WRITTEN BY Atlanta Style Weddings Staff | PHOTOGRAPHY BY Brandi Toole Photo
Grab your forks and knives — it’s time to talk catering! With these seven tricks of the trade in mind, you and your caterer can create a meal to remember.
1. DECIDE HOW TO SERVE THE FOOD
Before deciding on the menu items, it’s important to consider how you want the food to be served. Foodservice sets the tone for the rest of the reception, so take time to mull over the following options before you pick.
Also called plated meals, full-service meals are for couples who want the meal to be the highlight of the event. For this method, individual courses are delivered to guests by servers, providing an elegant dining experience with professional service and minimal handling. While this is a glamorous option, note that it takes more time out of the reception than a buffet alternative.
A buffet is ideal for couples who can’t wait to mingle and dance. A buffet-style dinner gives guests enough time to enjoy their food and hear a few toasts, but it ultimately gets the party started sooner. Once everyone finishes eating dinner at their own pace, they can trickle onto the dance floor or return for seconds.
A combination of plated and buffet serving styles is for couples who want the best of both worlds. Have the main course served directly to each guest, but skip waitstaff with self-serve desserts. This way, you get the elegant feel of a full-service dinner and the convenience of a buffet.
2. SELECT SIGNIFICANT DISHES
Collaborate with your caterer to design a menu that holds personal significance. Think about the best meals you and your soon-to-be spouse cook together. Or consider what foods evoke happy memories, like where you went to dinner before the proposal or your go-to take-out option. With these reflections in mind, compile a list of dishes that taste delicious and have sentimental value. Communicate everything with your caterer and let them work their magic.
Note: Consider the preferences of your guests. You and your partner aren’t the only ones enjoying a meal at the reception! While you two may enjoy adventurous dishes, ensure some options also cater to less adventurous palates.
3. SHARE THE MEANING
You’ve spent the time conjuring up meaningful dish ideas, so don’t forget to share those stories with your guests! Work with your stationer to add personalized notes on the menu cards. For example, you could mention that ravioli was the first dinner cooked together or that lobster bisque reminds you of memorable summer trips to Maine. Sharing these special moments from your relationship will help your guests feel more connected to the wedding.
4. CELEBRATE YOUR CULTURE AND BACKGROUND
One of the most beautiful facets of marriage is its ability to unite people from different places and upbringings. Embrace the diversity of your backgrounds by incorporating culinary elements from other cultures into your menu. Whether you’re dishing out Italian Jordan almonds, Puerto Rican alcapurrias or Jewish Challah, serving foods representing both your heritages can beautifully symbolize your union.
5. CONSIDER THE SEASON
Take into account the time of year when selecting your menu. Just like flowers, certain foods are best enjoyed in specific seasons. Serving strawberries in January, for example, may be costly and compromise their quality. Aligning your menu with the season ensures that the ingredients are at their freshest and most flavorful. This choice will benefit your budget, caterer and guests, providing a cohesive and delicious dining experience.
6. ACCOMMODATE ALLERGIES AND FOOD RESTRICTIONS
To ensure all your guests feel safe and welcome, communicate any dietary restrictions or allergies to your caterer. Consider including a card in your invitation suite where guests can indicate their entree choices and note any specific dietary needs. For guests with severe allergies, you can offer them direct communication with the caterer so they may address concerns and safety. Most caterers are more than willing to accommodate dietary restrictions and provide safe and delicious meals for all. This attention to detail will make a significant difference to guests with specific requirements, allowing them to fully enjoy the feast.
7. ENJOY YOUR MEAL
Most couples get so overwhelmed by the excitement of their reception that they barely have time to eat. Remember to pause and enjoy the food you dedicated so much effort into selecting. Also, remember that food is fuel. How will you tear up the dance floor on an empty stomach? After a highly eventful day, take care of yourself; make the most of your delicious dinner and avoid premature burnout.
Planning a menu for a large group of people can be a daunting task. After all, when was the last time you had to design a luxury meal for over 100 people? The best piece of advice is to trust your caterers. Feeding crowds is their expertise, so once you communicate your vision, it’s OK to let your caterer take the reins. Relinquishing control can feel scary, but when the result is a room full of cherished guests enjoying a fantastic meal, it will be well worth it.