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- December 29, 2014
- by Joshua Jay
- Budget, Catering, Cocktail Parties, Food, How To, Tips, Wedding,
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The days of lazy boring wedding food are gone. Today many couples are using their wedding’s menu to show off their tastes, their styles, and their personalities. Joshua Jay Events loves putting on events that have a lot of thought and effort put into the food and beverage service.
Bon Appetit recently published Jen Doll’s tips for having great wedding food. She pointed out some great points about setting your expectations and managing you priorities when planning for your wedding’s food.
1. Go Big. Maybe you’re waiting for marriage for that other thing (that’s between you and your beloved), but with food it’s a different story: Don’t abstain. The #1 way for food to suck at your wedding is for there not to be enough. People aren’t going to care that you were short on artfully arranged flowers, or that you could have used a few more candles on the tables. But they will notice if they go home hungry and have to order a pizza because they only got one shrimp and a dab of cocktail sauce. And if you’re serving booze (note: generally, you should), goodness gracious, make your food hearty and plentiful and more than simply “light appetizers” … or prepare for the consequences.
2. Some Traditions Are Sweet. Trendy types may be tempted to try something wacky or new with regard to their wedding desserts—doughnuts, or even Cronuts?—but my favorite wedding food memory involves cake. Just cake, cake alone. It was a white fondant-covered red velvet cake with a cream center and it was savory and sweet and, before you cut into it, looked just like a present, with a perfect fondant bow on the top. Fondant may get a bad rap, and people may scoff at red velvet, but when cake’s good it’s good, and this was good cake. My friends who were married at the City Clerk’s Office in New York City served it at the downtown dive bar where we gathered for their super-casual reception, and it cost them less than $100 (ordered in advance, of course). Perhaps it was because of its simplicity, or because it was the only food on hand, or, like I said, because it was that good; in any case, I ate piece after piece. We all did, until it was gone. Unlike much of the food I’ve eaten at weddings, I still haven’t forgotten it.
3. Let It Not Be a Danger to You. Food can be very, very good, but it can also be very bad, particularly when it sends the bride to the emergency room because the pie—not cake—she’s ordered for her reception has been made with peanuts in the crust, and she is deathly allergic to peanuts. This particular bride was no fool, she had specified “no peanuts”; nonetheless, peanuts ended up in the mix. Luckily, they didn’t arrive until the dessert portion of the night, so at least she got to enjoy most of her wedding. For your own better-food purposes, make sure to say, loud and clear, and put in writing, too, exactly what should never appear on your wedding menu lest disaster result. Then repeat. After all, you’re paying for this stuff. You should get what you want, and no one should go to the hospital. (The bride was okay, thank goodness.)
4. Fire and Ice Are Volatile. At a wedding in Jamaica, we were served a variation on chicken and fish: coconut chicken, tilapia cooked in banana leaves, greens grown locally, and succulent, salty plantains. Paired with the tropical resort ambiance, this was just about ideal—until the ice swans set up on a serving table collapsed in the heat, launching an icy swan head onto the plate I’d just loaded up and sending my dinner to a premature, watery grave. The moral of the story? Don’t waste your money on elaborate ice sculptures (or other potentially hazardous décor) when people are very happy simply eating plantains and gazing at unfrozen water—you know, like the ocean, nearby.
5. Make It Mean Something. A dear friend who didn’t have a ton of cash to spend on a sit-down meal went with “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” served buffet-style so guests could help themselves throughout the reception. The story of the food highlighted the story of the couple’s relationship: She chose crab cakes to signify Maryland, where her new husband was from; mini ham and turkey sandwiches of the sort she’d grown up eating at Southern get-togethers; and smoked salmon and cheesecake to represent New York, where the couple had met. She also served tea, which came in handy for the single ladies who didn’t want to jump for the bouquet—we held dainty teacups in our hands and sipped while she tossed her nieces the flowers.
6. Go Local. Instead of orchestrating complicated deliveries from afar, consider keeping your wedding fare as simple and down-home—and therefore, as seasonal-and-style-appropriate—as possible. At a wedding in New Orleans, that meant gumbo and po’ boys; in Alabama, it was cheese straws and meatballs; in Jamaica, the coconut chicken and plantains. Real cuisine that people actually love to eat is so much better than the glorified airplane food that often arrives at weddings. As for going so local it’s homemade, potlucks may not seem as elegant as caterers in black tie, but they have their own real charm: At a wedding I went to in the Pacific Northwest, an array of homemade vegetarian casseroles and stews were brought by family members, and not only did they taste good, they were less of a burden to the couples’ budget, and virtually everything was a “chef’s special,” with the cooks on hand to explain the origin of their dishes (Great Aunt Mildred’s famous recipe stands the test of time!).