We’re often asked how a bride and groom should prioritize their wedding budget and food is always one of our top responses. Wedding guests want to enjoy a party and often an event’s success is based on how good the food is. Weddings are no different. If the food and booze are flowing, you are going to have a bunch of happy campers. But how do you determine what to serve? While you may have to deal with the little details of planning the menu, the thoughtful expertise of a professional chef will make your decisions easier than you expect. An experienced kitchen paladin knows how seasons affect the palette, as well as availability, price and quality fluctuations. Because s/he is an expert, you don’t have to be!
Often a bride and groom have to choose from prepared packages or an a la carte menu. In some cases, they are in charge of the food because the venue does not cater. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when conquering your wedding your menu:
- Balance the menu: Be sure to have a variety of both hot and cold choices on your list, bearing in mind that the amount of each will vary with the weather.
- Consider food preparations methods: Fried food is wonderful, but an entire deep fried menu will be a nightmare. Remember, this is your wedding, not a family reunion at a park. Make sure to mix some baked items into the menu.
- Don’t overdo the New Orleans fare: While you may highlight New Orleans, most of your guests probably live here if you’re a New Orleans native. So add a few options they don’t see everywhere to give a bit of “spice.” New Orleans is famous for a variety of food, so consider options that are a little more upscale or rare, something special for your big day. Opt for something a bit less common like a bread pudding or bananas foster action station. A classic New Orleans dessert is always a crowd pleaser, and with an action station, your guests will not only enjoy the scrumptious taste of the dish, they will be treated to a show that delights and amazes!
- Variety matters: While you need to have a balance of hot and cold dishes, ensuring that you have a variety of dishes is important as well. For instance, New Orleans is a seafood city, but some people do not eat seafood. Whether this peculiarity is due to allergies or just personal preference, Yankees, odd ducks and the taste bud challenged deserve hospitality, too. Gumbo Ya-Ya, a carving station, or even offering finger sandwiches will let those non-seafood eaters know that you thought of them when planning your menu, and thoughtfulness is a gift that is always appreciated. So by all means, showcase local seafood, but remember your wedding is not a fish market.
- Don’t forget the light dishes: The options are endless and delicious, and if you have someone trying to watch his or her waistline, a nice mixed-green salad and a fresh seasonal fruit display will be a nice change from the other rich menu items.
- Keep in mind guests’ allergy and dietary restrictions: Accommodating guests with gastronomic eccentricities is a gracious gesture on your part - one that shows that on your biggest day, you took account of the tinniest details. In addition to the non-seafood options, some selections sans gluten and peanuts are guaranteed to make a guest or guests who are often unconsidered feel very welcome. And while splurging on the less common, it is best to also keep vegetarians and vegans in mind. They, too, will take note and appreciate having been thought of.
- Have enough food: You could create an epicure’s paradise with endless variety, but if there is too little of it for everyone to be satisfied, then it will be the lack of food, rather than poor menu choices, leaving your guests with a bad taste in their mouth.
Jay Van Vrancken is an event planner and wedding architect at The Balcony Ballroom, a wedding and event venue in New Orleans. Established by his parents in 1974, Jay and his family have planned over 10,000 weddings.
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