Setting your menu is a relatively easy affair, but can be daunting to the novice who has never planned a catered event before. Here's an easy step-by-step guide to setting the menu for your wedding - including budget-saving tips and unique ideas.
Time Required: a few hours to several weeks
- Time of the Wedding Reception Decide on the time of day and season of the year. Will you have a summer meal at 2 PM or an elegant winter dinner at 8 PM? This is perhaps the most important decision you will make, and will be dependent on the availability of your venue.
- Cost Consult your wedding budget. If you're cost-cutting, filet mignon will not be an option. The more options you offer guests, generally the more your expenses will build. If your budget is tight, you might consider a cocktail reception, afternoon tea, or dessert reception.
- Caterer Recommendations Talk to your caterer. Are there particular dishes that they're known for, or that they recommend? If you're catering your own wedding, what recipes are always a crowd-pleaser? Make sure they're aware of the budget you've set.
- Offer variety Choose both stationery and passed hors d'oeuvres, as well as both hot and cold ones. Your guests will always be able to go to a station rather than chasing waiters around, but guests engrossed in conversation will still have a chance to nibble.
- Special Touches Ask your caterer if they can incorporate an old family recipe. Your guests will enjoy this personal touch.
- Personal Preferences Make sure you include foods that you love. Enjoying your wedding day is a priority, and it will help to make your menu personal.
- Heritage Incorporate foods from your families' heritages. Relatives and guests will bond over shared experiences. If your heritages are distinctly different cultures, consider featuring one during the cocktail hour and another during the meal.
- Change Things Up Think about going outside of a traditional menu. For example, some couples these days are opting for a dessert reception, rather than a traditional sit-down menu. This is not only a budget saver, but can be a great personal touch for the couple with a sweet-touth.
- Try It Out Ask to go for a tasting. You'll have a chance to sample the foods and find out what the standouts are. Although many caterers will give a complimentary tasting to the bride and groom, consider asking what it will cost for your parents or honor attendants to attend, to give you other opinions.
- Be a Considerate Host Ask your caterer what dietary options are available. Generally today's couples will want to offer non-red-meat fare, as well as a vegetarian option. If your caterer says "We have a nice veggie sides plate" make sure you taste it. I've been to far too many weddings where the vegetarian option is bland vegetables heaped unattractively on a plate.
- Double Check Finally, write your proposed menu down and consider if anything is missing, or out of place. Show it to trusted friends to see if they have any suggestions. Make sure to settle your menu with your caterer by their deadlines so you don't needlessly stress them, or add to costs.