Selecting your wedding menu can be one of the most fun tasks of all the decisions you have to make while planning. Food, cocktails, desserts, oh my! But before you jump in, select all your favorites, and call it a day, consider these important factors.
Depending on your plans, selecting your wedding menu may not affect your budget at all if you've already opted for a preset plan offered by your venue or caterer. For others, it can be a time that can make or break the bank. Be aware of your budget and comfortable spending ranges.
Your Cocktail Hour
If you're having a jam-packed cocktail hour with multiple chef stations, passed hors d'oeuvres, and buffets, you're going to be covering a lot of culinary bases. Try not to over-offer, and save the most special items for dinner. For example, if you're having a pasta bar at your cocktail hour, then you don't have to offer pasta again in your main menu, or vice versa. Double-offering similar dishes can sometimes take away from the "wow" factor.
Your cocktail hour can also affect your course offerings. If your cocktail hour is one for the books, then many parts of a five- or six-course meal to follow might just go uneaten, or worse—leave your guests full and sleepy. Keep them partying and on the dance floor by finding the appropriate food options and pacing. Conversely, if you're having simpler cocktail hour or are not having one at all, just be certain that you're providing enough food. Having hungry guests is a no-no.
Time of Year
A great guiding principle while planning your menu is to think locally and seasonally. One of the best ways to have a stand-out dinner or cocktail-hour menu is to celebrate the season and best local finds, and give each a moment to shine. Getting married in the fall? Find ways to incorporate pumpkin, squash, and cinnamon flavors for cozy (and delicious!) vibes. New Jersey wedding? Feature fresh-made mozzarella accompanied with famous Jersey tomatoes as a Caprese salad option. The freshest ingredients make for the best meals.
If your venue is known for a certain dish or menu offerings, you should strongly consider offering those as well. Fan favorites and chef specialties are always delicious additions.
Whatever your vision is for your big day, your menu should also support and celebrate the theme. For formal affairs, lobsters and filets are the perfect classic staples. Getting married in New Orleans? You'd be remiss to not offer at least a few Cajun delicacies. Country wedding? At least a few items should be BBQ. While there's tons of room and flexibility to play, be sure as you're selecting your meals and appetizers that they are cohesive and "make sense" according to your big-day plans.