Custom Wedding Menus Demystified
The number one thing our clients prioritize for their weddings is amazing food. Typically it is because they have experienced sub par wedding food at some point and they remember what a negative impression it left on the wedding as a whole. As self proclaimed ‘foodies,’ there is no way that would fly with any of our events! Our goal, with every-single-one of our weddings, is to help our couples create their perfect wedding menu - one that their guests will be raving about for years to come!
Styles Of Service
The first thing you will want to do, is decide on a style of food service. A sit down plated meal is the most classic choice, but there are several ways you can switch it up and make it more YOUR style.
An oldie but a goodie. When you are on a budget and want a decent amount of variety, serving dinner in a buffet is the way to go. Typically you are looking at one salad, two proteins, a starch and a vegetable side. Depending on your caterer and your budget, you may be able to scale up the variety, but the key is to offer dishes that compliment each other. Choosing one theme with a balance of fresh and hearty dishes is key.
Envision sitting around a festive holiday table with all of your loved ones. Large platters of delicious foods are being passed from one neighbor to the next, all while generating stimulating conversation about …. the food! This is one of our personal favorite ways to serve a wedding meal. It combines the same variety a buffet offers but with a more formal twist. The labor costs are typically a bit higher than a buffet, but less than a fully plated meal.
This is a huge trend in weddings at the moment and we are 100% on board. So many of our clients love a wide variety of cuisine that simply do not make sense being on the same table. With food stations, you don’t have to narrow it down to one! Here are some of our favorite food stations: Build your own sweet or savory waffle station, whole pig carving station, taco station, live action sushi station, farmer’s market station, and last but not least … build your own ice cream sundae bar. The options are endless, it is just a matter of narrowing it down to your top three or four favorite kinds of cuisine and creating a menu that balances a variety of flavors, textures, and palates. Food costs and labor costs tend to be a bit higher for this option due the increased amount of variety and labor involved.
This is the most traditional option. What it limits in variety you can certainly make up for in wow factor with beautiful presentation and service. Having a plated salad, main course and dessert is what you can typically expect, however adding a plated appetizer or even a pasta course isn’t unheard of. One of our favorite plated trends coming from down under, is the alternate drop. Instead of each guest having to choose their main course in advance, servers drop every other entree in front of guests at each table and if a guest wants to swap with their neighbor they can. We can’t wait to see more of this trend in the coming year. As far as costs go, the labor costs tend to be the highest with this style of service.
Building Your Menu
Once you’ve decided on a style of service, you can start getting a bit more specific. Okay, let’s start from the top!
Typically after the ceremony, there is about an hour of mingling before dinner is served. This is called the cocktail hour. Although drinks are the main focus of this part of an event, it is always wise to offer some finger foods. In Hawaii we call them pupus!
There are two main ways to serve appetizers.
Tray passed: If you are going this route, we recommend 2-4 different items. It is a good idea to have a mix of flavors, textures and dietary considerations. This is also a good opportunity to squeeze in that favorite protein that didn’t end up making the main course cut. Most caterer’s will recommend 1.5 pieces per guest, per appetizer.
Stationary. This is a great compromise to having multiple stations at dinner time. Stationary appetizers can be self serve or action stations. Some of our favorites have been beautiful fruit and cheese boards, a build your own bruschetta station, and a poke bowl station.
If you can’t decide between the two options, you can always do a mix!
Once you’ve decided on the style of service, you will want to start thinking about WHAT you want to serve for dinner. The task may seem daunting, but we recommend the following to create your perfect custom menu.
Take a look at some of their sample menus from caterers you are considering and make a list of things that catch your eye. Keep in mind salads, meats, starches and side dishes.
Make a list of your favorite foods. Listing out your favorite styles of cuisine (Thai, Japanese, Italian, Indian, etc..). Also, make sure to include your favorite meats, starches and vegetables.
Personalize it! Do you have a favorite restaurant you love to eat at? Is there a special family recipe you would love to incorporate? What did you eat on your first date? Finding ways to incorporate some of these elements will make it extra special.
Make a list of anything you don’t like. Also take into consideration any dietary restrictions or allergies your guests might have. These are all important to consider when getting started.
We can’t forget dessert! Most couples these days tend to lean away from the traditional wedding cake. It’s nice to have a small cake for cutting, but a variety of desserts is much more popular with our clients AND wedding guests.
Some of our favorite desserts include:
A variety of self serve mini desserts. Think passion fruit cheese cake squares, mini coconut chocolate mousse, macrons, mini chai spice creme brulee, milk shooters with chocolate chip cookies…the list goes on.
A dessert action station. We love ice cream sundae bars, decorate your own cupcake stations, and shaved ice stations.
A twist on the traditional. One of the problems with wedding cake is that you are limited in your choices (flavors, type of cake, etc). That’s why we love a full table with a variety of smaller cakes. That way you can have your chocolate, vanilla and even something crazy like pumpkin crunch!
Once you’ve thought through all of these three food related parts of your event, make a list of your thoughts and ideas. Instead of trying to solve the master puzzle of “the perfect menu” yourself, you can share your notes with the various catering companies you are considering and they can do the work of creating a cohesive and thoughtful menu for you. Seeing what they come up with and how they price your custom menu will help you decide who is the best fit for your big day.
We hope this gets you off to a good start! Happy Planning!