My Backyard Wedding – Dinner Reception: Menu or Buffet or…?

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My wedding reception was at a cute Italian restaurant.

There isn’t just *one* way to do dinner for your wedding. In fact, you may not have an evening celebration at all. I was just at reception that was a brunch! The bride and groom decided they wanted a quick ceremony and to have a day-long celebration so they started with a brunch complete with mimosas, French toast, bacon, eggs, and tons of other options.

For those that are going to have your wedding in the afternoon or evening, there are a few choices you have: 1) Seated meal 2) buffet meal 3) family-style meal and 4) food trucks.

The first item to consider though are dietary restrictions. Keep in mind that some people may gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, etc. You can still have the meal you want but do it while staying flexible. To make it easier, when sending out invitations with the menu, create an additional box for your guests to fill out in case of any food allergies or preferences (vegetarian, vegan, for example). This way you’ll be prepared to handle those beforehand.

Option 1: Seated meal

A Three-Course Meal with at least two different options for each course, example:

      • Appetizer: kale caesar salad or green garden salad/creamy mushroom soup (simple salads or soups are a great appetizer because most people can eat just about all ingredients).
      • Entrée: Chicken marsala with julienne of zucchini, carrots and squash/ Medallions of beef with bacon brussel sprouts and risotto with herb pesto (avoiding pastas is a good way of saving yourself the trouble of having to create an additional ‘gluten free’ dish).
      • Dessert: you can simply serve the cake you chose for your wedding or come up with additional choices such as berry parfaits or homemade tarts.
        • If there are some vegetarians at your wedding reception, it’s a nice idea to have something different for them, like pasta or stuffed mushrooms. You can also create an entrée based on the things you already have, for example: why not serving the julienne of zucchini, carrots and squash with herb pesto?

Pros: You don’t have to worry about having enough food to serve people more than once, or to consider those who just eat a lot at buffets. Everyone of your guests will have the same portion and no food will be wasted.

Cons: Creating the menu can be a pain, especially considering allergy affects, eating lifestyles and other small things. Sometimes an entrée seems to fit all the criteria and only later you find out that amazing sauce has peanuts on – and one of your guests is going on an anaphylactic shock during your reception.

Option 2: Buffet Style

Personally, I think this is a much easier way to go. On my wedding, we had a big buffet of Italian inspired cuisine. The buffet included a big salad, dressings on the side, three different kinds of meat: salmon, chicken and meatballs, two different pastas (one was gluten free), rice, assorted breads and other goodies I can’t honestly remember.

Both me, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are gluten intolerant and my husband’s cousin is lactose intolerant, so I know just how important it is to have good, flavorful options for people who can’t just eat anything.

Pros: Your guests will have the freedom of choosing whatever they want to eat, make the combinations that will most please them. The signs indicating what food that is spear you from the trouble of having to worry about anyone eating something they weren’t supposed to.

Cons: There’s a big possibility people will eat more than in a three-course meal dinner. If your guests have the freedom to get up and go back in line for more, a lot of them most likely will, so be prepared to have extra food saved for the big eaters.

Option 3: Family – style

This is pretty much a mix of options 1 and 2. You are seated but the food is passed around the table. Again, make sure your menu is flexible. I recently went to a wedding that had an array of options for all diets: rice pilaf, chicken, spaghetti, broccolini, roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes, and a dessert table for people to choose from, depending on their preferences.

Option 4: Food trucks

Here’s a fun and creative way of serving food to your guests. Food trucks are trendy, casual and everyone seems to love them. If you get yourself a cool venue that has enough space outside and allows you to do what you want, choose 2 or 3 food trucks of your favorite kind of food. How about a Mexican inspired cuisine? You can have trucks serving tacos, nachos, burritos and dulce de leche churros for your guests. This way you don’t even have to worry much about big tables and seating, since these are all items people can eat with their hands!
No matter what you choose, every decision will come with its pros and cons. As always, be conscious of your budget, the number of guests you have and the size of your venue.

Don’t forget to save yourself a bite!

Love,

Luisa.

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