Wedding Planning: Catering

9th September 2013

The meal is when guests will be catching up with or getting to know everyone at the reception, and great food prepares guests for the long night of celebrations ahead. The food at your wedding is probably one of the aspects many guests look forward to most and therefore is something that should be carefully planned and considered.

Finding a caterer

It is usually recommended that you outsource your catering to an external provider. Unless you have a small number of guests (say, less than twenty) it will only cause extra stress for you or your family at the reception, making sure everyone has enough food as well as ensuring everything else is running smoothly.

Your catering may be included with your venue package or the venue may have a list of approved suppliers you need to choose from. Whether or not this is the case, it is important to ask to see testimonials and evidence of previous events they have catered for. Caterers should also let you have a tasting session so you can taste for yourself the quality of the food.

Selecting the menu options

When deciding on your food theme and options remember to keep it simple. You don’t want to overcomplicate the options available as this will only add to costs. Make sure you are aware of guests’ dietary needs and provide a vegetarian option. If there are only a few guests that require different menu options you could check with them beforehand to prevent any issues with the menu on the day. It is a good idea to stick with safe food options as this also makes it easier to prepare.

Although there doesn’t have to be any congruence, consider the theme of the wedding and what type of food would fit well with it. Is the wedding and the reception formal or informal? Different catering options would suit different types of wedding, such as a champagne reception for a formal wedding or a barbeque for an informal wedding style. Also consider whether the meal will be a full sit-down meal or a buffet – there could be limitations depending on the size of the venue and number of guests. It should also reflect the couple’s personality – you could even add a meaningful element of your relationship into the menu somehow, whether in the presentation or decoration of the food.

Getting the timing right

Consider the timing of the wedding. If you’ve chosen to have a late evening reception this signals to guests to eat their meal beforehand, and you can simply offer snacks throughout the reception as many people won’t want to eat a large meal so late and will want food they can walk around with. If the reception is a party that is going to run throughout the afternoon late into the night, you’ll need to consider how to balance a meal with some form of evening buffet so guests don’t go hungry.

Portion size is important – you want to make sure guests don’t go hungry but you also want to prevent guests overeating and being too full to dance or socialise!

Choosing the Drinks

There are usually three stages of drinks at a wedding reception:

  1. The first drink as guests enter, which is usually something bubbly but could also be a cocktail or something a bit different. This will be their first impression of the reception so make it special!
  2. The drink to toast the couple with – usually champagne but again you could offer something a bit different.
  3. The wine to go with the meal. Make sure to offer both red and white to please everyone.

In all cases soft drinks need to be offered for children and those who can’t or don’t want to drink. The next conundrum is the bar – will your budget extend to a free bar? Some couples worry about offering a paid bar but it is becoming increasingly more common and should not be a problem as long as guests are informed beforehand. You could combine both options, having a free bar for the first hour or two before the bar starts charging guests.

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