This is a guide to choosing your menu and food at your wedding. We would stress that ultimately it’s all your own choice and of course you should go with what you like – however this guide contains ideas that will hopefully both whet your appetite and inspire you! Note that if you are looking for normal events, not wedding catering, then we have another guide that is more suited to alternative functions - choosing a menu (non-weddings)
Don’t forget that the meal is arguably the centrepiece of your wedding reception, and you’ll get few chances to do something like this in your life. Getting the menu right is very important, and for many people it is probably the part of the wedding that worries them the most.
Don’t assume that you have to go for the traditional catered option of hot food brought to you by wait staff. Why not think about a picnic inspired menu? You could have cold meats, breads, cheeses and so on. This would lead to a more informal meal and should encourage sharing, mingling and conversation. It is also simpler and is perhaps something that you could undertake yourself, maybe only calling in the caterers for the drinks.
The only thing to bear in mind with this type of menu is that you need to plan for a sunny day, as rain would certainly not be welcome.
A lot of people believe that the the perfect wedding menu should encourage sharing; instead of small individual portions, you could have a large buffet meal with sushi, roast chicken, potatoes and so on. Another idea is to serve canapés with a waiter service. The advantage of this type of meal is that it allows your guests to mingle and meet each other, as well as walking around and recommending food. It’s also a lot less formal, which might appeal to you. As an aside, if you’re going for this style of wedding, large trestle tables are a wonderful choice as they create and informal yet comfortable atmosphere with lots of emphasis on the food.
Large barbecues and roasts (commonly hog roasts) are also relatively cheap, informal and encourage sharing too. You don’t have to serve meat either, it could be a paella with chorizo, king prawns, bread and cheese. Of course, you do need to have the weather on your side if you’re planning for an outside meal like this. A word of warning however – sometimes guests expect a formal sit down meal, and would be horrified by picnic or buffet style catering. So remember to always tailor your menu to your guests.
Hog roasts are a very popular choice these days, and if done well can provide an excellent main course, or even midnight snack after the main event. You must be fully confident in your hog roast provider – although it may seem simple, doing a hog roast properly is a major challenge. The meat in the centre of the animal must be cooked thoroughly without turning the exterior to charcoal. The hog will also be cooked outside, meaning it is exposed to the elements, as well as flies and other foreign objects.
We recommend you read reviews of hog roast caterers on this website, as well as checking out the forum for people’s experiences in using hog roast caterers. And if you’re going to have a hog roast, you could always add to the ‘outdoors’ feel of the wedding with an ice cream van / Mr Whippy van.
One thing to bear in mind though – if you do have a hog roast, remember that you will need some other food (and tables and chairs) around as well. You don’t want a huge queue of hundreds of hungry guests waiting to be served by stressed staff. It also doesn’t create much of an atmosphere for guests, as they have no chance to talk and mingle.
At Companies Catering we would always advise you to insist on tasting the food that will be served at your wedding meal. This is probably the most important yet overlooked part of the catering process. Similarly, we recommend that you visit the caterers premises in advance of the wedding, as you can see how clean their equipment is, as well as meeting the staff face to face and enquiring about how they intend to transport your food to the event.
You need to pay careful attention to the different groups who will be at your wedding. You need to think about vegetarians and vegans, those who may have allergies and people simply unused to the more ‘exotic’ types of food – ultimately, it’s very important to consider the guests as well as yourselves. Going for something simple can often be wise, as well as making sure people with different tastes are catered for, by providing a few specialist options. Also, if you are serving types of food like beef, you will need to think about how people want them cooked (i.e. rare, medium or well done), as the caterers will likely insist that they know in advance of the event.Wines for your Wedding Menu.
Ultimately catering for different groups is something that is unique to every wedding, as it depends on the guests present. You can start by collecting information on the guests who will be there, so you are not faced with any last minute problems. A good way of doing this is to include information on the wedding invites that encourage people to let you know if they have any special dietary requirements when they RSVP.
Fruit is a cheap and easy to prepare food that you can serve as a snack between the ceremony and the reception, as well as between courses. You can also add cheese for a popular, simple and tasty set of snacks, or even as a full desert.
If you have a favourite local restaurant, consider asking them if they will cater for your wedding. Not all restaurants are up to the task (as large scale catering involves issues such as transporting food, wait staff, linen hire etc) but it is certainly worth asking – local restaurants would probably suit a buffet style better. Also, if you ask you’ll find that there’s a good chance they will have a function room that you can use too.
As a tasty desert or even as a snack during the day, you can ask friends and family to bake cakes for your wedding. Or perhaps you have a favourite cake that runs in the family, which you could easily and cheaply bake for snacks throughout the day.It’s likely that you’ll want to have your wedding cake professionally made – we’d recommend you take a look at our guide to choosing your wedding cake, which contains some interesting ideas about cupcake wedding cakes and cheese wedding cakes, amongst others.
Home made food is always a great option, as you should have a clear idea of the quality. Make very sure that your guests are up to the task however, as making one or two dishes at home is different from providing for a whole wedding party. You will also need to be sure that those making the food have some way of transporting the food to the wedding – if people are planning to take the train then they will not be able to transport your food adequately, for example.
You could always asked for food in lieu of gifts; of course, this will need to be organised well in advance of the wedding if things are to run smoothly. If you do this, it will not only take the pressure off the present list but will also mean that people really make an effort (instead of simply buying some ready made food). Ensure that you’re totally clear with the guests about who’s bring what, so you don’t end up with one hundred puddings!
You can also combine homemade food with catered food, to take the pressure of the chefs and save money.
This is a slightly unusual option, but some couples will order fast food for their wedding meals. The advantage of this approach is that it is cheap, quick and little will go wrong. If the guests are drunk they won’t mind if a load of pizzas arrive in the evening! You could also consider it as a late evening meal / midnight snack, saving the more fancy food for the main meal.
This wouldn’t suit all weddings, however, but for very informal weddings it could be a good choice.
When you do decide on your menu, you should limit the guest’s options as much as possible. This ensures that you focus only on the caterers best food, and helps them to quickly and effectively bring out your food. It also means that the caterers can focus on doing one type of food well, rather than trying to concentrate on multiple dishes. You can also ask guests in advance how they’d like their food done (e.g steak well done or rare) as this will help the caterers enormously on the day.Waiter and Wait Staff.
The caterers should tell you what will be prepared in advance; most foods are better if they are cooked fresh, however desserts and so on can be made in advance thus saving time for the caterer. Again, it would help if you spoke to your guests to ask what their desert choices would be before the meal.
The best food is served strait from the oven. If you’re going to spend money on your wedding food, it would be a shame to delay it being served because the speeches are too slow or some other part of the evening has overrun. If you think this is a possibility then speak to the caterers in advance to make sure that the meal you have chosen can withstand being cold for a whole. And if things are going slowly on the night, you must speak to the caterers to let them know in advance.
If you want your wedding to be remembered, make the food fun. Instead of the same bland desserts, why not go for Eton mess and fresh berries and ice cream for the tables to share. Antipasti or cheese fondue as a starter is another fun option that encourages sharing, and candy floss machines lighten up the mood (but make sure you hire someone to run it!) One famous wedding only had champagne and sausages – lots of champagne and sausages! Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple!
Continuing the point above, a faith buffet is a way of making the wedding meal great fun. You ask each guest to provide a signature dish or a favourite dish of their own. Some will go for desserts, some will bring sweets and crisps (popular with the children), vegetarians and vegans will bring food that they can share, and others will provide delicious main courses. Some may even dial for pizzas! This is a great option for those on a budget, and means that your meal is sure to be remembered! You could even publish a list after the event, showing who produced what, as guests will be sure to contact each other to share recipes. Remember to tell people to bring only one main dish, as you can guarantee there will be more than enough food to go round.
You must not scrimp on the drinks menu; good and plentiful drinks can really make the evening, and can even make up for bad food if things go horribly wrong. Hiring kegs of real ale, plentiful good quality wine and champagne, and seasonal drinks are all good options. And insist on tasting all the alcohol beforehand! Follow the link to view our unique article that discusses organising drinks at large events
If you’re going to have wait staff, and most of the large catered weddings will need them, you must not to try to cut costs by reducing the staff. Everyone has been to a wedding where there were not enough wait staff, leading to cold food and hungry guests. However delicious the food is, if it comes out cold it can never make a good impression. The slow arrival of food can also delay speeches and what time you are required to leave the venue, meaning your carefully organised evening runs into chaos.
It’s your big day and you deserve to enjoy it. If you’re confident with your food choices in advance of the wedding then you will be able to await the meal with confidence. Remember that your friends and family are there to enjoy themselves and celebrate, and are not looking to find faults. A wedding is a full day composed of so much more than just the catering and it will always be fun – however it all turns out, make sure you laugh and enjoy the day!