A Catered Affair: Outer Banks Wedding Catering Tips 2023

Kip TabbCatering, TrendsLeave a Comment

catering tips

At long last, all the courtship is coming to fruition. A year or two years—sometimes less, sometimes more – of dancing around; the ultimate moment is here, and you’re about to get married. There is so much to do, so many decisions to be made.

One of the most important decisions is your catering. What will you serve your guests on your special day?

Like everything else in your wedding, your food can make a statement about you and your spouse. So what do you want your catering to say about you? What is served during rehearsal gatherings or at wedding receptions has undoubtedly adjusted to new ways of thinking about how we gather and how we think about food. Still, the need to cater to the affair has not changed.

Because food, and drink, are such an essential part of any gathering, especially for a wedding, there are some necessary details to consider when planning the catering for your wedding day. 

©SARAH D’AMBRA PHOTOGRAPHY

©SARAH D’AMBRA PHOTOGRAPHY

Have A Budget

This likely is the essential point to consider. 

Suppose you are working with a wedding planner. In that case, the planner will know how to get the maximum catering benefit for your affair. But the planner must have a clear idea of the overall budget and what is earmarked for food and drink.

The catering budget is usually one of the most significant wedding expenses (typically accounting for 25-30% of a couple’s budget). However, even a wedding with a modest budget can still shine. Outer Banks caterers, familiar with local choices, have the creativity and skills to make any budget work.

Know Where You Want To Spend Your Money

Do you want gourmet dishes, French Champagne, and single malt Scotch? Or how about North Carolina BBQ, local shrimp, and oysters? Will hamburger sliders and pizza slices fill the need? How important is the venue going to be? It may be that the food, drink, and company is more important than the physical setting where the reception and other activities will be happening. However, for other couples, there may be a clear image of what they want for a venue.

This brings us to our next point…

The Venue Is Critical

It’s a good idea to select your venue before choosing a caterer. 

The Outer Banks has almost every kind of venue imaginable available. From facilities that can handle 200-250
guests to more intimate settings appropriate for smaller gatherings of 20 or 30. Consider catering the event outdoors for a different take on a typical venue. Especially in late spring and early fall, Outer Banks evenings can be wonderfully pleasant. If that is the direction you are going, include a tent in the planning. Unfortunately, weather can be a rather fickle partner in the planning process.

The list of locations that can accommodate a wedding party is much too extensive to list here. See page 18 in this guide for a listing of venues.

One of the advantages of using a wedding planner is knowing what the best venue will be to match your vision.

Know Your Caterer

If the guest list is 200 people for the reception, not every catering company can handle that. If the plan is to have individualized dishes, make sure your caterer can take that many guests at one time.

What kind of food are you hoping to offer your guests? Although experienced caterers can handle various food styles, typically, they have their specialty areas. For example, if you want an eastern North Carolina barbecue, talk to one caterer specializing in that. If more of a gourmet theme is wanted, speak to some finer Outer Banks restaurants. Ask for a tasting. That will give you a good idea of what to expect on your wedding day.

Over the past few years, special dietary requirements are becoming more prevalent. If some of your guests will require gluten-free food, as an example, ask if the caterer can accommodate that.

You may find that a particular caterer will not cater to the event. There are several reasons why that could happen. They may already be booked for your date, or they may feel that the types of food or your requirements are not something they can accommodate. If that is the case, ask for a recommendation. Generally, they have a good idea of other caterers with a good reputation handling different food styles.

There are, of course, other things to consider.

What is the track record of the caterer you are talking to? An important note about this is that online reviews can be a guideline. Still, there are no rules or regulations on what can be posted. That applies to both the positive and negative reviews. They can guide, but nothing substitutes for good, old-fashioned research.

Just because someone is new doesn’t mean they are not up to the task. However, if it is a relatively new company, check to ensure they are experienced in food service. Something to consider: Sometimes, new may bring more personalized service.

©SARAH D’AMBRA PHOTOGRAPHY

©SARAH D’AMBRA PHOTOGRAPHY

What Is Trending?

Sometimes a bride and a groom want their reception to be more informal. If that’s the case with you and your future spouse, there are plenty of ways to do it.

Buffet-style receptions have become much more popular. That certainly addresses an increasingly diverse way of thinking about food.

Family style will get the conversation going at the table. Some restaurants have been doing this for years, but it’s new in catering. Let’s say ten people are seated around a table. Six or seven different items are placed on the table, and, just like in a family, the various foods are passed back and forth.

The cocktail style may be the most informal. Picture a cocktail party where very few people are sitting. The cocktail style has minimal seating, and people mill about, sampling the various food selections and, hopefully, talking.

The Tapas style combines all three trends and is ideal for large gatherings, and is a popular choice for many catering businesses. Tapas may be served cold or hot and combined to make a complete meal for your wedding day.

Be Aware Of The Season

Depending on what the plans for your catering will be, this may not be critical. However, if the reception or rehearsal dinner theme will be fresh Outer Banks seafood, don’t expect crab and shrimp in January. 

General Trends

While there are other choices to consider, the sit-down plated dinner at the reception is something that never seems to go out of style. If yours is a traditional wedding, it makes sense to keep the reception classic.

What To Serve

By all means, go local.

The Outer Banks is surrounded by some of the most productive farmland in North Carolina. Take advantage of that. About the only time, there isn’t a lot of local produce available is in early spring. Even then, local farmers are harvesting new potatoes, asparagus, and cole crops such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale.

Summer, of course, is when the natural abundance of the produce comes to market. The local tomatoes are outstanding, and our farmers, recognizing national trends, have been planting a wide selection of varieties, including some delicious heirlooms. The fresh cantaloupe is as good as it gets, and the watermelon is perfection.

Something to keep in mind—the coastal climate is just a bit milder than inland areas. Consequently, for summer crops, the picking season is a little longer.
Expect fresh tomatoes, as an example, from mid-June into early September.

Are you getting married in the spring? Have your caterer create desserts and drinks featuring locally grown strawberries. You will
not be disappointed. 

The second largest industry on the Outer Banks is commercial fishing. There is always fresh seafood available…and our chefs know how to fix it. So why not a fresh seafood-themed reception? Like our fresh produce, seafood tends to be seasonal. However, some real crowd-pleasers like tuna and flounder, tend to be available year-round on the Outer Banks. Shellfish is one of those things that tend to be very seasonal, but it’s marvelous in season. If you want to help a small but growing local industry, have your caterer order fresh local oysters when they are in season.

Wine and beer at the reception? You can go local there as well. There is a local winery that produces some lovely wines. There are also five microbreweries on the Outer Banks. It could all be part of an Outer Banks-themed reception or rehearsal dinner.

Vegan options have become a part of the menu increasingly. Interest in veganism has increased sevenfold since 2014. No doubt there will likely be more than just a couple of guests at your wedding that would appreciate the option. Local caterers have the skill and creativity to prepare any vegan meal that you can imagine.

Fusion foods, the blending of different styles of food preparation from different cultures and countries, have also become more popular. So have fun creating a Pad Thai Taco or a Kimchi Quesadilla at your reception.

Sliders, those small individual sandwiches are perfect for tasting many different samples. And sliders have moved way beyond traditional sandwiches. As with fusion foods, have fun creating some unique dishes with your caterer. Think crab cake sliders or teriyaki turkey burger sliders. Or maybe, hot dog sliders with mango pineapple salsa. The point is to have fun and be creative!

Charcuterie, ok: but what about Seacuterie? You are on the Outer Banks! Time to think outside the box. Rather than a traditional meat and cheese board, take advantage of the local seafood and arrange shrimp, oysters, and tuna, with accompanying sauces, on a large serving board served with lemon slices.

Kids’ meals should also be considered when planning your catering. Your nieces and nephews likely would feel special if they had their menu on your wedding day. They may not want tuna and oysters but might love mac and cheese or chicken fingers and fries.

Late-night snacks have become a trend with weddings. Your guests have spent several hours on the dance floor and have built up an appetite. This would be the perfect time to bring out pizza slices, soft pretzels, or even milk and cookies. But, again, work with your caterer and be creative.

The Outer Banks has become one of the nation’s premier wedding destinations because it offers so much.

The nice thing about having your wedding on the shores of the Outer Banks is that it can be yours. Each wedding can be 100% customized to your taste. Especially the catering. It is acceptable to serve what you want to serve. There are no hard-fast rules any longer. Have an oyster roast. Have a Tapas style main course and dessert offering. Whatever you dream, it can be done on the Outer Banks. There is no “one size fits all” weddings here.  

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