Arancini. Petit fours. Stuffed mushrooms. Cake pops. Pulled pork sliders. Cupcake towers. Is that your growling stomach we just heard?
You don't have to be a masterchef or a food blogger to take your wedding menu seriously. It's the opposite actually: an increasing number of couples are choosing to forsake larger guest lists in favour of top-notch food and wine. And where once upon a time a wedding reception was associated with the standard alternate drop dinner (you know, where you got the chicken and the person next to you got the fish), now couples are looking to all kinds of ways to lift their wedding menu game. The good news? You don't need to know your whisks from your whitlof to do something similar. Whether it's making sure your favourite snack is represented on the day or putting on a wow-worthy feast, it's actually pretty easy. With that in mind, here are eight ideas to get your mouth watering foodie inspo started.
The share plates
You’re probably already familiar with this one, because it’s been popping up at weddings for a while. That doesn’t make us love it less though, and it shouldn’t lose its shine for you either. Why? Because it’s awesome. Shared plates works best with long, rectangular tables but can also be done with circular tables (tip: arrange for a lazy Susan, the round spinning wheels you find at yum cha restaurants, so guests can have easy access to the dishes). Having shared plates at your reception creates a family-style dining atmosphere and is great to encourage mingling between your guests. It works with any cuisine, and can be adapted to suit meats and pastas, side dishes and salads, even desserts. There's one drawback though: any sense of portion control flies out the window, making it hard to anticipate how much of each dish you'll need. Our advice? Over-cater - leftovers can always be given away at the end of the celebration. And to prevent your friends and family from having to reach over one another, especially if they're seated on a long table, divide the table into groups of four (two on one side, two on the other) and place the dishes in the middle. Easy!
The tapas bar
Flamenco, Ibiza and Gaudi – there’s a lot to love about Spain and the food definitely tops that list. Filling your wedding menu with fare like patatas bravas (delicious fried potatoes with spicy paprika sauce or aioli), jamon croquettes and sangria (never forget the sangria) is a one-way ticket to impressed guests and satisfied stomachs. It’s pretty easy, too. We love the idea of swapping out traditional courses with plates of tapas – many, many plates of tapas. This twist works for long communal tables or traditional round tables, with waitstaff delivering plates piled high and plonking them smack-bang in the middle – think of it as the Spanish version of the shared plates we’ve already talked about. A tapas-inspired menu can be done by setting up a full-blown tapas bar too, and covering the table with tasty bite-sized snacks, slices of tomato-rubbed bread and, naturally, cuts of jamon and chorizo. Depending on who you talk to, a tapas bar could also be dubbed an antipasto bar or grazing station, but when everything tastes this good, we don’t think your guests will really care what you call it.
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Hint: they are all delicious.
The food truck
They’ve had us munching on burgers, burritos and tortillas on street corners all year, and now they’re rolling onto the wedding scene as one of the hottest catering trends around. Oh yeah, we’re talking food trucks, those guilty-pleasure-stations-on-wheels that park themselves outside your office or favourite bar, dishing up everything from burgers and burritos to churros and crème brulée. In our books, food trucks are already winners, but even more so because many of them can be hired for events *cough, weddings*. For your nuptials, there are a handful of different ways you can make a food truck a highlight: use it to serve up pre-reception plates, or arrange for it to appear late in the night, when your guests have a serious case of the munchies after cutting shapes on the dance floor. For couples looking to keep their day super casual, a reception catered solely by food trucks could be for you; team the trucks with some chilled lawn games, a cracking soundtrack and homemade punch. There’s even such a thing as brewery trucks, where taps have been built into the side of an old-fashioned truck. Prepare for serious guest-love to come your way.
The pizza oven
Pizza is a universally loved treat, right? And when is there a more fitting day for indulgence than your big day? That’s what we thought, and that’s also why wedding wood-fired pizzas will always have a place in our hearts. Portable wood-fired pizza ovens can be hired out and wheeled into your wedding, complete with a pizza master who will be on hand to twirl, stretch, knead and layer on the toppings for you and your guests. To go one step further, you could even have pizza-making stations, where you and your guests can get stuck in sprinkling mozzarella and artistically placing sliced vegetables – plenty of napkins is a must and remember to be careful where you put those tomato-stained hands (what your mum said about tomato stains being hard to get out of clothes is totally true). If you’re planning a more formal affair and feel pizza is a bit too laid-back for the big day, you don’t have to worry about missing out because that morning-after recovery party is the perfect excuse to book yourself a pizza oven.
The DIY drinks bar
Champagne is good, tricked out champagne is better. And that’s exactly what a pimp-your-own-champagne bar will do. This idea is best for post-ceremony mingling, and an easy way to give your guests something to do while you’re off on a photography tour. It’s also super versatile, because you can give your guests the choice of whipping up something a bit fancy like a classic champagne cocktail, or keeping it simple by popping a few fresh strawberries into their champagne flute. You’ll need some kind of wooden or trestle table, which will then be laid out with ingredients like Aperol, sparkling water, bowls of berries, lemon twists, and fruit juices or purees. Oh, you’ll need bottles of champagne or sparkling wine too. You could give your guests an idea of what to make by printing out recipe cards or scrawling your favourite recipe across a blackboard and positioning it next to the table. Don’t think you need to stick to just champagne, though. This is your chance to go wild; think build-your-own margarita or bloody Mary bars (pretty much any cocktail, really) or make-your-own lemonade or punch stands for guests who don’t want to drink.
The spit-roast or barbecue
Calling all carnivores! Does the thought of an entire table dedicated to all things roasted, smoked and cured have your stomach grumbling? Then you'll love the idea of a wedding complete with spit-roast or barbecue - think a whole pig roasting over open coals or baby-back ribs cooking on the barbecue. This laid-back way of catering is perfect for warm weather weddings and will add serious Americana feels to your day, especially if you complement the meats with bowls of potato salad, freshly-baked bread and charred corn cobs. Those who fancy themselves bonafide barbecue chefs could take on the challenge of preparing and cooking the meats themselves, but if you're the kind who prefers to kick back and let someone else do the hard work, then get a professional in. Another twist on a spit-roast or barbecue is having a carving station, where you and your guests will be able to take your pick of goodies like prosciutto, jamon, salamis and cold cuts. Do remember that not all of your guests may love meat as much as you, though, so make sure you have some green leafy salads and vegetarian options available.
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Are you ready to be a wedding rebel?
The oyster station
Feeling fancy? You will when you have an oyster-shucking station. And no, we’re not talking about asking your guests to shuck their own oysters. Unless they’ve done it before or know their way around a shucking knife, you’re just asking for trouble – plus, it’s messy. No, we’re talking about having a professional manning a station and prying open these salty delicacies to order. We know, oysters can fall into the a love-them-or-hate-them category, so to tempt oyster newbies into the world of super-fresh seafood organise for a range of sauces, toppings and wedges of lemon – even oyster enthusiasts love a chance to pimp up a natural oyster! To keep the seafood feels going, a sushi or sashimi bar could be the perfect addition.
There's something special about indulging in fare that's been made-to-order just for you and, like the oyster station, a frying station is no different. In the age of #cleaneating and Paleo diets, deep-fried fare has a bad rap, but having fried options available at your wedding doesn't mean your day will be mistaken for a fish-and-chip shop. There are so many, healthy(ish) ways you can serve up deep-fried treats, and our fave has to be fritto misto. Traditionally a first course in Italian cuisine, fritto misto is basically a selection of fried mixed seafood. And yes, it's as delicious as it sounds. The mix can include anything from squid rings and calamari to whitebait and whole prawns; you can even flash-fry thin strips of zucchini. All together now: YUM. Whatever you're serving up is simply dusted in flour and seasoning, then dunked in piping hot oil until cooked. The final product can be dished up in woven wicker baskets or in old-school paper cones. Don't be surprised if you find yourself craving a helping of fritto misto on a regular basis - we know we do.
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