found in our blog post.)
If you want your wedding to feel like a holiday family sit-down (even without the traditional holiday dishes), family style is right for your wedding. Family style dishes are served on a platter. Each guest chooses their dishes and passes the platters on. These style meals are best served in a venue with large tables perfect for the platters.
Dietary restrictions are a part of wedding menu planning process, and an essential part of caring for your guests. Choose a caterer who can accommodate wedding restrictions (more information about dietary restrictions in this blog post), and make sure you give your guests a way to inform you of their issues (i.e. gluten-free, nut allergies, etc.) through your wedding invitations, social media, or e-mail.
Don’t think your wedding menu planning stops at your main course. Consider adding a late night course that fuels your guests (ideas for a late night wedding food here) and keeps your guests happy. If you want to coordinate your wedding details, choose a late night wedding course that fits with your wedding theme.