Ask the Readers: Advice on Wedding Food

I’m at that point in my life where everyone I know is getting married. It’s all very exciting. I really enjoy watching friends get hitched. Out of the weddings I’ve been to though, it seems like one of the most stressful areas (or at least potentially) is the area of food. It seems like there are a whole bunch of options.

Now is the time where I reveal how completely unqualified I am to give advice on selecting wedding food. I’ve never been in catering. I’ve never been in event planning. I’ve never helped plan a wedding in any way, shape, or form. But most importantly, I’ve never been married!

That said, it is wedding season and so I thought I would hit the pavement (electronically) and try to piece together some advice on the subject from actual people that know more than I do!

Advice from the Bird. One of the first places I hit up when I’m researching something is Twitter. A quick little Tweet asking a question usually can get some decent results. In this case I simply asked, “Anyone have any tips on selecting food for a wedding?”

@Beyondbeeton has some good advice through three tweets: ” Avoid steak unless guests will be asked for preferred doneness, avoid alternate drop, choose fish main + meat main, small serves. If in doubt, remove an ingredient, go for basics done well rather than envelope pushing stuff unless your crowd will go for it. The number one tip: accept that at least one person will be extremely difficult.”

Also, Jackie Gordon (@divathatateny) sent me an email based off my Twitter question: “I have been a caterer and I do big dinner shows: Stay away from plated sit down mains. Have a buffet! Plated food is usually comparatively mediocre and limited to my nemesis, “The Chicken or The Beef?”, and usually lukewarm. Oh, if you are going to have passed apps make sure you have app stations too. People are hungry and hate having to chase down the poor waiter, who is like deer at the end of a gun, when the hungry guests descend.  The combo helps to bring the rabidness down to a manageable level…”

Meanwhile, @pdlaufer kept his advice simple: “Yea… don’t run out.”

Advice from the Bride. I also thought it would be nice to ask a few brides from the weddings I’ve attended to chime in on the subject. I’ve been lucky enough to go to weddings that seriously all had very good food. I haven’t been to one yet actually where I’ve disliked the food. But I’ve heard some horror stories.

I asked the brides a few questions, but this was the key one: Regarding menu planning, what’s the most important tip you would give someone planning a wedding today?

Anne: “Don’t worry about what everyone tells you and serve what YOU (bride and groom) want to serve. It is probably one of the few times that you will entertain that many people at once so do it your way and with your style. Although I do realize budget is a big constraint for people when selecting their menus, but trust me all of the guests will notice what food you serve versus who designed your wedding dress or what types of flowers or uplighting you used.”

Kristina: “Choose food that you like. It’s your day to be selfish, and I think that’s ok. I wanted to get meatballs and crabcakes for the cocktail so we did (but I never even had one, I was so busy!)” Nick’s note: The meatballs rocked my world.

Zoe: I went with my personal tastes — heavy on the appetizers, followed by a light dinner. I figured if my guests were anything like me, they’d be starving by time appetizers rolled around. Then they’d overeat and not be hungry for dinner. So I planned accordingly. Also, no one wants to dance with a huge steak in her stomach.

Clearly, there is kind of a consensus there! After talking to people about this for a few days, here are my general (completely unqualified) nuggets of advice:

Keep it simple. Don’t choose outlandish dishes unless you have an unlimited budget and fairly adventurous eaters.

Fit the Atmosphere. All the weddings I’ve attended so far have done a wonderful job of this. It might be a bit out of whack if you have a really laid back ceremony and then an uppity black tie dinner.

Be happy. I do believe that it is one day where you should be happy. Your guests will live. Be mindful of preferences, but ultimately choose what you want. This is why, at my wedding, I will be having a bacon flavored wedding cake.

I know there are a lot of caterers, food experts, and married people who read Macheesmo, so I’ll ask all of you: What’s your advice when it comes to selecting wedding food? Leave a comment!

Photo by absolut xman.

7 comments on “Ask the Readers: Advice on Wedding Food

  1. I have to concur with the caterer's advice and with the brides' advice. Choose foods that YOU, the bride and groom, really like and don't worry so much about everyone else. (You can't please all the people, all of the time.) Go for a buffet and not a plated sit-down because plated sit-downs are usually warm, dry, and mediocre. Trust the recommendations of your caterer – assuming you have a good one that's done this before – since they have lots of experience.

    One last thing: Cash bars are just plain tacky, period.

  2. My wife and I have been married for 5+ years and friends and family still tell us that our reception was the best they'd ever been to in large part because of the food. We worked closely with the restaurant to pick a buffet menu that we liked and thought would please a diverse crowd in age and tastes. They also worked with us to try and replicate the crabcake recipe from my father-in-law's restaurant and even though it wasn't exact it was still a nice way to bring a little extra to the occasion.

  3. Keeping budget in mind, sitting down with the caterer and **having a tasting** is the best way to decide. Don't select a dish that the caterer isn't great at making. Seems like a no-brainer but lots of people give a family recipe… that's just asking for disaster.

    Definitely agree with buffet meal, appetizer station with simple and affordable choices that are plentiful. Better to serve lots of veggie crudites than run out of crab puffs.

    Offer variety in the buffet. A vegetable dish that could double as both side and vegetarian entree (if that's an issue) would be a great idea.

    In today's atmosphere of health-awareness, IMHO it's best to stick with fresh food that doesn't have mystery ingredients. Example: Roasted stuffed pork loin, roasted squash medley topped with herbed breadcrumbs, big tossed salad with choice of dressing (one vinaigrette [w/o added sugar is preferable] and one creamy, like ranch or blue cheese), whole baked sweet potatoes (butter & brown sugar as condiments at table) and a big basket of assorted dinner rolls (some white, some whole grain, etc).

    I also love pitchers of water and iced tea at the tables–there's nothing worse than continually having to go to the bar for soda refills while your dinner plate gets cold.

  4. We are getting married in August and having our reception at a country club on a lake. We are having a soft jazz band durring dinner. We are considering a taco bar or spaghetti. About 175 guests. What do you suggest?

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