Guide To Choosing Food For Your Wedding
For better or for worse, everyone remembers the food at a wedding – unless they’ve had too many drinks beforehand! The food can make or break a wedding, which is why hiring a caterer can be a daunting task.
It’s easy to be impressed by a caterer’s brochure or website describing great food, but what matters is how you feel when you have an initial meeting with the caterer. You can only get an idea of what he or she is about by making that call or meeting them.
Most venues require you to use their in-house caterer, which makes the decision more straightforward, while other venues provide a list of pre-approved, independent caterers. If you have to select a caterer, contact two or three and give them as much information as possible, such as the wedding date, time, approximate number of guests and the style of the day. Make sure the caterer has a five-star rating from the Food Standards Agency.
Create a menu to reflect your style
Caterers should pitch to you but hopefully they will come across as genuine. You will, after all, be working closely with them for months so there needs to be a rapport to create a good working relationship.
A good caterer should be honest about what’s possible within your budget and not be afraid to say no. Be wary if you are offered the impossible on a tight budget. This could mean an unexpected big bill or a disaster waiting to happen because the caterer can’t deliver what you’ve asked for.
Give the caterer a rough idea of the size of your wedding – numbers can be confirmed nearer the time. They will need to know of special dietary requirements but a menu needs to accommodate everyone’s tastes: meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan. Discuss ways to create a menu to reflect the couple’s personal style.
Most caterers won’t do a formal tasting until they have been booked and the contract signed. Expect a charge for a full-scale testing as it is an important part of selecting the right food for the menu. You will want to know the quality of the fish or meat and seasoning of the dishes. Ideally, the tasting should happen as close to the season when the wedding is taking place so you sample what ingredients are currently available.
Sample tasting is important
Get them to send sample wedding menus and, if possible, research reviews of their services. The caterer will be able to advise about eating options, such as whether to have a sit-down meal or buffet. By the time you do the menu tasting, you should have ideas of the costs, with most charges on a per-person basis. In-house caterers may have a minimum charge or set-up fee, while an off-premises caterer will work within an agreed budget. There are often special menus for children, so let the caterer know how many are attending.
It’s fine to move away from traditional wedding food or a stylish traditional sit-down wedding breakfast. There are alternatives depending on budget, so if you fancy curry and all the trimmings or adore fish and chips, it makes a great change. Hog roasts are popular for rustic parties or for a festival feel, while food from a selection of food trucks also goes down a treat. Other ideas include picnics from wicker hampers or stylish afternoon teas using vintage china. The latest trend is seated but informal dining where large platters of food are shared on each table – very Mediterranean and a good icebreaker for guests.
Consider late evening food
When it comes to drinks, you could offer your favourite cocktail instead of champagne. Allow at least half a bottle of wine, both red and white, per guest. The popularity of local microbreweries means that a choice of beers is another option that is especially welcome on hot days.
Don’t forget to offer non-drinking guests a choice of soft drinks, sparkling water or non-alcoholic cocktails. If you are going to have a paying bar in the evening, let everyone know on the invitations. More couples are offering late evening food for partying guests, such as finger buffets or gourmet burgers – ideal for people who can nibble and chat while standing.
For the main meal, keep the options as straightforward as possible since you are catering for a large number of people who will all want to eat at the same time. Once the menu has been confirmed, you will need to work out how many waiting and bar staff will be needed.
Waiting staff should be dressed in line with the formality of a wedding. Check that the catering contract includes all the details of the reception such as the day, date, time, address, what food will be served at each course, the number of guests, dietary requirements for some meals and the time of the meal. The contract should include contact details for the person with whom the caterers will liaise.
When it comes to catering, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and clean plates. Bon appetit!