Planning what to serve for your wedding reception meal may feel like one of the most stressful items on your to-do list, simply because there are so many important details to cover. Formal or causal setting, the size of your budget, and finalizing the guest list are typically the key wedding planning considerations when it comes to your wedding reception meal. But, there are a few other details that require your attention as well.
Choosing the Appropriate Time to Serve Your Reception Meal
The budget is set; the guest list has been confirmed. The next item on your list is to determine the time of day to have your wedding reception. Time of day is a critical factor in serving your meal, since you’ll want to choose dishes that are tasty, as well as appropriate for your wedding reception setting.
Early morning wedding reception meals offer a variety of breakfast and brunch dishes. Traditional morning cuisine can include items such as pastries, assorted fruits and cheeses, and even made-to-order treats like omelets and waffles. Morning receptions can be adjusted to complement a formal or casual dining setting.
Afternoon or midday
Just as a morning reception meal can serve a wide variety of dishes, afternoon reception meals provide that same flexibility with meal options. Wedding guests can enjoy formal, seated meals with a number of courses, or casual lunch dishes with smaller plates and hors d’oeuvres.
Traditionally, evening wedding receptions are reserved for more formal settings—replete with place cards, multiple courses and alcoholic beverages. Depending on your serving style, dinner receptions can also be the most expensive, as couples normally pay per guest and any standard fees associated with bar service.
Selecting a Serving Style
After you’ve selected the time of day, the next step is to meet with your caterer to discuss a serving style and menu for the wedding reception meal. Remember, your serving style should reflect the atmosphere of your wedding reception site and fit within the theme of your wedding.
Buffets and Food Stations
Your guests will enjoy the creative presentation, ease of self-service and the assortment of delicious dishes that buffets and food stations provide. They are also a great way to add elements from your personality into the meal. For instance, if you’re a couple that loves sweets, have ice cream bars for guests to make sundaes with their favorite toppings. Even as buffets and food stations are a fun, less formal option to the wedding reception meal, caterers will require a head count from your guest list to gauge an accurate amount of food to prepare. Unfortunately, they will sometimes overestimate—leaving you a tab reflecting items left unconsumed.
For a more formal wedding reception, table service with a full wait staff is the way to go. Traditional table service includes a cocktail reception with passed hor d'oeuvres followed by a first course, a main course, dessert and wedding cake. While table service is quite elegant, guests are usually only given the option of poultry or beef as an entree (with pre-selected side dishes). This option is great for a uniform execution, but cold be problematic for finicky eaters.
Alternatives to Traditional Wedding Reception Meals
Not all couples have the luxury of an unlimited wedding budget. To get the reception of your dreams with a more realistic price tag, try these festive and economical alternatives:
Cocktail Wedding Reception Wine and spirits are a staple at wedding receptions. They can also be one of the most expensive items in your catering service. That's why some couples are opting for cocktail wedding receptions in lieu of formal, seated reception meals. The setting is great for interacting with guests, and works for both afternoon and evening wedding receptions.
Wedding Tea Reception: Another economical choice for couples is the tea reception. Guests can nibble on lighter fare such as finger foods and sweets, but still have room for the traditional wedding cake cutting finale. Wedding tea receptions can also be customized for a formal or casual setting.
Your wedding reception meal should be the ultimate experience for you and your guests. To make a lasting impression, always serve the ones you love with foods you enjoy, in a setting that reflects your individual style.