Coming up with the perfect menu for your wedding may seem a bit daunting, especially as you’re working on satisfying so many different dietary needs and preferences. But there’s one option that can not only offer a little something for everyone, but it also serves as the perfect statement piece, and that's a cheese board.
Presenting a cheese board—or a grazing table—at your wedding can be a stunning showstopper, and with an abundant mixture of meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, and spreads, you can deck out a table with options that everyone on your guest list will enjoy. Plus, if displayed in abundance at cocktail hour, it gives everyone an option to graze—and gather and mingle!—before sitting down for dinner.
Meet the Expert
Marissa Mullen is the founder of That Cheese Plate and Cheese By Numbers and the author of That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life. Mullen is an expert food stylist and photographer devoted to helping people create stunning cheese plates for easy DIY entertaining.
And while the concept of putting together a large cheese board may seem a bit intimidating, there are steps you can take to prep ahead of time and make it possible. To get the scoop, we chatted with Marissa Mullen, founder of That Cheese Plate and Cheese By Numbers to learn just how to put together the perfect cheese board for your wedding. Below, her step-by-step guide.
Plan Ahead of Time
To pull off putting together your own cheese board, doing a lot of prep ahead of time will definitely make things go that much smoother on your big day. And this may be the perfect task to enlist your bridesmaids to help with as well!
“You can pre-cut all of the hard cheese a day or two early, but you don’t want to let it dry out,” says Mullen. “You can also pre-fold all of your meat the day before and wash and cut all of your produce ahead of time.”
Depending on your day-of schedule, there may not be time to put everything together on one long table between your ceremony and reception. The last thing you want is to plan something that adds stress on your big day. Definitely enlist the help of a few friends and consider ways you may be able to make it easier to assemble.
“You don’t want cheese and meat to sit out too long,” says Mullen. “One option is to create your table on boards and place them out right before your reception, or have whoever is helping you put it out at the end of the ceremony.” To be sure you’re prepped ahead of time, getting your table set up and ready with butcher paper, flowers, and any other décor you’re incorporating will help with the process as well.
Start With a Good Foundation
For Mullen, she begins her larger boards by laying out butcher paper on a long table. For your foundation, consider including items such as wooden cutting boards, crates or baskets for bread, and jars and ramekins for dips and sauces. “You want to get your foundation and base set and then start with the Cheese by Numbers method to fill it in,” she says.
Get Creative With Meats and Cheeses
Part of the beauty of setting up a cheese board or grazing table is that you can choose exactly what goes on it. But as you’re planning, be sure to include plenty of variety for your guests.
“I like to include a variety of different kinds of milk when it comes to cheeses, including cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk cheeses,” says Mullen. “You want to incorporate a variety including some soft cheeses and soft hard cheeses.” When opting for cheeses, Mullen suggests cheddar as a great option because many people enjoy it and it offers a variety of sharpness. Other great options include gruyere, gouda, fresh goat cheese, and brie. Be sure to pre-cut the hard cheeses so it’s effortless for your guests to grab, and pair soft cheeses with a cheese knife for easy access.
For meats, Mullen loves to incorporate what she refers to as the "salami river," which makes a statement in the middle of the table. “For the salami, you’ll take a piece and fold it in half, and then fold it in half again,” she says. “Then, it gets laid throughout the table.” Other great meat options to include throughout the table are prosciutto, capicola, and soppressata.
Use Fruits and Vegetables for Color
Once the cheese is laid out and the meat is placed, adding in some color will really make the display pop. “I do what I call Produce Ponds. Visually, it makes a lot of sense,” says Mullen. “You want to fill the plate so you fill in the gaps but you don’t want it completely full.” Strategically placing fruits and vegetables will make the rest of your board shine, while leaving room for additional décor elements in your last step.
“You also want to think about pairings with produce and put things next to each other,” she says. “Maybe it’s sharp cheddar and olives, or goat cheese with berries. Think about what you want to eat as a pairing and place it around those cheeses.”
Fill With Bread, Crackers, and Dips
The last few pieces to add to complete your display are items such as nuts, crackers, fresh bread, or items that will add a bit of a crunch such as crispy chickpeas. “I like to fill baskets with bread, but I also like to put crackers on the actual table to help people get started,” says Mullen. In your jars or ramekins, add your finishing touches such as jams and honey or dips such as whipped feta or hummus.
Finish With Garnishes and Décor
Adding the final touches on your table will truly make it shine, and there are so many ways to incorporate your existing ceremony and reception décor to truly bring it all together. Opt to include elements from your color scheme by incorporating a table cloth or napkins in the same hues. Adding in garnishes on the table such as fresh mint, rosemary, or thyme is a gorgeous way to add greenery, but you can also incorporate edible flowers throughout. Check with your florist to include a few additional pieces to incorporate into your display and be sure to ask if any of your florals are edible.
When it comes to labeling, Mullen suggests utilizing the same design as your escort cards or table numbers. “I usually label the cheeses, but I don’t label all of them,” says Mullen. Label just enough so guests know the different offerings, but try to steer clear of adding too many flags or signs so you’re not detracting from the beauty of your abundant table.
Turn It Into a Centerpiece
Part of the beauty of setting up a cheese board at your reception is that it will offer something for every single guest to enjoy. Opting for a cheese board can meet the needs of so many different dietary restrictions, and it allows guests to make up their own plate during a cocktail hour or reception before dinner begins.
“It gives you a way to showcase a lot of different food items in a way that looks abundant, colorful, and vibrant,” says Mullen. “It can be such a great centerpiece at a big gathering.” But offering a cheese board may also serve the perfect role in breaking the ice for your guests who may not know each other or those who haven’t seen each other in a long time. “It brings people together and offers connection around this one centerpiece,” says Mullen. “It’s a great way for people to spark a conversation or try new pairings. There’s a nice communal aspect to it.”