When you are planning a catered affair it goes without saying that the food is an important part of the equation. The question is where to begin planning the menu. Oh sure, you could fall back on the same old baked chicken or roast beef, potatoes and a veg but that is so 1980’s. How about taking a fresh look at the planning process and create a menu that is completely unique and suited to your party?
Start with the season. The best food choice is to always go with what is in season and while we are at it, available locally. Yes, today you can get just about anything, but the quality and price will be much better if you pick what’s in season and locally sourced. Think about how you tend to pick certain foods depending on the season. Salads and chilled foods in the summer and rich soups and stews in the dead of winter. It can be tricky to plan a winter feast in the Dog Days of summer, but your effort will be rewarded on the day of your wedding reception.
Hand in hand with style goes theme. Now not everyone has a clear theme for his or her wedding, but if you do, go with it. If your theme were a night in Paris you wouldn’t want to serve anything but French food. Remember that even within a particular cuisine, you have a lot of variation. Sticking with our Paris theme, you could certainly plan your menu with French Haute Cuisine, but you can also dial it back a notch with the warm, rich foods of French Bistro cuisine.
As you plan your menu, think about your guests. Are they a meat and potatoes crowd or are they followers of the latest food trends? True, it is your wedding reception but it is your guests that you are trying to please. Don’t just think about the friends that you hang out with on weekends, think about your family. Talk to your caterer and their culinary team about keeping to your theme and still serving food that your whole guest list will enjoy.
Something else you can think about as you plan your menu is the style of service. You have so many choices and you want your menu to be something that can be served the way you picture it. There is of course the plated, seated dinner or a standard buffet, but you may not have considered a menu built around action stations or simply heavy hors d’oeuvres in a combination of passed appetizers and artfully created displays. One of the newest trends coming to the wedding reception is ‘family style’ where the staff serves the entree and then the guests help themselves to side dishes placed on the table. It is your wedding party and the style of service can go a long way in creating the ambiance you want.
Finally, you have to consider your budget. You may long to serve lobster tails to honor your partner’s home of Maine but that may not be in your budget. Be honest with your caterer about what you want and why from the start and you may be head over heels when they suggest Lobster Mac & Cheese as an appetizer. Their job is to find a menu that is in your budget but still echoes your vision. If you really have a tight budget, you may want to consider brunch. Brunch cuisine tends to be less expensive and no one really expects an open bar at noon.
Whatever your vision or your tastes, a good caterer with a creative chef and culinary staff can work miracles when it comes to planning the menu for your wedding reception. Make it unique, follow your vision and let the professionals help. You will be so glad you did!