There’s no arguing that the menu can be both the most fun and most exhausting element of planning your wedding. From the theme of your cuisine to the courses and wine pairings, the abundance of choices can overwhelm couples into throwing their hands up and letting the caterer make all the decisions. To help ease the headache, we consulted the culinary world’s top talent on pre-planned, four-course cheat sheets that will make your reception not only less stressful but more memorable—based on the food alone.
Since springtime is all about freshness, these chefs incorporated light and delicious ingredients, like crisp asparagus, flaky fish, tangy citrus, and sweet in-season berries. With several courses, your guests will get a little taste of everything and head into the dancing portion of the reception with pleased palates.
From a traditional British roast dinner to an Italian take on spring ingredients, here are seven fresh wedding menus that are sure to wow your guests.
La Dolce Vita
Menu courtesy of Donatella Arpaia, restaurateur and Food Network judge
First Course: White Asparagus Soup
“White asparagus truffle soup is deliciously smooth, and it’s further enhanced with a garnish of white truffle oil. It’s the perfect starter, really, because it’s vegetarian, and the truffle oil matches the upscale occasion. Pair it with a New Zealand or French sauvignon blanc.”
Second Course: Grilled Asparagus and Mortadella
“Grilled asparagus spears and mortadella (Italian luncheon meat) cut up and served in an elegant way makes for a total crowd-pleaser side.”
Third Course: Fettuccine With Salmon and Lemon Cream Sauce
“One of my favorite fettuccine recipes is with salmon in lemon cream sauce. This is your modern update to the plain, boring chicken or salmon entree, and the lemon cream sauce elevates it and makes the salmon sophisticated. It’s a dish all guests will love, including children!"
Fourth Course: Cannoli
“Who doesn’t love an authentic—made with love—cannoli? Always go with the Sicilian ricotta version, however, instead of filled with custard and cream.”
A Taste of the Mediterranean
Menu courtesy of Melia Marden, executive chef of The Smile
First Course: Spice Baked Haloumi With Preserved Kumquats and Fresh Herbs
“Haloumi is a great shared appetizer, and the preserved kumquats are a great way to bring some winter citrus into spring. It pairs wonderfully with a glass of Champagne.”
Second Course: Salt Baked Whole Fish and Fennel Frond and Fresno Pepper Salad With Tzatziki
“A Mediterranean family-style meal is the best way to go for a warm-weather wedding since it’s easier to execute than fussy individually plated dishes, and it feels festive passing and sharing food around a table."
Third Course: Little Gem and Fingerling Potato Salad With Haricots Verts
“This little gem salad is one of my favorites—it's laid back and fresh but has more substance because of the fingerling potatoes. It’s also another great room temp side so you don't have to worry about serving everything hot.”
Fourth Course: Berry Compote Over Greek Yogurt With Pistachio Honey
"I like a dessert that's not overwhelmingly sweet but has character, especially if you're also serving the cake. The berry compote is pretty and the pistachio honey adds sweetness while the greek yogurt has a nice softness without being too heavy."
Spring Supper Club
Menu courtesy of Jorge Espinoza, executive chef of Scarpetta
First Course: Braised Octopus
“The colors and textures of braised octopus with artichokes, marble potatoes, celery, and a scallion vinaigrette play so nicely off each other with acidity and a smoky aroma. And it always helps if the first course is beautiful to look at.”
Second Course: Roasted Beet Salad
“A combination of raw shaved vegetables and cooked beets with ricotta is a perfect complement to the rest of these dishes.”
Third Course: Spaghetti With Tomato and Basil
“A light pasta course like Scarpetta’s famous spaghetti with tomato and basil is always a winner. Just make sure there’s an intensity in taste—newly picked basil helps with that."
Fourth Course: Twice-Baked Lemon Cake
“Because it’s already semi-humid in the spring, a cake with ivory lime cream, milk jam, macerated blackberries, and lemon sorbet is ideal since it’s balanced in citrus, and its accentuation in lemon makes it perfect for the season.”
By the Sea
Menu courtesy of Geoffrey Zakarian, executive chef of Point Royal
First Course: A Seafood Tower
“A real showstopper is a plateau de fruits de mer, like our Point Royal version comprised of oysters, clams, blue crab claws, pink shrimp, whole Maine lobster, and Alaskan king crab. It’s perfect for cocktail hour at the reception because nobody can resist a monster tower of seafood perfection. Plus, it’s all healthy!”
Second Course: Baby Lettuces Caesar Salad With Sourdough Croutons
"Caesar salad, while simple, is spectacularly well suited for a first course. Yummy, salty, and a perfect start to the dinner."
Third Course: Butter-Poached Lobster Roll
“A butter-poached lobster roll with a mustard sauce is yummy finger food, and when served in a bun next to a glass of bubbly, it’s simply amazing."
Fourth Course: Custard Soufflé Cake
"Cake is common at a wedding, but a custard soufflé cake with sugared apricots, black walnuts, whipped crème fraîche? No, that’s superior to most desserts and will be the talk of the meal.”
The Botanical Table
Menu courtesy of John Fraser, executive chef of The Loyal
First Course: Ribbons of Jicama With Fresno Chili and Blood Oranges
“Ribbons of jicama liberally doused in a blood orange vinaigrette with just a hint of cayenne are a delight for the senses, and crisp and bitter treviso leaves and crunchy fried shallots will leave guests wanting more of each bite.”
Second Course: Tandoor Carrot, Whole Wheat Couscous, and Meyer Lemon
“It doesn’t get any more farm-to-table than heirloom carrots braised and charred on the tandoor and tossed with a spiced whole wheat couscous salad that has dates, preserved lemon, piquillo peppers, mint, and feta.”
Third Course: Steamed Baby Veggies With Garlic Rice
“An assortment of tiny vegetables served with garlic-scented rice, kimchee salt, and enriched dashi broth would impress even the pickiest vegetarian.”
Fourth Course: Chocolate Cake With Passion Fruit and Amaro
“A rich dark chocolate vegan cake rolled and glazed in more chocolate, accented with passion fruit purée and a coffee cocoa nib crumble? Your wedding just won the best dessert award.”
The Best of Britain
Menu courtesy of Martyn Nail, executive chef of Claridge’s
First Course: Scallops With English Asparagus in Nantaise Sauce
“The arrival of the asparagus season truly marks the arrival of finer weather in Britain, and this delicate dish uses the very best British seasonal ingredients: diver scallops, fresh English asparagus, and peas.”
Second Course: Smoked Trout Vichyssoise
“This is a great soup for spring because it can be served chilled or hot. It’s a beloved classic potato leek soup upgraded with smoked trout, but you can also use smoked duck, or for an indulgent course, langoustine and caviar. Très Claridge’s Kitchen.”
Third Course: Roast Beef With Yorkshire Pudding, Creamed Spinach, and Gratin
“A classic British dish that’s hearty and perfect for a hungry crowd at a wedding.”
Fourth Course: Rice Pudding
“Vanilla-infused rice pudding is the perfect end to any meal: creamy, rich, and comforting. We top ours with baby-pink, new-season rhubarb and mint to balance the sweet, sugary vanilla.”
Gold Coast Brunch
Menu courtesy of Luke Venner, executive chef of Elm
First Course: Tuna Tartare With Watermelon and Avocado
“Raw tuna with refreshing watermelon and creamy avocado is the perfect first bite when you gather with friends and family on a warm weekend.”
Second Course: Ramp Pizza
“Ramps pushing through the ground are one of the first signs of spring as nature’s toast to warmer weather. Not to mention the fact that they’re fantastic on a pizza.”
Third Course: Eggs Benedict With Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Bernaise
“I embrace tradition when it comes to comfort foods, but I also love the addition of something intentionally misplaced—like the wasabi in this classic brunch dish everyone craves at a post-wedding brunch.”
Fourth Course: Ricotta Zeppole With Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote
“There’s just no better way to cap off a meal (or a celebratory weekend) than these jelly-filled donuts, and rhubarb is at its prime in the spring and early summer months. With its tart and astringent flavor, it’s the perfect marriage with the succulent strawberries.”