Weddings are a beautiful occasion where friends and family gather to celebrate the marriage between two people in love. In some cases, wedding guests travel long distances to be able to attend, spending money on flights, hotels, transportation, meals and activities both before and after the wedding takes place.
The best thing you can do to ensure your guests are well taken care of during the wedding is to give them the best experience possible. One of ways to do this is to make sure you are feeding your guests well. As a Wedding Coordinator, I have witnessed couples make choices regarding their wedding food that are not always in the interest of the guests, but rather food is selected based on what the couple can afford.
Now, I understand how expensive food can be especially if you are planning a large wedding. But if you want the guests to leave happy and enjoy themselves for 5-8 hours, 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. The guests who are traveling to see you get married 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.
So, here are 5 tips to make sure your guests are happy and well fed!
1. Feed them a lot! You must feed your guests and feed them well. Wedding days are long 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, the wedding party, cousins from out of state, nieces, nephews, nannies, co-workers, ex-boyfriends, your neighbor from across the street.. whoever you have invited to the wedding is going to need to eat to keep up with all the wedding day festivities. You don't need to plan for meals the entire day but by the time the wedding comes around, your guests are probably already hungry so plan to serve food as soon as possible.
In fact, my #1 rule when it comes to food at the wedding: Do not make your guests wait too long to eat after your ceremony.
Waiting too long to serve food can leave your guests feeling "hangry." If you are having a formal meal after the ceremony, plan a cocktail reception with passed hors d'oeuvres or appetizer stations (or both) if dinner cannot be served right away. If you are taking pictures and have an hour or more in between the ceremony and reception, serving some small bites will keep your guests happy until the main meal arrives.
When it comes to hors d'oeuvres, have at least 4 different options for guests to choose from - something with meat, something vegetarian, something hot and something cold. Give guests a good mix to choose from and order enough so each person can have at least 2 pieces of each type of food to nibble on.
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 something, otherwise they will end up getting impatient and cranky. I've seen it happen. They 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 even seen guests walk out in the middle of dinner because the buffet was taking too long. Don't do that to your guests people.
That being said, If you must 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.
3. Have a kid friendly menu. 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, parents should plan to bring snacks for them if they are not old enough for their own meal. Nobody wants a hungry, cranky child having a melt down in the middle of the reception. Their parents (and your guests) will thank you.
4. Have dessert. Not everyone is a fan of traditional weddings, I get it. Now days there are so many options when it comes to desserts for weddings. 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 tasty! You can also serve homemade pies, fresh baked 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!
Have 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.
The bottom line is to keep guests happy, it's better to have more food than not enough.
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Brenda Cali is a professionally trained Wedding Consultant and plans a variety of social and corporate events.