Creating a Wedding Menu

Happy Tuesday Friends!  I hope you’ve had breakfast because today I’m talking about picking the menu for your wedding and rehearsal dinner.  Whenever we talk about food around here, we don’t like to do so on an empty stomach… so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Choosing the menu for your wedding can be an overwhelming process. Most venues and caterers have a selection of menus for you choose from and if you don’t start with the basics, it can seem completely overwhelming as you flip through the pages.   Here are a few helpful hints to get you started:

Select Your Style of Service

Before beginning to discuss what to eat, it’s important to decide how it will be served.  Service style options include buffet/ food stations, family style, or a seated/plated dinner.  Each of these styles provides guests with a very different dining experience, and each has pros and cons. Let's break it down further:

Buffets + Food Stations: Traditionally, these offer a more causal approach to a meal. Guests carry their own plate, typically serve most of their own food, can control portion sizes and can choose what or what not to eat. This type of service style lends itself well to reception style seating, which means a mix of highboys (tall bistro tables), low cocktail tables and some banquet rounds, which can be helpful in venues that don’t quite have enough space to accommodate your entire guest list in a seated capacity. Couples should consider their guest list carefully. Will all guests be able to easily balance their food and beverage as they make their way through the lines? Talk to your caterer! Depending on your headcount and menu, you may need multiple lines of the same buffet or food station. It’s important to know how much space to plan within the venue early on in the process. We recommend asking where flatware will be located as each venue and caterer has different preferences. For example, some venues will prefer to include flatware rolled in linen napkins on the buffet station, and others will prefer to include it at the guest tables (if there is a seat for everyone). 

Family Style: This type of service is best described as being similar to a Thanksgiving spread on each table. Guests are given an empty plate with a full place setting, and platters of food are brought to each table for self-service. Guests can control portion sizes and choose the items to eat. This type of service requires a lot of table space in order to fit all the place settings and platters. Because of the space required, typically you’ll need to plan for extra wide square or rectangle tables or assign less people to each round table. The space will really matter when it comes time to design centerpieces as well! The costs can add up pretty quickly as each table will require a linen and flower arrangement but may seat less people and you’ll likely need to rent sets of serving platters for each table. 

Perry Vaile Photography

Perry Vaile Photography


Seated/Plated: Guests are seated and served the entire meal. Personally, this is my favorite choice! Tables are set with place settings, complete with menu, linen napkin, charger, flatware, and water/wine glasses. There is something really special about sitting down to a fully set table with family and friends to share a meal and having someone serve you. Not having to get up, sometimes I feel like I could get lost in conversation, laughter, good food and wine for hours at a time. To me, that’s the most perfect party!! Although the service type may be more formal, the design and tone of the event certainly does not need to be that way at all- it’s all in the way you approach it.

Perry Vaile Photography

Perry Vaile Photography

Pick Your Main Courses First!

After you’ve decided on the how, you can dive into the “what.”  Most menus are written with appetizers at the top but I recommend that you skip right over that.  Step one is to choose the protein you want to serve for your entrée course.  I know this seems like you are starting in the middle and working your way out (you are), but trust me!  The entrée course is the most memorable and important, so you should make it count. If you choose a buffet, you will likely pick a fully planned meal package that the caterer has already put together.  For a seated/ plated meal (if serving a 3 course meal), I recommend a duet protein entrée course to be served to all guests- example: beef + fish or chicken + beef.  After you pick your protein(s), choose the accompaniments- typically a starch and veggie.

After you have your perfect main course chosen, know that you aren’t going to repeat ingredients.  For example if you chose to serve a filet and crab cake with corn and red pepper you shouldn’t serve a beef short rib or stuffed mini pepper as an appetizer. 

Pick Appetizers

A cocktail hour is incredibly helpful at a wedding, as that time helps act as a buffer to cushion the unpredictability of time needed for the ceremony.  Cocktail hours can always be shorter or longer, as needed, to allow for dinner to start at the properly scheduled time so food can be served at the right temperature and consistency.  Appetizers and butler passed hors d’oeuvres are a must-have for cocktail hours!  I recommend 3-4 options, depending on your headcount.  At minimum, you should have 1 vegetarian option, 1 cold hors d’oeuvre and 1 hot hors d’oeuvre.  Remember the main course you chose earlier?  Here is the challenge- don’t repeat any ingredients when choosing your appetizers!  That long list of choices becomes much more manageable very quickly!!

Choose the Rehearsal Dinner Menu

Once you have the menu for the wedding day all settled, then you can select the rehearsal dinner menu.  You should use the same approach and try not to repeat ingredients or duplicate selections.  It just doesn’t make sense to serve filet two nights in a row!  It’s comforting to some couples to know when trying to select the wedding menu that if something is a close second, it doesn’t have to be completely tossed out.  #2 could be the perfect choice for the rehearsal dinner menu!  

Perry Vaile Photography

Perry Vaile Photography

I hope your week is filled with good food, crisp summer wine and easy decision-making!