Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Menu
The weeks and months leading up to your wedding are full of significant decisions you have to make. There are the major choices, such as the wedding date, the dress and the venue, and then there are the numerous details that make the day all the more unforgettable, from color combinations to the individual elements of your overall timeline.
As you plan and prepare for your big day, one of the most crucial decisions — and perhaps one of the most fun ones — relates to choosing a wedding menu that delights both you and your guests. There are a lot of wedding menu ideas out there, and we have compiled a few of our favorite tricks here to help you pick the right array of wedding food.
At Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, we specialize in providing award-winning options for your wedding that are both exciting and affordable, and we can help you use these tips to plan, manage and execute your special day to perfection.
How to Plan a Wedding Reception Food Menu: Six Simple Steps
Navigating every detail of your wedding day can be overwhelming, even for the most meticulous of planners. Your menu can easily add to that planning anxiety, especially if you are interested in exploring the idea of multiple courses or a range of food options for your reception.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help lighten the load when choosing your wedding menu and getting down to the flawless arrangement of food that will fascinate everyone who attends your celebration. Consider following these steps to simplify the process:
1. Start Brainstorming Early
The process of creating the best wedding menu begins with stream-of-consciousness brainstorming between the couple. Think about what you love to eat and what you enjoy together, foods that have special meaning or a unique connection to your relationship. Working with a caterer can also help explore best-selling options, but sometimes the best place to start is within the central subject of the wedding itself — you and your beloved.
Once you have a broad view of your likes and preferences, you can make sure you do not miss a significant opportunity to create a meaningful experience. From there, you can begin to narrow down your menu to the more specific items.
2. Nail Down Your Budget
The wedding budget itself comprises an array of subcategories, and one of these centers on your food service. Consider not only the number of guests but also the number of plates, glasses and silverware as well as the costs to rent platters and serving utensils. Your caterer will likely also hire staff to help with serving, and may charge you cleaning fees.
While at this point you do not have to be 100 percent certain of how much you are willing to spend on each of these items, having an overall food budget in mind, even if it is a rough estimate, can help you optimize your funds and allow your decisions to stay within reason.
3. Book Your Provider as Soon as Possible
As with most wedding amenities, to get the best deals, you need to make your arrangements months ahead of time. Whether you will be relying on your venue to provide the meal, consulting professional event caterers or are bringing in platters from your favorite restaurant, you will want to begin booking their services well in advance to secure your spot.
4. Peruse Your Guest List
The list of people you will be bringing to join you on your special day is essential in determining your menu items. Not only do you need the numbers to communicate with your caterer and to make sure you stay within your budget, but you can also take the opportunity to talk with your invitees about potential food allergies or dietary restrictions so that your menu includes something to eat for everyone.
Since you will want to minimize the potential for mishaps on the day itself, this simple step can be immensely helpful. Your caterer will also appreciate you considering food restrictions in advance to prevent last-minute requests while the courses are being served.
5. Pick Your Style
Style can refer to several different meal aspects. For starters, you will want to think about the wedding food service styles based on the overall experience you want your guests to have. And there are a few ways to narrow down your choices.
Considering the order of the events you will have during your wedding reception can be helpful to determine which service style is the best fit. As an example, if you want food to be served at the same time as speeches are being delivered, then there is a good chance that a buffet or butlered style service could be more disruptive to that end than, perhaps, a family style service.
The atmosphere of your reception can significantly depend on the style of the meal that you serve. But on top of how the food will be served, the actual style of the food should emulate the themes, seasons and overall aesthetic that you want your wedding and its reception to have. For instance, an outdoor celebration will benefit from more picnic-style foods, whereas a winter wedding can be a beautiful opportunity to enjoy a hearty, warm meal.
6. Select Your Menu One Item at a Time
After you know which foods to avoid and have a few stylistic parameters in place, you can get started with the actual tasting and selecting. Go down the list of a typical multi-course meal and determine your appetizers, entrees, sides and drinks. Feel free to have several options for each course, and be sure to think about the different ways people might be prone to mix and match the flavors. Remember to factor in champagne and bar selections and, naturally, you will not want to forget the cake.
Finally, once you have run dish by dish through your menu, selecting just the right items, you will be able to visualize the full experience that you and your guests will have. Ask yourself if all of the pieces fit together in a way that feels just right. If you find that your mouth is watering at the mere thought of your wedding menu, you can likely rest assured that you have made the right choice.
The Five Different Types of Wedding Menu Service Styles
When it comes to your wedding menu, you are creating a dining experience that involves both the food itself and the way it is served or presented. To begin, we should review the types of service you can expect from a wedding venue or caterer, which contribute in different ways to the luxury of your reception:
You may consider an array of pre-meal appetizers for your guests to enjoy, and these hors-d'oeuvres can be unique yet complimentary to the actual meal options themselves. Hors-d'oeuvres would only be offered to guests while the bridal party is taking pictures or en route to the reception, so this is not the menu where you will want to include the foods that you are most likely to look forward to as the bride or groom. These foods can either be butlered to guests or displayed for self-service.
2. Stations Style
If collaborative variety is the key to your heart, then stations are an excellent solution for your wedding meal service. With four or five stations, each featuring a different entree or cuisine type, your reception will be full of exciting mixes and the gleeful mingling of your guests. You will notice a boost in energy from keeping people on their feet as they enjoy the multiple sites. Stations open up many doors to get creative with decorations and assembly, an ideal option for the detail-oriented planner.
3. Buffet Service
For those who love to eat, a buffet table allows you to stay organized while pleasing a large crowd of varied preferences. A buffet is a classic way to encourage your guests to explore new tastes and provide plenty of options for the pickiest palates. With this menu style, you can expect people to claim large portion sizes, especially if you opt for a self-serve style rather than hiring staff to do the work, and your guests will be thrilled to leave the party fully satisfied.
4. Plated Packages
Offering individual plates to guests at their tables is one of the most common and perhaps most elegant forms of wedding food service. While a simple choice, plate service can vary in presentation and cost, although it can be one of the more efficient styles thanks to the smaller portions. Your guests can sit back and relax, enjoying your reception program as the servers flit back and forth delivering multiple courses of food, refilling drinks, clearing empty dishes and more.
5. Family Style
A final option to consider is the family style, which involves serving large platters of food in the center of each table from which guests will help themselves. As one might expect from a holiday dinner with relatives, family-style wedding menu ideas allow for guests to interact across the table, stimulating conversation and creating a warm and inviting celebration atmosphere. This menu style is a casual alternative, although the courses themselves can be luxurious if desired, ideally suited for lovers of comfort foods and natural conversations.
Your caterer or venue should be willing to offer a variety of menu style options for you to choose from to suit the overall feel of your wedding. For example, for an exquisite and unique celebration experience in Delaware, we guarantee access to affordable menu packages here at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
But your wedding menu decisions will go beyond the service style that you prefer. We have a few more tips in mind that can help you navigate these choices with direction, clarity and creativity to make your perfect day come to life.
Simple Wedding Menu Details to Keep in Mind: A Few Bonus Tips
Once you have your dishes selected and are happy with the full picture of your menu and the way it is served, you will be closer than ever to checking wedding cuisine off your list. You may be ready to move on to other essential decisions, such as your decorations, photography and attire, but before you go, take a quick look at a few miscellaneous menu tips to keep in mind that will make your day all the more personal and warm:
- Opt for local or seasonal cuisine: If you are having a destination wedding or are eager to host your wedding during a particular time of year, consider making aspects of these settings a part of your menu selections. Not only could this be an excellent way to stimulate local food production, but it can add a distinctive flair to your celebration, creating a one-of-a-kind memory for you and your loved ones to cherish.
- Be generous: People are happiest when they are satisfied, and since you do not want your guests leaving hungry, try to provide room for large portion sizes. It may be less economical than tiny, dainty servings would be, but delicious feasting is one of the marks of a delightful celebration.
- Make a difference through presentation: What makes weddings so incredible is the way that they bring out the couple's personalities. And they do so in innumerable ways. You can work with your caterer to create an ambiance using the foods themselves and the ways they are presented, arranged and served. If you can catch the eye of your guests, you will be bound to make a unique impression.
- Splurge and save at the same time: There are several ways you can save money while also creating an elegant atmosphere during the meal at your wedding reception. For instance, if you opt for fancier foods, consider serving them buffet-style to save on server costs.
- Break the rules: Traditionally, wedding menus have all carried similar structures, but you do not have to limit yourself to a butlered three-course meal. These days, reception menus can serve nearly anything, so try to incorporate whatever you love, even if your tastes are unconventional.
Ultimately, your wedding should embody the things that you love — and that includes the food. As long as you have selected a menu that you and your soon-to-be spouse are eager to consume when all is said and done, then you will have succeeded in the most important way. To get there, you can find award-winning assistance right here at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate the Wedding of Your Dreams at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
If you are looking for the dining experience for a beautiful Delaware wedding, look no further than our wedding services at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. Our extensive and affordable packages include a wide variety of wedding needs, leaving you with a much lighter load on your shoulders. We are specialists in helping you accommodate guests, provide entertainment and serve delicious courses that your loved ones will be talking about for years to come.
For a venue with an impeccable history of hosting memorable celebrations for couples just like you, you have come to the right place. Contact us today to get started.