Image: Ryanne Bee Photography
Weddings are a beautiful occasion where friends and family gather to celebrate the marriage between two people in love. For destinations weddings guests may travel long distances to attend spending money on flights, hotels, transportation, meals and activities both before and after the wedding. As "hosts" of your wedding, one way to ensure the guests are happy and taken care of is to feed them well.
As a Wedding Coordinator, I have seen couples make choices questionable choices when it comes to what to serve at their wedding. They may only think about what they themselves like to eat and not always keeping their guests likes or dislikes in mind. This is a big No-No! This may be your wedding day but your choices should reflect the type of experience you want your guests to have and how you want them to remember this day.
We know catering for weddings can be expensive especially if you are planning a large wedding. But if you want the guests to leave happy and enjoy themselves you really need to be realistic about your food budget and either increase it (and cut back in other areas if necessary), or decrease your headcount. That may sound harsh but it's a realistic way to approach it in my opinion. Your guests, no matter how far they traveled, expect to be fed and it is one of the things they will remember about your wedding day. Food leaves an impression on people, either good or bad.
Here are 5 tips to make sure you are keeping your guests the entire guest experience in mind when planning what food to serve at your wedding.
1. Feed Them Quickly and A Lot!
Wedding days in general are very looooong days. From the time you get up in the morning to the last song of the night, you are going non-stop and your guests are too. Parents, grandparents, siblings, your BFF, the wedding party - whoever you have invited to the wedding is going to need to eat in order to keep going to the end. By the time the ceremony comes around, your guests are probably already hungry so plan to serve food as soon as possible.
Tip #1 Do not make your guests wait too long to eat after your ceremony. This will only make them impatient, cranky and if you're serving alcohol, chances are they'll get a little too drunk a little too fast. I recommend having a cocktail hour and serving drinks AND appetizers between the ceremony and reception. Keep it light and simple but serve something! It might be a while before dinner begins.
Tip #2 If you're doing your grand entrance with your entire wedding party, immedately sit down at your tables once the wedding party has all walked in. Save your first dance, speeches and other formalities until the middle of dinner or at the end. This will allow food to be served right away and avoid guests getting "hangry."
2. A Better Buffet.
Buffets... (sigh). Many guests will cringe when you mention you are having a buffet at your wedding because in general, it means they will have to wait longer to get their food. Let's be real. Nobody wants to wait in line for their food at a wedding. People want to sit down and immediately eat. When it comes time for the buffet, guests will sit at their table anxiously waiting for their turn while people around them get up to go through the line. No table wants to go last. I've seen guests walk out in the middle of dinner because the buffet was taking too long.
Tip #1: If you choose to have a buffet you can make things easier by asking your caterer or wedding venue to create two buffet lines. Having two buffet lines going at the same time will speed up the dinner service giving your guests the opportunity to get their food much faster. This is particularly helpful for large weddings with over 100 guests. By doing this you are also helping to keep all the other formalities on time such as getting to your first dance or toasts and speeches. A long buffet service can cause major delays in the entire evening which you definitely don't want!
Tip #2: Keep the buffet options to a minimum. A lot of people think a buffet is cheaper than a plated meal. Not always the case. Especially if you have multiple options. To keep costs down and the line moving, limit choices. For a typical American buffet, I recommend serving 2 types of meat, a choice of fish or pasta, 1 vegetable dish and 1 salad. You could also have fresh baked bread at the buffet or served at the tables. That is more than enough food especially if you're serving dessert and/or late night snacks!
3. Keep Kids and Special Dietary Needs in Mind.
If you are planning to have children at your wedding be sure to have a few kid friendly options on the menu for children who will need a meal. Determine how many children will be attending the wedding and give them 2 or 3 options to choose from such as chicken strips, cheeseburger and fries and pizza. If there are very small children or babies attending the wedding, their parents will most likely bring food and snacks for them if they are not old enough to eat at the dinner table.
You should also keep in mind any special dietary needs such as allergies to certain foods like shellfish, nuts, dairy, etc. Nowdays many caterers offer gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options. If you're not sure if any of your guests have allergies ask them! Or ask other family members to help you find out. You just want to be on the safe side and make sure all your guests have a meal and there are no last minute, on the spot meal requests that the chef now has to magically create.
4. Offer multiple dessert options. Not everyone is a fan of traditional weddings or wedding cake, I get it. Thankfully there are so many options when it comes to desserts! You no longer have to have a wedding cake (although, it is still nice for pictures). You can choose to have a dessert buffet with lots of "mini" desserts which are both cute and delicious! You can serve fresh baked pies, doughnuts, mini cupcakes, cake pops, ice cream sundaes, a cookie bar.. the list is endless. The point is, people want dessert - sugar is not the enemy. It keeps people happy and energized for dancing and in a good mood in general. And serving coffee and/or tea with dessert ... bonus!
Image: James & Jess Photography
Include late night snacks. If you're one of those couples who wants to throw an all night party ('till the break of dawn), for goodness sake have some late night snack food! Think about it.. dinner at 7pm followed by dessert and then dancing for 2-3 hours.. your guests will be getting hungry by 10 or 11pm. If you're planning to party until midnight or later plan to take the party to a bar where you can get late night food served until 2am, hire a food truck to serve up some delicious meals on wheels or order in a few pizzas. Either way you go you can't go wrong. More is better than not enough!
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Image: Danielle Honea Phototography
Brenda Cali is a professionally trained Wedding Consultant and plans a variety of social and corporate events.