What are we eating?
This is one of the first things that your guests will say as they sit down to eat. A quick look at the menu and debriefing with the other guests around the table. This is one of the reasons why we love weddings: our taste buds usually remember them. However, choosing a wedding meal is not always easy. And unless you are less than 30 people, you will most likely use a caterer. What seems to me to be a wise decision.
The goal is to fully enjoy the wedding before, during and after without worrying about who to prepare, who to serve or who to take care of the dishes. Most of the time, each caterer offers you a catalog with several appetizers, starters, main courses, desserts etc… Which can already help you to compose your menu. Do not hesitate to ask the caterer for his specialties and some advice to guide you. In the meantime, I give you a list of factors to take into account (or not) to help you choose the meal for your wedding.
The number of guests
The number of guests will always have an impact throughout the preparation of the wedding. Especially during the preparation of the meal. Indeed, if you choose dishes with a certain cooking time, the kitchen may not be able to provide fast enough. And some of your guests may wait 20 minutes when the table next to them has already finished. Consider checking with your venue’s kitchen and talking to your caterer to see what’s possible.
I had the opportunity to talk about it in an article dedicated to the budget of a wedding, but it is clear that the caterer represents the biggest expense. On average, it is necessary to count between 50 to 180 euros per guest without counting the drinks. Take the amount of the budget you want to allocate to the caterer and divide it by the number of guests. You get an average price per person. According to this amount, you will be able to decide and arbitrate your choices, for example:
Put an appetizer at the beginning of the meal?
Propose one or two appetizers or a more substantial cocktail/wine of honor?
Have one or two courses?
Put a cheese plate?
Choose the type of wedding meal
Here again, you will have to choose the way your wedding meal will be served. There are several choices, but generally speaking, future brides and grooms opt for a sit-down dinner, a buffet or a cocktail party. Of course, some dishes will be easier to serve if the guests are seated and not standing. For a seated dinner, the service is done with a plate and allows you to send hot dishes, sauces or soups more easily. For the cocktail party, choose appetizers, small cassolettes, mini-sandwiches, verrines or culinary workshops. Finally, for the buffet, you can mix hot and cold in large containers and focus on the decoration and enhancement of the dishes. Be careful, however, if you have more than 100 guests, the buffet can be a nightmare to manage the quantities and the wait to serve yourself.
The type of kitchen
You will also be able to choose the type of kitchen you want for your wedding. It is up to you to decide if you prefer a traditional, refined, gastronomic or original menu. The way you will serve the meal will influence the type of cuisine you choose. Generally speaking, the future brides and grooms tend to choose a traditional or refined cuisine, but it is not uncommon to see more original menus. For example, molecular cuisine, truffles or traditional dishes completely revisited.
Make sure to match your tastes and those of your guests
It is clear that you should not choose a menu that you will not like yourself. But don’t tempt the devil by proposing garlic snails as a starter and Caen-style tripe as a main course. Even if you love them, there is little chance that your guests will be delighted. Choose dishes that are “easy” to eat and that your guests are likely to enjoy. Even if, of course, tastes and colors depend on each person.
Think about allergies and dietary restrictions
Your caterer is used to this and can adapt easily enough to offer alternatives. For allergies, it will be enough to remove or replace the food concerned for the person. For specific diets (vegans, gluten free, vegetarians etc…) ask your caterer for an alternative dish and specify the quantity needed. If the majority of your guests have religious requirements, choose a specialized caterer (halal or kosher) for example. For more simplicity, choose your menu normally, then when sending the invitations tell your guests to specify their preferences or dietary restrictions to specify as soon as possible to your caterer.
The general balance of the menu and the season
In my opinion, it is important to think about choosing a balanced menu. I’m not talking about going into “Healthy Wedding” mode, but rather not proposing a set that is too heavy and difficult to digest. For example, if you propose foie gras as an appetizer, a cassoulet as a main course and a huge “pièce montée” as a dessert, chances are that digestion will be complicated. Of course, I always exaggerate a little on the examples but it is especially to make you understand. The goal being to find your guests all night long on the dance floor, you will have to put all the chances on your side.
You can choose a fish starter for example and a meat dish accompanied by vegetables and starchy foods. Try to vary the pleasures, tastes and textures. Finally, the season is also very important. Choose fresh and light dishes in summer if it is very hot and warm and comforting dishes in winter for example. Also, think of vegetables and fruits in season. They are bound to be better and will reduce the cost of your wedding meal.
The theme of your wedding
This factor is not mandatory but it can be interesting and very original to implement. For example, if your theme refers to a country why not propose the national specialty? If you have chosen a multicolored inspiration put some color in the plate. Or if your theme is “Disney” why not make a fancy presentation of the dishes? The consistency of your wedding theme will surprise your guests and make a lasting impression!
Your region of origin or the region of the wedding
You can also invite your guests to discover the region by proposing regional dishes. Maybe not for the whole menu, but try to bring some local products via a particular sauce, a drink (a wine from the Loire Valley if you are getting married in Tours), a delicacy (Canelés in Bordeaux, Calissons in Aix…). It is a great way to show the qualities of the region and to share a discovery with your guests.
Taste your wedding menu!
The last point is extremely important. Once you have prepared a list of dishes that will please you, ask your caterer to do a test lunch. If you hire your caterer for your wedding, the test lunch is usually free. This will be an opportunity for you to see and taste your choices. You will have the opportunity to choose what you prefer and to balance the menu according to this lunch. I think this step is mandatory for you. At the same time, it’s not the most disturbing thing to do for your wedding isn’t it?