Get Your Wedding Reception Food Right

Wedding reception food ideas can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be, depending on your chosen venue.

There are several routes you could choose to go down when considering your wedding catering needs and these are largely dictated by how much you have to spend and how many guests you need to feed.

If you are having a small wedding you will be able to spend more per head than if you are having a large wedding for obvious reasons. But even if you are having a small wedding with few guests you may still want to keep your costs to a minimum. After all feeding your guests is usually one of your largest expenditures.

wedding reception foo

Your Wedding Reception Food Choices:

Catered Venue:

If your venue is catered they will usually give you a choice of menus at the time of booking. You will then have to decide on the number of courses you want. Don't be afraid to choose less courses than they suggest as they are trying to upsell all the time.

Once you decide on the number of courses you will have to pick the menu i.e. choose a starter and a single main course (you may be able to pick two courses if you wish to give your guests a choice, but this is more complicated, which I will get into later). Finally you will choose a single dessert.

Don’t forget to consider any vegetarians or guests with allergies (all caterers will be able to provide some veggie options).

Right, back to the choice of main courses I talked about above. If you decide to give your guests an option for their main course there are a number of items that this will affect.

  • Wedding reception food choices will have to be sent out with your invitations and guests will need to confirm their food choice when they RSVP. At this point you must make a note of the choices for later.
  • You will need to devise a way of letting the waiting staff know who chose what. Don’t rely on the guests remembering as they will have forgotten and just order what they fancy on the day. This will cause carnage in the kitchen as there will be a set number of each meal type.

    The easiest way to avoid this is to place a mark on the place settings to notify the staff of each guest’s food choice. An example is to place a design such as a small dot or star on the place settings of those guests who choose beef for example.

Non-Catered Venue:

If your reception is being hosted somewhere which does not provide catering you have two choices. Either you bring in caterers or you cater your wedding reception food yourself.

If you decide to bring in caterers most of the above will still apply and as with catered venues there are still some ways of reducing the costs slightly:

  • Check the cost of using the catering company's table linen, plates, cutlery and glasses etc. then shop around and see if you can get these items cheaper elsewhere. Many of these rental firms will be able to deliver everything you need and arrange to have it collected after the wedding. Some will even collect them dirty and wash them for you (for an additional fee).
  • See if you can reduce the number of waiting staff. With less staff to pay, the bill will come down. But bear in mind with less staff the meal will take longer and may impact on other items such as the disco or band (or if the best man has been drinking during the meal his ability to deliver his speech).
  • Consider a self-service meal such as a buffet meal. These are usually cheaper than a formal sit meal as you won't need waiting staff to serve the food. You may however need waiting staff to collect the plates unless you are happy to ask your guests to bring their plates back up when going for the next course. Alternatively you could get a few friends to do this for you or hire in local students to do it for you.

    Another potential down side is that you may need or want to offer a wider selection of food choices which can potentially lead to more wastage as most of your guests could end up choosing the same meal choice. The other way of looking at this is, once one type of food is gone the rest of the guests won't know it was there and will choose something else!

    One way around this is to organise a hog roast, where a whole pig is cooked on a spit. This is visually very impressive and a barbecue theme is usually very relaxed. This also gets around the plate collecting issue as your guests won't mind returning their plates themselves (reducing the number of waiting staff required and therefore, cost).

Cater it yourself:

This should be an option at the majority of venues (with the exception of many hotels). However it's not one to be entered into lightly as it takes a lot of organising and will likely cause some stress.

That said, if you are well organised and sort things out in plenty of time you can save a substantial amount of money.

You will need to get as many of your friends and family as you can to help. Especially if they are good cooks!

The simplest way to proceed if you choose to do the wedding food catering yourself is to go for a buffet style meal. As mentioned above this method means you can reduce or eliminate the number of waiting staff you will need.

A note of caution, at most buffets, guests tend to eat more than they would if the food was served to them. So you will need to keep an eye on the portion control.

Another simple method of providing the wedding reception food is to ask each of your helpers to make something and bring it with them. For example some could bring soup for the starter and some could prepare a selection of deserts or main courses etc.

You could even replace the main courses with a hog roast and serve it with a selection of simple salads. There are lots of companies out there who will look after everything you need for the hog roast, from providing the spit to cook it on to carving and serving it.

Finger Food:

Wedding finger food is another simple way of providing wedding reception food for later on in the evening and can be as simple as sandwiches, cocktail sausages and/or vol-au-vents. Again, you will likely have lots of friends who could each prepare enough wedding finger foods to serve say five to ten guests.

Fish and Chip Cones:

If you want to get a little more complicated you could go for fish and chip cones (these are currently considered to be very chique). What's more they're really simple to prepare, just create a small cone out of newspaper and fill them with one to two small fish goujons with a few chips, et voila one designer portion of wedding reception food.

wedding reception foo

So there you have it, your wedding reception food ideas can be as straight forward or as complicated as you want them to be. As with everything else, just take your time and no matter which option you choose it will work out.

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