People say that getting married is one of the most stressful things you will do in your life but they are wrong: getting married is the easy bit. It’s the planning that takes the real commitment.
It’s the biggest party you will ever throw, no matter what the size. Having all the people you and your partner care about — or at least have to invite — all there just for you creates a lot of pressure to get it right. When someone says ‘will you marry me?’ what they are really asking is, ‘shall we throw an event that requires months, if not years, of planning at which we have to feed, water and entertain all our family, friends and colleagues for a whole day?’. Terrifying. Only it really doesn’t have to be.
If we are completely honest how many truly brilliant wedding meals have you had? Yes, the ceremony was beautiful and a wonderful time was had by all, but in the flurry of outfit planning, speech writing and table plans, the food and drink is often brushed aside.
This is fine if you have a good, food-first venue, but otherwise can leave stomachs full, but tastebuds wanting more. If you care about what you are eating and drinking and wouldn’t dream of eating anywhere average on a date or anniversary, then your wedding meal shouldn’t be any different. Here is how to get it right.
What to eat
This is a good place to start. What do you like to eat? What is the theme of the wedding? Most importantly, when are you getting married? Just like you wouldn’t have sunflowers at a March wedding, you don’t want to be serving food out of season either. Sticking to seasonal ingredients will ensure that you get the tastiest, best value for money. Your choice of food will also affect the atmosphere of your wedding. Whether you want a relaxed and informal meal that will encourage guests to mingle or a more traditional seated affair to provide the perfect setting for your speeches, get the menu right and everything else will fall into place.
Your food and drink is the second-most important decision to make after your venue, and your investment should match this. Yes, the dress is important to you, but honestly, after the initial wow factor everyone else just wants to eat, drink and party. When thinking about budget make sure you ring fence enough to feed people well. That doesn’t mean you have to spend more than you want to, but make wise choices. If you have a large group to feed over a whole day then think about high-quality bowl food, rather than a sit down meal. It is much better to provide guests with two rounds of food if the day will be long, than to leave people starving — and drinking — until an evening meal. If you want to go for a formal dinner in the evening, then pairing with a bowl food lunch can also work. When it comes to quantity a good caterer can help you get it right, but know your guests: if you are big drinkers, then make sure you up the food to make sure the party holds out to the end of the night.
Weddings are great for getting people from all walks of life into the same room. Remember though, that people like different things. You and your circle of friends might love rare meat and bone marrow, but some of your older, younger or less gastronomically-minded guests might struggle with this kind of menu. If you are serving meat, make sure the caterer cooks either to order (do this in advance) or provides a choice of options on the day. Provide simple food for younger guests, not everyone’s children will eat steak tartare and their parents won’t thank you if they have to deal with hungry little people on a busy day. Although it is your wedding, you are inviting guests to celebrate with you and you want them to enjoy it. Getting a balance is important either through pre-ordered menus sent out to guests or, if this is too much of a faff, providing lots of choice on the day. If you are really struggling with some guests then it’s not a bad idea to group pickier eaters together and make sure they can keep each other company.
Whether you have a number of vegetarian or vegan guests coming, or your old Uncle Chris is only happy with a cremated bacon butty slapped between supermarket sliced bread, there will be dietary challenges when planning every wedding party. The most important thing is to make sure that you know if your guests have any allergies or requirements and let your caterer know — in plenty of time. If someone is coeliac or has a nut allergy then this will affect preparation and if someone doesn’t eat meat then a non-meat gravy alternative is required. Make sure that everyone is catered for in advance, no wedding guest wants to find themselves having to tell the staff themselves on the day that they can’t eat something. As for old Uncle Chris, you’re on your own with that one!
A well-lubricated party is usually a happy one, but you don’t want to overdo things. If you are paying for all drinks — many people opt not to these days — then make sure people don’t get too wild too early. Invest in lower-alcohol cocktails, wine or beers that will encourage people to savour not slurp. It’s a good tactic to get staff to top up wine over a formal meal if you want to help guests to pace themselves. If you are offering a paying bar then make sure it is fully-stocked with a wide-range of options. To get the most out your drinks, it’s the same rules as with your food: seasonal and local. If you are getting married somewhere away from where you live, what spirits, beers or wine do they make nearby? Garnishes and mixers should fit in with the time of year you are celebrating in. But most importantly have some fun with what you serve, it is a party after all!