In an era of increasing food restrictions, couples are opting for more diverse and inclusive wedding menus.By Juliet Pennington
If you ask any bride and groom to name the key component of their dream wedding, chances are that a good number will want to ensure that their guests have a wonderful time—and that includes having their guests well fed. But with more people facing dietary restrictions, from allergies to ethical health concerns, catering companies and wedding venues are amending their menus to ensure that there is something to whet all guests’ appetites. Considering the rising interest in all-things culinary inspired by the Food Network and plethora of food blogs, “foodie” couples are ramping up their focus on what will be served at their weddings.
The change is not only in the variety of dishes, but in the way they are served, area caterers say. Plated meals, once a mainstay of weddings including a beef, chicken or vegetarian dish, are becoming less and less popular, as buffet and station setups are on the rise.
“It’s very rare that we have a wedding menu that doesn’t reflect dietary restrictions,” says Samantha Lonczak, sales and marketing coordinator at Blackstone Caterers in Middletown, Rhode Island. “Couples care about the food that is being served. With the Food Network, Pinterest, Instagram, food blogs … they want food that is not only tasty, but beautifully presented.”
And that goes for the drinks as well, says Amanda Allard, wedding sales manager of Off the Vine Catering in Norwood, Massachusetts. “I’d say about 70 percent of my clients are foodies, and they want beverages that are served to be special, too,” she says. “At a recent wedding, guests had a variety of drink options including strawberry basil lemonade on the rocks with vodka, and at another wedding, the couple chose to have growlers [beer jugs] as their centerpieces.”
Having “stations” for various food choices is one way to please every palate, says Brooke Dadona, sales and marketing manager at Eleven Forty Nine, a restaurant in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that hosts weddings with up to 100 guests. “Stations allow guests to have more freedom to customize their plates,” she notes. “Our pasta station, for instance, has all of the ingredients attractively displayed in bowls, which works great for guests with dietary restrictions.”
Nicole Mattiello, director of marketing and business development at Pranzi Catering & Events in Providence, Rhode Island says that “interactive stations,” where guests can essentially build their own meals rather than just take something that is already prepared, are increasing in popularity, too.
Allard notes that her company catered a 300-person wedding a couple of years ago where the entire menu was gluten-free, and, more recently, an exclusively vegetarian wedding that included a taco station, a noodle station, and a slider station with black bean burgers instead of traditional hamburgers. “Ramen is also big right now,” Allard adds. “We did a ramen station recently at a wedding for two doctors out of New York, where guests could make their own ramen bowls, and that was a big hit.”
Food choices are now being centered around seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients—many of which find their way into hors d’oeuvres. Gluten-free options from Blackstone Caterers include short rib-stuffed mushrooms topped with horseradish crab and chives, feta and watermelon salad skewers with basil oil, and baby baked potatoes that are hollowed out and filled with sour cream topped with caviar, she said. For vegans, they offer “soup shooters” with soups ranging from butternut squash to gazpacho, carrot crème brûlée that is served in a deep spoon with a burnt sugar crust and topped with salad and micro greens, and sweet corn cakes made with locally sourced corn and topped with roasted poblano salsa.
Vegetarian hors d’oeuvres options at Eleven Forty Nine include vegetable crudités with hummus, mozzarella arancini, Portobello mushroom toast with truffle oil, baked brie crostini with candied walnut and balsamic reduction, and vegetable spring rolls with mango sweet and sour sauce, says Dadona.
Sherri Rego, sales manager for LaFrance Hospitality in Westport, Massachusetts, says her company has many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free main entrée options, including mushroom ravioli and sautéed julienne vegetables over wild rice for vegans, and gluten-free pasta (usually served with grilled chicken and sautéed vegetables) for those who must avoid gluten. They are in the process of expanding their menu to include more offerings for those who face diet restrictions.
“It used to be that wedding guests had a choice of chicken, fish or beef,” Rego says. “But those days are gone. We work with couples to customize their menus to give them just what they want—from start to finish.”
And while wedding meals used to “finish” with dessert, that is no longer always the case, as many couples are opting to have late-night snacks available for their guests. Rego says that hiring food trucks to come to the reception is gaining in popularity, as is having snack stations, such as a macaroni and cheese or a pizza bar—available for the tail end of the event.