Thoughts on Wedding Food

As a guy in my late 20’s with a social wife, I’ve been to my fair share of weddings in the last few years. In addition to getting married nearly 3 years ago, we’ve attended over 10 weddings that spanned in range from formal Catholic ceremonies to short beach nuptuals.

I adore food, so it’s only natural that the memories (good and bad) that stick with me the longest have to do with the meals we enjoyed together. For those of you about to get married, my observations will hopefully guide you on a better path. For everyone else–just read along, reminiss, and let me know if you have a different opinion.

Guest Comfort

I start with this because as a guest, one of the most important variables in my level of meal enjoyment is being personally comfortable. Things that may hinder that comfort are 8-tops set for 10 people, tables which are 2 feet apart, poor lighting, noise, and just about anything that would annoy you on a nice, romantic dinner out.

A lot of couples miss this step because they don’t see a complete table layout and setup until it’s too late. Ask for one the week before your wedding, and verify that it’s what you want.

Appetizers

The way apps are done at most weddings needs serious improvement. Does this ring a bell:

10 minutes before dinner service and an hour after everyone arrived, two waiters emerge with tiny app plates into a crowd of 200 people. Anyone standing close enough to the door, or hungry enough to politely scoot over to the waiter gets fed. The waiters go back for refills, which seems like it takes hours. Sooner or later, the back of the room gets a few apps. Overall though, at least half the room hasn’t been approached with a single appetizer.

There are a few solutions, not all of which are under your control. The most obvious is to deploy additional waiters and divide the room to make sure everyone is getting fed. Another alternative that has worked very well is to set up “stations” in addition to the distributed appetizers. Stations could be food that is laid out for self-service, or something manned like a custom sushi station.

As far as timing, you’re better off serving apps too early than too late–most people haven’t eaten since at least a few hours before your ceremony started, and getting a snack is bound to make them less anxious about waiting for you to show up, and more open to socializing and enjoyment.

Buffet vs. Service

The most compelling argument against buffet service is its relative “fancyness.” For a super-traditional wedding, you almost have no choice but to plate the food and have it served. Otherwise, if buffet is an option, consider some of its benefits:

  • Food is loaded from a hot vessel right before you eat, so you avoid the risk of serving your guests cold meals (it’s more common than you’d expect).
  • Buffet is typically cheaper per-head than plated food.
  • Your guests can customize their plated with their preferred foods and proportions.
  • You can typically achieve more variety and choice within the same budget, catering to more tastes.
  • For the 10% or so of guests who are really hungry, going for seconds is typically never a problem.

Selecting Entrees

In a world where guests are becoming increasingly “specialized” with their diets, serving a single dish for an entree is a dangerous move. While no guests would ever dare to offend you by giving feedback outright, many will be secretly offended if, for example, they are vegetarian and are served beef.

The list is endless–people with all kinds of food allergies, vegetarians and vegans, people who don’t eat fish or beef, those who can’t have gluten, etc. Just as varied are the reasons–mandated and voluntary health benefits, religious restrictions, or weight-loss diets.

I know we can’t please everyone…but the venue kitchen often can! It’s a really good idea to at least have a check mark on your RSVP card for food restrictions and have someone give your guest a call ahead of time to clarify. It makes for happier guests all around, and avoids the awkward “Oh, I can’t eat that.”

Alcohol

I will only mention a few things here, since deciding on alcohol is very much about “what works for you.” Between the countless alcohol-serving options available, many are sure to offend someone to one degree or another, and/or cost you a pretty penny. So again, these are my thoughts only:

  • Many guests are content with some champagne and maybe a glass of wine, but are encouraged by an open bar to drink more.
  • While I’m not a lawyer, the liability inherent with serving large amounts of alcohol at an event you’re responsible for would scare me.
  • Drink lines are not the most pleasant use of time for a guest, while wine served at the table is usually a nice surprise.

Your Thoughts

These are only my observations on wedding food–but what do you think?

Photo by jdtornow