From Instagram-worthy cakes to cheese toastie stations and native Australian cocktails, couples are putting more effort into their wedding food and drink than ever before.
Everyone's heard of the saying 'You are what you eat', but when it comes to weddings, you are what you serve. Food and drink has become the focus of the celebration, with dated dishes like prawn cocktails and chocolate fountains a very distant memory. But for a lasting impression, it's important to add an element of surprise - think anything from champagne stations on arrival to crème brulee carts upon departure. These eight popular food and drink trends won't only whet your (and your partner's) wedding appetite, they'll also ensure your guests leave very happy at the end of the night.
Say goodbye to chicken-beef-chicken-beef; the traditional alternate drop menu has given way to a more interactive style of dining. Share platters mean guests can help themselves to heaving plates of roast lamb shoulder and colourful salads, while food trucks are turning eating into a form of entertainment. In Adelaide, Sneaky Pickle is redefining meals on wheels by serving American barbecue sandwiches, deep friend pickles and mac 'n' cheese bites. "People are snubbing the whole idea of the sit down, three-course, wanky kind of meal," says co-owner Amanda Griffiths. "When you've got a truck or two at your wedding, it just creates such a great vibe."
Gone are the days of layered white wedding cakes - this year it's all about #foodporn, clutter and a little bit of crazy. Inspired by the Insta-famous bakers, both self-taught and professional pastry chefs are creating cakes that are as delicious as they are impressive. In Sydney, Andy Bowdy draws inspiration from childhood memories and bakes towers of "structured chaos". With tens of thousands of Instagram followers (check out @AndyBowdy), you won't be the only one drooling over rivers of salted caramel and waves of torched meringue. Even so, Andy assures it's what's on the inside that counts. "It's got to taste good as well as look good," he says. "It can't be all show and no go."
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Break free from beverage packages
Liquids are another opportunity for newlyweds to express their personalities. Many are turning to craft beer, biodynamic wines and local spirits, or serving flights as an affordable way to make imbibing educational as well as enjoyable. For an extra dose of fun, couples in the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Sydney and Melbourne can take flight with Trolleyd, a quirky company that serves bespoke cocktails made from organic Australian-native and foraged ingredients. Why have bubbles when you can have espresso martinis with organic rhubarb, tequila and toasted wattle foam served from an airline trolley by staff in pilot uniforms?
Vegetarian is the new black
Once upon a time, brides and grooms only had to cater for the odd vegetarian. Today, dietary requirements make up a quarter of the guest list, according to Sara O'Callaghan, founded of Melbourne catering company Bursaria. "Our dietary list is always pages long, so we create menus around them and don't charge extra for it," she explains. "We've done a couple of vegan weddings as well." A vegetarian meal at a wedding no longer equates to sad veggie stacks, but rather locally grown, season produce. Grains, pulses and legumes - all served fresh from abundant grazing tables - are the way to go.
Cater for the seasons
You choose your dress and venue according to the time of year, so why not do the same with what you eat? In winter, serve hot apple cider and set up a waffle station. Come summer, cool people down with a gelato cart or gourmet ice pops from Delish Ice. Flavours range from watermelon to creamy coconut. "They're really popular with guests," says Delish Ice owner Katie Earl, "particularly after a ceremony, which is usually performed outside during the hottest part of the day." Each popsicle is served on a custom engraved stick, too. Cute!
Do your guests a favour
When thinking of wedding favour ideas, ask yourself, "Will my friends and family actually use this?" Offer customised essentials, such as a custom tea blend, personalised bags of coffee beans or even olive oil. To stir up a little nostalgia, touch base with Nathan Hunter, the 20-year-old behind artisanal fairy floss company Fluffë. A design student by day, Nathan doesn't only customise flavours by can also design personal packaging. Expect pippets with syrup, bacon bits and even a flavour called unicorn poop. "I like to make each flavour unique," says Nathan. "Each one is special, and no one is better than the other. Brides and grooms can mix up their two favourite flavours together to create their own sweet compromise."
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Prepare for your stomach to growl.
Beyond the cheese table
You only need to spend a couple of minutes chatting with Matt Steele of online cheese shop Cornelius Cheese to realise that cheese shouldn't be restricted to the last course. It should be embraced, feeding the bridal party before the main event, acting as a pick-me-up between the ceremony and reception, and going home with guests as bomboniere. "We've even done a make-your-own-cheese-toastie bar for a regional wedding," says Matt. "Then, of course, there's the wedding cake. As well as the traditional stacked wheel cake, we also do more abstract wedge and wheel creations." The latter allows guests to try more varieties without the couple having to fork out for 40kg cheese wheels. Cheesy peasy!
Add another dimension to your tables by including centrepieces that are almost too pretty to eat - almost. Timothea Ridgewell, also known as the Sugar Florist, crafts life-like fruits, flowers and mossy twigs from a sugar-based gum paste, which makes them safe to display on or near food. Darren Purchese of Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio in Melbourne is often asked to come up with creative table displays to fit a theme. "It could be a favourite flower of the bride or a couple's common interest," he says. "For the singer Ronan Keating's wedding to Storm Uechtritz, I chose an Aussie/Irish theme. Items on the table included passionfruit marshmallows (Storm, Aussie) and Guinness and blackcurrant chocolates (Ronan, Irish)."
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