Save the Date: Food
It used to be that weddings followed a particular pattern. There’d be a church service, a clatter of photographs, a sit down dinner and then a night of dancing.
These days, of course, things have changed and not every wedding follows this pattern – people are mixing it up all over the place, doing their own thing and bringing their personalities into their weddings.
The only thing that hasn’t changed when it comes to weddings – and the one expectation guests will have – is that there’ll be food. Lots and lots of food.
The general rule of thumb is there can never be enough food – better to have too much than too little. It doesn’t matter really what sort of food, everyone has different tastes, but there must be food. It’s not often I use that word but I use it in this case: you MUST feed your guests.
Wedding days are long days, for the guests as well as the couple getting married. A lot of ceremonies can start as early as noon, depending on the time of year, and often dinner isn’t served until 5.30pm or 6pm so after the ceremony guests can start to get hungry. And cranky.
This is where you come in. Feed your guests between the ceremony and the reception and they’ll love you long time. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – at my own wedding we had tea, coffee and biscuits and then big platters of sandwiches for guests after the church – but offer something. (By the time my husband and I arrived back to the hotel an hour later after some photographs, there was nothing but a few crumbs and a lone parsley garnish left, so I’m assuming everyone enjoyed them.)
- A fun way to do it is to hire an ice-cream van or a fish and chip van to wait outside your ceremony or the reception venue for your guests to give them a retro treat. If you get a sunny day this would go down a storm.
- Other ideas include having a chocolate fountain at your reception with a selection of yummy fruits and marshmallows or even to hire/DIY a candy buffet of ’80s sweets and invite your guests to fill a bag.
If you’re having your wedding in a venue like a hotel, speak to them about the after-ceremony food; many places are doing all-inclusive packages which include things like canapes or sandwiches, mini-scones or chocolate strawberries when the guests arrive.
- Picking a dinner menu for a large number of guests – or even a small number of guests – can be daunting as everyone has such different tastes. If you’re having your reception in a hotel ask their advice; they’ll know what’s a crowd pleaser and what isn’t.
- Be realistic in your expectations. This is mass catering we’re talking about. You will be hard pressed to find a venue that can cook 150 steaks to exact specifications all at the same time.
- Apart from a sit-down meal consider having a buffet with a mixture of hot dishes and cold salads, a barbecue for a smaller group or even something completely different like a roast suckling pig on a spit.
Here’s a few tips for picking the menu, no matter what type of meal you go for:
- Organise a menu tasting in advance of the wedding with your venue or caterer; most throw this in for free. Ask to taste a selection of options and if you’re not happy speak up.
- Offer a choice if possible and don’t forget to include something for vegetarians and those with special dietary needs.
- Cater for the masses. Pick something that the majority of guests will eat – the food doesn’t have to be boring of course but if you go too off the wall you risk full plates and hungry guests.
- Make sure it’s a dinner that YOU would like to eat. It’s your day after all so, while keeping in mind the guests, do make sure that you’ll enjoy your own wedding meal.
It’s customary in Ireland to offer some evening food, after the party (around 11pm or midnight) to act as soakage for all the drink taken and all the drink yet to come. People often say they don’t eat the evening food as they’re full after the dinner, but for every one who eats nothing there’ll be ten who do. Again, it need only be something simple, but trust me, the guests will hop off it. The evening food is generally when the wedding cake is served.
Most venues will offer staples such as sandwiches and cocktail sausages or perhaps chicken wings but many couples are now serving mini newspaper cones of fish and chips as their evening food or even mini pizzas or hiring take-away vans as mentioned earlier. Something hot and tasty really goes down a treat and the guests will appreciate it.
One final tip: if you’re having your wedding in a hotel and planning a session in the Residents’ Bar – hold back about 30 per cent of the sandwiches from the evening food to serve in the Residents’ Bar at about 3am. By this stage the drink munchies will really have set in and your guests will fall on the sambos like they’re going out of fashion.