When I began the wedding planning process this past September, I knew there’d be a clear favorite in my do-to list of planning tasks. As a trained chef, food is my passion, and I knew that planning my wedding menu would be one of my favorite jobs as a bride to be. That being said, there are definitely challenges to planning any wedding menu, especially when you want food to be a focal point. Below are my top five tips to make your wedding menu process go smoothly, and to ensure you and your guests have the best dining experience possible on your wedding day.
By Elizabeth Starnes
- Do Your Homework: Be sure to check out all the catering options near your venue. This might mean going with a less traditional or less well-known vendor, but as long as you review their references and feel comfortable with their food and level of service, a lesser-known caterer might be your best bet. They’ll also probably be a bit more affordable, and more likely to work with any special requests you and your fiancé might have.
- Do a Tasting: This is the best part! Set up some tastings with your potential catering vendors, and be sure to work with them to develop a sample menu that they’ll prepare the day of the tasting. You’ll want to be sure to review the menu carefully before the tasting, and make edits to you end up sampling dishes that are as close to what you want as possible. I feel like this goes without saying, but be sure to go hungry, and maybe don’t wear your tightest pair of skinny jeans; you’re going to be eating a lot! During the tasting, be sure to enjoy yourself and try a few bites of everything. Take notes and take photos to refer to after. But remember, its easy to get carried away in how fun the experience is, which can cloud your judgment. Be sure to take a few days to really consider your thoughts before making a final decision.
- Consider a Non-Traditional Menu Format: The traditional selection of two entries works beautifully of course, but you might consider serving your menu family style to have a bit more creativity and fun with your meal. My fiancé and I decided to go with a family style menu. Ours begins with an amuse bouche of corn and Dungeness crab soup, followed by individually plated burrata and heirloom tomato salads to start, followed by large plates of salmon and skirt steak to share, accompanied by large plates ricotta ravioli with mushrooms, sweet corn salad with green goddess dressing, and a bright beet and fennel salad. Everyone can enjoy a few bites of everything, there’s no order envy at the table, and you strike the perfect balance between formal and casual.
- Consider the Quality: Our wedding planner sagely advised us that the quality of the food that we tasted the day of the tasting would be 15-20% lower on the day of the wedding. Remember, its much easier preparing a small tasting for two than a full menu for 150. If you keep this in mind, you’ll fend off any disappointments on the day of the wedding, and will have realistic expectations going into it.
- Make sure your menu reflects the way you and your fiancé, and families enjoy eating. We tried to select menu items that echo food we’ve cooked and enjoyed together. If this means bringing in an old family recipe, or a dish your fiancé is famous for, work with your caterer to include it. If you and your fiancé love casual dining and BBQ, make your menu a Southern- inspired buffet. If you two are fans of five star restaurant small plates, make your menu a multiple course tasting menu experience. Just be sure if feels like the both of you!