If you have ever attended a wedding, or a formal affair, the meal is always that one aspect that will be remembered for being a hit or a flop. Wedding food could and should be amazing; it should be something to remember when you and your guests look back on your wedding day. In the overall wedding budget, the largest amount of the couple’s money will be spent in this category, so plan with care when selecting the caterer, the menu, and style of service for your wedding.
When selecting a venue (see March column), you’ll notice some venues have their own exclusive caterer or in-house food and beverage department. Otherwise, a couple must research off-premises caterers to fulfill this position.
Either way, having a clear understanding of your budget and style of your reception, prior to meeting with your caterer, will greatly assist the catering sales team in determining the best menu and style of service for you and your guests.
There are four different styles of service — seated dinners, buffets, cocktail receptions and stations.
A seated dinner is the most traditional and formal style of service. A more casual “twist” on a seated dinner is family-style service where guests serve themselves and pass the dishes around the table. Family-style service helps to bring more conversation between guests; especially those seated together that might not have ever met. Seated dinners do lend themselves to having more wait staff present, but there is certainly more cost control when choosing a plated meal. The actual selection of food, and number of courses, will determine the final price per plate. Chicken is the least expensive protein, while combination plates of beef and seafood are more costly.
Buffets have tended to get a reputation of being too casual at a wedding, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Buffets can be very elegant, and presentation is key. Buffets may help to save on staff costs, but more food is prepared since guests serve themselves. Buffets do allow guests to have a varied menu of options.
Cocktail receptions are often chosen for shorter receptions and receptions that happen in the late afternoon or early evenings. A cocktail reception may be elegant or casual and should be filling enough if taking place over a dinner hour. Since many hors d’oeuvres are more intricate in preparation, cocktail receptions may become costly. Price depends largely on items chosen and the number of pieces of each item. At least six hors d’oeuvres should be chosen for a two-hour reception and at least nine for a four-hour reception.
Finally, stations have become very popular over the last few years as they tend to allow the guests to mingle and socialize. Stations provide a wide variety of food selections and allow some interaction between the guests and the chefs. Since food has been en vogue, and many couples are self-proclaimed “foodies,” stations tend to offer a showcase in themselves and highlight items the couple really loves.
Small bites, comfort foods, and late night snacks are on the scene while mashed potato bars have been replaced with upscale mac and cheese stations. Your catering professional will help you understand which style is best, given the style and formality of your wedding, as well as offer menu suggestions based on their own specialties. Trends in food are always changing, but for better or for worse, it is the part of your reception that your guests will remember the most.