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. Many decisions to be made.

One of the most important decisions is your catering. Before we go any further, all of us at Outer Banks Wedding Guide want to let you know that we have descriptions and photos of wedding catering ideas that will indeed help you in some way.

What will you serve your guests on your special day? Like with everything else in your wedding, your food can make a statement about you and your spouse. What do you want your catering to say about you? Wedding catering tips are important as most wedding catering consists of a large portion of your budget. What is served during rehearsal gatherings, or at wedding receptions, has certainly adjusted to new ways of thinking about how we gather, and how we think about food. But the need to cater the affair has not changed at all.

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

Have a budget

This likely is the most important point to consider. If you are working with a wedding planner, the planner will know how to get the maximum catering benefit for your affair. The planner must clearly acknowledge the food and drink budget.

The catering budget is usually one of the biggest expenses of a wedding (typically accounting for 25-30% of a couple’s budget), but 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.

outer banks wedding catering

Pullen Weddings

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 are more important than the physical setting where the reception and other activities will be happening. For other couples, however, there may be a clear image of what they want for a venue.

Which brings us to our next point…

wedding catering tips

Lori Douglas Photography

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. The list of locations that can accommodate a wedding party is much too extensive to list here.

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

wedding catering ideas

Outer Banks Productions

Know your wedding 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 has the ability to handle that many guests at one time.

What kind of food are you hoping to offer your guests? Although experienced caterers can handle a wide variety of food styles, typically they have their own areas of specialty. If you want eastern North Carolina barbecue, talk to one of the caterers that specialize in that. Talk to some of the finer Outer Banks restaurants for gourmet themes. Ask for a tasting. That will give you a good idea of what to expect on your wedding day.

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, but there are no rules or regulations on what can be posted. That applies to both the positive and negative reviews. They can be a 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 make sure they are experienced in food service. Something to consider: Sometimes new may bring with it more personalized service.

Be aware of the season

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

wedding reception food

Lori Douglas Photography

General 2020 Wedding Catering 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. In light of that fact, if you have a traditional wedding, it makes sense to keep the reception traditional as well.

seafood wedding catering

Lori Douglas Photography

obx wedding catering tips

Pullen Weddings

crab cakes catering OBX

Lori Douglas Photography

What is trending?

Sometimes a bride and a groom want their reception to be a bit 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 conversation going at the table. Some restaurants have been doing this for years, but in catering it’s new. Together with 10 people 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 very limited seating and people mill about, sampling the various food selections and, hopefully, talking.

The tapas style is a combination of 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. They can be combined to make a full meal for your wedding day.

wedding catering tips

Outer Banks Productions

Outer Banks Wedding Catering: What to serve

By all means go local. The most productive farmland in North Carolina surrounds The Outer Banks. Take advantage of that. About the only time there isn’t a lot of local produce available is early spring, and 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 real abundance of 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. As a consequence, for summer crops the picking season is a little longer. Expect fresh tomatoes, as an example from mid June into early September.

Getting married in the spring? Have your caterer create desserts and drinks featuring locally grown strawberries. You won’t be disappointed.

wedding catering ideas

Pullen Weddings

Outer Banks seafood catering

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. Why not a fresh seafood themed reception? In any event, Outer Banks seafood catering is a good way to go.

Like our fresh produce, seafood tends to be seasonal, although some of the real crowd pleasers like tuna, shrimp, and flounder tend to be available year round on the Outer Banks.

Shellfish is one of those things that tends to be very seasonal, but in season, it’s marvelous. 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 very nice wines. Not to mention are also five microbreweries on the Outer Banks. It could all be part of an Outer Banks themed reception or rehearsal dinner.

wedding charcuterie

Pullen Weddings

More wedding catering trends: New increasingly popular wedding catering options

  • Vegan options have become increasingly a part the menu. Interest in veganism has increased seven fold since 2014. No doubt there will likely be more than just a couple 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. Have fun creating a Pad Thai Taco or a Kimchi Quesadilla at your reception.
  • Sliders, those small individual sandwiches, are perfect for tasting a lot of different samples. And sliders have moved way beyond traditional sandwiches. As with fusion foods, have fun with your caterer in creating some unique dishes. 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.
  • 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. Again, work with your caterer and be creative.
  • Consider kids meals when planning your catering. Your nieces and nephews likely would feel special if they had their own menu on your wedding day. They may not want tuna and oysters; but might love mac and cheese or chicken fingers and fries.
wedding late night snacks

Outer Banks Productions

The Outer Banks has become one of the nation’s premier wedding destinations because it offers more than just so much, especially in terms of OBX wedding catering. While the area is known for Outer Banks seafood catering, there are many more options to satisfy the likings of visitors from outside the region.

The nice thing about having your wedding on the shores of the Outer Banks is that it can be totally yours. Of all 2021 wedding tips you can hear from us at Outer Banks Wedding Guide, the best is that each wedding can be 100% customized to your taste. Especially the catering. It is totally 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. The Outer Banks brings catering dreams to life. There are no one size fits all weddings here.

outer banks wedding catering

Left: Lori Douglas Photography, Right Katiedid Photography

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Basnight's Lone Cedar Catering
Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café

7623 S. Virginia Dare Trail •  Nags Head, NC
Here at Lone Cedar Café we are a trusted local favorite for 26 years. We are a family, and we want you to know that your event is just as important to us as it is to you.

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Basnights Lone Cedar steak crab dish

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Black Pelican Catering

Black Pelican

3848 N. Virginia Dare Trail • Kitty Hawk, NC
Our fleet of catering vehicles come fully equipped with kitchens to prepare all dishes to order onsite at your location using only the finest and freshest ingredients.

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Black Pelican Catering tuna appetizer

Outer Banks kegerator- Brew Dolly
Brew Dolly

Brew Dolly OBX is a mobile kegerator rental service, offering delivery and set up of our portable kegerators from Corolla to Nags Head.

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Brew Dolly OBX kegerator

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Dawn's Kitchen Catering
Dawn’s Kitchen Catering

9026 Caratoke Hwy • Harbinger, NC
We offer Outer Banks wedding event catering & private chef services that can be tailored to you & your guests.

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Dawn's Kitchen Catering shrimp

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - High Cotton Catering
High Cotton BBQ

5230 N. Virginia Dare Trail • Kitty Hawk, NC
Guests will love the Southern charm- and brides will love the convenience- of High Cotton’s Carolina casual catering. Whole hog, BBQ, chicken, ribs and brisket.

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High Cotton Brisket

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Kelly's Catering OBX
Kelly’s Catering Company

2316 S. Croatan Highway • Nags Head, NC
Kelly’s is the perfect catering choice to provide full service catering at your wedding destination. Our catering vehicles are kitchens-on-wheels, for parties of 2 to 1,000.

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Kelly's Catering Appetizer

Mike Diannas

Mike Dianna’s Grill Room

777 Sunset Boulevard • Corolla, NC
Located in the Timbuck II shopping center in Corolla, we’re the perfect place to host your rehearsal dinner or wedding reception, and our chefs are pros at anything from family style barbecue dinners to custom creative 5 course meals.

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Mike Dianna's Crab Cakes

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Outer Banks Boil Company
Outer Banks Boil Company

Corolla, NC • Kitty Hawk, NC
Outer Banks Boil Company specializes in catering the traditional “Coastal Low Country Boils.” Let us bring the best pot on the beach to your event.

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outer banks boil company

Outer Banks Wedding Catering - Pigman's Bar-B-Que Outer Banks OBX
Pigman’s Bar-B-Que

1606 S Croatan Highway • Kill Devil Hills, NC
Catering for all kinds of events, with great tastes such as signature slow cooked BBQ, St. Louis Style Ribs, Smoked Chicken and Tuna- Que, Country Ham, & more.

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Pigmans bbq sliders