Can We Customize the Menu With Our Venue’s In-House Caterer?

Here's what you need to ask when you're staying in-house

Updated 09/27/17

Photo by Hailley Howard Photography

If you and your partner consider yourselves foodies, arranging a delicious meal at your wedding reception is probably pretty high on your to-do list. But if you’re getting married at a venue with an in-house caterer, such as a hotel ballroom, you were probably presented with a list of options to choose from—options that don’t seem too flexible. So are you stuck picking between your venue’s standard options (chicken, fish, or vegetarian—meh), or can you work with the caterer to put a personal spin on what’s being served? Our experts have the answers.

Wedding food gets a bad rap, bringing to mind rubbery chicken or dry steak instead of memorable dishes and expert preparation. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Venues, caterers, and couples are getting creative with their celebratory meals, offering inspired flavor combinations and personal touches that help bring the meal to life. So before you relegate yourselves to a standard chicken-or-fish menu, have a conversation with your venue to see how you can customize the offerings.

Before you even get to your tasting, talk to your venue about which menus you can choose from. Many have a set list of choices for weddings, plus other menus they offer for non-wedding events (often themed or ethnic menus that vary from traditional wedding fare). Some of these less traditional, more creative menus could hold the flavors or ingredients you’re looking for, so don’t be afraid to ask if there are other choices you can consider!

Next, at your tasting, consider the individual aspects of each dish in addition to the dish as a whole. If you loved the potatoes served with one dish, the veggies on a second, and the protein from a third, ask to mix-and-match the elements to create a plate of your favorites. This is an easy way to create a more custom meal, since those recipes and preparations are already part of the venue’s standard repertoire. This is also a great trick for vegetarian dishes: While a pasta dish or vegetable Napoleon is often a go-to, instead consider offering your meat-free guests a composed plate of your favorite vegetarian sides, letting them enjoy the same flavors the rest of your guests will be tasting.

You should also think about things like ingredients and seasoning. If the venue makes horseradish mashed potatoes that you find too spicy, ask them to scale it back a little bit. Do you avoid mushrooms at all costs? Ask to swap in a different veggie in the risotto. Worried the blue cheese crumbles on the salad will put off some of your guests? See if they can top the greens with goat cheese instead.

If you have a family recipe you would love to serve, bring it with you to the tasting so you can discuss the specifics with the chef. Keep in mind that some recipes may be hard to scale for a crowd (especially if they are labor-intensive), while others can serve 10 or 100 with ease.

Remember, any changes you make to the menu could result in an upcharge or fee from the venue. Be sure to ask about any cost changes before you make a request or sign off on a menu so there are no surprises when the final invoice arrives!

Key Questions to Ask:

● Can we tweak your standard menu based on our flavor preferences?

● Can we mix-and-match proteins and sides?

● Are there alternative menus we can choose from? How do the prices differ from your standard menu?

● Can the chef use or recreate a family recipe for us?

● Will customization incur an additional fee or upcharge? How much?

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