If you’re into food (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?!), the menu selection can be the most exciting and enjoyable part of planning a wedding! Being able to tell your story through your favorite or memorable dishes is a sensational way to customize your special day. A large part of the menu selection is the menu tasting – and by far my client’s favorite afternoon during the planning process. Based on your preferred flavors, we’ll coordinate a tasting of carefully selected menu items for you and your significant other to tickle your taste buds. Be sure to come hungry!
For those of you who place “menu selection” low on the priority list, let me share with you some insights as to why it should be a well-thought-out process.
Starters and Appetizers
Hors d’Oeuvres are a must!
Hors d’oeuvres is a fancy word for appetizers or small bites enjoyed during your cocktail hour just after the ceremony concludes. Along with a cocktail that everyone is looking forward to, these scrumptious little offerings are typically provided at the venue where your dinner reception will be held.
Do not skimp on these bad boys! Depending on where your ceremony takes place, your guests may have gone a couple of hours or more without something to eat. They are most likely enjoying their first cocktail quicker than usual, excited to get the party started, and will require some nourishment to pair with their drinks. Make sure you’re prepared with these delicious substances to help keep your guests satiated until you and your bridal party are done with their glamor shots.
HONEY BEAR TIP: ALWAYS have the chef make you and your partner a small plate to enjoy while taking photos. Since you have been dolled up and moving around since sunrise, food is important to keep you going strong. It’s worth the extra lipstick application.
Variety is Important
All of your guests are different and enjoy an array of flavors. Be sure to keep your guests’ needs in mind when selecting these appetizers. Dietary restrictions and preferences have become a new staple in food service so be sure to include a gluten-free and vegetarian option. Your guests will feel special that they have been accommodated even in this small way.
Tray Passed versus Stationary
Depending on your caterer, you may choose between small bites that are individually prepared and passed to your guests on trays or have the catering team set up a table of displayed items for your guests to approach and help themselves. Here are some pros and cons to both:
Tray Pass Pro:
▪ This service is perceived as more formal and elegant.
▪ This service helps control how much food is served and will not be as noticeable if all bites have been consumed.
Tray Pass Con:
▪ Depending on the caterer, this could cost more in labor charges to have staff available to walk around to your guests to provide these delectable treats.
▪ You are limited on the number of different food options that can be served.
▪ This option could be less expensive based on the selection because you do not need the extra staff to serve your guests.
▪ Stations offer more variety and can make a beautiful display if done right.
▪ A line can build up if the number of stations is not sufficient enough for the number of guests. Trust me, no one likes a long line when they’re hungry.
▪ Guests may need to carry a small plate during the cocktail hour which is not easy with a cocktail also in hand.
Meat and seafood and sides, oh my!
Choosing the entrée for your wedding should be an easy task that makes everyone happy. However, this decision affects many other elements in the production of your special day. Most caterers give you the option to offer one entrée to all guests or to allow your guests to select between two different entrée choices in advance. Typically, these options are a meat dish or a seafood dish with sides.
The Butterfly Effect of The Entrée Choice
When you provide guests the option to choose their entrée, guests must make this selection well in advance in order to give the culinary team enough time to prepare for the wedding day. Because the culinary team needs this information weeks before the wedding, it is vital to include this detail in the wedding invitation. This should be a requirement for each person to provide their entrée choice along with their RSVP. Getting a yes or no from friends and family is one thing, but gathering menu choices is a whole new spreadsheet! Luckily, we are in the age of technology and these things can be tracked much more easily.
Furthermore, once your guests have been given the opportunity to specify their meal selection, their answer may become very very specific, or dare I say… picky. “No mushrooms, butter, salt, or calories for mine. Ok, thanks!”
Now that we have a designated entrée for each guest, a designated seat must be decided as well. It will be up to you to decide where each guest is seated at each table. In order for your guests to know where they are seated, a place card will need to be created for each guest along with some indication of which meal they are enjoying that night. Some couples have used different color writing on the name cards, a small symbol, or added different embellishments to notify the servers of which entrée has been selected.
If your guest count is higher than 25, it is important to create a seating chart for your guests to reference where they are seated instead of searching for their name in a sea of tables. This is usually on display at the cocktail hour so guests have time to search while enjoying their drinks and light bites.
Menu Selection Processes
- Entrée choice
- Menu option on invitation
- RSVPs to include meal selection
- Place cards to indicate meal selection
- Couple to decide where each person will be seated
- Seating chart on display to find their seat
- One Entrée for all guests
- Sit back and relax, your job is done!
One Love, One Entrée
Just because everyone is enjoying the same entrée, does not mean they don’t get a choice on their plate. Caterers can create a delicious dish that includes both a seafood option and a meat option. A great example is filet and sea bass with a sauce that compliments both proteins. All your vegetarians will be accommodated with a separate meal entirely and if a guest forgets to tell you they prefer the vegetarian, it is an easy fix on the spot.
Desserts and Sweet Treats
You Can Have Your Cake, and Eat It Too
That is, of course, if you are a cake person and would prefer to have cake at your wedding. Not everyone is a big cake fan and that’s okay! Having a different dessert has become a popular choice for couples who want to tell their story through their favorite sweets. Other favorites, like ice cream sandwiches, freshly made donuts, chocolate chip cookies with milk, and candy stations have taken over the cake table as deliciously alternative options. If you choose to go with an alternative option, you can opt to have a small cake on display for the cake cutting ritual and for Uncle Frank who just HAS to have a slice of cake at the wedding!
If the cake is the highlight of the evening, then selecting a bakery and your cake flavors will be a memorable part of the planning process. Sweet Traders in Huntington Beach has won awards with their cake flavors and designs! We reached out to them to find out some of the popular cake trends for 2021.
What are three of the most popular flavors of wedding cakes?
- White chocolate cake with Vanilla Bavarian and Fresh Strawberries.
- Chocolate Cake with Oreo Cream.
- Lemon Cake with Raspberry Cream.
What are three unexpected, yet trendy flavors for wedding cakes for 2021?
- Red Velvet cake with Oreo Cream. Which is a spin-off of the traditional Oreo cream cake.
- White Chocolate Confetti Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream. Which is a grown-up twist to a childhood favorite.
- Almond Cake with Almond Chocolate Ganache. For people “nuts” about chocolate, the fudgy filling is so decadent and tasty with the light almond cake!
Would You Like Some Coffee with Your Sugar?
While enjoying a slice of cake or alternate sweet treats, some of the older crowd may tap a server on the shoulder to ask for a cup of decaf coffee while the other half of the party is on the dance floor. By this time of the evening, shoes are off, music is loud and servers are busy cleaning up dinner service. To ensure your guests are able to get a quick cup of joe, set up a stationary coffee station so grandma can help herself and doctor up her decaf just the way she likes it.
Late Night Options
Late Night Snacks
It has been a long day and it is possible that a lot of your guests have been enjoying the bar service for many hours. Dinner typically ends about 2-3 hours before the evening ends so it is always a good idea to get some food into everyone’s stomach (especially the couple!) before they head out for the night. This option can be fun, inexpensive, and loaded with grease! Some popular choices are sliders, grilled cheese bites, a french fry bar, or even a fresh-popped bag of popcorn. It is best if these items are bite-sized and easy to enjoy so your guests can eat and run! They will thank you for it the next morning.
Food Truck Late Night Snack
Another popular favorite late-night option is to hire a food truck! Now that is a way to say, “Thank you for coming! Here is a fresh-made burger.” In-N-Out trucks, taco trucks, and pizza trucks draw your guests out of the venue with that alluring smell. Let the truck take care of the prep, service, and deliciousness of your late-night snack. Be sure to check with your venue first to find out if they allow outside vendors. Depending on your venue of choice, some venues do not allow food trucks at all or they may tack on an additional cost.