Choosing the right food and drink options is essential to pulling together your vision for your wedding. Your wedding menu will likely be impacted by what foods are in season and are typically associated with the time of year you get married. Keeping in mind the season will ensure that you are serving your guests fresh, flavourful food. Choosing a seasonal wedding menu also allows you to play with unique flavours and unexpected food and drink ideas. Whether you get married around Christmas or in the middle of summer, there are plenty of options for catering your menu to the flavours of the season during your wedding reception.
The menu you choose will likely also be impacted by the style of wedding reception you are having. Whether you are serving a sit-down dinner to your guests, having a buffet or offering small bites during cocktail hour, consider choosing seasonal foods to impress your guests. Adding special touches like wedding menu cards can also add a special touch to your event. Read on for wedding menu ideas by season.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Plated Sit-Down Dinner
- 2 Family-Style Dinner
- 3 Buffet-Style Dinner
- 4 Self-Serve Stations
- 5 Cocktail-Style Dinner
- 6 Spring
- 7 Summer
- 8 Fall
- 9 Winter
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Menu
- 11 What is a typical wedding meal?
- 12 What goes on a wedding menu?
- 13 How do I choose a wedding menu?
- 14 What is cocktail hour at a wedding?
Plated Sit-Down Dinner
The most traditional reception style, a plated meal is what the majority of couples choose. This is when all the guests are seated and served a formal dinner. Typically, it consists of two courses (an appetiser and an entrée), plus dessert if it's served tableside. Everyone is usually served the same appetiser, and then the main course is handled a few different ways:
- Guests are served the same entrée with a silent vegetarian or vegan alternative.
- Guests are able to select their entrée from a menu, which is typically a meat or fish option plus a silent vegetarian option.
- Guests pre-select their entrée choice when they submit their RSVP.
A family-style meal is exactly as it sounds: Everyone is seated as big platters and bowls of food are passed around the table, just like you might do with your own family at home. This is a great option if you want to keep people seated at tables but don't want something as formal as a plated meal. The first course is typically served with about one or two options, and the main course includes as few as a protein and two sides or multiple proteins with multiple sides.
A buffet features long tables topped with a wide variety of food options. This meal style offers the most variety for your guests, making it particularly desirable if you want a wide range of cuisines or have picky eaters. The most important thing to consider here is how to get your guests through the food lines as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Check out our post on The Importance of having a Food Tasting before your Wedding Day to get more idea of your wedding menu.
Stations are very similar to buffets in that they give your guests a nice variety of food options. Stations typically have tables or areas specifically dedicated to certain dishes or types of foods. These are often more interactive and involved than a help-yourself buffet, so you will need people to staff these stations.
This is a great opportunity to get creative and inject your personality as a couple. For example, if you love oysters, do an oyster shucking station. If you're pizza-obsessed, bring in a pizza oven and have the chef whip up pizzas made-to-order. Love cheese? Put together an epic cheese bar!
Buck tradition and do a cocktail-style wedding reception. It combats a lot of issues that couples typically face while planning their wedding, like where to sit a bunch of people who don't seem to fit at any one table. A cocktail-style reception means no seating charts, no tablescape fuss…none of that. Instead, you and your guests can mix, mingle, and dance all night long and snack on small bites (either tray-passed or laid out on a grazing table in advance) whenever you feel like it.
The most important thing here is to offer your guests a nice variety of options, including a few that are vegan/vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free, so there is something for everyone.
If you are getting married in the spring, play up the bright flowers, pastel colours and light flavours that the season is known for. Make sure to incorporate the many fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are in season this time of year, like asparagus, melons, apricots, lavender, and mint. Celebrate the warmer weather by choosing foods that will complement blooming seasonal florals and bright sunshine.
The most popular months to get hitched are June, August, and September. It's no surprise since summer weddings are so much fun! Choose a menu that complements your wedding venue, whether you'll be on the beach, hosting a backyard barbecue, or escaping the heat with an indoor ceremony.
Consider featuring summer favourites in your menu like peaches, watermelon, basil, and cucumber to embrace some of the season's most famous flavours. Help your guests cool down from scorching hot temps with refreshing eats and drinks, cooling cocktails, and cold desserts. Be sure to label everything with place cards, so everyone knows what's what.
Fall is becoming an increasingly popular time to get married due to the predictable weather and the rich colours of the season that make the perfect backdrop for a wedding celebration. If you're getting married during the autumn months, consider a menu full of rich flavours, cozy appetisers, warming cocktails, and hearty main courses. For a truly autumnal feel to your wedding, choose dishes that feature the unique palate-pleasing flavours that fall is famous for like apples, pumpkin, root vegetables, and cinnamon. Coordinate the look of the day down to your napkins for a truly cohesive look.
Catering your own wedding? Let us put you in touch with the Top Melbourne Wedding Caterers.
Comfort food is the perfect staple of a winter wedding menu, as cold-weather events provide an opportunity to serve heavier fare than you typically would during other seasons—warm-up your guests from cold temperatures with a delicious hot meal and cozy cocktails.
Choose a menu that features homely entrees, indulgent desserts, and festive drinks. Consider featuring seasonal flavours like cranberry, mushroom, and dark chocolate to create a winter menu full of decadent delights. If you're celebrating close to Christmas, be sure to remember the day and your delicious reception with a photo card after the holidays.
Begin your caterer search at the same time you're looking at venues (about 12 months before your wedding date). The two decisions go together since many venues have their own catering team and may require you to use them. Even if that's not the case, they may still have a "preferred list" of vendors they work with exclusively. If you are allowed to bring in an outside caterer, you may be charged a little extra, so request a tasting with the in-house chef or any potential caterers from the preferred list before booking the venue. Also, review menu options with the chef, especially if you have particular dishes in mind — some menus can be difficult to execute, based on kitchen space or equipment. If you're set on using a specific caterer, make sure they're on the venue's list or that you budget for any extra fees if they're not. Just remember: There's a reason venues like to work with certain vendors.
Serve Them In style
Try thinking about the dining experience as a whole. Do you want the meal to be the focus of the night? Then opt for a sit-down dinner with multiple courses. Is music the main event? Pick a less formal dining style and menu, like passed appetisers and finger foods, so guests aren't weighed down by a big meal and can easily grab a bite before hitting the dance floor. The timing (and length) of key reception moments (speeches, spotlight dances, the cake cutting) should help guide the menu and style. Got lots of guests looking to say more than a few words? Go the sit-down route.
Introduce New Food Ideas
One of the most exciting parts of planning your menu is that you get to do just that — pick every dish you'll serve. Make an impression with a menu that includes unexpected twists on classic fares, like fruit "sushi" rolls with sticky rice, or savoury cupcakes with melted cheese "frosting." You can also play with serving styles, offering guests no-fork-needed appetisers on edible spoons or crispy mini cones stuffed with seafood ceviche.
Indulge Your Guests
Why force your guests to choose between sea bass and steak? Let them have both and add chicken too. For the main course, offer two or three mini servings of different entrées on a single plate. Or take a cue from the French and go à la carte. Translation: At dinner, have waiters offer selections from large carts that get wheeled from one table to the next. Guests can ask questions about the food and pick from a variety of proteins and sides, so they'll get exactly what they want. Plus, the VIP feel of tableside service is always a nice touch.
Switch Up Your Seating
Think Chiavari chairs and round tables are your only option? Think again. Work with your caterer and planner to develop an innovative seating arrangement that sets the right tone and matches your meal. (Just think about how different it would be to eat barbecue at a fancy restaurant versus your favourite outdoor rib joint.) Rent lounge chairs or low couches to go with passed hors d' oeuvres, or pair picnic tables with food stations for a rustic outdoor wedding. If you're serving food family-style, where guests help themselves, consider seating them at a mix of long and short tables for an intimate and relaxed feel.
Tie in a Theme
You might love foie gras and cheese grits, but they're not necessarily great together. Picking a theme before you set the menu will help ensure the dishes you choose to work together and set the tone for the entire evening. We're not saying you need to break out the maracas and sombreros, but a common idea will tie the menu together. Pay tribute to your heritage with ethnic choices, like Mexican, Italian, or Japanese food. Or add a personal touch by creating a menu filled with your childhood favourites, dishes served at your parents' weddings, or foods from memorable moments throughout your relationship. When you're interviewing caterers, bring up any themes you're considering so you can pick a chef who specialises in the type of cuisine you want.
Don't Forget the Entertainment
Sometimes the way your food is served can be just as important as the food itself. Even if you're a whiz at your seating chart, don't just rely on good table chemistry to spark conversation and get your guests through dinner. Serve a meal that also entertains by hiring a sushi chef to create customised rolls or a French pastry chef who can whip up crepes tableside. For dessert, set up a doughnut or cupcake bar. Or, for a guaranteed party starter, set up a tequila bar or a wine bar, complete with a sommelier who can offer tasting tips to guests.
Personalise Your Bar
The finishing touch to any great menu? A signature cocktail, of course. Some ideas we love: naming your favourite drinks after members of the bridal party or after places that have a special meaning to you (like your first-date spot). Include a cocktail menu on the tables or the bar, listing specialty drinks and explaining their significance (for instance, a cosmo becomes "The Uptown Girl" in honour of your fashionable maid of honour, who loves them). And don't forget the presentation: Serve rum punch in oversize crystal punch bowls for a retro feel, or offer signature cocktails that match your wedding colours.
You don't have to plan a non-traditional wedding to serve up unexpected, unique cuisine. After all, there's so much more to your big day's hors d 'oeuvres than shrimp cocktail and pigs-in-a-blanket. There's a whole lot more to every aspect of your menu—from the appetisers to the main course, to dessert—than you might have thought.
To inspire your creative fare, we've rounded up our favourite next-level dishes from real weddings. Several, from mini lobster rolls to grilled cheese bites, and tiny churros, proved that small versions of the classics often have maximum impact. Others, like one bride's paper cones of fries and another's packets of popcorn, turned those classics into the ultimate snacks—which made them compact enough to tote around during the cocktail hour. On the sugary front, ready-to-roast s' mores, ice cream sandwiches, and waffle cakes showed up the classic wedding cake.
Ultimately, there's nothing wrong with sticking with tried-and-true favourites. They're signatures for a reason, and there are so many ways to make expected cuisine unexpected, including serving those staples in unique ways. Take a hint from one of the following brides and add lollipop sticks to watermelon wedges to instantly make the fruit feel (and look!) fancier. Before we send you off to explore the following wedding foods, here's one piece of advice: Serve the foods that you love as a couple—no matter how niche—to ensure that your menu, like the rest of your wedding day, pays homage to who you two are.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Menu
- Description of Courses (or List of Dishes Served)
- Main Ingredients in Each Dish.
- A Welcome and Thank You (Optional)
- Your Names and Wedding Date (Optional)
- Choose the serving style.
- Seasonal options.
- Incorporate your favourites.
- Consider food allergies and dietary needs.
- Aesthetically pleasing presentation.
The cocktail hour is an opportunity to further personalize the decor, drinks, food, and other elements of your wedding celebration. During the cocktail hour, you can showcase your family history, your personality as a couple, or your culture or ethnicity.