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Wedding Food Advice

I have just booked the venue for my 2012 venue (The Rosewater Room in Toronto, in case anyone is interested) and am now grappling with menu decisions. I know people seem to have mixed opinions about the venue in general, but my fiance and I have decided to create a custom menu and hopefully avoid the boring banquet hall style food trap. I want to create a sophisticated menu that reflects our personal tastes as well as our profound love of food. However, as I am looking through some menu options in an attempt to try and come up with ideas I am starting to get frustrated. My issue is this: most of the things that we LOVE may be too sophisticated for a number of our guests, a lot of whom are extremely irritating 'picky eaters.' I do not really want to compromise as I feel like every single other wedding I have been to has catered to the palates of the bride and groom, regardless of what I or others may have preferred. However, at the same time I do not want to waste food. Such is my dilemma. The main course is not too big of an issue, as we are offering an option of either beef or duck, one of which (the beef) will be prepared more conventionally than the other. My real problem is with the appetizer course. Pretty much everything I can come up with will be a problem for somebody close to us, either his parents or someone in our wedding party. So I guess I was just wondering if anybody had any advice or suggestions for me. How have others with a passion for food dealt with the reality of wedding menu planning?

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  1. Our son and DIL had passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails prior to dinner. Two of the things that I thought were great were small Chinese soup spoons with a smidge of tuna tartare and platters of small oysters on the half shell on a bed of salt.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cedarflat

      Thanks for the reply! We will also be having passed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails prior to dinner. Tuna was something that I had been considering, however unfortunately oysters are a little bit out of our budget! Did your son have a plated appetizer as well?

      1. re: Sonja_Blu

        No plated appetizer. Unless someone picked the vegetarian options, each person got a small piece of mild white fish and a small piece of beef filet. with appropriate sauces for each in little pitchers. Salad, vegetables, carafes of wine at the tables (not bottled) and wedding cake.

        1. re: cedarflat

          Most weddings I've been to have an assortment of hors d'oeuvres but not a separate appetizer course, just a salad.

    2. my feeling would be this.....
      if its going to go over their heads...and they are picky about it...
      just go with an assortment of appetizers..and your mains...
      they should be able to find something to eat..
      the only exceptions should be for allergies or diet restrictions...

      the wedding day should be about the bride and groom...or if tv shows my wife watches ..just the bride........
      good food can be a part of the wedding...but imo not the focus...
      unless the bride and groom are world renowned chefs...
      then people will expect world class food...

      all i remember from most of the weddings (and my own) is mostly the couple..and the cake...

      1. I had the same dilemma when I got married -- no way was I gonna eat steam table roast beast on my big day :-). We got around it by having a local culinary school cater our event and cook skewers a la minute on bbqs hidden underneath the venue. I felt very lucky we were able to pull this off and realize it's not likely to be an option for you. One thing we did do that might work for you is that we eschewed passed hors d'oeuvres for gorgeous cheese platters served with baguette and other bread plus fresh fruit. I got to pick the cheeses out myself which was ideal. The caterer plated the cheese wedges/blocks/rounds beautifully, cut the breads and fruits and set everything out along with some bubble. Elegant, tasty and crowd pleasing. Unless your picky eaters are lactose intolerant :-(. Best of luck in balancing your love of food with your love of your family and friends!

        2 Replies
        1. re: grayelf

          Cheese platters sound amazing! Thanks so much for the suggestions!

          1. re: Sonja_Blu

            I agree, and diners will be able to pick & choose their favorites. Most apps I've had at weddings were either too timid or too much before the main course. Love the cheese, fruit and good bread options.

        2. This may not be much of a sophisticated response, but I had the same problem. I solved it by: offering sliced turkey, ham and beef, cheddar and swiss cheese slices, assorted crackers and bread for the picky ones. Then I did what *I* wanted with the rest. I felt like it provided for the mundane picky eaters -while still reflecting my taste.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sedimental

            Ya know what? I think that's a terrific idea. Everybody wins.

          2. I am very confused by your post since you say you want to "create a person menu that reflects our personal tastes..." but then your say "I feel like every single other wedding I have been to has catered to the palates of the bride and groom, regardless of what I or others may have preferred." Which do you want, a wedding menu for your tastes or what others prefer? You can't have both unless they are the same. If you know there are certain dishes or ingredients a number of your guests might not love, mix those up in the passed appetizers and then skip a first course. Most wedding dinners I have been to had too much food anyway.

            6 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              No, they are definitely the same thing. That is what I meant, that I want to create a menu that reflects our tastes and that I feel like other couples have done the same at every wedding I have been to, although their tastes have generally been more conventional. I am not skipping a first course, we are having passed hors d'oeuvres, a salad, a plated appetizer, a main, and dessert. For late night snacks we are having shawarma. My main issue is with the plated appetizer, as people will not have an option and will simply get what I decide on. The main is going to be one of three options, so I am not too worried about that. I am thinking a foie gras terrine for the app, but am afraid people might not like it. Any suggestions?

              1. re: Sonja_Blu

                A vegetable terrine would be just lovely and perhaps take the shudder factor out for some people. Amazing things can be done with goat cheese, spinach, basil, sundried tomatoes, and any number of other things, layered and sliced. You might also consider a chicken mousse en croute, instead of pate. Pork or rabbit rillettes might also be really lovely as a starter, with nice bread and a fried caperberry or two. I think the best thing to come out of this whole thread so far is the idea that if you provide something to satisfy the appetites of the folks with less adventurous appetites, as fancy as an herbed tenderloin or as delicious as a pesto-drugged, sliced pork loin - plus your entree of choice, it will all work out fine and you'll be great hosts. Felicitations, by the way.

                1. re: mamachef

                  I like the idea of the rabbit rillettes! My fiance will love that too, thank you!

                  1. re: Sonja_Blu

                    Although I eat rabbit, as long as it is not a whole roasted one, In my family, half of them would not even consider eating rabbit and at least one might leave the table. You might want to consider an alternative for those folks.

                  2. re: mamachef

                    Oops, I also wanted to add that, as scary as rabbit might sound to some people, it is traditional food in both of our families (he is Egyptian, the people that will be coming from my side are Newfies) so that is really a wonderful suggestion that I hadn't thought of. Thank you so much!

                  3. re: Sonja_Blu

                    It sounds like you have enough options for the picky eaters to not starve to death, even if they don't like the appetizer. The vegetarians can skip the foie gras terrine, and the less knowledgeable will just think it's an amazing fancy meatloaf. People don't have to love every course. The main thing is to make sure you have food that is safe for people with allergies, which presumably you will know about in advance.

                2. I do not really want to compromise as I feel like every single other wedding I have been to has catered to the palates of the bride and groom, regardless of what I or others may have preferred.
                  Forgive me, but.........isn't this precisely what you intend to do for your menu?........:0)

                  ......but my fiance and I have decided to create a custom menu and hopefully avoid the boring banquet hall style food trap. I want to create a sophisticated menu that reflects our personal tastes as well as our profound love of food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fourunder

                    YES! That is what I intend to do! I don't understand why it is is so confusing? maybe I should have worded it differently?

                  2. I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer here -- but I honestly cannot remember a single dish from any wedding I have ever attended (okay, the crockpot barbecue wedding was weird enough in every detail to stand out), and only vaguely remember what was served at my own!

                    Go for good quality, but the important part of the day is your marriage and the beginning of your life together -- while I totally agree with you on not going the "overcooked beef and dried-out chicken" routine -- the food is not the highlight of the day.

                    Choose a good basic menu, with *something* available for *everyone* to eat -- and concentrate on what's truly important. You have enough other things to stress over -- don't add things to the pile.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I think I may be the weird one here... I remember every single thing \i have ever been served at a wedding... I go for the food, not the boring 'marriage' part. I am honestly shocked by the number of people who say that they don't remember the food!

                      1. re: Sonja_Blu

                        maybe something about the joining of lives and the celebration of such a big event?

                        but oh, that's boring. When it's your own wedding and it's still just boring?

                        Then go to the courthouse and have a big party later.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          The food is the draw for me... I don't think I should be ridiculed for that! That is why I posted on chowhound and not a wedding website! My fiance and I have been together for almost ten years; the reason for the wedding is to have fun and celebrate, and food for us is a HUGE part of that! "the joining of lives" is private, and something that has been done over time. The wedding is for the fun and the FOOD.

                          1. re: Sonja_Blu

                            then that's exactly what I said -- I wasn't ridiculing you -- I was suggesting that if the food is truly the focus of the day for you, then stop stressing over churches, dresses, ceremonies, hairstyles, tux rental, bachelor parties, honeymoon, etc.,e tc., etc -- all of which is stressful and expensive -- go to the courthouse and get hitched, then throw some kind of fabulous bash as a celebration and to hell with the stuff you consider boring!

                            If it's just a party and not a reception, then you also get to NOT worry about whether or not everybody agrees with what you put on the plate....

                            With the money you save from all the other stuff, you might even find that TWO parties -- one low-key, middle-of-the-road party for family with a non-adventurous menu and one gourmet bash -- might be less money and you'd enjoy them more.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              We aren't stressing over any of that stuff... the only thing I cared about was the venue (food is tied into this) and photographer. I'm sorry if I misunderstood you! All of my friends are going crazy over the 'dress,' and they simply don't understand that I do not care! I want FOOD, FUN, and fabulous PHOTOS. That's it! I won't do a courthouse simply because a church is very important to me, but I really don't care who makes it there. The church is for us, like you said the courthouse should be. So my main concern is the food, because the church is 'ours' and that is our semi-private wedding time. I really don't expect our actual union to matter to anyone else. i actually think it would be kind of narcissistic to expect anyone to care about how we feel about each other. they came for the party!

                              1. re: Sonja_Blu

                                As if you need the added stress of having to defend yourself!

                                1. re: Axlsgoddess

                                  and you're going out of your way to find something in any of this side thread that simply isn't there.

                                  We as a culture spend hundreds of millions of dollars on weddings every year...and for what? A dress that gets boxed up and put into storage and possibly never even looked at again, a big book of expensive photographs (that only rarely get looked at), and nothing concrete to show for all the cash outlay. And at the end of the day you're no more or less married than the couple who paid the justice of the peace a hundred bucks to administer the vows.

                                  So if the lace and flowers and hoopla isn't for you -- then don't let friends/family/societal pressures rope you into doing dropping a huge pile of cash on something that isn't that important to you.-- don't do it if you'd rather use the cash for the down payment on a house or whatever...it's YOUR life, and YOUR money, so do with both what you want!

                                  If it's your dream to walk down the aisle looking like a princess with a half-dozen bridesmaids and a carriage -- knock yourself out and have your big day.

                                  If the church is important, but the rest of the stuff isn't...well...that's exactly what you're doing.

                                  We did have a wedding, NOT in a church (not in a courthouse, either) -- all 65 people -- and we spent less than a quarter of what the national average was for wedding expenditures at the time...and we wouldn't trade it for the world...we did what was important to US and refused the stuff we didn't care less about.

                                  The whole conversation was brought about by having seen an awful lot of friends and family in tears, stressed to the breaking point, by pressure from Mom/Grandma/the mother-in-law...WHOMEVER trying to live vicariously through the should-be-happy couple, who are NOT happy because they're trying to make everyone happy but themselves, with nothing to show for it but an enormous frigging debt to pay for all the crap that everyone BUT them wanted. Sometimes people need someone on the outside to give them permission to say "hey, wait. It's MY wedding, WE are paying for it, and I don't give a rat's ass if we have XXX...so we ain't gonna have it."

                        2. re: Sonja_Blu

                          You're not weird unless I am too :-). We'd been together 10 years before getting married, so our priorities were similar (though we opted for the church of the outdoors!). I remembered the food from the weddings I'd been to and generally these memories were infelicitous, hence my obsession with having great food that everyone could enjoy at my own nuptials. It can be done economically and without sacrificing the other aspects of your day. Stick with it, don't get frustrated and make it work, as Tim Gunn would say.

                          1. re: Sonja_Blu

                            If it's your own wedding, you will feel very differently. I remember a lot of the food from the weddings I have attended, and I remember the cake from my own. That's it.

                        3. I think there needs to be a balance of what you like versus your guests' preferences. We actually had an option to do foie gras for the appetizer course which we were steered against. They told us that most people don't like foie gras, and it's more on the menu for food industry parties. The raw oysters we picked for one of our hors d'oeuvres did not go over very well with our guests. But at least there was a whole bunch of other things to choose from. And when I stopped by one night after my wedding, I found the people who had rented the space that evening complaining because the seared tuna was underdone. We actually had seared tuna on our menu and people loved it. So I think it's key to know your audience.

                          I don't know if it's an option, but I always see people gravitating towards crab cakes at weddings. We had them for an hors'doeuvre, and they were really popular. I've seen people scarfing down crab cakes at other weddings. We ended up choosing some lovely seared sea scallops as our appetizers. People still talk about that til this day!

                          1. What about individual remekins of mac and cheese-perhaps w/ lobster added? Or perhaps some sort of ravioli? You could choose almost anything for a filling, depending on what would make the most sense w/ the rest of your menu.

                            1. If you are providing passed hors d'oeuvres, and a main course that should provide every one an option, they why not be a little more adventurous with your plated appetizer? Clearly, there will be plenty of other food to fill their stomachs. While there may be some who won't enjoy it, you may expose some of your guests to something they never would have tried before. And if reflecting your tastes and personalities in your dish selections is important to you, it is better to do so in the appetizer rather that the main course.

                              That being said, I agree with others here who says that the food is hardly what is remembered after a wedding. I was married last September and can barely tell you the details of what I even chose! However, if you provide a unique option, it may be something that will make them remember.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: kander717

                                That is what i was thinking... We are having four courses plus hors d'oeuvres, so people shouldn't be hungry. I think we have decided on foie gras, despite the fact that some people may not like it. Like you said, maybe we will expose people to something new and memorable! If not, they can have a steak after.

                                1. re: Sonja_Blu

                                  Sonja_Blu: I just wanted to wish you a beautiful, delicious-food-filled wedding day that is anything and everything you and your husband could ever hope for. Just enjoy, Mazel Tov, long happy life together.

                                    1. re: Sonja_Blu

                                      Foie gras is tons more expensive than oysters! Just saying.

                                      1. re: cedarflat

                                        Oops, just reread and realize that you're talking about a terrine.

                                  1. I haven't planned a wedding so I don't know how much help I am but I still have an opinion ;) . I understand not wanting to waste food, but I think that with hors d'oeurves and the other courses everyone will get enough food and so you should have what you want as an appetizer--especially if it a very small amuse bouche-type plate. If they don't eat it they won't starve and someone else at the table might want it. The catering crew will eat it!

                                    1. All I can say is make sure that whatever you choose will be able to be properly prepared for the number of people. Large scale catering often ends up sooo terrible. Best wedding food I ever had was hamburgers and sausages, potato salad, corn, etc picnic style. It was plain and simple, but at least the burgers were everything a burger should be, not soggy steam table beef. What a terrible waste of prime rib that always is... love the shwarma idea for late night snack. How many guests?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: bunnyone

                                        I have been to a number of large scale weddings where the food has been as good as the choices made by the wedding party. There are alternatives to soggy steam table beef.

                                        1. re: bunnyone

                                          We are having about 150 people, so not too gigantic. I agree, large scale catering does often end up pretty awful. That is another reason why I really like the idea of a terrine, as it will obviously be prepared in advance and served cool, so I don't really have to worry about under/over cooking, food being the wrong temperature, etc.

                                          1. re: Sonja_Blu

                                            I think the terrine is fine. as you say, there is plenty of food, so if someone passes on it, they do.

                                        2. All of your food sounds fantastic and I am sure your wedding reception and food will be terriffic. This is going to make me sound like a hick and a hillbilly, and I certainly am not suggesting you do this, but when the bride's uncle roasted a whole hog for my oldest brother's wedding (rural Minnesota farm country) it went over so well that it was only natural that the same be done for my next oldest brother. Of course since the bride's father raised the hog as well, food costs can be kept to a minimum. Back in those days a 200 pound hog cost about $150 if they had to buy one. A few years later, although my bride was a farm girl, he family did not raise hogs so we had to buy one. By that time my dad had started roasting hogs in an oven in his back yard so he cooked it and sang in the wedding too.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: John E.

                                            John, I just love that. What a lovely family tradition! When I married into a family that included a branch with many farmers, I had never attended a country wedding before. I love them! Family does most of the food and flowers, sometimes even the dresses. It's beautiful, warm, and the food is always delicious.

                                            I do love the urban chic weddings another branch throws, too. Now that I'm thinking of it, the 2 prettiest and most relaxed weddings I have attended included one on the farm and one in the city. First, a rooftop bar in Chicago. Really delicious small plates, seriously good cake, Champagne. Bride wore the most beautiful dress I've seen at a wedding. Simple, very chic, gorgeous.

                                            The other was held in the evening in a huge barn loft decorated with an archway fashioned out of branches that the men gathered and women decorated with tiny white lights and some ivory tuille. Nothing fancy, but it was so pretty and perfectly suited the couple. Candles provided warm and glowy lighting and snow was falling outside. It all felt magical. Food was made by family and I still remember the groom's mother's potato salad as the best ever (the addition of sour cream was her secret). Big roasters of sausage and peppers, roast beef, etc. Simple and delicious.

                                            Very different settings and experiences, both just wonderful.

                                            Folks should do what they want, enjoy their day, while keeping their guest's comfort in mind, too.

                                            I really love your story.

                                            Sonja Blu, it sounds like I'd remember the food from your wedding, too! You're taking such care to make it great. Enjoy your celebration!

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              John: That sounds delicious to me! I would have loved to attend that wedding! We are city folk, however, and so I don't think it would work with our venue.

                                              AnneMarieDear: Thank you so much, I hope it all comes out well!

                                              1. re: Sonja_Blu

                                                Sonja_Blu: whatever you decide, I'm sure it will be lovely and well received, because you're putting so much love into the preparation. Best wishes for a long and healthy married life. Be sure to take the time to truly soak in and enjoy the day, the rituals, and the blessings of your friends and family (this from an old married lady!).