Planning the Perfect (Unusual) Wedding Menu

Choosing the right wedding food is important. After spending a few hours watching your wedding ceremony, your guests will join you at your reception and likely be ravenous for whatever hors d’oeuvres and entrees you offer. Since you and your new spouse are hosting the party, choosing the food is your decision–which means your friends and family will be at your mercy. After they did you the honor of witnessing one of your most landmark life moments, it’s important to treat them to food they’ll enjoy.

Be True to Yourself…And to Your Guests

Wedding food is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, you want to choose foods that are representative of your relationship and lifestyle. On the other hand, you want to choose foods that your guests will find appetizing. If you and your fiancé are careful to avoid alcohol in your lives, it’s reasonable to host a dry wedding. Likewise, if you strongly support animal rights, it’s reasonable to look into a vegan wedding cake. Some couples even use their wedding menus as the testing ground for new food trends like gourmet edible insects. However, the more specific you make your menu, the more chances you leave for trouble.

Introduce New Foods Gradually

Since your wedding guests are, in essence, a captive audience, you can use your wedding reception dinner as an opportunity to introduce them to new foods they wouldn’t otherwise try. Get your beef rancher uncle hungry enough, and he may decide not to turn up his nose at your favorite dish of baked tofu after all. However, this approach can also backfire on you and your spouse. If you push your guests’ food preferences to the limit, you may find yourself faced with an empty wedding reception as everyone flees to the diner down the street.

Instead, introduce new foods gradually. If you’re using unusual ingredients, cook them with familiar sauces and side dishes. If you’re using unusual sauces and sides, cook them with basic beef and chicken. Give your guests at least a little firm ground to stand on, and they’ll be more likely to meet you halfway.

Find Familiar Ground

The best way to find a happy medium where menu is concerned is to provide your guests with familiar options. If you’re planning a vegetarian or vegan menu, for example, don’t head directly for the crunchy raw eggplant casserole. If you’re hosting a Chinese dinner, don’t give your American guests plates of fish with the heads still attached. Instead, try to find menu items that your guests will recognize, such as a noodle-based stir fry or a comfort food like classic mashed potatoes. No matter how specific your taste in food is, if you brainstorm enough you should be able to find some overlap that will satisfy everyone.

Offer Multiple Options

You know your guests. If you’ve got a lot of picky eaters on the guest list, there’s not much you can do to make them feel at home with anything except their tried-and-true menu. But that doesn’t mean you have to go without that spicy Indian curry you’ve been dreaming of enjoying on your wedding day. Just make sure you offer your guests multiple options. (Yes, that goes beyond offering spicy fish curry and spicy goat curry side by side.) Think of the multiple food restrictions your guests are likely to present. Take into account children’s meals, level of spiciness, and animal-based ingredients as well as allergy restrictions like gluten and nuts. Try to offer a selection of foods that covers at least one dish every kind of eater can stomach. You may want to consult with a professional caterer if the spreadsheet of dietary limitations gets out of hand.

Don’t Get Too Fancy

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that wedding food has to be fancy to be impressive. In fact, your food should never be fancier than your guests. Even the most elegant of your guests likes to indulge in comfort foods now and then, so if you’re wondering how to best impress a large room of people, your chances increase as your menu becomes more recognizable. Even foods like fried potatoes can become popular wedding foods with only a slight gourmet twist.

Ultimately, your wedding menu is up to you, and it should accurately reflect your personality. You’re under no obligation to serve anything just because you have a picky guest who requests it–but then again, choosing foods your guests will like is the whole point of serving them dinner. Ask your caterer about putting together a menu that shares your favorite foods with your guests–without alienating their taste buds.