The warming of temperatures and blooming trees not only marks the beginning of spring, but also wedding season. If you’re one of the lucky couples saying “I do” in the springtime, those new blooms mark that it is officially crunch-time. While there are so many small details to finalize—booking your attire fitting, procuring your marriage license, and tackling the almighty seating chart, to name a few—one detail that should certainly not be missed is fine-tuning your cocktail hour and reception menu. You definitely don't want to make any major mistakes when curating your spring wedding menu.
This time of year can have a wide array of delicious menu options thanks to all the in-season produce. “Spring is the best time to get married weather-wise as it symbolizes the fresh start of a year,” says Dennis Freeman, executive chef at Liberation Foods in the Bay Area. ”Seasonal ingredients are plentiful and exciting to use in spring wedding menus.”
We know what you’re thinking: You’ve already had your tasting, so why rock the boat now? Truth is, your menu might be filled with a few foodie faux pas you didn’t even realize you’re making. For a wedding day that tastes as good as it looks, the pros are dishing on the biggest spring menu mistakes—and how to fix them.
Meet the Expert
- Dennis Freeman is the executive chef at Liberation Foods in the Bay Area.
- Sarah Kuhlberg is the creative director for Colette’s Catering & Events.
Leaning Into Dark, Heavy Cocktails
Signature cocktails might be a great way for couples to show off their personal tastes, but Freeman doesn’t think that means they have carte blanche on the bar. After spending the past few months in a dark, snowy, and downright frigid climate, spring should be a breath of fresh air. So, shouldn’t your beverages follow suit? Freeman recommends couples “bypass the heavy, dark beers and Old Fashioneds” in favor of something lighter and more refreshing.
Just because you’re kicking hoppy IPAs and rich Manhattans to the curb doesn’t mean you should opt for confectionary cocktails either. “While it can be tempting to choose sweet and fruity cocktails for a spring wedding, it's important to consider the balance of flavors in your beverage selection,” adds Sarah Kuhlberg, creative director for Colette’s Catering & Events. “Too much sweetness can be overwhelming, so consider offering a mix of sweet and tart drinks or adding a touch of bitterness with a citrus twist or herbal garnish.”
Stocking the Bar With Only Boozy Beverages
Weddings might be synonymous with champagne toasts, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be sipping something stiff. “Try not to ignore non-alcoholic options for your guests, as not everyone drinks alcohol,” Kuhlberg shares. “This could include citrus and herb-infused water, fresh juice-based mocktails, or specialty sodas.” Fortunately, between the rise of low-ABV spirits to alcohol-free libations, it’s easier than ever to cater to your sober-curious guests.
Having All-Meat Apps
Once the temperature rises, it can be all-too easy to gravitate toward grilled steak skewers or chicken taco bites, but remember that hors d'oeuvres hour is for everyone. “Not having vegan or vegetarian options [can] leave a few guests hungry for the evening,” Freeman explains. (Translation? The ultimate party foul.) While a diverse selection of appetizers should be a must-have year-round, vegetarian and protein-based tapas are the “workhorses of the season” for their variety and flavor. “I’m a huge fan of stationary charcuterie boards and tables,” he adds. “Couple the charcuterie with passed apps such as a Mediterranean pesto bake.”
Skipping on Seasonal Entrees
While most catering companies have those dishes that make them really shine, that cranberry and camembert chicken or braised short ribs don’t exactly have “spring” written on them. Whether you’re just starting the planning process of putting the finishing touches on your menu, ask your caterer what’s in season. “Talented chefs can also adapt their menus based on the seasons and utilize spring vegetables such as asparagus in April weddings and squash in the colder fall and winter weddings,” Freeman explains.
For Kuhlberg, seasonal dishes can also be better for your budget. “Seasonal ingredients are often less expensive than out-of-season ingredients, as they don't require as much effort to grow and transport,” she explains. “Using seasonal ingredients means that they are more readily available and can often be sourced locally, which can help the carbon footprint of weddings and support local farmers and businesses.”
But remember: What’s in-season might vary from place to place. Your vendors should know their area’s seasonal ingredients like the back of their hand. However, you can always do your own research by taking a lap around a farmer’s market close to your venue.
Relying on Wedding Cake for Dessert
A multi-tiered wedding cake might be a time-honored tradition—not to mention an excellent photo-op—but Freeman’s not a fan of the larger-than-life confections you might see on social media. “Many couples wanted the big bad wedding cake, but that can be cumbersome,” he explains. “Instead, have a smaller to medium cake for the photo album.”
But since no guest should go hungry, Kuhlberg recommends opting for a yummy dessert bar. “Couples tend to just rely on the cake, but running out of dessert can be a major disappointment for guests and can leave them feeling unsatisfied,” she shares. “Adding a variety of seasonal petite desserts alongside the cake would make a sweet ending to your reception dinner.” According to Kuhlberg, look to lighter flavors like lavender, lemon, and honey, which are bound to create a tasty final touch to a springy menu.