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The perfect Foodie Wedding--what would you do?

I am just doing a little preparatory research (please don't tell my current husband ;) ), and I'd like to hear how chowhounders would do the perfect "foodie" wedding. What would you serve, and how would you serve it (table service, buffet, food stations, private dining room, etc.) and what type of venue would you select to ensure your guests got the most out of the meal and that it reflected your foodie tastes and personality?

After way tooo many invitations to disappointing cookie cutter, luke warm, chicken or beef, catered weddings with 8 to a table and feeling more like the company Xmas party than a blessed event, I would like to know if it can actually be done better. I'd love to hear how real foodies conquered this mountain.

If you haven't done it yet, or if you got it completely right, or if you made every mistake in the book, what would you do if you could plan your dream foodie wedding?

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  1. I'm getting ready to make my food choices for our wedding in September, which is going to be at White Oaks in NOTL. The catering is certainly not as good as their very good restaurant, Liv, but there's lots of good choices. My only concern is about making choices that most folks will enjoy. Seafood is too risky and in fact lots of folks don't even eat fish. Steak or beef tenderloin might be nice, but my partner only likes those things done well (destroy a perfectly good piece of meat why don't you?). Anyways, it's hard to pick based on what most people like, because then i'm sure we will end up with the proverbial rubber chicken dinner (although at their prices it better not be rubbery), but i also think picking something really special may not be well received.

    My friend did his wedding with a 10 course tasting menu, featuring incredible things like spring pea soup with creme fraiche and foie gras, and then got the pleasure of seeing peoples' $200 meals sit untouched. Two of his ruder guests even went next door for chinese take-away and brought it back. That would have enraged me....

    5 Replies
    1. re: savannah

      A double OMG on the chinese take away "supposed" guests. Up to that point, I thought the 10 course tasting menu sounded like an amazing idea. Maybe the selections were a little too risque, but no excuse for the take away guests.

      Sweetie's idea about the foodie honeymoon is also a drool-inducing option. But you are still left with trying to serve something that properly represents your foodie personality for the "day."

      1. re: dinin and dishin

        Some people just don't want to sit through 10 small courses (remember there are also speeches to follow) and unless presented with one large hunk of meat with pile o' potato, will not feel like they've had dinner. That said, you really can't please everyone hence the lowest common denominator meals that people end up with. I would suggest a buffet or food stations - that way there can be something for everyone. Or you can get more creative & interesting with your appetizers and dessert if the main course is a little more "normal". A good caterer will be able to help you figure this out.

        But... my friend had her wedding at home with caterers. There was tons of food, appetizer-style, both passed and buffet. This included plenty of protein, hot & cold items, lots of variety, all pretty tasty. Much better quality than your average wedding dinner. I was not drinking, I have a huge appetite, and I ate pretty much non-stop for several hours. The waiters were having trouble off-loading their food, they were chasing down the smokers hidden in corners. Afterwards I found several people (who were drinking - a lot) had a totally different impression than me, that there wasn't enough food! Because they didn't sit down and have that big plate of meat they didn't feel fed. See again, you can't please everybody...

        My own conclusion for my wedding was that this particular event was not about the food. I have every other day of my life to be food-obsessed. Among other issues, there was no reason to alienate my non-foodie in-laws.

        But it sounds more like you're researching a dream rather than for an actual wedding?

        1. re: julesrules

          No, not searching for a dream, just curious to know if there is a better way. I recently attended a wedding at one of those all-in-one banquet halls. They spent close to 200 per person, but still it was just so-so. After reading these posts, it seems there are definitely better, more creative ways, but that you still can't please everyone.

          I hadn't even thought about guests resenting good but different food. But maybe the foodie wedding is just as much of a torment for non-foodies as visa versa. I guess you can't please everyone. Is it possible to become "foodzilla" in a white dress instead of bridezilla?

          1. re: dinin and dishin

            Yeah I don't see the point of the $200 banquet hall meal. It usually means more, not better, food. You get sick of sitting there.. oh look, salad. And soup. And pasta! And now chicken AND veal, wow. Can we skip ahead to the midnight seafood buffet (that part I enjoy, hard to ruin steamed seafood!)

            But really, the 10-course tasting menu must seem the same to people who don't get the food. Too much too long nothing satisfying about it.

      2. re: savannah

        When my husband and I got engaged it we decided we would only get married the way we wanted to. We got married in secret and only told (and invited) the people we really wanted to be there. Having a small guest list made it much more financially viable to do what we really wanted to with food. We hired a private room in a fine dining restaurant and told everyone to enjoy whatever they wanted. It was such a pleasure to see people enjoying such beautiful food without worrying if it was suitable, or as often is the case at many weddings, just very ordinary. For some of our guests it was their first fine dining experience, which added to the pleasure. It was interesting to find that the total bill came to about AU$250 a head, which included 3 courses, wine and cocktails - not that much more than your standard wedding fare, but with better service and amazing food. Oh, I should probably add that we didn't tell the restaurant that it was for a wedding when booking, I just said it was for a big party. It was absolutely perfect and I will never forget the delicious paella, beautiful wines and fantastic cocktails I enjoyed on our special day.

      3. I think I agree with kawarthagirl. Weddings are not the ideal place to indulge your food fanatasies. At a wedding you would have to invite people who may not appreciate the thought and effort you put into the food planning. Also if "I do let's eat" is any indication, even people who put food at the top of the list, tend to screw up the timing of a meal with all the other wedding things. A gourmet honeymoon is what I would do if I ever got married. Invite your closest foodie friends, go on a road trip, or a tour of Italy, or France, or NOTL........I am getting hungary planning my imaginary honeymoon.

            1. After being in 7 weddings...what's that saying always a bridesmaid never a bride? I can personally tell you: the dinner part is most often the worst time for me and I don't think I'm alone on this one. I've been in a range of weddings from informal to formal. Either you get your food before everyone else and you're finished and ready to party before the last person gets their food or you're just getting your food and everyone else is ready to party. Then what do you do? There is an awkward hour or so that people are in limbo. Not to mention the menu is always off for someone.

              Soooooooooooooo.....when I finally met the love of my life and we were planning our wedding...we went a slightly different route.

              We had an evening wedding with a dessert reception to follow. We spent all the money for dinner on an open bar, a great dj, hotel rooms for our guests and gas cards for anyone who traveled a distance, we hired a driver for our closer friends so they could drink all they wanted and a babysitter for our traveling guests that brought children. We turned the wedding celebrations into a weekend event. I won't go into all the details but, the food part....

              We opted not to have a traditional wedding cake. We had a selection of desserts from something so simple as fruit cups to a lemon something-something that was divine. We did have some appetizers floating around as well. It's much more easier to cater to people's dietary preferences when you're dealing with appetizers. And at around midnight, we had a selection of sandwiches brought out.

              I had so many people tell me how much they loved the format. The whole dessert and appetizer thing was a big hit. The sandwiches at midnight was even a bigger hit!

              IMO, most of the people who attend weddings go to party...so, my motto is: let them. I agree with most of the Hounders on this board, save it for a gourmet honeymoon! Just remember to report back to us about the food! Just the food and nothing but the food. :)

              4 Replies
              1. re: calla0413

                we did an afternoon party- open bar, ceremony of 11 minutes, followed by great hors d'oeuvres (mini lamb burgers, thai salmon skewers, bbq shrimp...etc...)until about 6. It worked out extremely well as we were able to actually spend time with our guests, didn't have to worry about who was stuck at what table, and had tons of food. But lots of people see weddings in different ways, we thought ours was a chance to throw a great party with our friends, so that's what we did. No cake either. No wedding party. we were quite pleased with ourselves, frankly.

                1. re: calla0413

                  "people who attend weddings go to party" AMEN!!! Being a groom once myself....I began to feel pretty guilty about all the gifts we were getting from all the pre wedding get togethers...some people just go over the top when it comes to giving and expecting gifts...We wanted our friends there...and we wanted them to have a great time...we decided it was going to be more about our family and friends celebrating WITH us, than FOR us....we wanted good food (it didn't have to be amazing) and booze and fun and less about the "dress" and the "loot " we were getting. We had an open bar, we had great music...pretty good food and everyone had a blast. We didn't open any gifts until 6 weeks later...when we came back from Italy...20lbs heavier and happy!!

                  1. re: calla0413

                    I love this idea --as I'm thinking of appetizer logistics and how many dessert selections to have - I'm curious as to how many people you had at your wedding.

                    1. re: calla0413

                      I really enjoyed reading this! Great idea.. sounded like a lot of fun. Wish I'd get invited to a wedding like this.

                    2. Could not agree more with Calla. I've been to umpteen weddings and never touched the dinner served (even considering the whopping $200 some have spent on my plate). My MO is most definitely an appetizer-dessert wedding. We call it "shmorgasbord" and everyone knows it's ten times better than the sit-down meal. Think carving stations, sushi, mini-hand-held-bowls of various soups, and any other appetizers you can think of. Guests will be full, and they'll gush about the variety and creativity. Best of all, there's something to please everyone (likely more than just one thing, at that). During the time when the meal is being served, all you want to do is dance anyway -- make it easier on them. The subsequent dessert spread and the appetizers that preceded will thank you --- they'll be all the nicer with the money you saved by not serving dinner.

                      1. I don't know if this qualifies as the "perfect foodie wedding" but it worked perfectly for us. First, I chose a great caterer who was comfortable with my providing lots of input on the menu with the chef herself - it was a hugely collaborative and fun exercise. First, we hada cocktail hour with some passed hors d'oeuvres. Next, we had our guests sit at long communal tables and we served the food on large platters that were passed and shared - nothing too "frou frou", just some grilled meats and salmon and a few grain and leafy salads. It had a certain informality and warmth that was different from the typical 3-course, waiter served meals. Afterwards, we served gourmet cheese platters (I picked my favourite cheeses) with port - this was a huge hit. And for dessert, we had a croquembouche rather than a traditional cake. I had also baked and decorated 2 kinds of mini cupcakes that were served for dessert as I really wanted to contribute something personal to the menu. Later that night, we had grilled panini (nutella, ham and brie and one other kind) that were also a huge hit.

                        For me, the key to planning a great wedding was to forget all about things being "perfect" and any kind of expectations that others may have but instead to try to make the wedding a reflection of us - in feel, style, formality, etc. - so that it really felt like "our" wedding. Apart from the fact that our guests loved it, we felt entirely unstressed and had a great time at our own party. Good luck!

                        1 Reply
                        1. if we're talking hypothetically.....

                          well i'd imagine that the person i'd link myself up with forever would have quite a food obsessed streak in them as well... with that being said i'm also rather sentimental and love having a reason behind things.

                          so.... ideally what i would do is pick out several dishes between the man and myself that help us to recall different moments in our relationship that were important to us. foods from romantic dinners, foods that are inside jokes, foods that we love sharing with our family or friends and create a buffet or catered style barrage of them. it'd be even fun to take that terrible dish from that first date or something and rework it to be something amazing. if most of the items end up buffet style, then each section would also contain a little card sort of explaining why we picked that dish to represent us. and of course, some midnight snackers delight... everyone knows i'm the one to go to if you want to grab some food at 2am.

                          other than that... i'm all for the dancing, partying and drinking that a sit down dinner does not afford you. like birthdays... weddings are a perfect excuse to get a whole bunch of people out for a fantastic time.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            pp, as long as you promise not to make your guests listen to the reasons why you selected each...;)

                            1. re: nummanumma

                              oh god no, i've been to enough chinese weddings with weird photo slides, long winded and inside joke speeches, plus crazy bizarre games that i'd like everyone to be fancy free and just enjoying.

                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                Haha! I know those long-winded Chinese weddings all too well...though really I've only been to the banquets (by this point I'm fairly certain people skip out on the ceremony altogether) and I can't complain too much about hours and hours of eating endless courses.

                                The idea of having a little card by each dish is great though - guests have the option of reading (or not), and speeches/stories are always good when optional.

                          2. Give me hors d'oeuvres all night and a sweet table, and I'm a happy gal. As in many restaurants, the appetizers are usually better than the mains. When we're at a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah, we have a habit of standing near the kitchen door so we can attack the hors d'oeuvres as they're coming out.

                            After my own wedding in 1985, it was the great, lively music (a live band) the venue (the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal), and the two lovebirds who were the stars of the evening that most people commented on afterwards. Although the meal did happen to be very good (not always an easy feat with kosher food), it's not what left an impression in the minds of most guests.

                            1. I love food. I'm not yet married (29) and though probably near impossible, I want everyone to be satisfied. People love different things and for someone like me, who doesn't have a huge budget, I'm doing it this way.

                              Overseeing caterer that will use family recipes for the "main" course only so the flavors are the ones I know ( and because I cannot afford $200 a plate people). I'm doing a made to order pasta station with small portions so people are not bloated and can't get on the dance floor.

                              I'm doing heavy apps with salmon canapes, crab stuffed mushrooms, crostinis with tenderloin and caramelized onions, grissini wrapped in proscuitto or bacon doused with pepper or brown sugar set up in jars, candles - on antique picnic tables; Since fruit is expensive- grapes with fig and marmalade spreads to top rosemary olive oil crusty breads with goat cheese or slices of gouda...a nice blue with granny smith apple slices, and quality stuffed varietal olives and almonds- as well as Grilled asparagus, red peppers, eggplant and pappedews with a mild curry dipping sauce.

                              And a garlic mashed potato bar with inexpensive toppings.

                              For dessert, tiramisu or raspberry lemon tort. (No cake).

                              Since I don't have a huge budget, I'm having it outside -- where I don't have to pay outrageous prices on house wine -I can get mine from a good CA winery - serve it here in MN - and not have to make my guests pay for a cash bar (which happens A LOT, at least in the midwest). I can do all of this -including the rest of my wedding, for under $12,000.00.
                              And I might only have the budget of 10,000....having about 225 people. It can be done. You have to be organized, determined to find the best value for good quality, and negotiate.

                              Happy Eating!

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                  i think the potato bar is great especially if you are on a budget. a friend of mine did hers with the potatoes in martini glasses. i know that sounds a little tacky, but it is a crowd pleaser for sure. the potato bar was absolutely mobbed and it was probably the cheapest thing they served all night.

                                2. I attended a very high-end reception at Augusta National that had around 500 hundred guests. Stations were set up in discrete areas through the terraces and various rooms. White-gloved waiters passed lighter noshes on trays. Much to my surprise this appeared to work very well as opposed to a sit down dinner for 500 hundred or a buffet. The one thing that really blew me away though was the wedding cake, which was set up in the main ballroom. It was a beautiful cake and some goober actually cut themselves a piece before the bride and groom! LOL!

                                  1. I did a formal wedding when I married and the meal was pretty good, but now that I'm older, I would do it all differently. (First off, a different guy.) I don't really plan to get married again, but if I did I would have a real New England clambake - chowder, lobster, potatoes, steamers, etc. I would add popovers to the traditional menu, because I love them with my whole heart. I would also have a huge dessert table with excellent versions of all my favorite old-fashioned desserts - blueberry pie, apple pie, peach cobbler, gingerbread with whipped cream, lots of buttermilk ice cream. Down-home in style, but all top-notch quality. Add great music and a bonfire and what could be nicer?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: curiousbaker

                                      I can almost feel the sand beneath my feet now. That sounds amazing.

                                      1. re: curiousbaker

                                        Forget the wedding, have that very party and invite me !

                                        1. re: curiousbaker

                                          I'm right there with you! We had around 60 friends/family outside a private house overlooking the ocean on cape cod. We went straight New England and didn't worry about getting hands dirty. People loved it! the different methods for cracking into a lobster, eating mussels and clams were real conversation starters between people that didn't know each other. Of course, after spending only $28/pp there was plenty left over for a few kegs and cases of wine! For the cake - a small one delievered from Roche Brothers did the trick.

                                          1. re: Snowflake

                                            Thnking the same kind of thing. Can I ask where you had this at?

                                            1. re: roze

                                              We rented a house in Falmouth, rented tables, chairs, linens from a rental company in Woods Hole, and had the catering done by: www.oldfashionedclambakes.com
                                              They did a fantastic job.

                                              1. re: Snowflake

                                                Thanks so much! I'm going to look into it!

                                        2. We had a lovely lovely lovely backyard summer wedding and my mother catered the whole thing. We had long narrow tables (I hate rounds!) and served the meal family style, and everything was basically cold or room temp. Roast pork, lots of salads, terrines, paté, some salmon, that kind of thing. As neither my husband or I ate anything, I have no idea whether it worked or not. I got feedback from one friend that it was the greatest thing ever the best wedding meal he'd ever had, and feedback from another that she'd had much better food at my mother's table before and was kind of disappointed. You can't please everyone!

                                          I do remember the spectacular sweet table and groaning cheeseboard though. We didn't have a proper wedding cake, but instead had about 22 different cakes and desserts (again, all homemade) and my sister-in-law and her (then) husband brought an INCREDIBLE array of cheeses -- the slab of Stinking Bishop perfumed the garden for days!

                                          1. Well, the idea of real foodie food at a catering level is a bit delusional. The closer to real foodie food you want, the farther away from catering you need to get.

                                            With that in mind:

                                            A morning wedding, followed by a luncheon. Evening dinner-type food involves people being way hungrier and expecting heavier food; under a catering dynamic, that means more limitations. A luncheon allows you more freedom from expectations of hunger. The fewer the number of guests, the more freedom from limitations of scale you get, too.

                                            For flesh, it's hard to beat duck breasts in any catered environment.

                                            1. After 26 years, I am still crabby about my wedding, but not about the reception. My husband and I put the food together ourselves for an estimated 125 guests (luckily we didn't hav that many). Nothing but appetizers, served buffet style. We had cheeses and salads and things that were easily manipulated. We used long tables and people moved from table to table to talk to family members they hadn't seen in a while.

                                              It makes me sad to think of people paying $200 a head to serve often mediocre and tepid food to folks who really don't care that much about what they eat and who are looking forward to getting out of their dress-up clothes. Please, save that money for a wonderful meal for you, your spouse and people who can appreciate good food.

                                              1. I don't know if this was perfect, but we got a lot of complements from our guests, and we were happy. When we married, my husband was a vegetarian, so we planned the menu and the service around the fact that not everyone was going to like everything, but we should have good food that would cover most dietary restrictions. Our menu started with a cocktail hour with a selection of Italian cheeses, crackers and warm focaccia with garlic & rosemary (this is when we finished up some photos, though we did most before the ceremony, so this was the only part of the meal I missed). For dinner, we didn't have designated "appetizer" and "entree" because different people were eating different things -- we had all the food passed on platters, so people could skip what they wouldn't eat and have extra of what they loved. There was bruschetta with tomato and basil, caesar salad, cheese tortellini in a pesto-cream sauce, saltimboca, stuffed mushrooms, and stringbeans.

                                                We didn't have room for a buffet, and while a lot of the food we picked would tolerate buffet service well, there was no way I wanted saltimboca sitting in a chafing dish. Because the food wasn't in "courses" everyone who wanted saltimboca got it fresh and hot, just a few minutes from the kitchen, even if some ate it after their tortellini and some ate it before. We had just 80 people, this may have gotten a lot harder to pull off if we had any more.

                                                This style of service also meant that I didn't have to either let a plate of food go cold at my place or skip saying hello to any guests until after eating. I'd visit for a bit, then flag a waiter down who was circulating a platter of something I wanted, and sit down with hot food on my plate for a few minutes

                                                While the food was really good, the part that still has people talking eight years later is the desert. Our cake was Simca's El Diablo -- a nearly flourless chocolate cake recipe I had clipped from the Chicago Tribune about 6 years before I even met my husband, and which I had only ever made as a single layer cake, delicious but not beautiful. I got turned down by at least 6 "wedding cake" specialists who refused to attempt making this cake for 80 people, and was on the verge of trying to make a lot of small cakes myself when I found a pastry chef who catered deserts and did not focus on weddings. The cake was absolutely fantastic -- and looked quite elegant, even if not like a typical wedding cake. Years later, among people who were at the wedding, if I offer to bring a desert they always ask for me to make "wedding cake."

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Xine

                                                  the wedding cake sounds DIVINE! you wouldn't er, happen to want to sluff off that recipe would ye?

                                                  1. re: lollya

                                                    From the Feb 23 1993 Chicago Tribune:

                                                    8" cake pan, line with wax paper or parchment, butter the bottom and sides of pan and dust with flour; preheat oven to 375

                                                    melt 8 oz German sweet chocolate and 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter in a heavy pan on low heat; stir till smooth

                                                    beat 3/4 c sugar with yolks of 4 large eggs; add to the melted chocolate and stir till blended

                                                    remove from heat and stir in 1/4 c of cake flour [original recipe called for 2 Tb of ground almonds as well; since I'm allergic to nuts, I leave it out, but add maybe 1 extra Tb of the cake flour]

                                                    beat the 4 egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff; add some to the chocolate mixtrure to lighten, then fold the chocolate mix all back in to the egg whites

                                                    pour in the pan, bake for 25-30 minutes; let the cake cool before you remove from the pan
                                                    the icing is really simple -- melt 4 oz German sweet chocolate in 3 Tb water over low heat, then when melted remove from the heat and add 4 Tb unsalted butter and mix till fully incorporated. The original recipe says to pur on top of the cake, but it's pretty messy at that point. I often let it cool a bit, stirring occasionally, so that I can spread it rather than pouring it. If you pour it, the top looks beautiful, but the sides don't get done properly.

                                                    Either way though, making this as a single layer cake is not the most beautiful desert to look at, but it is to eat. Oh, and a dollop of whipped cream is nice too. Given the butter/egg/chocolate that makes up the cake, the whipped cream is light by comparison.

                                                    1. re: Xine

                                                      awww.. thanks! i look forward to trying it out!

                                                2. My wedding experienced is mostly comprised of Chinese banquets which are all about the food and hospitality. 8 to 10 courses often including lobster, abalone and shark fin. Unfortunately for the sake of food people usually sacrifice on decor since the best meals are usually at Chinese restaurants.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: tluu

                                                    I too have mostly experienced Chinese banquet style receptions. I have had others, but do prefer the Chinese banquets. Depending on where the banquet is located, the decor can vary. There are some nicer Chinese restaurants that have upped their decor and image. But I don't think that the decor is as important as the event itself and the good times and great food had by all. That is what makes the weddings fun.

                                                  2. I'm itching to give this a try, but I'm SO tired of making beautiful, healthful (and sometimes not!!) creative food and watching the people I love turn up their noses at it. We're going to have a huge party in our back yard, and the entirety of the food budget is going to cheese, chocolate truffles, berries and raw cream, lavendar cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting....If I can borrow a big fancy ice cream machine, I'd love to serve homemade lemon custard ice cream. I want some properly made old fashioned lemonade out too. Anybody can find something to pick at on a really excellent cheese table-- I'm not opposed to some real cheddar! But I want my favorites out there (goat and sheep's milk cheeses from Dayton, WA).

                                                    Later on in the evening, in the dark, with a roaring fire in the firepit (we don't have hot summer nights in Western WA!) I want grilled hamburgers (local organic grass fed!), real jerk chicken, Reed's ginger beer, scads of pinot noir from the Willamette Valley and scads of red from Walla Walla. I want the lettuce on the burgers to be from the Farmer's Market-- the tomatoes off my own bushes-- the chicken to be locally grown. Late night party food made and served with love and joy.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Vetter

                                                      That sounds divine.

                                                      My husband and I were married quietly in our living room on a Monday night in February. The following August, we hosted a tented party in our back yard for dearest relatives and friends, amounting to about 85 people. My husband and his father (a Valencian) cooked three large paellas over wood fires. Beforehand, we put out a spread of Spanish cheeses and olives, spiced almonds, and Serrano ham. Drinks were (housemade) sangria, a selection of wines, and good local beer from a keg. The paella was served up with copious quantities of good bread (localish baguettes), and a gigantic salad. I made the chocolate w/ mocha buttercream wedding cake myself. Everyone still talks about what a great party it was, how good the food was, what a nice way to celebrate a marriage.

                                                      It baffles me that weddings have become an opportunity to impress one's friends, etc., with one's taste and success. No wonder so many marriages end in divorce.

                                                      1. re: GG Mora

                                                        A wedding with Valencian paella, cheese, jamon...I'm in Spain now and I can't even imagine how heavenly the tastes and smells would be, especially at such a special occasion. This thread is so inspiring!

                                                    2. I think a couple of things are key: know your audience and have a wide variety.

                                                      You definitely need to know your audience. My wedding was comprised of about 30% foodies, 50% people who like to eat well but are not necessarily foodies and 20% Applebees/Olive Garden crowd. And throw in a couple of vegetarians in the mix. While you cannot please every single person, it is nice to consider other tastes. If you have hor d'oerves, make sure there is a wide variety -- vegetarian, seafood, beef, simple, fancy, cold, hot. I had skewered beef kabobs, tamarind shrimp kabobs (for some reason, people like things on a stick), goat cheese mousse in parmesan tuiles (for vegetarians), seared tuna on gaufrette with wasabi sauce, foie gras mousse tartlettes with duck confit, oysters with ponzu sauce, maine crab fritter with osetra with caviar. For the appetizer, guests had a choice of seared sea scallops or salad. For the main course, we had the guests choose between halibut with morels and sorrel emulsion or filet mignon with potatoes in a red wine sauce. There was also a silent vegetarian option, which most places will do for you without extra charge. Dessert was a lemon tart with creme fraiche; the wedding cake was a blackout cake. While I would have loved to have a foie gras appetizer, I am aware that it is probably not to everybody's liking. Our dinner was a success -- guests raved about the food. But the most important thing was that people had fun -- booze was free-flowing and everybody was relaxed. While everything there were not things that we personally would have picked ourselves, we thought it was a good compromise.

                                                      And buffets are not necessarily less expensive than plated dinners. Depends on what type of stations you have. I prefer plated dinners because the food is then not sitting out too long. The waiters swept the tables (serving the courses table at a time) so everybody received the food at the same time. No awkward moments.

                                                      I originally planned to have my wedding at l'Ecole at the French Culinary Institute because I had the choice of booking Lee Anne Wong to give the guests a one-hour cooking demonstration. That would have been totally awesome. When I mentioned this to a couple of my friends they were ecstatic and started bragging to everybody how they'll be attending a wedding with a cooking demonstration. However, we eschewed the idea when we had such a bad experience at l'Ecole with the food and service. But if there are a lot of foodies in your group, having a cooking demonstration may not be a bad idea.

                                                      Don't stress out too much -- not everything will go the way you had planned, and in the end, nobody will remember the little imperfections. Have fun -- enjoy the food, enjoy spending time with your guests. Everything else will just follow. Have fun planning your wedding!

                                                      1. We hired professional guys to roast a lamb and a pig on spits under the trees, all the grannies make traditional salads that would be ok room temp (potato, slaw, etc), fresh rolls, home-made BBQ sauce by the bride (never had made it before!) Most people had never experienced meat like that before and were fascinated. We kept the selections down to basics on the sides. Had a traditional looking cake, but did carrot & chocolate & white, plus numerous plates of home baked traditional sweets from my culture. People really ate. Since it was buffet style, people could pace themselves and go back later for more- plus food was substantial enuf to absorb the open bar element. It was all outdoors and everyone was able to circulate, dance, sing along with the band etc. The combination of tradition and good quality was key. Marriage blew up after 21 years, but I still remember the roasted meats!

                                                        1. I have enough hard core foodie friends and family members, it would be potluck all the way with me. I'd probably do my own desserts.

                                                          1. The New England clambake sounds amazing, if we ever have a family celebration in Rhode Island I will definitely do that one. In Readymade magazine (or was it Budget Living, I can't remember) I read about a wedding party in San Francisco where they decorated a parking lot, set up some kegs and invited their favorite local taco truck for all you can eat Mexican food. It looked really fun in the article -- I think that would be one of the few types of parties I would be really comfortable with.

                                                            1. My wife and I decided it was OUR wedding, and since we paid for it, we were going to get what we wanted. Most of our guests were very, very happy with the food and drink, and a few of them even commented it was on their list of "top ten" weddings.

                                                              We had it at a Chinese restaurant in NY. You will have to give a little on the decor, but not that much if you're willing to go around and check things out. The food was high end chinese banquet, so lobster, abalone, shrimp, filet mignon, noodles, etc. I invited foodies, chowhounds, vegetarians, meat and potatoes guys and my parents (the ultimate chinese food snobs who've been doing wedding banquets for 70 years) and everyone was happy. Well, my parents told me I'd overpaid, but Chinese parents have to have something to complain about, otherwise they're not happy.

                                                              I asked my CH friend to do the wine. Other friends bought bottles of champagne and other wines. Good stuff at a good price with beer and soft drinks for people who didn't want the wine.

                                                              Dessert was a wedding cake from Ferrara's NY. They have a surprisingly affordable line of delicious wedding cakes. The cake was gone after the wedding, which shocked me, since I've always seen leftovers at every other wedding I've ever been too. Guess it's more of a comment on the quality of the cake than anything else.

                                                              Party afterwards at the hotel. Lose the parents and older folks, and the close friends with energy got together and partied.

                                                              Ten years later. Guests still talk about the wedding.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: tomishungry

                                                                hey tom- what restaurant in nY did you have your reception at?

                                                              2. I would have to have a mashed potato bar with both regular mashed and sweet potato mashed and there would have to be lobster/crab pieces as toppers along with whipped butter, brown sugar, cheese all kinds, bacon bits, sour cream, chives, maple syrup, salsa, carmelized onions, and anything else you can top a spud with.

                                                                The other item would be a crepes station with toppings/fillings such as fresh berries, sugar of all kinds, liquors to season the melting sugars for suzettes, whipped creams, pastry creams... the list goes on.

                                                                The cake would have to be a sheet cake made of the Italian pastry "Napoleans". There is a place in Boston that makes cakes out of them. They just don't cut into squares and frost it and serve like a cake- best cake ever made!

                                                                1. My daughter's wedding was in the Fall at the La Jolla Cove. Our theme was Tuscany meets the Tropics. We had long tables set up both inside and out, used only candles of all sizes and in many different containers. The food came for the French Gourmet and was delicious. We had the salad course served but then everyone went to the several buffet stations. Lots of wine and champagne the entire time.

                                                                  1. We had a sit down dinner for 100 at a hotel in Scottsdale that also had a great restaurant. We emphatically did not want to do a chicken-or-salmon sort of dinner. I loved the menu: The starter was a smoked salmon dish with bilinis and creme fraiche, there was a salad course which was served over heirloom tomato carpaccio, guests had the choice between lamb chops or ahi tuna for the entree (there was also a vegetarian option), and then wedding cake. My theory was that the people that don't like tuna are different than the people who don't like lamb.

                                                                    The food was actually really, really good. The only dish that some people left was the smoked salmon starter, but people did a good job of polishing off the entrees.

                                                                    1. We got married in September 2005, and our menu was "weird" according to our parents. The food was awesome though. Grilled steak and chicken fajitas with a bunch of different salsas/condiments; chicken saltimbocca with proscuitto chips; grilled asparagus dressed with lemon zest; roast garlic potatoes; three different kinds of deviled eggs; and a Greek-style chopped salad. The food was fantastic and a lot of fun. We got married and had our reception in a park and were trying to go sort of "upscale picnic" with the food.

                                                                      1. As a caterer and guest at over two dozen weddings so far, I can definitely say that buffet is the way to go no matter what. The food tend to be more fresh and people can take as little or as much as they like. Make sure the caterer has things cut into proper portions. There's nothing worse than serving nice grilled 4oz tuna steak and seeing half left on a plate. Smaller cuts mean less waste.

                                                                        I've been to serious foodie weddings with enormous buffets and excellent food, and often people are too full to dance afterwards and they leave earlier. A fun and less heavy option is a crawfish boil (nothing funnier than a bride in white sucking the head!) or pig on a spit. Just make sure there are good veggie options.

                                                                        1. I attended a wedding celebration in Mexico City that started in the evening with heavy appetizers and a light supper, followed by dancing and drinks until the wee hours; concluding with a late night/early morning breakfast. It was quite the party. The dancing worked off the calories.

                                                                          When my younger sister married, I coordinated the reception which was held on our family farm. It was an outdoor affair (Mom consulted the Farmers Alamanac for the right weather date) with a big tent for shade. We had family coming from Hawaii, New England, and friends from all over the country - a diverse food audience, including vegetarians.

                                                                          One of the neighbors gave two suckling pigs as a wedding gift (don't you just love farmers!?). The pigs were roasted in the ground for 20 hours (Hawaiian-style). A vast selection of salads and side dishes complimented the beautifully prepared pork (some catered, some favourite dishes prepared by sister/chef and Mom). Fresh fruits were brought from Hawaii for the occassion.

                                                                          The wedding had been a traditionally dressy affair, but everyone was given ample time to change prior to the reception, which was a country casual buffet for 200. There was so much food that leftovers were used in modified form the following day for an 'out-of-town visitors' brunch. Everyone was in a relaxed mode, and enjoyed another meal with the bride and groom before they left on their honeymoon.

                                                                          It required coordination, but was affordable for the bride and groom, and fun for guests, particularly children who could run around freely.

                                                                          1. I agree that the buffett/appetizer/dessert idea is the best way to go. You can have a wider variety and hopefully please everyone, and people can mingle and socialize instead of being stuck in a chair for a couple of hours (a 10-course tasting menu? What were they thinking? That's for an occasion when you want to focus on the food, not the company!).

                                                                            That said, the best wedding food I ever had -- that also epitomized the original poster's criterion of reflecting the foodie tastes and personalities -- was my sister's wedding. They rented a facility that allowed them to use the caterer of their choice, and used it for the ceremony and the reception. They had passed appertizers on the deck during the change over (from wedding seating to dinner seating) inside, and then sit-down dinner served family style at tables of eight. My sister and her husband (and several other family members) were then semi-vegetarians (my sister ate fish, my BIL didn't eat anything with a backbone), plus my sister is diabetic, so she worked long and hard with the caterer to get everything exactly the way she wanted it (and more crucially, the way she *needed* it). The caterer specialized in Mediterranean food, so the food, although vegetarian, was hearty (I still dream about the polenta). To satisfy the people who think you need a hunk of protein to have had a "real" meal, each table got a beautifully presented roasted whole fish. But one of her most conservative meat-and-potatoes guests remarked afterward that he hadn't even realized that the rest of the meal had been vegetarian until the fish was presented. Everyone raved about the food.

                                                                            My sister said that people who asked about her wedding plans were most shocked not about the fact that a lesbian friend of theirs performed the ceremony, but that she didn't have a wedding cake: they had creme brulee (my BIL's favorite dessert). Although personally, if I were going to have a non-cake wedding dessert, I think it would be croquembuche (with chocolate filling)!

                                                                            If you're doing sit down, I think it's great to do it family style: it's more social for the guests and service is a lot quicker if everything doesn't have to be individually plated and served, so people don't have to wait for food that's cold when it gets to them!

                                                                            1. I don't know if we got everything right, but we had a lovely wedding, with lots of positive feedback from the guests. We had it relatively early evening - wedding at 4 pm, reception started at 5, and just did heavy hors d'oeuvres. We had a panini station and passed canapes and a giant display of crudites and cheese and another station (I want to say kebabs). Since the boring part of a wedding is always being stuck at a table making conversation, we just set up small and large tables around the dance floor, so that if people wanted to sit the whole time (grandmothers each set up camp) they could, and if people wanted to sit for a few minutes and mingle they could and if people just wanted a place to put their drink while they danced, they did that too. There was really a lot of food -- we had leftovers, and I got to both eat, as the bride, and talk to everyone there, since I could carry my plate with me. After a few hours which included the first dances, speeches, etc., we cut the cake, which I had made myself (two layers of chocolate almond, one of grand marnier pound cake), and if people were hungry and wanted a bigger meal they could leave without missing anything and get dinner at a not ridiculously late hour. Plus we were able to leave at a reasonable hour without being totally exhausted from the marathon wedding and actually enjoy the posh hotel room we had booked. Since we weren't serving a heavy meal, we also cooled it on the open bar (which I suppose a lot of people would take issue with) -- we poured champagne all night, and for the nondrinkers there was a lemonade bar with 3 flavors of lemonade.

                                                                              1. The budget was tight for our son and DIL's wedding in August 2005 and they wanted it to be a casual, family affair. The wedding itself was held in a small pine grove on the river and the reception was held in the Grange hall across the street. Individual servings of raw vegetables and dip were placed on the tables. Appetites were fanned by the smell of charcoal grilled chicken. Fortunately my sister and her husband were used to grilling lots of chicken as a 4-H fundraiser and know how to make the secret basting sauce. For quantities of chicken cooked on racks over a pit the sauce is frequently sprayed on with garden sprayers (reserved for cooking purposes only). Besides flavor it's the secret to moist chicken. The guests raved about the chicken. We had the traditional salads i.e. potato salad, three bean. I made the bride's favorite brocolli/raisin/bacon bits. The lady we hired to make the potato salad also managed the kitchen. We also had her make Shaker squash rolls.The only disappointment was corn on the cob which may have been overcooked. We are fussy about our corn and bought it from the local farmer where we always get it. While the menu wasn't exotic, it pleased the family, most of whom don't like anything except what they're used to. The wedding cake was small but supplemented by very tasty cupcakes from a supermarket bakery. Since they were on sale Saturday morning, one of the guests picked them up on her way to the wedding. The older family members enjoyed socializing. The younger ones with young children appreciated being able to bring their children. For the rehearsal dinner I chose a Mexican dip. I made lobster rolls which were a treat to most of the guests but not all (the best man and maid of honor were from Alaska and had never had lobster). We also had simple grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Not sure what else we served. We live in a small rural town that doesn't have any restaurants. To make it a traditional New England Grange Hall type of meal we should have also had baked beans but the bride decide there was already plenty on the menu with all the salads and corn on the cob. I hid my disappointment that my son and DIL don't particularly care for the cole slaw I make even though it's very popular at the Grange suppers. Even people who don't know me know it's my cole slaw and make comments if someone else's is served when I'm out of town. The menu fit the bride's tastes and the general family's. I love to experiment when I cook but I've had relatives avoid some of my dishes. One time when I brought pesto to a potluck party the hostess's husband said he wasn't sure he wanted to eat anything green that was spread with a putty knife (it was NOT a putty knife). At my BIL's wedding the guests mined their way around the fresh borage blossoms I put on the cheese ball.

                                                                                1. My wedding started with the reception first. We decided the last thing we wanted at our wedding were hungry people fidgeting in their seats, hoping the ceremony would end so that they could eat. We did the appetizer, baked potatoe bar, and every accompaniment you could think of. Punch was served. and then the whole reception sang "Goin' to the chapel...." as we paraded into the church sanctuary for the ceremony. We dressed as everyone took their seats and the church was aglow with candlelight. After a beautiful ceremony we cut the traditional cake. We then all partied in the honeymoon suite before flying out the next morning. Everyone had fun, the food was great, and the cost was within reason.

                                                                                  1. If I were to do such a thing (which is not bloody likely), since few of my relatives and friends (and those of my SO) are hard-partying types, I think I would do an early-ish ceremony, say around 1:00pm, followed by an elegant afternoon tea with champagne. Tea sandwiches and finger food, cake, cookies, plenty of coffee, tea and champagne.

                                                                                    1. I'd make sure I had a full tank of acetylene, check the oxygen, check my shield and gloves, check for safety hazards, ask the chef about accelerants used, which foods need butt welding . .
                                                                                      oh! WEDDING not welding.

                                                                                      1. Our wedding was a pretty informal affair--both of us had been married before and wanted to do something that fit who we were and not some pretty picture of a "Fairytale Wedding." I think we might have spent a total of maybe five grand on the whole thing, including my dress and the rings. (I made the dress from Irish linen and sent it to my mom in Kansas to do some silk ribbon embroidery on--including a tiny bumblebee on one shoulder.)

                                                                                        The wedding was at 4:30 on a very stormy afternoon in Portland. We had a little cake-and-punch reception for all the guests at the church. The cake was small and was chocolate with raspberry French cream filling. Then at 7:00 the wedding party, our families, and a few other people we really liked (ultimately it was probably about 2/3 of the people who were at the wedding) gathered at a German restaurant in NE Portland. This place has a reputation for throwing really fantastic parties, not so much a place you'd just go to grab a bite of an evening. They have a ton of little party rooms that can be closed off, and a roving accordion player who'd come in now and then and it would be Polka Time for a few minutes. We had a family-style meal with lots of wonderful food and a whole bunch of wine (if folks wanted something else they had to buy it, although I seem to recall we bought the best man a trough of Optimator at one point). That party was the most expensive part of the wedding, I think, at around $800 for 20 people.

                                                                                        Ten years later folks who were there still talk about it as the most enjoyable and memorable wedding they'd been to.

                                                                                        1. thank you for such an excellent topic. i'm going to have to speak to my foodie fiance about our options again. but i know he is set on his groom's cake :)

                                                                                          1. I recently got married and had Cold Stone Creamery in Lockport cater our wedding reception. This is the store we always go to since it is in the town we live in but when I was picking out my flavors and toppings another bride was booking her engagement party and she lives in NorthBrook and they said it was no problem to cater an event that was alittle bit aways

                                                                                            I choose the option of having the ice cream sundae bar atation and everyone loved it! I was going to do the option of the portabkle frozen stoen that they would mix the ice cream and candy on just like in the store but the sundae bar was a little bit cheaper.

                                                                                            We had our whole wedding catered for way cheaper than our cake or a chocolate fountain would have cost. This Cold Stone in Lockport is pretty reasonable and did a beautiful job. My theme was fall with leaves and broze colors and they set their table up to match my theme for free!

                                                                                            At Christmas thats all my family could talk about was the sundae bar. I would go to this Cold Stone off 159th even if I moved away because they treated us so good. I couldnt decide on my flavors or she let em try all of them again and again and gave me really good suggestions.

                                                                                            We also had a Cold Stone Candy station setup with cold stone containers on the way out for people to eat on the way home

                                                                                            1. Being single (and too young to be getting married yet) it might seem crazy, but I've had this planned for quite some time. I love wedding shows and think it just started to rub off on me. So I planned out all the food!

                                                                                              After the ceremony, guests will have time to change out of their more formal clothes and relax for a bit before the reception. Then, they will all come to an outdoor location with a huge open air structure at a local mansion. First will come a bunch of passed appetizers. Everything from corn dogs and pigs in blankets, to chicken satay and mini vegetable tarts. (Mind you, this is probably going to be a smaller wedding...I am not a fan of the idea of a massive wedding.) Then comes the real stuff. One of my favorite treats is bbq. There is a fantastic place in my hometown that makes meat divine. So, it will be ribs, pulled pork and chicken. Sides will be collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, baked beans, etc. Dessert will be a wedding cake probably, with a possible ice cream bar just for kicks. I really would prefer to have almost all the money spent on food. I want people to eat (and drink) till they burst! :D