From warm color palettes to cozy vibes and rich flavors, fall weddings are all about embracing the season—and that goes for the food served as well. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to fall, the way we eat changes, so it's no surprise that caterers have noticed a difference in what couples are requesting for fall wedding fare.
To break down exactly what's different (and great!) about cocktail hour, dinner, and dessert menus this time of year, we called on top caterers Ryan Carey and Davi Sobotta to chat about everything from what guests want to what's in season. And, well, we learned a lot.
Meet the Expert
- Davi Sobotta is the sales manager for Foodz Catering in Seattle.
- Ryan Carey is the owner of Fire and Co. Wood-Fired Catering, a catering company based in Portland, Maine.
If you're planning a fall wedding, read on for a step-by-step guide to creating a fall wedding menu that's flavorful, creative, and comforting in all the season's best ways.
Think Fewer Stations, More Passed Apps
As the weather changes, weddings tend to start moving inside. There’s still a fair share of outside weddings in the fall, among the trees and the leaves, but the way we dine definitely has the tendency to change. “Cocktail hours traditionally start to drop off in the fall,” says Carey. “People tend to lean toward more small bites and passed apps rather than stations.”
Consider Comfort Foods
Chillier weather definitely means more comfort food, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing these to the table. To accomplish this at your wedding, start by thinking about the foods you incorporate into your diet once summer is over and how you can serve those in a creative way. “In the fall, we are not serving as light of fare as we see in July," Carey says. "We do less seafood and definitely more comfort food and more hearty foods like rotisserie chicken and smoked pork.”
Embrace Seasonal Flavors
As with weddings any season, using what’s fresh is a great way to set your menu for the season—and, thankfully, fall has a lot of powerful, earthy flavors to incorporate. “We are always farm-to-table, so you want to see what's fresh and available and in season,” says Sobotta. “Fall trends gravitate toward squashes, like your acorn, butternut, and delicata, along with pumpkins and yams. We also start working with more chutneys and deeper, richer sauces.”
Break Out the Wood Fire
Everyone loves a bonfire on a cool night, so why not incorporate those warm, hearth flavors into your wedding menu? “September and October are our busiest times of the year because of the wood-fired smells and flavors,” Carey says. “It speaks well for a fall dining experience and portrays itself much better in the cooler months.” According to Carey, wood-fired pizza stations are incredibly popular as are smoked meats, such as smoked brisket or doing a pig roast.
Experiment With New Dishes
To put these ideas into practice, consider serving some of the flavorful dishes below. They're sure to impress every foodie on your guest list.
Charcuterie spreads are for every season. As the weather transitions to fall, consider bringing in heartier cheeses and incorporating seasonal fruits and veggies, such as grapes, apples, and nuts.
Empanadas are delicious any time of year, but when you incorporate flavors like black bean or squash, they're a perfect fit for fall. Plus, empanadas hold heat well, making them a warm and comfy app when served in a cool setting.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup
Nothing screams comfort food more than this go-to combo. Take this concept and elevate it at cocktail hour by pairing mini grilled cheese triangles with shot-size cups of tomato soup.
Pulled Pork or Brisket Sliders
Since fall menus trend toward more passed apps, ask your caterer to do up a warm, smoky slider. The deep, maple flavors of smoked pork or brisket are perfect for fall.
Cauliflower Mash or Sweet Potato Puree
At dinner, swap out your roasted fingerlings for a heartier, fall selection. We love the idea of incorporating a cauliflower mash or a sweet potato puree to bring in the warm flavors of the harvest.
Pizza is a classic comfort food, and it can offer a flavor combo that all of your guests will love. Take your pizza offerings up a notch by bringing in a wood-fired oven to get that smoky, crispy crust.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are quintessential fall vegetables, so incorporate this fresh, seasonal option in a roasted dish at dinner to bring out nature's earthy flavors.
Bring back the comfort of spaghetti and meatballs without all the mess. To do this, ask your caterer to serve meatballs (dipped in warm, fall flavors) on skewers for easy eating at dinner or cocktail hour.
Chicken and Biscuits
What says comfort food better than a warm biscuit? Get creative and serve this traditional breakfast food with chicken (and honey drizzle!) to end the night on a warm, seasonal note.