A lot goes into planning the ultimate food for your wedding. No matter when you say your vows, you’ll have several courses to think about for a tasty night. In this article for newly engaged couples, we’ll spill the secrets to planning a wedding reception menu guests will love! In this post, we’ll talk about the following:
- Planning the cocktail hour menu
- Serving styles of the main course
- Doing enough sampling
- Deciding on a dessert
- Giving guests an experience
By considering all this, you’ll have an easier time narrowing your options to serve something great. Give everyone’s tastebuds a first-class trip to flavor town on your special day!
A Delicious Cocktail Hour
Let’s start with when all the finger food comes out: cocktail hour. Most wedding experts recommend having small snacks guests can eat on the go. Wedding guests typically spend this time socializing and talking about your beautiful ceremony. And guests don’t want to eat a heavy meal before the main course, even if the food tastes incredible.
There are all sorts of amazing foods to serve at cocktail hour. You could have a classic option like meats and cheese or offer options that align with the season. If you get married in fall or winter, shooter glasses of soup with some bite-sized grilled cheese sandwiches is a delicious combination!
Have the Right Options
Some couples have their favorite pizza or walking taco bars at cocktail hour, which is perfectly fine. On your wedding day, you write the rules. But to keep guests happy, you should keep to bite-size portions and have a variety of flavors. So if you have bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, consider offering a sweeter appetizer like fruit kabobs.
Amazing Drink Options
Another way to balance savory and sweet flavors is with drinks! It’s called cocktail hour for a reason, and now is the time to start the party. Talk with your bartender to see what types of drinks they can offer guests and consider crafting a specialty drink with your partner.
Deciding on the Main Course
Here’s where the tricky part usually begins since this is what’ll leave a lasting impression on your guests. Wedding food usually gets a bad rap for being average quality, and no one likes to leave a party still feeling hungry. Before you decide on the type of food you’ll serve, determine what meal style you want:
- Plated sit-down
- Buffet style
- Family style
If you’re not familiar with all these styles, don’t worry. Below, we’ll explain each of them, plus some pros and cons.
Plated Sit-Down Meal
Most weddings have this meal style because it’s easy and works great for guests of all age groups and abilities. In most cases, you’ll give your guests two or three food options on their invitation and ask them to fill it out by the time they RSVP. On your wedding day, they’ll sit in their assigned seat, and venue staff will take care of serving them.
A sit-down meal may also include an appetizer, soup, or salad, depending on the package you decide on. As with the main course, the staff brings this to the table.
Pros and Cons
This type of meal feels formal, which fits the tone of most weddings. Plus, you don’t have to worry about guests struggling to get their food. On the other hand, this usually means less variety, which may create challenges for those with dietary restrictions.
If you can’t imagine only having a handful of food options, then a buffet-style meal may be your best choice. You can offer various types of food, including different meats, several sides, or even numerous types of cuisine.
Pros and Cons
All those options are a foodie’s dream come true. This also gives your guests more freedom to eat the things that they find the most delicious. But buffet style is expensive, and guests may not like waiting in long lines just to grab their food.
If you feel torn between the options of a buffet and the tradition of a sit-down dinner, family style may be your perfect option. You’ll decide on several foods to serve guests, and waiters will put large plates and bowls on the tables so everyone sitting there can make their own plates. So if you serve Italian food, you might have mostaccioli and gnocchi for pasta but chicken and seafood options for protein.
Pros and Cons
As with a buffet, you’ll have choices for your guests, and they have the freedom to decide what they do and don’t want to eat. This also adds to the ambiance and draws everyone at the table closer. Weddings are about bringing two families together, and guests may sit with people they don’t know yet.
Although this option may sound perfect, its downfall is often the price—family-style dinners usually cost the most.
Tips for Deciding on Food Served
The food you serve depends on the options your vendors have, what you like to eat, and what’s affordable. You may also want to think about the time of day for your wedding. Are you getting married in the morning? If the reception is in the early afternoon, then a brunch menu may be best. You could serve chicken and waffles, an egg and potato skillet, or other yummy options.
Most couples have evening weddings and have options like chicken, beef, and fish. For a sit-down dinner, you’ll have a description of how these are prepared and the side so your guests can check which one they want to eat. If you have a tight budget, chicken is usually the best option because it’s affordable and versatile.
Consider Dietary Restrictions
Knowing how to deal with guests’ dietary restrictions is vital. First, talk with any guests you know who have allergies or other food restrictions, then work with your vendor to see what you can work out. Food bonds us, and no one should feel isolated at the party because there’s nothing they can eat. While you don’t have to tailor your menu to a single individual, ensuring they can enjoy something tasty at the main course is always nice.
Do Enough Tastings
Tasting the food is essential whether you plan to hire a separate vendor or need to use the cooks offered by the venue. You and your partner should book a time to sample all the items you plan on serving guests. This includes:
- Appetizers at cocktail hour
- Custom drinks from the bar
- Food in the main course
- Wedding cake and dessert options
If you feel torn between two or more vendors, jot down what you did and didn’t like about the tasting. One may have amazing food but at nearly unaffordable rates. The goal here is to balance the vendor’s price with the food’s taste. Remember, you don’t want to serve stereotypical wedding food; you want to wow guests with something mouthwatering!
Just about everyone loves some type of dessert, and this course is an important one at weddings. Traditionally, the cake cutting represented the couple’s first activity as a married duo and was an important part of the night. Couples who don’t serve cake may choose a different dessert like a cookie or bite of pie instead.
Sometimes, deciding on what to serve comes with various challenges. If you’re not the biggest fan of sweet things, there may not be an option you find the tastiest. On the other hand, if you love sugar, then everything sounds amazing.
Regardless of your category, you’ll have to pick something to treat your guests. You could go the traditional route and serve some wedding cake or think of an alternative option everyone will enjoy.
Wedding Cake Options
Picking a cake can be tricky because you have to decide on the perfect flavor plus filling and icing. Despite this, you shouldn’t base the cake flavor on what everyone else likes. For example, don’t get a white cake with vanilla frosting because you want to please everyone. If you want a pumpkin spice cake with caramel filling, cream cheese icing, and crushed pecans on top, you should serve it! Your wedding is about you and your partner, so you should choose the flavor you two like most.
Deciding on Flavors
Cake tastings are fun but can become overwhelming for any cake-lover. You’ll taste sample after sample, and everything could be amazing. And by the end, you and your partner may have a different top pick. Solve this by having a bride and groom cake or multi-tier cake where each tier is another flavor.
If you’re not a cake fan, don’t worry; there are tons of other desserts for your wedding menu. You could also add personal touches to your wedding by having cultural desserts to share some traditional cuisine with guests.
You could also have a sweets table with an assortment of desserts for guests to choose from, such as:
- Cupcakes or cake pops
- Assorted chocolates
You could also add to the fun and sweets with a chocolate fountain so guests can dip fruit, pretzels, and other snacks. In truth, the only thing limiting what desserts you have is your imagination. If the food falls into the dessert category and you like it, serve it!
The Best of Both Worlds
You should never feel pressured to have any specific type of food at your wedding. However, you and your partner may have different tastes in sweets—one of you may love cake while the other prefers cookies. Meet in the middle and have both options available to your guests. This way, everyone can pack their plates with treats to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Consider Guest Experience
Your wedding is a huge party and a great experience that leaves a lasting impression on everyone. Wow friends and family during cocktail hour, dessert, or a midnight snack with an experience. Some couples have a pizza bar as a late-night snack so guests can refuel for the final hour of dancing. You could also have a few food trucks to offer guests a variety of flavors in an engaging way!
Food Trucks at Weddings
Before deciding this is the perfect food experience, weigh the pros and cons of food truck receptions. Although this idea is unique and provides guests with additional entertainment, it isn’t possible at all venues. Some locations forbid this or don’t have the space.
A Final Note
Planning a wedding reception menu guests will love takes time, and you have to consider each item you offer to guests. The food should be something you and your partner enjoy, but you still need to think about everyone’s experience. By working as a team, you and your future spouse can decide on the best food options to offer the friends and family coming to your wedding. Enjoy your big day and all the delicious food!