Both 2020 and 2021 were tough years for weddings. Planning was met with the need for plenty of pivoting, and that certainly applied to wedding menus. Many couples who had been thrilled to switch up the classic seated dinner and focus more on unique buffet-style food bars had to adapt their dining styles, while guest counts were adjusted as well. And we’re still seeing the need for some adjustment in 2022.
Curious what will be on trend for wedding menus this year? From predictions to patterns caterers are already seeing as orders are coming in, we have a few ideas to help guide you. We tapped leading industry experts to find out what they anticipate will be the biggest wedding menu trends for 2022. Read on to find inspiration for finalizing your own day-of menu.
Meet the Expert
- Andrea Correale is the founder and president of the catering company Elegant Affairs.
- Chef Aaron Janus is a regional executive chef of the Florida-based Constellation Culinary Group.
- Chef Dewey Losasso is the corporate executive chef of Bill Hansen Catering.
- Meg Walker is the CEO and executive chef of Made by Meg.
- Aleah and Nick Valley are the founders of Valley & Company Events.
- Christopher Albrecht is the executive chef of The Ryland Inn.
First thing’s first, seated dinners aren’t going anywhere. We saw this classic trend come back more and more in 2021, and it’s certainly continuing on. “Family style was once a big trend, but it is becoming less of a trend because of COVID-19 and the implications that everyone has to share bowls,” says Andrea Correale, founder and president of Elegant Affairs. "People are looking for seated dinners instead of cocktail parties to avoid too much mixing and mingling.” Instead of passing bowls of food or going through the buffet line, we’ll still definitely be seeing more elaborate seated and served meals.
With so much constant change, we’re all holding on to a bit of the past. That yearning for nostalgia is coming into the food world as well. “In 2022, simplified, nourishing food that evokes childhood memories is a welcome trend,” says Chef Aaron Janus of Constellation Culinary Group. “We anticipate an overall pivot towards sensible comfort foods rather than the amorphous concepts and overt fusions that folks might not have an innate craving for.” Dressed up fried chicken and mac and cheese, anyone?
Along with reminiscing over childhood fare, we’re looking to our family’s past as well. Chef Dewey Losasso of Bill Hansen Catering predicts that treasured dessert and home-cooked recipes will make a statement. “This year, couples will say goodbye to over-the-top eating experiences and embrace their roots as chefs highlight family recipes passed down from generations before them,” he says.
Grab n’ Go Stations
Years ago, the idea of building your own meal was very on trend. It continued to shine for dinner concepts, along with late-night eats. Now, we’re shifting to serving snacks already prepared so guests can get back to dancing. “Couples would make the stations part of the entertainment at their wedding. Make your own tacos, sliders, nachos…anything,” says Meg Walker, CEO and executive chef of Made by Meg. “Now, couples want their guests to grab something ready to eat so that they can quickly get back to re-connecting, dancing, or relaxing after being apart for so long.”
This has been a priority for years, as couples are dishing up great eats. However, the focus will be even stronger in 2022. “Going local will be leaned into even more, with couples zeroing in on the freshest local bounty, down to cider and wines served during happy hour and seasonal berry pies and local-made ice cream for dessert,” says Aleah and Nick Valley, founders of Valley & Company Events.
According to Christopher Albrecht, executive chef of The Ryland Inn, sourcing from an on-site garden or working with local growers may be more important than ever before. “Supply chain disruptions, as well as production shortages, have dealt everyone a dose of reality and been a tremendous time-drain in 2021,” he says. “As a result, having strategic partnerships with producers that are not solely in the commodity market ensures us access to the highest quality products with less disruption.” By paying attention to seasonality, not just with produce but also with fish and meat, ingredients for dishes will ultimately taste better.
A dinner made up of three courses? Instead, couples are looking for more. According to Walker, couples are planning to spend more time with their guests at the dinner table. "We’ve been seeing tons of tasting and progressive menus with four to six courses,” she says. “It seems like everyone just wants to linger at the table as long as possible while enjoying extraordinary food and conversation.”
More and more people are choosing a vegan diet, and chances are, your guests may be too. “More vegan food is a big trend for the upcoming season. People are starting to eat for the climate,” says Correale. But, that doesn’t just mean tofu and steamed veggies. Correale says burgers are being replaced by Impossible or Beyond meats, along with peppering in other vegan or vegetarian options that everyone on the guest list will love.
While a great signature cocktail from the bar will never go out of style, couples are looking toward healthier options for all guests as well. Correale says serving up mocktails made with natural, fresh juices, herbs, and florals is becoming a huge trend.
Food That Tells a Story
While many couples opt to serve crowd-pleasing dishes or even their favorite foods, one key 2022 trend will be serving a meal along with a story. “We foresee 2022 as the year of ultimate foodie concepts: couples leaning heavily into an overall vibe for their welcome parties, rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, and post-wedding events—all inspired by cuisine,” says Aleah and Nick Valley. “This means using a favorite restaurant, style of food and drink, or ingredient as a premise for an entire celebration.” Menus may follow inspiration from celebrations such as the Kentucky Derby or Mardi Gras, or be inspired by where a couple had their first date.
This trend came on the wedding food scene at the onset of the pandemic, and it’s holding on strong. Big, elaborate charcuterie spreads or other appetizer buffets aren’t making the same splash as they did previously. Instead, couples are getting creative with individual options. Aleah and Nick Valley suggest individual snack plates at each place setting or an individual grazing platter for each table as a unique option.