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Wedding Wednesday: Wedding Menu Breakdown to cater to your pockets and your palates

Original Post Date: February 1, 2017 | Deniesha Johnson

I had a bride tell me that she was confused by the process of selecting her wedding menu, choosing whether to have buffet or plated and all the details that followed was all a bit overwhelming for her.

So I have decided to share my breakdown and suggestions based on the different catered food options that most weddings and events will experience. Generally there about three main areas where food and drinks are involved but the latest trend for weddings and events lately have up to five areas now, let me break it down for you: Cocktail Hour, Dinner, Dessert, Favors (although some couples choose to give out favors that are not eatable.) and late night snacks. 

Cocktail hour

During cocktail hour, if you'll have one, usually couples choose to host the bar tab for their guest while they're off taking photos or they use this time to mingle with their guest with signature drinks and light appetizers. This is the point of the evening where you set the tone for the reception and prepare your guest for what's to come yet. 

Tip: To save yourself some money and offer to host an open bar for only the signature cocktails and cash bar for all other drinks. Offer light and tiny Hors d’oeuvre that are both tasty yet inexpensive such as shots of tomato soup with little grilled cheese sandwiches in them

The trick is to keep it light and fun


The reception dinner is key... at this point your guest have built up an appetite and are ready to be impressed by your selection. Usually couples choose a menu that best fits them based off of their first date dish or favorite meal that they share together or just plain and simple... based on what taste the best! 

Dinner can be served in three different ways: 

1) Plated - This offers a more formal feel to your wedding where your guest are seated at their place and are served their meal all the way through dessert. With this option you can give your guest the choice to choose the protein they'd like and the caterer will pair it with the right sides and salad. Because of the service offered with this meal option paired with the selected meal items, this could be a more expensive option for you but an easier price point to consider as your caterer will know the exact portion to prepare per person ahead of time. 

Tip: Use place cards and include a symbol on each so to indicate the guest's choice to the server. Because your guest may not remember what they ordered. 

2) Buffet - This option offers a less formal wedding where your guest gather in one line to see the options offered on a long table display. Usually there are up to two servers who dish out your guest's portions per item offered. This option tends to be less expensive as you're given a set amount of food to work with for the number of guest you're expecting to have.

Tip: Be sure to order enough as most guest will only go through the line once but there may be a few who want seconds. Also, consider having the salad or some bread served to the individual tables just as the guest are seated so they have something to eat on while they wait their turn at the buffet line. 

3) Food Stations - This is also offers a less formal wedding but is a new trending option as it gives your guest the options to mix and mingle with one another. Instead of one long table displaying your food choices for only a specific set of time, there are several different tables set up all around the room by category for your guest to try and gather their food from. The food stations are usually open much longer than buffet, almost three times as long. This option offers a great conversation piece for your guest to get to know one another. They also won't have to stop dancing or visiting to make sure they get some food. 

Tip: Consider a great theme for this option, such as "All Around The World" theme and keep someone on deck to collect the empty plates that were discarded around the room. Also, while this option can be a bit more spendy, consider working with the caterer to get cost effective alternatives. 

Dessert, Favors and more. 

The piece de resistance of the menu is the cake or for those trend setters... the dessert. Most couples choose a cake based on not only the taste but how it looks as well. The art of the cake has become the staple for most weddings these days which has driven the cost of the cake up per serving from all the detail that is included or a must have. 

Tip: When choosing a 3 or 4 tier cake, consider having only the top two tiers as a real cake that is just for you two and your wedding party, while the bottom one or two tiers are fake (boxes) underneath all that fondant. However, in the back, order a sheet cake ready to be cut for your guest to enjoy. This will give the illusion that you have the grand cake of your dreams but a more cost efficient option. 

There are some couples now who are doing less traditional dessert options like pie, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream and parfaits. I say whatever makes your heart flutter in the idea of sharing those sweets... go for it! 

For the sweet tooth enthusiast, a candy bar is a great favor option that is a very popular trend. Instead of having the small box of Jordan Almonds at the table awaiting your guest, let your guest choose from an array of fun options that are color coordinated with your wedding. 

Lastly, a lot of weddings are going on a lot later than the traditional ones, where the couple and guest want to celebrate until the sun comes up. If your venue allows and its during a tiem when you know your guest will partake in the party, there is now a late night snack option for your guest so they can refuel their bodies. This may include a chip station, popcorn shrimp, chicken wingettes or pizza slices. 

Usually, guest come to weddings to celebrate you as the newly weds but we all know the most important part of the day is what they ate and drank. Be creative, be true to you but most importantly, be smart about your limitations. Enjoy!