4 Things to Consider Before Planning Your Wedding Reception Menu

Different light snack.
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

Planning your wedding stressful enough without having to worry about the dietary restrictions of family members and friends, staying within budget, and choosing meals that match the festivities. You may need to have several options, such as vegetarian or vegan, and these options may determine how food is served at your reception.

If you go with a caterer, how much you're willing to spend per person, and does there menu match your needs? Maybe your family or friends want to prepare food in potluck fashion, which will save you a lot of money, keeping in mind that your friends and family may not have to same skill and knowledge to cook for such a large quantity of people the way professional does. A good rule of thumb is to hire a caterer if you have more than 75 guests.

These tips will help you narrow down what serving style is best for your reception to better please your friends, family, and yourselves!

1. Time of Day

The first step is to consider what time of day your reception will be. A morning reception could have breakfast, coffees, or teas; a midday reception could have lunch, teas, or cocktails; and an evening reception could have just about anything.

The more formal receptions are often held in the evening, and more alcohol will be served at these receptions. Evening receptions are often the most expensive type, as the cost of full meals and alcohol add up. However, if your ceremony is late in the day and your budget is limited, you could try a tea or a cocktail hour with hor d'oeuvres instead of a full dinner.

Keep in mind, you may want to disclose on the invitations what type of food and drinks will be served so that guests know what to expect.

2. Catering

When choosing your caterer, make sure to do your research. Find out the specialties of each restaurant in the running and taste test them. It’s a good idea to go with the type of food that the caterer does best, rather than trying to have him or her create something he or she has never made before. You should arrange several menu tastings and be sure to find out how costs are calculated and what equipment the caterer will need to bring to the venue.

It may be a good idea to take your caterer to the location of the reception so he or she can check out the layout of the kitchen. Additional equipment can be expensive, but so can food that has to be thrown out because of improper storage.

3. Table Service

This extra touch is very formal, and can therefore be very expensive. To add a touch of elegance, print menu cards for the guests, so they know exactly what their options are, limited as they may be. Alternatively, you can have guests request the meal with their RSVPs in order to save your chef and budget the extra trouble.

In this scenario, soup and/or salad is generally served before the main course, and the entrée consists of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. The guests are usually only given two to three choices of main dishes, which can be a problem if your guests have diverse preferences.

4. Buffet Service

This choice allows lots of different types of food, but if you have lots of guests, the lines could be a problem. It may be a good idea to send two or three tables to the buffet at a time to keep standing time to a minimum. Buffets can also ruin the atmosphere of your reception if you don’t make sure that the buffet line has visual appeal.

Keep in mind that large buffets can be just as expensive, or more so, than table service. Modern caterers may also be experienced at creating several serving tables based around a common type of food so that guests do not have to stand in one line. However, if you have many guests, they may just end up standing in line over and over. Otherwise, having different serving sections can be fun, and it allows your guests time to socialize and meet new people.

What Will You Choose for Your Wedding Reception?

Whichever type of service you prefer can be the right one for your guests. Personal touches and decorations can be added to accent the food and to create the right atmosphere for your reception. You can find tons of sample menus online or in wedding books. Just make sure to keep your preferences and your guests’ dietary restrictions in mind.