Perhaps you hail from a town known for lobster rolls, your first date was over tacos, or you simply can’t imagine saying I do without your beloved (but not exactly wedding staple) bison burger or chicken vindaloo. Even if they’re seemingly too casual, messy, or quirky, it’s definitely possible to include your dream foods in your reception menu. Here’s how.
“It’s all about presentation,” says Ashley Power, owner of Philadelphia catering company Power Events, which always does individualized menus for couples.
To make barbecue prettier and more approachable, Power has created stations with different cuts of meat and a variety of sauces (vinegar-based, chili-based, tomato-based), as well as a potato salad station with different ingredients that guests could select to build a custom side. (Mac-and-cheese and mashed-potato stations are crowd hits, and because people can pick what they want, it’s easy to include special flavors like duck confit or pickled asparagus.)
You also can make unique food part of the entertainment, such as a whole-pig roast, head included, which Powers has done. “We decorated the fire pit, had wine-barrel seating for guests to watch, and afterward we turned the area into a cider pit for late-night drinks,” Power says. She also recommends made-to-order grilled pizzas.
If sweets are your passion, event planner Dennis Barringer of Santa Barbara, California-based Pure Joy Catering suggests a dessert station. He loves pie displays (include mom’s own chocolate pecan or grandma’s perfect strawberry rhubarb) and late-night treats like a waffle and pancake station with all the toppings –everything from berries, whipped cream, and salted caramel sauce to Gruyere and bacon. Feel free to have any size wedding cake in addition for a traditional cutting.
Barringer tries to steer his clients away from serving dinner items that won’t please the masses or may be difficult to east for well-dressed folks. Instead, he suggests rethinking the cherished dish as a one or two-bite appetizer.
A few of his favorites right now include: mini sloppy joes with milk shake shooters; mini tacos with a margarita served in a small Patrón bottle; mini Southern Belle cocktails with slow-roasted barbecue pork and Napa slaw on corn muffins; tomato soup with a mini grilled cheese; cocktail hamburgers with all the fixings; buttermilk fried chicken drumettes; and chicken and waffles wrapped up to look like a little ice cream cone. Naturally, Philadelphia-based Power is a fan of serving mini cheese steaks.
These small bites allow you to showcase your favorite dishes while still having a dinner that’s appropriate for the formality and/or setting. Example: For a couple with Canadian and English roots getting married in Santa Barbara, Barringer suggested fun appetizers like cones of crispy ale-battered cod & chips, mini beef Wellington, and tiny pans of toad in the hole, followed by a more “wine country” dinner of salmon, organic chicken, mushroom ravioli with sage butter, and farmers market grilled veggies.
“It’s very easy to do cookie-cutter weddings,” says Barringer, “but every app, station, main course, and late-night snack should make people get excited!”