Find out how to avoid them!
Out of all the wedding planning activities engaged couples are responsible for, choosing the food for the wedding is the most anticipated. Tasting options is fun and delicious, but also very important. As experienced wedding caterers, we can tell you: guests appreciate good reception food. To make your wedding menu the best it can be, you will have to choose food that is not only delicious for you and your spouse, but also for the friends and family who will be attending your wedding. To help you, we have collected chef’s accounts of the greatest menu mistakes brides and grooms make, as well as how to avoid making them.
It is likely that you are planning your wedding menu a season ahead. For example, you might be planning your fall wedding menu during the summer. This might make you think that seasonal food includes tomatoes, stone fruit, and fresh corn. "But you need to remember that those ingredients won't be available, or as delicious, in October," says Karen Akunowicz, executive chef and partner at Myers + Chang in Boston, Massachusetts. "Talk to your chef or caterer about which ingredients are at their peak the month you're getting married. For bonus points, use lovely fruit, vegetables or fish local to your area. Think: wild Maine blueberries, Pacific Northwest salmon, or New Jersey tomatoes."
Pleasing Everyone (Or trying)
According to Samuel Well, chef and owner of a catering company called 168 Main in Belgrade, Maine, says that picking a menu with items every guest will love simply is not possible. "You can't please everyone so forget about it! Look to please the majority and you'll be much better off for it," he says. This doesn’t mean your menu should only contain your favorite foods. "Even though this is your special day, not everyone likes the same things you do. Not having some mainstream items in the menu selection can leave many of the guests going hungry at the reception," says The Cavalier Hotel corporate chef Gregory Barnhill.
Choosing Messy, Difficult Foods
Lobsters are classy and delicious, but they aren’t exactly what you want to eat dressed in formal attire. Executive sous chef at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Jackie Cochran, advises that you should plan for foods that are easy to eat. "While Mexican street corn can be a fun and modern addition to a festive wedding, it can also be a mess," she says.
Not Considering Allergies and Food Preferences
It is important that you make your venue and caterer aware of food allergies. They need time to plan ahead for dietary restraints. "Vegetarians are often regaled to eating the 'sides' or a limp pasta primavera at weddings," says Akunowicz, "But it is so easy to add a line on the RSVP card asking for allergies and dietary preferences—otherwise, those guests could leave hungry and grumpy." Letting the venue and caterer know ahead of time allows them to come up with alternatives for those who cannot eat what is being served.
Overloading the Hors d'oeuvres
"Cocktail hour is everyone's favorite part of the reception (mine too!), but often a couple will choose too many passed appetizers with not enough quantity of each," says Akunowicz. "This leaves your Aunt Muriel wondering where the oysters are that she saw someone else eating!" To avoid this issue, you should choose only a few appetizers and ask your caterer to make plenty of each. Another suggestion is to have a stationary grazing table along with passed appetizers.
Forgetting the Children
Kids need appropriate meals, too. People often forget that kids need meals that they will enjoy. "All too often the kids' meals seem to be an afterthought, often turning out to be dry chicken fingers and soggy French fries," says Barnhill. "I think as much thought should go into making sure children are fed, and quickly, with something they like and something better for them. Kids love choosing for themselves, so sometimes we put small items on the menu for kids to choose from. It makes it a little more custom."
Handing Family Recipes to the Chef
Asking a chef to make a family recipe is rarely a good idea. It never turns out the same as when you make it at home, so you will likely be disappointed in the result. "Also, executing outside recipes stresses the kitchen process, as the chef would need to demo the recipe to have an understanding of the end product and train those expected to produce it, which costs time and money. Save it for another occasion, avoid the up charge, and allow the venue you chose to showcase their expertise and the experiences they have perfected over the years."
Opting for Buffet to Cut Costs
Many believe that having a buffet is less expensive, but this is rarely the case. A buffet requires a higher quantity than plated food. Also, caterers make extra to ensure they do not run out. Staff must manage the buffet to maintain food quantity and quality. The extra expense for a buffet adds up quickly.
Text By Thomas Cox and Martha Kendall Custard