Your wedding menu is one of the areas that will make your day unique, and you can easily customise your wedding food to suit your tastes as a couple! Here are our top tips for choosing your wedding menu…
Internal vs external catering
Bear in mind when you’re looking for your wedding venue that some venues will ask that you use their internal catering team. This means that you’ll get a good amount of food included in your package, but may be less flexible than opting for an outside caterer. Most venue caterers will be happy to work with you to customise their menu to your tastes, but if you’re looking for something very specific or are working to a very tight budget, they may not be able to accommodate this. Be sure you know your venue’s stance on caterers before signing on the dotted line, and ask to see their menus so you can make an informed decision.
Other venues will have no catering team (particularly if you’re hiring a blank canvas venue such as a marquee in a park), so you will need to search for the best caterer to suit your budget and tastes.
Pick foods you like
This may sound like a very obvious tip, but lots of couples worry so much about pleasing everybody that they play it safe and opt for the plainest options available. Equally, you may feel pressure to have a formal sit-down meal because it’s traditional when really you’d be more comfortable with a more relaxed barbecue or buffet.
Your wedding day is a celebration of you, so you should focus on foods and styles you like. If you and your fiance are crazy about Indian food, why not pick it for your wedding meal? Maybe you spent time travelling around Mexico together; why not let the menu reflect this? If you always visit a certain Italian restaurant or had amazing burgers on your first date, then consider looking for caterers to match. You might also want your menu to reflect your heritage, such as picking a traditional sweet or drink to accompany the meal.
If you’re worried about your guests hating your menu (not everyone is a fan of spice, for example), then discuss it with your caterers. They’ll be able to work with you to come up with some crowd-pleasing options.
Consider style and budget
These days there are plenty of wedding catering styles, from sit-down silver service meals to outdoor picnics or delicious hot and cold buffets. Before you pick a favourite, you’ll need to get your budget sorted, as some styles are likely to cost you more than others. Table service with multiple courses will cost more due to staffing, while self-service options such as afternoon tea or hog roasts are likely to work out at less per head.
Your wedding caterer is likely to have different menus to reflect the changing seasons, and we thoroughly recommend that you try to choose in-season ingredients to get the best prices and flavours. For a summer wedding menu, try a fun barbecue with ice cream in different flavours, or for a winter wedding, opt for a hearty feast with traditional meats and mulled wine. Remember that if you’re stuck for ideas, you can simply ask your caterer what’s popular and in season for your time of year.
Book a tasting session
One of the best bits of deciding your wedding menu is booking a tasting session! We recommend trying a few dishes from your caterer before finalising your menu if possible, so you can choose your favourite items. Some venues will include menu tastings with their packages, while others will ask you to pay an extra charge. If you’re hiring a more casual caterer, why not try to catch them at a local food festival or fair to sample some of their options?
Don’t forget dietary requirements
It’s important to offer your guests alternatives if they have dietary requirements, such as allergies, or a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or diabetic diet. If you know ahead of time that there will be guests with dietary requirements, be sure to ask your caterer how they can accommodate these requests. Once you start to receive the RSVPs with dietary information on, you should check in with your caterer to give them a warning ahead of time.
Confirm the children’s menus
Now you’ve got the adults’ menus sorted, don’t forget to arrange food for the little ones! It may be that your wedding menu works for children, especially if it’s a buffet or a more casual dining option such as food trucks. However, if you’re having a sit-down meal, you’ll need to discuss options for children with your caterer.
Decide on drinks
If you’re planning with an in-house caterer, then it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with your venue’s bar when it comes to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Your caterer may be able to suggest good wine pairings to choose for the mains so that you can choose the best wines to go on the table, but we recommend a good mix of red, white and sparkling for the toasts. The welcome drink can be something a little more fun to suit your season or theme, such as a Pimm’s cocktail, hot apple cider or a personalised cocktail.
John has been a pivotal member of the Guides for Brides team for 15 years. He has many clients that are caterers or suppliers of catering equipment. He is the best person to contact for supplier recommendations in your area.