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Planning your wedding buffet menu can feel overwhelming.  Whether you are a self-proclaimed foodie, or a meat-and-potatoes type, you still need to choose what your closest family and friends will eat on the most important day of your life… no pressure!

Buffet wedding receptions have become extremely popular, largely due to the amount of variety that they provide, but where do you start?  We have compiled these expert tips to help you plan a wedding buffet menu that is delicious, memorable and uniquely you. 

1. Prioritize What You Like… But Keep Your Guests in Mind, Too

Don’t hesitate to add items that contain ingredients like cilantro or blue cheese if you love them.  Many other people will, too!  But you may consider serving those components on the side when at all possible, so that you don’t isolate guests who might eat the dish otherwise.

Feature more “exotic” ingredients during the cocktail hour.  If you are a foodie who wants nothing more than to eat foie gras and chicken liver mousse at your wedding, go for it!  But perhaps serve these more “polarizing” foods as passed apps during your cocktail hour. Otherwise you’re apt to “waste” prime buffet real estate (and $$) with a dish that only a small group may enjoy.

If you or your fiance have mild allergies or allergies or dietary restrictions, ask your caterer to adjust your plates only, rather than imposing those restrictions on everyone. However, if you or your fiance have any severe allergies, we recommend omitting those items from your menu (a trip to the emergency room on your wedding day is not fun!).

2. When In Doubt, Think About What Your Family Likes to Eat

It is very easy to overanalyze every possible scenario when making menu decisions, especially if you know that you have a lot of guests with allergy restrictions or a variety of food preferences.  A very helpful tool is to ask yourself the question, “What does my family like to eat?” Scaling back the amount of people you are mentally trying to please can help you make more confident choices.  

The best part about a buffet is that there will be something for everyone.  Menu cards can help all of your guests feel confident that they have choices, particularly when they have special diets or allergies.

3. Consider the Season

The time of year that you choose for your wedding date is sure to influence your wedding colors, florals and decor, so it only makes sense that it should also influence your menu.  Keeping your menu season-appropriate assures that you also get the freshest and most delicious ingredients possible.  Can you have caprese salad in December?  Sure, but it’s not going to be nearly as good as something with citrus, for example.

When planning a menu with the seasons, think of the colors, smells, flowers and even holidays that take place around that time.  A spring wedding menu might compliment the bright florals and fresh produce of the season, or even highlight traditional Easter dinner foods.  Things like asparagus, fresh greens, strawberries and herbs can be incorporated into both food and specialty drinks for a delicious, fresh and beautiful spread.

Likewise, a fall or winter wedding menu may lean heavily on warm, comfort foods like creamy soups, hearty salads and braised meats. 

4. Add Some Personality

A great way to add a personal touch to your wedding menu is to reflect your own individual cultures and/or experiences.   At Caribbean Caterers, we have many multicultural weddings.  One where the Bride was from Haiti and the Groom was from Sierra Leone.  They decided to reflect their individual cultures within their menu by adding a rice dish specific to each of their countries, Haitian Black Rice (Diri Djon Djon) and Jollof Rice.  They created custom menu cards explaining both to their guests.  This created a spirited dinner conversation for the guests and a friendly rivalry ensued about which rice dish was better (it was declared a tie!).

Another idea would be to add a dish that reminds you of your favorite restaurant, first date or a memorable vacation that you took together.  Again, you can customize menu cards explaining the significance to your guests.

5. Let Your Theme Be Your Guide

Pinterest is great for inspiration but can become dangerous if you try and reproduce anything to a tee.  Remember that what you see isn’t always what you will get… or what you want!  Keep your own vision in mind at all times, and use tools like Pinterest as groundwork to build from.

Not everything on the menu needs to be lobsters and truffles.  Sure, you want to impress your guests, but when it comes down to it, a perfectly slow-roasted barbeque chicken can be just as good (if not better!) as lobster.

Whether your theme is based on a specific style (vintage, modern, bohemian…), culture (Caribbean, Indian, Asian…) or simply the venue itself (country club, hotel, vineyard…), following it through to the food will help create a cohesive menu that fits with every other element.  For example, a rustic farm wedding lends itself well to classic “home-style” dishes like fried green tomatoes and macaroni and cheese, while a more elegant ballroom reception menu might include more “classy” dishes like ahi tuna, prime rib or roast duck.  

6. Hire a Caterer that You Trust

We can not overstate this enough.  Your caterer should be someone that you can trust – someone who knows what you want without you even saying it!  

Interviewing a caterer should almost feel like a first date – ask a LOT of questions, and if you begin to notice any red flags, move on.  How long have they been in business?  What venues do they typically work with?  Can they work with your budget? How do their tastings work?  What do previous clients say about them on WeddingWire?  

A good caterer will be able to expertly guide you through much of the menu planning process.  They are the professionals and have done this many, many times before.  They know what works and what doesn’t, they’ll have menu ideas that tap into lots of tastes and flavors (sweet, salty, bitter) to keep things interesting.  They know how to make food delicious, fun and memorable.

Want More Tips?

We have helped guide hundreds of couples through this process over the past two decades, and would love to hear from you, too!  Contact us now to schedule your free 10-minute phone consultation with one of our expert event coordinators. This is the first step to planning the perfect wedding menu for your reception!  

For more information on buffetsplated dinners, family style and more, head over to our Reception Style Selector.

Schedule your free 10 minute consultation.

The fastest way to get answers, no obligations, no strings attached.

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