Getting married is a serious thing – having a great wedding party is the celebrating part. And a great celebration means feeding your family and friends lots of tasty food and quenching their thirst with plentiful beverages.
After all, one of the best things about a wedding is making your guests happy, and few things make people happier than good food and drink.
Wedding catering decisions can seem difficult to make, considering the range of choices and palates to please. But for that same reason, much can be done with a lot of options.
Elegant, sit-down dinners, casual buffets – and everything in between – all have one thing in common: your choices reflect your “couple personality” – your taste and style; your sense of adventure, playfulness and/or tradition; even your thoughtfulness. It’s important to think about what makes you unique and let the food and drinks take it from there.
Here are a few wedding catering tips and 2019 catering trends to lead you in the right direction.
First and Foremost: Determine Your Budget
An obvious requirement before making any decision is to calculate how much money you can spend on a caterer. If you have hired a full-service wedding planner, he or she will be able to walk you through the entire decision-making process, from appetizers to dessert. Do-it-yourself couples, or even those with just a wedding-day-only coordinator, need to tap into the skills, advice and experience of anyone willing to act as sounding board – moms, brothers and sisters, friends, grandparents, whomever. Then the serious investigation can start.
Catering is one of the biggest expenses of a wedding (usually accounting for about 25 to 30 percent of a couple’s budget), but even if a reception is done on a modest scale, it can still be wonderful. Professional caterers, familiar with the local choices, have the skill and creativity to make any budget work.
What to Look For in a Caterer
A professional caterer will need to tend to many details leading up to your wedding to ensure that your dream day runs smoothly. The ideal caterer will provide guidance on food and beverage choices in a respectful and non-aggressive manner, leaving enough room for you to feel comfortable in your decisions. Outer Banks chefs are well versed on what foods and desserts will transport best to your wedding location and what seafood and produce will be the freshest for your reception day. Your caterer should be able to confidently advise you on the best options available to you that fit your budget, but should not be pushy about it. Do not agree to do things just to please the caterer, such as serving appetizers that strike you as unappetizing. Whether you are working closely on the menu with the caterer, or giving him or her free range on choosing the menu items, make the limitations of your budget very clear.
Consider the Season
Catering decisions will be greatly influenced by the time of year in which you plan to get married. The time of day is nearly as significant, especially considering an outdoor wedding reception. Will it be held in the early evening before sunset, or on summer evenings, during sunset? What about season-appropriate cocktails and desserts – say, coconut in the summer, pumpkin in the fall? Try to have locally available produce, seafood, and even flowers match the wedding season.
A local caterer is a great asset in identifying the freshest seasonal foods for the wedding menu, which in turn will provide more flavorful, Eco-conscious food. With your caterer’s help, you can discover the best food and drink choices to complement your wedding event.
Establish Your Venue
After you’ve figured out when and how much, you’ll want to decide where. Getting married at a pier, golf course, aquarium, or other venue that packages an in-house catering service is a popular way to make the selection simpler.
What if you love the location, but prefer your own caterer? The first step is to ask if the venue would allow an outside vendor. One-stop-shopping has its advantages, such as affordability and less need to coordinate, but it’s not worth it if you want to use your own caterer, and your budget allows it.
Needless to say, check for online testimonials about the catering service and venue you’re thinking of using, if available, before making your final decision. Some reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt, but more often they provide valuable insight into other bride’s experiences. It also helps to dig a little and ask around in bridal forums, or even with local wedding industry folks, to get an idea of reputations and service.
Some venues, especially those offering in-house catering services, also supply “day-of” coordination packages. These usually include a briefing for the bride, coordination between the vendors, distribution of the wedding day time-line to appropriate service providers, and various set-up and breakdown duties that are typically handled by a wedding planner.
Choose Your Style
Nuptial fare has expanded in recent years beyond the dinner and buffet tables to options providing innovative and fun dining experiences. Food trucks at a wedding reception? Yes, ma’am! Then there are beverage bars, mix-your-own ingredient stations and hand-held food options such as burgers. Couples in 2019 are transforming the previously known cocktail and dinner hour separation into one extended, casual socializing event. But not to worry, the classic tradition of a sit-down dinner is still most popular and will no-doubt be the choice for most brides in 2019 and beyond.
Late Night Snacks
Evening weddings may merit a second food service, as would a party that could benefit from a refueling before guests rev up again for the dance floor. The trend has become a welcomed addition in the later hours of wedding receptions. Guests appreciate having the favorite late night snacks available to munch on, such as pizza, popcorn, ice cream or milk and cookies.
Provided after wedding cake has been served, late night snacks will be a pleasant surprise to the friends and family who have the energy to celebrate into the late-night hours. After many hours on the dance floor, and numerous visits to the signature beverage table, your guests will thank you for your thoughtfulness in serving another round of food. And the after-party food selection is another opportunity for the bride and groom to put one more personal touch on their menu by offering guests their favorite “munchies” food.
Love it Local
Local and organic foods are being purchased in increasing amounts by consumers across the country, so it is logical that the move towards healthier, fresher food would find its way to wedding reception tables. Farm-fresh meats and seasonal fish and produce – even local honey- are more evident at weddings in 2019. With increased awareness of the health benefits of fresh, unadulterated food, even partying wedding guests appreciate the availability of nourishing food on the menu.
Fortunately, the Outer Banks offers a wide range of interesting local options for food and drink that can enhance a range of cuisines while giving guests’ taste buds the pleasure of experiencing authentic coastal North Carolina fare. Guests can enjoy dishes made with local farm-raised beef, organic eggs, and depending on the season, sweet potatoes (Eastern North Carolina produces about two-thirds of the nation’s sweet potatoes!) corn, collards, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, tomatoes and much more.
Of course, the Outer Banks is famed for its locally-caught shrimp, flounder, tuna, crabs and oysters, among tons more fresh seafood. Although most fish species are caught off the barrier islands during specific seasons, often a variety of fresh-frozen fish is available throughout the year.
Staying local is also easy on the alcoholic beverage front with four local micro-brews and a rum distillery, as well as at least two area vineyards. And yes, there are several local bakers who can whip up delicious traditional desserts such as Ocracoke Fig Cake, sweet potato biscuits, or peach muffins.
The Outer Banks is surrounded by counties with lots of farmland – Currituck, Hyde, and Tyrrell – fresh local produce is available much of the wedding season, giving the term farm-to-table legitimate bragging rights. Newly popular veggie buffets, for instance, can readily feature local pickings with home-style and seasonally appropriate dips. Even the classic pickle tray can be localized with cucumbers, beets, and okra from local farms, marinated in locally-grown herbs and locally-made vinegar and fired-up with local hot peppers, giving your guests a true southern experience with a northeastern North Carolina regional twist.
And needless to say, wedding guests who may have traveled to the Outer Banks will expect to be treated to the famed eastern North Carolina barbeque. So why not find a way to include the finger-licking favorite at one of your wedding events? Its vinegar base is unique to the region and is the subject of many debates comparing it to BBQ in other parts of the state and the southern and western U.S. – and our version is at the top of the list for many barbeque fans.
Two Birds, One Stone
Creativity and playfulness can be amped up when it comes to thinking about edible and drinkable treats that double as wedding props and favors. Try edible escort cards, personalized shot glasses filled with Southern banana pudding, moonshine jugs filled with sweet tea, or fruit pops with labeled sticks to mark seating. As a bonus, your wedding photographer can put your personalized consumables to work as colorful backdrops to capture the artfulness of your personal style.
Be Yourselves and Have Fun
Whether you love the idea of incorporating the hottest trends in catering your wedding celebration, or you opt for a traditional sit-down dinner, make it fun and make it all yours. As basic as food and drink are to life, they’re also highly personal and emotionally significant to us humans. So go with the flow and let your wedding menu reflect your approach to food and family and friends. By all means, make the most of the fabulous location you have chosen, and welcome your guests to your unique celebration with the atmosphere inspired by your creative vision. And don’t forget: everything’s always better at the beach, and no doubt your guests will agree that the Outer Banks is a special place to celebrate the life bond of a special couple. ♥