Wedding Food - Selecting What to Serve at Your Reception
Weddings Call for Feasting at the Reception
A wedding celebration is steeped in tradition. While you may not be worried about aligning the stars and moons, you do have to decide what to serve your guests that have come to witness and celebrate your marriage. What are the best choices when it comes to selecting wedding food? In other words, what will you serve at your wedding reception?
This answer is based in part on personal tastes and preferences. However, considering the potentially high cost of a wedding, as well as the fact that bad food can set the tone for the entire party afterwards, careful consideration should be made in selecting your menu.
Wedding feasts have been celebrated as long as people have been getting married. In some cultures, they are long, drawn-out affairs. In Israel, for example, a wedding celebration would last up to a week, ending in triumph with a colorful procession, dancing, presentation of gifts to the bride and a feast. Eastern cultures have observed three phases of a marriage, the arrangement, the betrothal, and the date of consummation which would take place at the end of the wedding feast. This date was carefully chosen based on positioning of the sun, moon and stars, as well as the bride's most fertile period.
The Bible contains several stories about wedding feasts, including the first miracle that Jesus performed at the Wedding of Cana, John 1:1-12. It was here that Jesus turned water into wine, to the great relief of the host, and the astonishment of Mary.
Considerations for Planning What to Serve at a Wedding Reception
- Buffet or sit-down dinner
- Finger foods or hearty fare
- Catered or cooked by relatives or friends
- Indoors or outdoors
- Any appropriate themes for cuisine, i.e. Polynesian, Southern BBQ, Coastal seafood, etc.
- Dietary restrictions
- Mobility of your guests (elderly people may have a harder time at a buffet)
- Cultural traditions
- Number of guests
- Time of day
- Décor (flowers, candles, ice sculptures, or whatever you fancy)
- Logistics of serving and/or buffet lines
- Beverage options
- Wedding cake and/or other dessert
Should You Cater Your Wedding Reception?
When planning a wedding, there are two competing factors that have to be balanced: expense and convenience. If you want less hassle, you must be prepared to pay more. Conversely, if you are looking to save a few bucks, you will likely be doing more of the "dirty work" yourself.
I would consider skimping on expenses other than food in your wedding preparatons, especially catering! You can save money by setting up the reception yourself (setting tables, putting out tablecloths, creating centerpieces), having a DJ instead of a live band, and serving only beer and wine - or no alcohol at all. A professional caterer can ensure that your food will taste good, will be at the right temperature and that enough will be prepared to serve the expected number of guests.
When interviewing a potential caterer, ask for letters of recommendation or references and follow up! Ask for a tasting afternoon or evening when you can try several of the offerings that may be served at the wedding reception.
Be sure to get a clear idea on cost per number of guests, and whether any additional charges will be levied for personal chef service "add-ons" like pasta stations, meat carving stations, or the like. Ask for a contract, review it carefully and make sure that there is a cancellation provision in your benefit. Spell out everything very carefully. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, make sure that special dietary needs will be met. Consider bringing along a married friend, and have her review the contract with you to make sure that you are not missing anything important.
Cater Your Own Wedding!
Homemade Wedding Reception Fare
If you decide not to hire a caterer, but to make your own food, be sure to get lots of help so you are not overwhelmed on your wedding day! There are plenty of brides that choose to go this route, either because of cost, or because they cannot find a caterer that can prepare the types of foods that they desire for the reception. This option may be best reserved for smaller wedding parties, 75 guests or less. Otherwise, the logistics of making enough food, keeping it at the proper temperature, serving it, and more, may make things too stressful for you.
Homemade food is a great option for early in the day weddings, or early afternoon weddings. Receptions can include light brunch fare such as fresh fruit, egg dishes, sweet rolls and assorted meats (if you desire). In the afternoon, your guests may not expect a heavy filling meal at the reception. You may decide to stick with appetizers and drinks, instead. Finger foods such as stuffed mushroom caps, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, prosciutto wrapped melon, and mini crab cakes are all popular choices. You can set up a salad station, as well, serving several cold options such as pasta salad, spinach salad, and fruit salad.
There are many wedding reception food recipes for such fare which can be fairly easily prepared in advance of the big day!
Great Table Top and Decorating Ideas for your Wedding Reception
Buffet or Sit-Down Dinner for a Wedding Reception?
Depending on whether you select a sit-down dinner, or a buffet line, your choices of reception foods will vary. Of course, your bill will be influenced by the menu you put together, as well. For my wedding, I really wanted to serve gulf shrimp and crab legs. Lovely and tasty, yet quite expensive. We decided to choose one, but not both.
A buffet is generally less expensive (saving anywhere from $10-20 per guest if you are having the event catered), and provides greater options from which the attendees can choose. The downside is that lines may be long and difficult to maneuver for elderly people or those with young children. Some people now break up the lines into discrete tables (one for cheese, one for fruit, etc.)
Typical American wedding fare for an afternoon or evening wedding buffet may include: green salad, bread/rolls, a fruit platter, a cheese platter, and then a number of hot dishes from which to choose. The options depend in part on the caterer you select (if any) and their specialties. Some people enjoy having a pasta bar (the chef will toss the selected noodles with sauce of your choice), and/or a carving station (ham, roast beef, turkey, etc.)
Those who choose a sit-down dinner usually send the wedding invitees a response card that includes not only whether they will come or not, but also a dinner selection (poultry, fish or red meat are usual selections; some include a vegetarian meal). With this type of option, your guests may expect to be served a salad course and a main course. Dessert is usually the wedding cake. Bread and/or rolls are often served with the meal. Sit-down is generally more expensive because of the service costs associated.
Your Wedding and Reception is Your Day
You are bound to get lots of advice when planning your wedding day. There is no "right or wrong" way to serve your guests at the reception, however. Like other considerations, your personal preference and tastes should dictate what you decide for a menu.
Above all, try to relax and enjoy the anticipation of getting married!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2008 Stephanie Marshall